Language Issues In India


The Language issues in India are the result of multi-lingual polity. Language problem is a very hot political question in India. India is divided into distinct linguistic regions. Naturally the person of every large linguistic region wants their language to be the national language or the lingua franca of India.

During the British rule, English was used as the official language of India. English also was issued as die medium of instruction particularly for higher education. English also became the language of inter-state communication in India.

There were objections against the continued use of English. Even after the continuous use as official language for nearly two hundred years, English did not take firm roots in India. It remained restricted to small circle of elites. Not more than 1% of Indians knew English at the time of independence, Besides, English being a foreign language, continued use of English affronted the sense of national dignity of independent India. Thus, objections to the continued use of English in independent India were almost universal. But there was no unanimity or consensus as to what Indian language should replace English as official language, medium of instruction and as medium of inter-state communication in India.

During the freedom movement, there was a consensus among, national leaders that English should be replaced by an Indian Language as the national language of the country. But there could not any unanimity as to what language should be national language.

The Constituent Assembly, after a protracted debate resolved that Hindi in Devanagri script should be the official language of India. It should be noted that the Constituent Assembly was exactly equally divided into supporters and opponents of Hindi. Indeed it was only with the casting vote of the President of the Constituent Assembly, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, that Hindi was adopted as the official language of the country.

But it is one thing to declare Hindi as the official language of the Union. It is a totally different proposition to make Hindi acceptable to the Indian people at large. Undoubtedly Hindi is spoken by the single largest group of Indians. But Hindi is certainly not the language of the majority Indians nor can it claim to be the richest among the Indian languages. There was wide spread resistance to the adoption of Hindi as the official language. The resistance was particularly sharp in the southern region. The South looked upon imposition of Hindi, as the imperialism of the North. The constitutional provision that English shall continue side by side with Hindi, somewhat pacified the south.

Hindi is the spoken language for North Indian people. But, most people residing in South Indian states do not speak or understand Hindi. This gives rise to communication problem. A South-Indian and a North-Indian person finds it very hard to talk and communicate with each other because they don’t understand each other’s language of communication. Educated people who can speak and understand English breaks the barrier of language problem and able to talk freely with each other. English language has been helpful in bridging the gap between the Hindi and non-Hindi speaking people.

The constitution originally recognized 13 other languages besides Hindi as the national languages of India. Since the adoption of the constitution several other languages have come to be used as official languages in the states. Thus Nepali and Santhali are used in West Bengal besides Bengali. In Bihar Urdu is also used besides Hindi.

But as medium of instruction and as medium of inter-state communication between non-Hindi speaking states or between non- Hindi-speaking states and the centre, English still continues to be the predominant language. Even in courts particularly the higher courts such as the High Courts and the Supreme Court, English and not Hindi is used.

Considering these circumstances, one may conclude that there is no possibility of English being abolished as official language, as medium of instruction for higher education as medium of inter-state communication and as language of the courts, is deem indeed.