THE TONGUE OF AN INDIAN

p>Posted on Wednesday, January 14th, 2015 by Salik Naqueeb Abbasi

One of the essential ingredients of a nation is the existence of a common language. Such a language is both useful and convenient medium for exchange of thoughts as well as a great unifying force. The ties of a common tongue are very close and strong.

It is often observed that India is a Babel of tongues without any national language. The observation is far from true. India is a large country -almost a continent- peopled with several races and communities, having their own native tongues. Nevertheless, even in the past, it had some common language, binding together different sections of its people. In the hoary past, Sanskrit played this crucial role and subsequently Prakrit took its place to a certain extent.

India had its own share of languages. During the Muslim period, especially in the times of Moghuls, Persian became the official dialect all over the country, while Urdu a product of Persian and Hindi came to be the language of common people. In course of time, Urdu supplanted Persian in the offi­cial sphere as well.

Things changed when the British appeared on the scene. In order to consolidate their rule, they introduced the English language and, with the passage of years, the study of English became increasingly popular. Gradually, this language ousted Urdu and other native languages from the official sphere altogether. For the purpose of administration and all other official work, English became the most important language all over the country.

One of the principal means to strengthen inner and deeper unity of India is to evolve speedily a national language for the entire country. Hindi has officially been accepted as our National Language, but unfortunately it has not found place in the hearts of our people, particularly in the South. In fact, a bitter and tragic controversy has developed over the issue of Hindi replacing English in official and educational spheres.

Consequently, though more than five decades have elapsed since the dawn of independence, we have yet to evolve a language that is warmly accepted by all sections of the people as the language of the whole nation. Thus the crux of language problem is to find which language should be the national language for the country as a whole.

The advocates of Hindi, which is widely spoken and un­derstood in a very large area of the country, contend that the English language owes its dominant position to the fact that it had been imposed by the British colonial rulers. They plead that it is inconsistent with our national self-respect to continue to use it in preference to our very rich and very well-developed All-India language, i.e., Hindi.

The second-group which comprises the highly- educated and professionally qualified people like Doctors and Engineers, contends that the evils of the foreign rule notwithstanding English language has given birth to the idea of Indian nationalism and helped the nationalistic sentiments to grow and achieve freedom of the country.

They argue that English has been the vehicle of higher education, technology, and scientific research and that any attempt to dislodge it will result in a breakdown of our educational system and take the country backwards in all aspects of modern life.

Yet a third group believes that the various regional languages which are equally fully developed and hold sway in their respective regions, should be recognized as national languages in their respective areas and that there is no need for Hindi or English. All the Indian languages should enjoy an equal status.

A careful appraisal of the role played by English is essen­tial for a full comprehension of the task. For more than two hundred years, English has remained the official language of the country at both, the Provincial and the Central level.

It has also remained the medium of higher education, technology, scientific research and also industry and commerce. During this period, vast and revolutionary changes have taken place in human thought, invention and organization.

The UK and the US have been among the foremost centers of these changes and consequently English, which is their lingua franca, has become the richest and most efficient instru­ment for all modern development.

Further, during the British rule, the whole of India was converted into a unilingual State for administrative and commercial purposes by the adoption of English language in 1833. This has given English its unique power and importance.

Truly speaking, the English colonial rulers in India, from their own point of view had committed a grave political mistake by introducing English as a medium of instruction in this country.

This single action of theirs opened the window of India to the rest of the world and introduced Indians to the Western ideas of national pride, sovereignty and self-respect, which were till then unknown to the people of India, who had been accustomed to lie low and crawl before the foreign invaders and do anything and everything at their bidding to win their pleasure and then feel proud of it.

If the British had not popularised their language in India, they could very well have continued to rule the country for one or two centuries more. It was the this language which sowed the seeds of nationalist and patriotic feelings among the educated and enlightened Indians that led to the organisation of national freedom movement.

Having said so, if for any reason it is proposed to discontinue the use of English for administrative, judicial or higher education, scientific research and economic activity particularly foreign trade, the country will be confronted with two major prob­lems.

Firstly it will not be possible to do away with English immediately in all these fields without total collapse of our national life. Second, the principle of unilingualism which is so vital for the unity and integrity of India, will cease to operate.

There is, however, agreement that in the case of unilingual States, English language may be replaced by the respective State languages for all work at the State level.

Article - 345 of the Constitution clearly provides that the legislature of a State may, by law, adopt any one or more of the languages to be used for all or any of the official purposes of the State. Under this Article, many States have made their respective regional languages their official languages at the State level. But even here there is a snag.

The official purposes of the State includes not only the legislative, administrative and higher services, but also the running of technical departments and services, university education and the like.

Thus, it is not possible for any State to run its administra­tion exclusively in the regional language unless all its higher officers are university-trained men in regional language, which is not possible in the present context.

So long as the regional language concerned has not been made the medium of instruction in the university and a sufficient number of graduates and postgraduates have not become available for manning the higher administrative services, it is not possible to run the State Government exclusively in regional language.

The higher services will continue to think, formulate policies and conduct discussions at high level only in English, though for the sake of formality, conclusions and orders may be jotted down in the regional language.

The position is all the more complicated in respect of tech­nical services. It will not be possible for the doctors and engi­neers to function in the regional languages so long as medium of instruction in these colleges continues to be English.

There­fore, even if the regional language is made the official language of the State for all purposes, bilingualism is inescapable. For a regional language to become the medium of instruction at university level, there must already be books and teachers in that language and the general habit of thinking in the regional language.

Till date, the ground reality is that whenever a bilingual communication is received in any government or pri­vate establishment, even the most ardent supporter of Hindi or the regional language will turn to the English version because it is considered to be the most easy and most convenient language.

There is a two - way struggle going on between the languages. While a systematic struggle is on to replace English by Hindi, the forces of modernization and provincialism are pushing off Hindi. The language problem of India has become a serious one.

Perhaps it is best to leave the question of a lingua franca for the whole country to the natural force- time and pay undivided attention to other and more serious problems.

The regional languages will progress in their own right. Hindi will become the spoken language of the whole country, courtesy the Indian cinema, and English will continue to hold its sway as the de facto official language of the country whether it is included in the Eighth Schedule or not.

Therefore, we should boldly and honestly accept the hard fact of our nation. English has come to stay and it cannot be thrown away merely on sentimental grounds.

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