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India does not have a National Language

A Bill that seeks to make Hindi a mandatory third language to be taught in schools across India fetched a lot of controversies. HD Kumaraswamy and others took to social media to criticise the imposition of Hindi in schools under the draft National Education Policy (NEP) 2019. He along with many others came out in open to state that they will not allow Hindi to be made compulsory in schools.

In 1965, Tamil Nadu faced violent protests when the center proposed to make Hindi India’s only official language. After strong resistance from the southern Indian states, especially Tamil Nadu, the Indian government revised a controversial draft bill that proposed to make Hindi a mandatory third language to be taught in schools across India. The draft bill released on May 31 by the Human Resources Development Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank was one of the recommendations for a new national education policy that intended to have a three-language formula in schools, a departure from the existing two-language set-up. There was a huge political outcry in Tamil Nadu within hours of the release of the draft bill with most of the political parties, including the ruling All India Anna Dramuk Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), a regional ally of New Delhi’s ruling party, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), strongly objecting to changing the existing two-language formula.

As per Article 343 of the Constitution of India, India’s official languages shall be Standard Hindi (the dialect known as Khadiboli) written in the Devanagari script and English. These are the official languages of the Union of India, i.e. at the Central Government level. However, each state is allowed to have its own official language based on its own linguistic demographics. So, we end up having a total of 22 official languages today (excluding English). However, India does not have a national language. There is a difference between a national language and an official language. While a national language would have a patriotic and nationalistic identity, an official language is one which is designated for communication at the official level. The history behind having two official languages and no national language is very specific. When we became independent, no particular language was designated as the national language, because people who spoke Dravidian Languages were more comfortable in English than they were with the most spoken language in India, i.e. Hindi. A period of 15 years, in fact, was designated for the Indian government to make efforts to make Hindi the lingua franca all over India so that English could be dropped from the official language position when that happened. English was, after all, a foreign language.

However, the 15 years didn’t yield any efforts from the government to make Hindi the lingua franca. South India was still comfortable with either English or their mother tongue. There was an agitation in Tamil Nadu at the completion of the 15 years — since the 15 years hadn’t yielded any lingua franca (and no language except English seemed to have any prospects of soon becoming the lingua franca); it was only fair that English be made the main official language. When violence erupted in Tamil Nadu, Lal Bahadur Shastri, then the Prime Minister, called an emergency Parliament session. The ideal task was to have an originally-Indian language (unlike English) which could be given the combined status of 1) a national language, 2) the only official language, and 3) the lingua franca. Obviously, Hindi could be the only choice based on demographics, but it could not be the national language until it was also the lingua franca. Shastri announced this decision: “English shall continue as an additional official language of India as long as the non-Hindi speakers want.” Unlike the 15-year deadline set earlier, there was no deadline this time. So, even today, we do not have any national language or an ONLY official language for the Union. As per the Constitution of India, there is no National Language of India. After independence, the Constitution makers had a problem of selecting a national language which can unite a country because there were more than 1,600 languages spoken in different parts of the country. At that time Hindi was an option as Hindi was being spoken by 40 per cent of Indians at that time. However, what about non-Hindi speaking states and other documents and books which were inherited by the Britishers which were written in English during the British Raj? So, at that time, it was decided that along with Hindi, English will also be an official language. However, English will be the official language only for the next 15 years i.e. till 1965 (Article 343).

Hindi is one of the North Indian Regional Languages and one of the Official languages of the Indian Union. It’s just a regional language and the entire South and East of India have no relevance to this language by any means. It is a mash-up of Portuguese, Turkish, Arabic, Sanskrit, and Persian, it doesn’t have its own unique origin or much of history. It also cannibalised many distinct related languages from one umbrella as its “Dialects” which is the most unfortunate thing! Garhwali, Kumaoni, Braj, Bundeli, Awadhi, Kannauji, Khariboli, Maithili, Marwari, Magahi, Bhojpuri, Rajasthani, and Chhattisgarhi are the major victims. In the near future, who knows, they’d even call prestigious languages like Marathi and Bengali to be the different dialects of Hindi!

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Dr Vaidehi Tamanhttp://www.vaidehisachin.com
Dr Vaidehi an Accredited Journalist from Maharashtra is bestowed with Honourary Doctorate in Journalism, Investigative Journalist, Editor, Ethical Hacker, Philanthropist, and Author. She is Editor-in-Chief of Newsmakers Broadcasting and Communications Pvt. Ltd. for 11 years, which features an English daily tabloid – Afternoon Voice, a Marathi web portal – Mumbai Manoos, monthly magazines like Hackers5, Beyond The News (international) and Maritime Bridges. She is also an EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker, Certified Security Analyst and is also a Licensed Penetration Tester which caters to her freelance jobs.

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