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Shaping the Newly Independent India Part-3

Shaping the Newly Independent India Part-3

Issue of language

  • The language problem was the most divisive issue in the first twenty years of independent India.
  • Linguistic identity during first 20 years after independence had become a strong force in all societies. Due to diversity in languages, this language issue became more difficult to tackle.
  • The problem posed to national consolidation by linguistic diversity has taken two major forms :
    • The dispute over official language of the union.
    • The linguistic reorganization of the states

Constitutional Provisions On Official Language During The Independence

India is a multilingual country. Thus the farmers of Indian Constitution felt the need to specify the languages to be used in the state functions. Therefore, Part XVII of the Indian Constitution came into existence which contains the following provisions:

  • Article 343: It mentions that the official language of the Union shall be Hindi in Devanagari script. The form of numerals to be used for the official purposes of the Union shall be the international form of Indian numerals.
  • Article 346:  It mentions the official language for communication between the states and between a state and the Union. The Article also states that the “authorized” language will be used. However, if two or more states agree that their communications shall be in Hindi, then Hindi may be used.
  • Article 348: it mentions the language to be used in the courts and in legislative processes.
  • Article 349: It mentions Special procedure for enactment of certain laws relating to language.
  • Article 351: It mentions directive for development of the Hindi language accordingly, It shall be the duty of the Union to promote the spread of the Hindi language, to develop it so that it may serve as a medium of expression for all the elements of the composite culture of India and to secure its enrichment by assimilating without interfering with its genius, the forms, style and expressions used in Hindustani and in the other languages of India specified in the Eighth Schedule.

The Official Language [Shaping the Newly Independent India Part-3]

  • Opposition to Hindi as a national languages tended to create conflict between Hindi speaking and non- Hindi speaking regions of the country.
  • The issue of a national language was resolved when the constitution-makers virtually accepted all the major languages as “languages of India”.
  • Being a foreign language Gandhi opposed the idea that English would be an all India medium of communications in free India.
  • Sharp differences marked the initial debates as the problem of the official language was highly political from the beginning.  (Shaping the Newly Independent India Part-3)
  • Hindi was chosen over Hindustani [written in Devanagari or Urdu script] to be the official language of India & but the national language. The issue of the time-frame for a shift from English to Hindi produced a divide between Hindi & non Hindi areas. Proponents of Hindi wanted immediate switch over, while non Hindi areas advocated retention of English for a long if not indefinite period.
  • Nehru was in favour of making Hindi the official language, but he also favoured English to be continuing as an additional official language.
  • The constitution provided that Hindi in Devanagari script with international numerals would be India’s official language. English was to continue for use in all official purposes till 1965, when it would be replaced by Hindi in phased manner. However, Parliament would have the power to provide for the use of English for specified purposes even after 1965.
  • The constitution laid upon the government the duty to promote the spread and development of Hindi & provides for the appointment of Commission & a Joint Parliamentary Committee to review the progress in the respect. The state legislatures were to divide the matter of official language at state level, though the official language of the Union would serve as the language of communication between the states and the centre & between one state & another.
  • In 1956, the report of the official language commission set up in 1955 in terms of a constitutional provision, recommended that Hindi should start progressively replacing English in various functions of the central government with effective change taking place in 1965. Two members of commission, one each from West Bengal & Tamil Nadu, dissented this while accusing other members for pro-Hindi Bias.
  • JPC [Joint Parliamentary Committee] reviewed the report to implement the recommendations of JPC, President issued an order in April 1960 stating that after 1965 Hindi would be the Principal official language, but English would continue without any restriction as the associate official language. To promote Hindi, according to President’s directive, central government took a series of steps to promote Hindi. These includes the setting up of central Hindi Directorate, publication of standards works in Hindi or in Hindi translation in various fields, compulsory training of central government employees in Hindi and translation of major text of law into Hindi & promotion of their use by the courts.

Official languages commission

  • It is constituted by the President of India in as per the provisions stated in the article 343 of of the Indian constitution. It was constituted in 1995. As defined in the Article-344 of the Constitution, it shall be the duty of the Commission to make recommendations to the President as to:
  • The progressive use of the Hindi language for the official purposes of the Union.
  • Restrictions on the use of the English language for all or any of the official purposes of the Union.
  • The language to be used for all or any of the purposes mentioned in Article 348.
  • The form of numerals to be used for any one or more specified purposes of the Union.

Protests in South India

  • There were series of protests regarding imposition of Hindi as official laungauge occurred during both pre- and post-independence periods in south India and especially in the state of Tamil Nadu (formerly Madras State and part of Madras Presidency). Following are the key events related to such protests;
  • In 1937, the first anti-Hindi imposition agitation was launched in opposition to the introduction of compulsory teaching  of Hindi by the first Indian National Congress government led by C. Rajagopalachari in the Madras presidency schools.This move was immediately opposed by E. V. Ramasamy (Periyar) and the opposition Justice Party (later Dravidar Kazhagam).
  • But after Independence Hindi was adopted as the official language of India with English continuing as an associate official language for a period of fifteen years, after which Hindi would become the sole official language.   (Shaping the Newly Independent India Part-3)
  • Efforts by the Indian Government to make Hindi the sole official language after 1965 were not acceptable to many non-Hindi Indian states, who wanted the continued use of English. The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), a descendant of Dravidar Kazhagam, led the opposition to Hindi. Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru  enacted the Official Languages Act in 1963 to ensure the continuing use of English beyond 1965.
  • In 1965 as the day of switching over to Hindi as sole official language approached, the anti-Hindi movement gained momentum in Madras State with increased support from college students. In the same year a full-scale riot broke out in the southern city of Madurai, sparked off by a minor altercation between agitating students and Congress party members. Finally to calm the situation, Indian Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri gave assurances that English would continue to be used as the official language as long as the non-Hindi speaking states wanted.
  • In 1967, to guarantee the indefinite use of Hindi and English as official languages the congress government headed by Indira Gandhi amended the official Languages Act.

The Official Language Act Of 1963 [Shaping the Newly Independent India Part-3]

  • Accordingly, the Official Languages Act, 1963 (amended in 1967) provides for continuing the use of English in official work even after 25 January 1965.
  • The Act also lays down that both Hindi and English shall compulsorily be used for certain specified purposes such as Resolutions, General Orders, Rules, Notifications, Administrative and other Reports, Press Communiqués; Administrative and other Reports and Official Papers to be laid before a House or the Houses of Parliament; Contracts, Agreements, Licences, Permits, Tender Notices and Forms of Tender, etc.

The Three Language Formula And The Teaching Of Hindi

  • One of the greatest concerns of the students in Madras was that any prominent use of Hindi in the government services would disadvantage them for employment within those services. They also felt it was unfair that they would have to learn Hindi and English, whereas native speakers of Hindi would need only learn English.
  • In response to this, the Three Language Formula of education was instated so that the educational load would be more fair. People from non-Hindi areas were to study their regional language, Hindi, and English (or another European language). Hindi speakers were to study Hindi, English, and another language. According to Kamal Sridhar (1989, p.22) in English in Indian Bilingualism, the Three Language Formula is “a compromise between the demands of the various pressure groups and has been hailed as a masterly-if imperfect-solution to a complicated problem. It seeks to accommodate the interests of group identity (mother tongues and regional languages), national pride and unity (Hindi), and administrative efficiency and technological progress (English).”
  • Like so many things, this was fine in theory, but it was not followed in practice. Hindi states did little to enforce this curriculum.   (Shaping the Newly Independent India Part-3)
  • Despite the fact that Hindi classes were not seriously taken in Tamil Nadu, the anti-Hindi DMK government in Madras decried the northern states’ lack of implementation of the Three Language Formula and removed all teaching of Hindi from schools in Tamil Nadu. The Three Language Formula has proven a failure in India as a whole (Handa 1983, p.16), though in some areas, it has worked well.
  • As far as the teaching of Hindi is concerned, there have obviously been few obstacles to its being a compulsory subject in the north, but some areas in the south and the north-east either do not require Hindi or oppose the study of it. Map Three shows the status of various regions regarding the study of Hindi, according to Nayar 1969 (p. 223). It should be emphasized that this information is from 1969, and the situation in some states has certainly changed; for example, Hindi is now compulsory in Orissa. Two notable states should be mentioned. It would seem that West Bengal should be like any other of the states where the most prominent languages are Indo-Aryan and closely related to Hindi. However, the attitude was as greatly anti-Hindi in West Bengal as it is in Tamil Nadu.
  • The Bengalis took great pride in their language and its rich literary tradition. They did not see why they should have to let Hindi, which they saw as less developed and refined as Bengali, have precedence over Bengali. Rather than spend time learning Hindi, they felt that their children should be allowed to study classical languages-in particular, Sanskrit. The second seemingly odd state is Kerala, which is in the deep south, yet holds very high standards of Hindi education. This is partly due to the great success of Hindi promotion organizations in this state.
  • However, the main reason for Kerala’s strength in Hindi comes from its great emphasis on education, which has made Kerala the state with the highest literacy rate in India.


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