Thinking Together

The constitution of India provides for Hindi as an official language of the Indian Union.  There is also a provision that parliament may, by law, provide for the use of the English language even after a period of 15 years after the promulgation of the constitution.  At the same time, one or more languages can be declared as the official language of a state by the legislature of that state.  Is this a fair language policy?

S Sekhar, Bengaluru

The CPI(M) is for a democratic language policy keeping in view the fact that India is a multilingual country.  The cornerstone of such a language policy should be the equality of all national languages. The Eighth Schedule of the constitution lists the national languages which are at present 22 in number.

Equality of all national languages would mean that they should get equal treatment and the use of national languages on an equal basis in parliament and the central administration.  All Acts, government orders and official resolution should be available in all national languages.  In the UPSC examinations for central services, there should be a level playing field for all national languages.

The use of Hindi as the sole official language to the exclusion of all other languages should not be made obligatory. It is by providing equality to the various Indian languages and promoting their development that over time Hindi can become acceptable as the language of communication throughout the country.   Use of English for official purposes at the central level can continue as long as the non-Hindi speaking people want it. 

A democratic language policy would mean the right of people to have education in their mother-tongue upto the highest level. Both in education and administration, the main language of the state concerned should be ensured. At the same time, the rights of substantial linguistic minorities in the state must also be protected including the use of their language in education.  In a country where there are so many languages, there are linguistic minorities in all states. The rights of these linguistic minorities must be protected.

Given this understanding, the Party Programme has set out an alternative language policy to be put in place as part of the People’s Democratic Programme.  This is given in clause 6.3 (iv) which is as follows:

“Equality of all national languages in parliament and central administration shall be recognised. Members of parliament will have the right to speak in their own national language and simultaneous translation will have to be provided in all other languages. All Acts, government orders and resolutions shall be made available in all national languages. The use of Hindi as the sole official language to the exclusion of all other languages shall not be made obligatory. It is only by providing equality to the various languages that it can be made acceptable as the language of communication throughout the country. Till then, the present arrangement of the use of Hindi and English will continue. The right of the people to receive instruction in their mother tongue in educational institutions upto the highest level shall be ensured. The use of the language of the particular linguistic state as the language of administration in all its public and State institutions shall also be ensured. Provision for the use of the language of the minority or, minorities or, of a region where necessary in addition to the language of the state shall be made. The Urdu language and its script shall be protected.”

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