Language Use in Administration and National Integration

In India, during the British period, the organization of territories for administration was not based on any rational or a broad principle. As pointed out by Mount Ford Report in 1918, organization was based on military or administrative convenience, etc While doing so, the question of nearness to people to the administration or their likes were not considered.

The history of reorganization of Indian provinces on linguistic basis can be traced back to 1858. In the British Parliament, John Bright said that the provinces of India should be grouped into 5 administrative groups on the basis of geography and language. In 1896, Mahesh Narayan of Bihar began a movement for removal of Hindi speaking regions from Bengal to keep under one administration. With the vivisection of Bengal by Lord Curzon in 1905, the leaders of the nationalist movement began to give importance to the organization of States on language basis. In 1908, Lokamanya Tilak said before the Royal Commission that states should be organized on language basis and then onwards he became the forefront leader advocating this principle.

In order to be effective and to reach the people in their own language and to achieve its goals, in December 1920, the All India Congress Committee at Nagpur, organized its administrative divisions on the language basis.

The All Parties Conference set up the Motilal Nehru Committee (1928) to look into the aspects of reorganization. It supported the organization of regions on the linguistic principles. It opined that 'if the province has to educate itself and do its daily work through the medium of its own language, it must necessarily be a linguistic area. If it happens to be a poly got area difficulties will continually arise and media of instruction and work will be in two or even more languages. Hence it becomes most desirable for provinces to be re-grouped on a linguistic basis'. It stressed that while reorganizing 'Language, people's wish and administration convenience, including geographical position, the economic resources and financial stability of the area concerned should be the criteria. Indian National Congress had reaffirmed the principle of linguistic reorganization on three occasions between 1928 and 1947.1 The All Party Conference in its meeting from 28th to 31st August 1928 resolved to accept the reorganization of States on linguistic principle. The All India Congress in its 1945 election manifesto said that it is the aim of the Congress to provide opportunities to the people to develop according to their intentions and every group of people and every region of the country have to develop culturally. In order to achieve this the Congress has decided to organize the States on the basis of language and culture. Whereas the Linguistic Provinces Commission set up after the Independence of India under the Chairmanship of S.K. Dar (1948) in its report recommended that 'the emphasis should be primarily on administrative convenience and homogeneity of language will enter into consideration only as a matter of administrative convenience and not by its own independent force' It also felt that "Linguistic homogeneity in the formation of the new provinces is certainly attainable within certain limits but only at the cost of fresh minority problem"2. On the recommendation of the Dar Committee the Government was of intention to postpone the reorganization. However due to pressure from the public to revive the case of reorganization of the States, the All India Congress Committee in 1948 at Jaipur constituted the JVP Committee. The JVP (Jawaharlal Nehru, Vallabhabhai Patel and Pattabhi Sitaramaiah) Committee recommended "to postpone the formation of new provinces for a few years, so that we might concentrate during this period on other matters of vital importance and not allow ourselves to be distracted by this question"3.

It may be noted that the opinion of all the Committees and Commissions on the reorganization of the states centered around four principles of administrative convenience language, culture, development and unity.

The foundation for the second significant happening of the century, and first one after the Independence of the country, was laid on 22nd December 1953 with Jawaharlal Nehru's announcement in the Parliament of the Constitution of the States Reorganization Commission.

The Resolution of the Government of India relating to the reorganization said that

"The language and culture of an area have an undoubted importance as they represent a pattern of living which is common in that area. In considering a reorganization of States, however , there are other important factors which have also to be borne in mind. The first essential consideration is the preservation and strengthening of the unity and security of India. Financial, economic and administrative considerations are almost equally important, not only from the point of view of each State, but for the whole nation".4

The four principles that the State Reorganization Commission followed are:

1) Preservation and strengthening of the unity and security of India;
2) Linguistic and cultural homegeneity;
3) Financial, economic and administrative considerations; and
4) Successful working of the national plan.

While examining the related issues the Commission looked into :

i) minimum of internal cohesion,
ii) scope of positive expression of the collective personality of a people inhabitating a state or region,
iii) common language may not only promote the growth of such regional consciousness but also cause administrative convenience, and
iv) in democracy it is the duty of the Government to ensure that the administration is conducted in a language which the people can understand.

The Commission had to operate within certain 'limiting factors' because it had to consider the multilingual situation. The limiting factors were:

i) Not all the language groups are so placed that they can be grouped into separate states
ii) There are a large number of bilingual belts between different linguistic zones.
iii) There exist areas with a mixed population even within unilingual area.

Because of such limitations, a considerable number of people speaking languages other than the dominant language of the state remains as minority in a state. To safeguard the interests of these people, regarding use of languages of such minority groups in administration, the States Reorganization Commission suggested for administrative purposes that

a) A state should be considered monolingual when about 70% or more of the entire population of the state speaks the same language.
b) A State should be considered as bilingual when about 30% or more of the entire population of the state speaks a language other than the language of the region.
c) The language of the minority should be used for conducting official business in a district and not the official language of the state if 70% or more of the population of the District speaks it.
d) In bilingual districts, municipal areas or in Taluks where minorities contribute 15% to 20%, documents like Government notices, electoral rolls, ration cards, etc., are to be reprinted in both the languages.

The Commission in its recommendation allocated Kolar and Belgaum to Karnataka. Kolar town has a Tamil majority, the district has Telugu speaking majority and Kolar has strong relation with Karnataka (then Mysore State). Similarly regarding Belgaum it was stated that "all Taluks (ten) of Belgaum district have economic relations with both Marathi as well as the Kannada speaking areas. The Belgaum town is the centre of the transit trade in this area. Neither the Belgaum town nor the other disputed areas have any particular marked economic affiliation with Marathi speaking districts of Bombay. There is no case, therefore, for detaching either Khanapur or Belgaum or portions of Chikkodi from the rest of the Belgaum district ... If as many as nine out of the eleven taluks go to Karnataka (Chandgad going to Bombay and Belgaum being disputed), then, on administrative grounds, the Belgaum town which is the district headquarters along with Belgaum taluk should also go to Karnataka".5 Justice Mahajan in his Report on the Commission on Maharashtra-Mysore-Kerala Boundary Disputes, 1967 recommended that "The claim to the town of Belgaum is disallowed and the city is not recommended for transfer to the State of Maharashtra".6

It is nearly 30 years since reorganization, whenever any issue relating to use of language in education or administration is discussed passions rise and disharmony grows in this border. Language issue becomes a tool to revive the boundary dispute.