Since ancient times India has been referred to as the ‘Land of Diversities’ which included comprised of their individuals belonging to various communities, religions, and backgrounds, etc. It is well acknowledged that in India the mother tongue, the cuisine of food, the attire or dressing sense changes with every state to state. Despite having such diversity, we as Indians have distinct National anthem, National flower, National animal, etc which unifies and belongs to one community called ‘INDIANS’. Accordingly, the determination of ‘National Language’ since ever been a controversial issue and has been a reason for many violent acts and heated debates.
There have been several incidents where the government organizations have tried to establish that ‘Hindi’ is the national language of India, one incident that took place in 2017 when Vice President Venkaiah Naidu referred Hindi as the National language of India, in a public address which was inappropriate. Another incident took place in the very year when the Indian government tried to instate Hindi as a language to the UN. Thus, it can be now well inferred that Hindi is not India’s national language so calling Hindi as India’s national language is not only unlawful but also lies against the interests of the domain where the language is not spoken. This can be briefly explained by decoding the gap between the ‘national language’ and an ‘official language’.
HINDI IS AN ‘OFFICIAL LANGUAGE’ OR ‘NATIONAL LANGUAGE’
‘National Language’ can be defined as tongue which the people of the country know very well, that describes the culture, heritage and history of one country whereas an ‘Official Language’ gives the impression that it is used for official purposes of the legislature, judiciary, and executive. Thus, interpreting such things, it is established that a country may have multiple ‘official languages’ but only one ‘national language’. There are several controversies due to which Hindi is referred to as National Language.
1. Pre and Post-Independence Era –
During British rule, the official language used for the administrative purpose was English and the fate of deciding the official language of India was rested on the constituent assembly as to whether opt a new language or continue with the same language i.e. English.
The constituent assembly was pretty much divided on deciding the National Language as before independence national leader Mahatma Gandhi called Hindi as the national language and called for its adoption. He stated Hindi as a state of unity among all the Indians as it was spoken with the major section of the society despite knowing that despite Hindi is spoken by the major section of the society but was not the tongue of all communities in the country. Rather recognizing Hindi as the national language of the country would be imposing their say on Non-Hindi speaking communities without their opinion.
This difference in opinion between the two sections of the constituent assembly was resolved by adopting a compromise known as ‘Munshi-Ayyangar’. It stated that for 15 years after the independence of the state English would be used as the official language and later can be substituted with Hindi. Thus, the Munshi-Ayyangar was included in the Constitution of India under Part XVII, Chapter I and it was stated that Hindi as the official language of the state in the Devanagari Script.
2. The Constitution of India and it’s relation with Hindi – When the period of 15 years was near to get elapsed a new proposal was made to substitute Hindi as the official language in the place of English there were several threats as disturbances in the southern part of the country. The reason for the violent disturbances was the replacement of English from Hindi as the official language. In the reaction to the disturbances the then Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru passed the Official Language Act,1963 which permitted the continuance of English as an official language along with Hindi. Thus, Hindi and English both were declared as the official language of the state.
Further several states among which Uttar Pradesh designated Hindi as it’s official language under the power provided by the constitution. It was inferred that the Union government has to use English and Hindi as its official language whereas the state government also had the power to use regional languages within the state i.e. provided in the Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution. But despite such, there are several constitutional provisions stressing on the use of Hindi for the official purpose (Article 344), the official language of High courts, Supreme court or any other legislative document to be used within the union or state (Article 348) and the language to be used for the communication between the two states or two unions is to be English.
3. Major Question: Whether Hindi is a national language?
The basic criteria for deciding a Hindi as the national language is that the entire population of the country must know-how to speak the respective language which is not the actual condition in the diverse country like India. Further the primary idea of having a national language is to unite the whole nation under the umbrella that whole nation speaks the same language which is also not fulfilled stating that imposition of Hindi as the national language would suppress the community who don’t speak Hindi tending to divide the nation and affecting the unity of one nation.
4. Precedents: Following different opinions given by the Courts-
- Several judgments such as Bombay Education Society v. State, 1954 of Bombay High Court, (West Bengal Board of Secondary Association v. Siliguri High School of Calcutta High Court and Madhya Pradesh (Raghavendra Prasad v. Union Bank of India, of Madhya Pradesh have stated that Hindi is the national language of the state but as the judgments were made in passing they had no binding value.
- Whereas, the High Courts of Gujarat ( Amrutlal Popatlal v. Chief Secretary ), Karnataka (General Secretary, Linguistic Minorities v. State of Karnataka ), have sided with the diversity and stated that Hindi must not be the National language of the state.
- Several incidents have also taken place where the petition of stating Hindi as the national language of India has been rejected. Moreover, the opinion of the courts stating Hindi as an ‘Official Language’ not the ‘National Language’ is very reasonably answered.
It is well known that Hindi is the most spoken language as compared to any other language in India but still in various areas of country like South India and various patches of north- eastern states. If Hindi is declared to be the national language of the state it would probably benefit the people of north India as the majority of population use ‘Hindi’ as their mother tongue which is not in the case of some parts of the country. After the adoption of Hindi as the National language of the state the primary requirement would be to teach Hindi to every individual in the state which is itself a major task. Further the option of having another language i.e. English provides people a stand in the international arena as it’s the globally used language in the world.
It has been rightly said that India is a ‘Land of Diversities’ where numerous cultures, languages, cuisines exist but rather that highlighting and promoting some specific languages or culture, one must respect and equally, promote every language of the state. Recently a major step is taken by the apex court of the state to publish judgments not only in Hindi but also in several other regional languages. And in coming future it could be understood by every individual that development and unity of our country is possible only if every language and section of society is treated as equal which is already written in the mandates of the
Indian Constitution defining multiple principles of ‘equality’.
 . M. Seervai, Constitutional Law of India (4th e.d., vol.3) at ¶ 23.1 to 23.15.