All Indian languages face a long term decline and gradual marginalisation at the hands of the growing influence of English. The country hasn’t even begun recognising the fast changing language use patterns and their implications for the future of Indian languages, and through them, the very sense of Indianness. That’s why people have no problem with the growing role of English as the virtual national language of India, though not of Bharat, though less than 1% of Indians can use it well (figure quoted by the National Knowledge Commission) while they have big trouble accepting even the idea of Hindi as the national language though 50-60% Indians understand it. This is an inexplicable phenomenon – greater acceptability of a language that is not just alien to 99 % of our countrymen but also an agent of alienation and social divides; vis-a-vis a language which is their own, a sister to their own mother language. By the time the country realises what it has lost through neglect of its indigenous languages in the mad and stupid rush to adopt English it will be too late.
Mr. Krishnan, I congratulate you on your wise and bold thoughts. It is not often that one finds a non-Hindi speaker advocating Hindi as national language in an objective, rational manner. The history of our freedom struggle is replete with great national figures from the non-Hindi parts of the country who worked for Hindi as national language as a means for socio-cultural-political unity as well as growth of India. Gandhi, of course, was the first among them.
The above post is in reaction to Mr. Krishnan’s piece in MSN, reproduced below.
Indian constitution does not specify Hindi or any other language as India’s National Language. In 1950, Hindi was declared as the OFFICIAL LANGUAGE of the union. Use of English for official purposes was to cease after 26 January 1965. Heeding protests from non Hindi-speaking areas of India, Parliament enacted the ‘Official Languages Act, 1963’ authorising continued use of English for official purposes along with Hindi, even after 1965. Even today, the sixty year-old Indian Republic does not have a national Language.
According to the Indian constitution, Parliamentary proceedings may be conducted in either Hindi or English. In addition, a person who is unable to express himself/herself in either Hindi or English is permitted to address the House in his/her mother tongue, with the permission of the Speaker of the relevant House.
In the sixty (60) years of Indian Republic, much has changed to warrant a review of the constitutional provisions governing National, Official and Parliamentary languages.
1.Make Hindi our ‘National Language’: In the past six decades, Hindi has progressed dramatically in terms of its reach and acceptance. Today an estimated 60% or more Indians can speak and understand Hindi. Therefore, HINDI now fully qualifies to be India’s National Language. Efforts to teach and develop Hindi must go on.
2.English must continue: Consequent to India’s emergence as a global power, knowledge of English has assumed great importance for the progress of our people in all spheres of life. English deserves to continue as ‘prime official language’ along with Hindi, for domestic and overseas use. Renewed vigorous efforts are required for training our people in English.
3.Regional Languages must be promoted: India’s rich cultural heritage must be preserved and promoted at all costs. For this purpose, learning of Regional languages must be made mandatory in all teaching institutions in the respective states. Thus Hindi (National Language), English, and the respective Regional language will form the ‘3-Language formula’ for official use in all Indian States. Where Hindi is the Regional Language, English and Hindi will be the official languages.
4.Simultaneous translation facility in Parliament: Transactions in the parliament must be capable of being understood by every member of the House. Parliamentary democracy demands that speakers enjoy the privilege to speak either in the two official languages or in any Regional language according to their preference. Simultaneous translation facility must be available so that all the members in the house are able to understand one another regardless of the language of address. Unless and until the whole house understands one another, parliamentary democracy cannot be deemed satisfactory.
Let us move with the time and do what time demands.
P V V Krishnan