“Because without our language, we have lost ourselves. Who are we without our words?”
- Melina Marchetta[i]
Language is “any means of conveying or communicating ideas; specifically, human speech, or the expression of ideas by written character.”[ii]Since the tribal era, it assured the execution of several official orders and helped record various events which materialized during their regime. Besides, it acted as a symbol of the kingdom and reflected its rich culture and heritage. For instance, the official language of the Buddhist Mauryan Empire was Magahi; as inspired by the language spoken by Gautum Buddha himself. With the advent of the mighty Guptasin 4th Century A.D., Hindu culture dominated the country which naturally laid emphasis on appropriating Sanskrit as the Official Language of the Court. Meanwhile, the Pallavas of South India relied upon Grantha Alphabets for theoretical purposes, though Sanskrit and Prakrit remained the official languages of the State. [iii] The ambitious and imperialistic Cholas employed Tamil for official purposes. Thus, in Hindu India, Sanskrit or Prakrit was relied upon for communicating with one another; on its failure, a translator would convey the messages. But, with the dawn of concrete Islamic Empires, the influence of Turkic and Arabic started seeping in though Persian gained preference under the Khiljis, Tughluqs, and the Mughals, gradually becoming the official language of the State. The large size of the empires which rle India for centuries together helped Persian gain a stronghold in IndiauntilAuragngzeb, introduced Urdu, and declared it as the official language of the State, directing its use along with Persian.
Finally, the British, who sought the sub-continent for trade and commerce, slowly gained Political power and unified all the noble realms of the sub-continent under the banner of British India. And through the Act 29 of 1837, Persian, at provincial level was replaced by its local languages for administration. By 1860s, the British Government asserted upon using Hindi, in Devanagari script as the official language, besides English.
Conflict for a National Language:
Until Independence, the aforesaid languages were strictly exercised and on acquiring the same, Hindi in Devnagri script was effectively declared as the official language of the country, through English was to be used for official purposes, 15 years from the commencement of the Constitution[iv]. And after the lapse of the aforesaid time, the then President was required to constitute a Committee which must primarily emphasize upon curbing the use of English as the official language[v]. However, keeping in mind the history of bureaucracy and administration in India besides the dire need to unite masses without offending their cultural and linguistic identity, through The Official Languages Act, 1963, English was retained and Hindi in Devnagri Script together, were proclaimed as the official languages of India[vi], though rigorous measures were to be undertaken for promoting the latter as the official language[vii]. Thus, various bodies of Government may communicate with each other either in English or Hindi[viii] but shall maintain records and execute required directions in both the languages[ix]. Besides, the Act mandates the Central Government to translate any Central Act or Ordinance or any such order under any such act in Hindi[x], though their actual issuance will always take place in English[xi]. Moreover, the States may communicate through Hindi for official purposes amongst each other and in the absence of any such agreement, the Union shall direct the mode of communication[xii].
At the State level, if a sizeable amount of population speaks a native language desiring its use as the official language of the State, then, the President may direct that particular language to be the official language of that State[xiii]. And thus, the State may recognize either the regional language or Hindi as it official language, and if not barred by any statute, English can continue to stay as its official language[xiv]. Besides, it is established that the Local Self Governments are often administered through the regional languages.
In the case of Honorable Judiciary of India, English shall be the official language of the Court proceedings[xv], through Hindi or the regional language so recognized could be permitted in High Court for the purpose of judgment, decree or passing an order provided the Governor of those States sanctions the same, after obtaining the President’s consent[xvi]. The District Courts may entertain regional languages for resolving disputes.
India, a country where 22 languages are recognized and around 13 scripts are utilized for official purposes, is a home to communities which identify themselves with their language, upholding their linguistic interests over that of the Nation’s. For instance, the formation of Telugu Andhra Pradesh led to the reorganization of the Indian States on linguistic lines, affecting the unity of masses as “Indians”. It is a notion that any attempt to declare an official language would pave way for developing upon it as the National Language of the State. Therefore, recognizing Hindi as the official language of the State and later as a symbol of national identity and unity is considered as a threat to the Dravidian identity and thus, in such a state of conflict, the Legislature is justified in not declaring Hindi as the official language of the State- thereby keeping a balance between the rights and interests of diverse social groups in India.
[iii]Rajan K. (Jan-Feb 2008). Situating the Beginning of Early Historic Times in Tamil Nadu: Some Issues and Reflections, Social Scientist, Vol. 36, Number 1/2, pp. 40-78
[iv]Article 343 of the Indian Constitution.
[v]Article 343 of the Indian Constitution.
[vi]Section 3(1) of The Official Languages Act,1963. (http://rajbhasha.nic.in/en/official-languages-act-1963)
[vii]Section 4(3) of The Official Languages Act,1963. (http://rajbhasha.nic.in/en/official-languages-act-1963)
[viii]Section 3(2) of The Official Languages Act,1963. (http://rajbhasha.nic.in/en/official-languages-act-1963)
[ix]Section 3(3) of The Official Languages Act,1963. (http://rajbhasha.nic.in/en/official-languages-act-1963)
[x]Section 5(1) of The Official Languages Act,1963. (http://rajbhasha.nic.in/en/official-languages-act-1963)
[xi]Article 348(1)(a) of Indian Constitution.
[xii]Article 346 of the Indian Constitution.
[xiii]Article 347 of the Indian Constitution.
[xiv]Article 346 of the Indian Constitution.
[xv]Article 348 of the Indian Constitution
[xvi]Section 7 of The Official Languages Act,1963. (http://rajbhasha.nic.in/en/official-languages-act-1963)
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