of the recurrent aspects of language conflict which symbolize feelings of social
divisions, separateness and group loyalties clearly demonstrate that the problem
becomes acute when the question of national language policy gets politicized.
However, the political expression of language loyalties in form of language movements
generated by the assertive roles of certain political organizations have not been
necessarily anti-national. As the political conflict based on the language loyalties
often leaves a divisive and destructive impact on the society or nation, "the
tendency to treat these loyalties as inherently anti-national is wide-spread"
(Das Gupta 1970 : 1). But once we begin to view the difference in perspective
in which a society as 'ethnos' integrates itself and a nation as a policy attempts
at the political cohesion, many of the misgivings about the language conflict
become crystal clear.
Some of the basic distinctions in this respect can be pointed out as below :
Ethnos, as ethnically defined speech community, is a his
community of people characterized by
common, relatively stable cultural features,
psychological traits and also by an awareness of their
and distictness (i.e. we-they oppositions) from their similar
communities. In this case the meaning implied is a Russian
i.e., natsionalnost (Bromely 1974 : 36).
Russian term 'natsiya' i.e. nation is a broader concept demanding the
of state affiliation and economic consolidation
by the regional sense of identity and affection for their native land. The we-they
opposition in this context is to be characterized as ethnopolitical community
which may be uni-ethnic as Japan or multi-ethnic as India.
The nature and process of Social-ethnic and Socio-
political integration though
not isomorphic are interactional
in post-feudal societies.
The nature and process of language conflict differ with
the difference in
the political system of a nation depending on
whether the system is imperialistically
nationally organizational, whether the governmental decision
system is democratic in function or authoritarion in action,
ideal of a nation as an ethno-political unit is : 'internal cohesion - external
distinction,' (Haugen 1966). The political considerations are guided by vehicular
(instrumental) motivation while socio-ethnic unity is achieved by cultural (integrational)
motivation. The political ideal dictates that for the intense communication there
be a single effective language whether one's own or other's while socio-cultural
ideals of a nation direct that for the sake of identity and external distinction
the language promoted be one's own. In the context of a multilingual nation, communication
system for its cross regional or inter-ethnic interaction either shapes itself
in the form of official language or onfiguartes itself as a national language.
An Official language is concerned with nationism and integrates the country through
its administrative goals into political and economic unity. A national language
has its roots in the socio-cultural authentically and great traditions through
which it integrates the nation on the socio-cultural level (Fishman 1971).
The theory of nation that defines it as a polity by 'internal cohesion and external
distinction' is too simplistic to account for the complex semantics of language
policy an language conflict. Following facts may be adduced in support of this.
(1) The external distinction which is motivated by the
problem of national
identity and loyalty is generally cosntrai
ned by the urge of international
communication. We know
well how the Irish movement got ultimately a low ebb
of the pressure of English as an international language.
(2) The analytic concept of a nation which accepts it as a
arrangement between its sub-units (i.e.,
states or politically governed provinces)
directs to account for
states as political entitles by the same criterion-internal cohesion and external
distinction. Thus, like national identity and national loyalty, one often comes
across with the question of regional (state level) identity and loyalty. When
the states are organized on the socio-ethnically consolidated speech communities,
language loyalties tend to become in nature and function isomorphic with the loyalties
for the politically motivated organizations or regional units. This becomes the
root cause for the group politics involved in the processes of language policy
Indian political system always seeks a compromise between two types of pressure
- the centripetal force generated out of the need for the inter-regional coordination
at the Centre which primarily communities in English and secondarily in Hindi
and the centrifugal force generated out of the demands of the regional states
which is motivated to take a larger share of its activity to itself and through
its own regional (state official0 language.
(3) In a traditional and stratified society of India one gets a hierarchically
organized network of social identity marked with the different layers of language
loyalties patterned like the politically organized system i.e., international,
national, regional (state), local (district) etc. Language conflicts may manifest
the clash in the interest between any two levels of identities and loyalties.
For example, Hindi as an official language of India as a nation comes in conflict
with English (as a language for the international communication), with Tamil,
Bengali etc. (as dialects threatening to establish their own identities.)
(4) Basic to all the language conflicts is the problem of social and economic
growth of members of a given speech community as a social and economic growth
of members of a given speech community as a social group. The centrifugal force
for political separatism and group conflict is largely dependant upon "the
degree to which social mobility is blocked because of membership in a given language
group" (Inglehart and Woodward 1967 : 359).
The most relevant characteristic of Indian bilingualism has been its allocation
of social roles to different languages that form a complex whole of socio-cultural
behavior. Different languages configurate in a diglossic relationship that encouraged
stable maintenance of their compartmentalized roles. Non-competing nature these
roles sustained the non-coflicting and socially stable pattern of bilingualism.
(Srivastava 1976). But with the formation of regional linguistic states with dominant
language raised to the official language statue, the situation obviously got changed.
Since the government is the main employer and since the government job is the
main source for the social mobility and status-uplift, speech communities whenever
felt handicapped, due to the pressure tactics of the dominant group, came invariably
to the agitation. "Linguistic diversity has existed in India from the beginning
of her recorded history. What is new and significant for political study is the
mobilization of language groups for social and political objectives. These processes
of mobilization invariably result in political restructuring of forces in the
Indain society." (Das Gupta 1970 : 70). The creation of Telugu speaking Andhra
Pradesh as a separate State is typical instance of group conflict.
(5) Linguistically oriented group conflicts leading to te political cleavage may,
apart from the socio-economic factors, be motivated by any feature of socio-ethnic
character. In India, for example, religious ties serve as ethnic isolates. For
example, the Muslim League and the Aligarh movement symbolized the Urdu language
movement with the Muslim culture movement on religious basis, which ultimately
got manifested in the form and function of the Pakistan movement.
Language movements are generally movements of group interest which exerts its
pressure on the personal loyalty. A person may shift his stand as regards to his
group affiliation and group loyalty. The two notable instances from the Indian
scene are of C. Rajagopalachari and Suniti Kumar Chatterjee. During the phase
of Indian nationalism Rajagopalachari was the one who declared that Hindi alone
can be the official language of the future India ; during the Official Language
Commission deliberations he put forward that English and/or Hindi as a bilingual
knit could be the only solution for the official language controversy; and at
the Madras State anti-Hindi Conference in 1965 his avowed policy was for English
alone. This shift in his stand is nothing but symptomatic of his group loyalty
in the different phases of his political career.
is under the perspective of group loyalty, language conflict and national development
as laid down in the first half of the paper that I propose to critically examine
some of the major movements that prevailed in the South against Hindi as an official
language. I am aware of the fact that the description as well as its critical
appraised to see the movements as characteristic of political aspirations and
achievements of the involved speech communities in the form of cause and effect
phenomenon of historical dynamics. There could have been another way of looking
at it viz, typology of movements as marker of distinct types of language conflict
i.e. movements from within the Hindi region versus outside the Hindi region ;
within the Hindi region sociolecial (Hindi-Hindustani) versus dialectal (Hindi-Maithili)
; official language (Hindi-English) versus national language (Hindi-Tamil/Bengali)
Constituent Assembly accepted Hindi in the Devanagari script as the official language
of the Union. The Constitution of India contains several other provisions under
article 120 (1) and 343 to 351 in respect of the Official Language, some of them
are given below for further discussion.
343 (1) : The official language of the Union shall be Hindi
The form of numerals to be used for the official purposes of the Union
shall be the international form of Indian numerals.
: Not withstanding anything in the clause (1), for a period of fifteen years from
the commencement of the constitutions the English language shall continue to be
used for all the official purposes of the Union for which it was being used immediately
before such commencement : Provided that the President may during the said period
authorize the use of the Hindi language in addition to the English language and
of the Devanagari form of numerals in addition to the international form of Indian
numerals for an of the official purposes of the Union.
351 : 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 form, style and expression
used in Hindustani and in the other languages of India specified in the VIII schedule,
and by drawing,
necessary or desirable, for its vocabulary, primarily on Sanskrit and secondarily
on other languages.
The background in which these decisions were adopted is
understanding the spirit behind the statutory provisions. The debate
in the Constituent assembly on the Official Language took place between September
12 to September 14, 1949. Within the assembly there were two distinct blocs :
Pro-Hindi and Anti-Hindi wherein Pro-Hindi bloc was divided into two : (a) Hindi
bloc represented by P. D. Tandon, Govind Das, Sampurnanand, Ravi Shankar Shukla
and K. M. Munshi and 9b) Hindustani bloc represented by Nehru and Azad.
Anti-Hindi bloc was generally in favour of promoting English to the official statues
though claims for Sanskrit and Bengali were also occasionally got voiced. According
to Ayyangar, English was the language on which "We have built and achieved
our freedom". For Naziruddin Ahmed and Dr. Shyama Prasad Mukerjee, English
opened to India knowledge, specially in the realm of science and technology and
its acceptance may be 'disagreeable necessity ; but still it s a necessity."
Nehru was of the opinion that "We must have our own language" but according
to him, "English is undoubtedly today the nearest approach to an international
language". The viable national language policy was evolved under Munshi-Ayyangar
formula as a measure of compromise on several issues. Following were some of the
(i) Hindi is the official rather than the national language of India [Art.343
English is to be retained for a period of fifteen years from the date of implementation
of the Constitution i.e. 1950 [Art.343 (2)].
of the regional languages were upheld through the VIII schedule.
conflicts were resolved through the ambiguous directive of Art. 357.
Constitution provides provision for the appointment of a Language Commission to
advise the President regarding the progressive use of Hindi and restriction on
English for the official purposes of the union. The first Official Language Commission
was appointed on 7th June, 1955, which submitted its report on 31st July, 1956.
The Committee of Parliament on Official Language under the Chairmanship of G.
B. Pant submitted its report to the President on February 8, 1959. "Pant
realized that the post-independence fervour to have one language as the facts
of national unity jas ebbed away, The critcism that Hindi had neither any cultural
nor political pre-eminence over the other regional languages had become louder."
(Nayar 1969 : 32). This was the voice generated outside Hindi region ; Tandon
expressed the other view : 'Hindi, for me, is the most patent means of unification
and integration'. The recommendation of the Committee was that Hindi be accepted
as the principal and English a subsidiary language with no target date for the
switch over. Members of non-Hindi region were not happy over the recommendation.
S. K. Chatterjee clearly mentioned that the orientation of the Commission was
in favour of Hindi speakers 'whoa are to profit immediately and for a long time
to come, it not for ever,' Anthony held the view that 'it spells the inevitable
disintegration of the country' and Subbarayan characterized it as a victory of
The voice and mood that was inside the Committee was also outside of it. The Academy
of Telugu convened in Madras a Union Language Convention in the year 1956 which
resented imposition of Hindi on the South. It also expressed its anger over switching
over English to Hindi. Under the initiative of Rajagopalachari and All India Language
Conference was held in 1958 wherein Frank Anthony stated : "The new Hindi
today is a symbol of language chauvanism, and worst of all, it is a symbol of
oppression of the minority languages." Rajagopalachari, once the supporter
of the promotion of Hindi to the official and national status, declared "Hindi
is as much as foreign language to the non-Hindi speaking people as English to
the protagonists of Hindi". This conference brought together political leaders
of diverse orientations, "ranging from Marxism to Dravidianism" (Das
Gupta : 193) A resolution was passed in the Conference that English be continued
as the Union language without any time limit.
The pressure of anti-Hindi agitation on Nehru was such that after commending the
Report of the Committee as a 'remarkable piece of work', on August 7, 1959, he
gave an assurance in the Lok Sabha "I would have it (English) as an alternate
language as long as people require it and the decision for that I would leave
not to the Hindi-knowing people, but to the non Hindi-knowing people". Obviously,
not only-pro-Hindi group was dissatisfied but even G.B.Pant, Chairman of the Committee
and the then Home Minister of India, expressed his disappointment over the outcome.
He told Nayar "whatever I achieved
two years, the Prime Minister destroyer it in less than two minute." (Nayar
: 51). The Official Language Bill was enacted in 1963. The purpose of this Bill
in the words of Nehru was to remove the restriction on the use of English from
the Constitution. In his own words, "This is a Bill, in continuation of what
has happened in the past, to remove a restriction which had been placed by the
Constitution on the use of English after a certain date i.e. 1965. It is just
to remove that restriction that this is placed."
In spite of the Official Language Act 1963, some of the Hindi speaking States
adopted Hindi as the language of courts. The Home Ministry showed interest in
the in service training programme and made Hindi obligatory for all Central Government
employees above Class III. It even issued a circular that Hindi would become the
principal official language of the Union on January 26, 1965. This meant many
things : Hindi States would correspond with the Centre in Hindi ; Government employees
could use Hindi for noting and drafting ; in addition to English, Hindi names
would be given to Central Government Offices, and Organisation. Once again "Banish
English movement" was launched in the North to remove English shop sign-boards
and car number plates. The lead taken by SSP in 1957 was now in the hands of Jan
Sangha-a party with revivalist orientation. The position of this party was strengthened
with the joining of Dr.Raguvira after his resignation from the Congress party.
the Jan Sangha in the North, which agitated for replacing English by Hindi, the
Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) in the South fought against Hindi and sought the
use of Hindi to be kept in abeyance indefinitely. Apart from fighting against
Hindi dominance, it also fought for the development of the Tamil Language. With
blessing from Rajagopalachari, DMK organized the Madras State Anti-Hindi Conference
on January 17, 1965. The conference declared January 26, 1965 as a day of mourning.
Students participated in the agitation which turned violent. A Tamilnadu Students
Anti-Hindi agitation Council was immediately formed. They burnt down Hindi name
boards at Railway stations. More than fifty thousand students of Madras College
formed a procession. Such demonstration were staged at many places across the
State. Two workers of the DMK publicly burnt themselves to death. In an encounter
with the state police, no less than seventy people were killed. Two Union Ministers
from the Ministry resigned from their office. All this led to the Official Language
(Amendment) Act of 1967. The purpose of this act was to give statutory shape to
Nehru's assurance. In this act, the
section was substituted for Section 3 of the Official Language Act, 1963.
standing the expiration of the period of 15 years from the commencement of the
Constitution, the English language may, as from the appointed day, continue to
be used, in addition to Hindi (a) for all the official purposes of the Union for
which it was being used immediately before that day : and (b) for the transaction
of business in Parliament".
Other salient features of this Amendment were that it encouraged bilingualism
in the use of Official Language by giving option for the use of either Hindi or
English in certain specified areas of activities like (a) resoulutions, general
orders, rules, notifications etc, (b) administrative and other reports and (c)
contracts, agreements, licenses, tender forms etc. and by asking for translation
in English of the communications mad in Hindi between the Union and a State which
had adopted Hindi between the Union and a State which had adopted Hindi as Official
The nature and pattern of these movements against Hindi as an Official Language
reveal clearly the following points :
Language movements were organised by such speech communities which felt that with
the exclusive adoption of Hindi as an Official Language, their opportunity for
securing government jobs and other status positions will be lost and therefore,
their social mobility will be blocked. Added to this was fear that Hindi speaking
Indians wouid tend to dominate the government.
Language Movements were instituted and instigated by the elite middle class who
are bilinguals speaking English in addition to a regional language. Apart from
occasionally laying emphasis on the promotion of their own regional languages,
they considered their action towards the retention of English, which gave to them
power and Status.
Several self-made and tailored arguments in favour of the rentention of English
were adduced. Some major arguments put forward by the Movements are:
is a developed language best suited for our industrial an scientific progress.
English is less divisive because of its neutral character ; i.e. the theory of
"the equal distribution of handicaps" which "in our situation only
(iii)English is not really a foreign language for India as 'foreign is a political
concept. Nothing is foreign when we
make it our own.' (for a critique of these arguments see Srivastava 1975).
Language Movements in the South and in the North (i.e., anti-and pro-Hindi Movements)
act and react in a spiral way ; each major political action of the North towards
a policy formulation and implementation regarding Hindi gets rebounced by a reaction
from the South and vice-versa.
Language Movements have their own effect on the formulation of language policy
and its implementation. The Official Language policy has been shaped through stress
and strain and compromise and reconciliation. It is for this reason that politically
the democratic system existed through the agencies external to its structure and
the integrated outlook was evolved not by the developmental capability of the
dominating ruling party but by the dispersal and amalgmation facilities of decision
Socio-ethnic factors are invariably brought into the gamut of Language Movements.
It has been pointed out by Max Weber that group organizations with political discourse
are generated out of two types of social relationships ; communal which is based
on sentiment and tradition and associative which is founded on belief in achieving
certain pragmatic ends. The organized associations in India through religious
and cultural bond combined the two factors in defence of political values. It
is for this reason that Language Movements in southern States characterized Hindi
domination as a symbolof political source of Aryan and Brahmanical cultural domination.
Dravidian movement of South was in fact a movement against Aryan and Brahmanical
culture. The Dravida Kazhagam (DK) and later the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK)
were merely the extension and intensification of militant and dynamic antireligious
'Self Respect Movement' of 1925. It was under this fervour that E. v. Ramaswamy
Naicker appealed DK to burn the national flag and the North-South animosity was
exploited by DK in the form of Ravan Leela in Madras on December 25, 1974 wherein
effigies of Rama, Lakshmana and Sita were burnt. Bringing in socio-ethnic factors
is not the sole peculiarity of the South ; in fact, it is in the socio-cultural
soil in India. Similar was the move by Sir Sayd Ahmed Khan who founded the 'United
Indian Patriotic Association' and formulated the two nation theory for India which
through Aligarh Movement gave rise to the Pakistan Movement.