India can be called the Land of Languages & Scripts. There are some 122 “Major” Indian languages listed by the Registrar General of Census. These are defined to be those languages which are spoken by 10,000 or more people.
It posed a very complex issue during the Indian Freedom Movement when the leaders needed to reach the masses as there was no single all India language in vogue. The nation felt the need of a National Language to address the people. The Father of the Nation and all other leaders decided on the Hindi language to play this crucial role. They organized Hindi learning programmes in those places where some other language was spoken. People joined these programmes with all the enthusiasm.
When the Constitution of India was being drafted, discussed and finalized, the status of the National language was changed to only the Official Language of the Union of India. Even from the Union of India, the judiciary got exempted under Article 348. The Parliament also gave primacy to the English version of the Bills over their Hindi text. That left the Executive organ of the Union of India with all the burden of implementing the constitutional mandate about the official language.
Soon politics overtook all nationalistic fervor and what started as a vehicle for communication between the people of India and the parliament, government and judiciary ended up in dividing the nation in the name of language.
In the prevailing situation, the exception replaced the substantive provisions of the constitutional mandate and English has rendered all Indian languages irrelevant.
English has re-established the status of the Modern Indian Languages (MIL) as vernaculars simply. As a result, none of the Indian languages has grown to become the powerful language of instruction in institutes of higher education in any branch of modern knowledge.
The net result is that none of the Indian languages has produced world class research in any area of modern knowledge, leading to development of any kind.
India is net importer of high technology and products. It is one reason why neighbours like China exhibit animosity, hostility and belligerence towards India.
But the Indian political class is hardly bothered, busy in ruining every institution of governance as per the constitution only to amass huge liquid and fixed assets obtained through corrupt means or crimes of all kinds (including trafficking of drugs, children, women, cattle or terrorism).
The constitution of India had listed 14 languages in the 8th Schedule:
The above list comprises both ancient languages like Sanskrit and Tamil and other Indian languages. This list has since been enlarged to include 8 more languages and there are pending demands for inclusion of many more languages.
The main point is that these are rich Indian languages in as much as they have their own scripts, rules of grammar, valuable literature, cultural assets and continue to be in use. Without these languages mass communication will be stalled. It is,therefore, a matter of concern that their development has suffered for various reasons.
One of the important component of the Indian Freedom movement was replacement of the English language by Hindi at the national level and these languages at the regional level. Instead, Indian politicians found it more convenient and useful in the immediate context to play politics in the name of language. States were first re-organized as political units on the basis of language. Then they started agitation to oppose Hindi. In that process, they unwittingly “imposed” the English language on the people of India, even though less than 1% Indians spoke the language.
This diversion of the goals for development of Indian languages reduced them to their old colonial status of a “vernacular”- none of them coming out winner in these agitations.
The difference between Language & Official Language has been blurred. It need not be. Starting agitations in the name of opposing the Hindi language is uppish. Hindi, like other Indian languages included in the 8th Schedule, has the same rights, privileges and prospects for growth as any other language.
The language politics is built around “official language” status. There are two kinds of provisions: the official language of the Union of India and the official languages of the states.
The Constitution of India has made visionary provisions for the official languages for the union of India and the states in Part XVII.
The scholarly treatment meted out to such a complex and vast subject as official languages in India simply evokes respect for the framers of the constitution who formulated them during the period 1948-50.
The states have framed laws regarding official language and the central government proceeded on the basis of Article 345-351 i.e. the Part XVII.
In a nutshell this part envisaged a new form of the Hindi language (distinct from pure/literary Hindi included in the 8th Schedule), developed by the central government to enable it to be the vehicle of official business in all branches of modern knowledge, by freely borrowing from other Indian languages and English.
It was desired to achieve this change in 10 years by when the English language would have been replaced by this new version of the Hindi language.
The Constitution provided that till Hindi attained that status, English should continue as the official language as before the coming into force of the constitution.
It is here that politics struck hard. It called it “imposition” of Hindi on those states whose residents were non-Hindi speaking.
This political posturing caused neither any loss to the Hindi Language or its users nor gain to the other languages included in the 8th schedule or outside the 8th schedule.
Languages with rich literary tradition are not dependent on politics or politicians. They are capable of treating politics and politicians as subject of their literary writings, which have the potential of changing history.
What the politician can do is only harm to the growth and development of official language(s).
As all states, without exception, are dependent on the English language,it has spread widely.
It is advantageous to less than 5% Indians to advocate use of the English language over the official languages of the union of India and states.
Whether politics, business or employment, the proficiency of the individual in English has led to lack of equal opportunities. Starting with school education, the process of silent discrimination starts. Those educated in “Public Schools/English Medium Schools” have all the opportunities of higher education and 100% employment as compared to the unfortunate lot that studies through the vernacular medium schools run by the Panchayats, municipalities, open schools or un-recognized private schools.
They are so poorly educated that most of them are rendered “unemployable”. It is not the English language but the quality of education in the two segments as it does not bring them jobs in spite of their proficiency in English.
Worse is the case of the media. The English language press and electronic media does terrible injustice to the people by twisting and turning news to serve narrow interests of political parties, ideologies, businesses and others. They are pushing even foreign political, economic, religious, cultural and military interests. They create social, cultural and moral tensions in society by attacking social norms and values with impunity. They are not the voice of the masses.
The masses express themselves in vernaculars (!) and are instantly branded by the English media as intolerant, reactionary, fundamentalists or communal.
The English newspapers and TV channels dominate the news market and influence opinion of the occupants of executive and administrative offices, thereby fiddling with policy formulation and implementation.
They cry lynching in the case of one person but keep enigmatic silence over the brutal murder of another person in full public view, discriminating on communal basis. They practice all kinds of biases themselves but never hesitate to attack others. They want to be treated as exceptions to the law of the land.
They are concerned about lynching of some dreaded criminal by the crowds under uncontrolled provocation, but act lynchers 24×7 in TV studios, murdering reputations and public image of men & women in public offices and positions of power.
As compared to the verbal violence of the English language journalists, the so called vernacular language users are restrained, circumspect and careful. It is so because these languages are vehicles of the culture in which they are soaked and they are modern but not westernized superficially like others.
The role that our venerable vernaculars play in our lives produces better human beings, politicians and public servants. The values guiding the users of these vernaculars motivate them to render honest public service.
Right from the days of the freedom movement to Narendra Modi, the contribution of the products and practitioners of these vernaculars outshines those anglophiles who prided in deriding them as being something lower and beneath their class to acquire, use or propagate. They speak Hindi with an English touch and speak other Indian languages similarly.
Against this background, the ingenuity of the Indian mind needs to be studied. A gene pool that created so many languages with their own scripts and produced wonderful literature is capable of doing more than just follow the English language. It is time for India to invest heavily in promoting study, research and development of Indian languages and enable them to produce world class scholars in every branch of modern knowledge. India is a member of the modern knowledge society. It has to motivate the young generation to take up research and development on a very large scale so that they get patents on an unprecedented scale and convert them into products of brand that sell globally. English should not play spoiler for them; it should not hinder or impede them. That is possible only when the Indian languages become as rich and strong as the English language. India should fast become a country which produces not only top class scholars in Indian languages but also in major world languages to effectively participate in the knowledge society.