The formation of India as an integrated nation has been tumultuous and challenging. With a colonial history battered with divisive politics, communal concoction, and mammoth ethnic diversity, the consolidation of India was a Herculean task. Differences in opinions were monumental and linguistic barriers almost impossible to ignore. The prospect of making Hindi as the official language of India has always been seen as an attempt towards cultural homogenization, language hegemony, and the unwarranted imposition of the majority over the minority.
This had led to a wave of anti-Hindi protests in Tamil Nadu during 1937-1940 on the decision to make Hindi compulsory in education by the adamant C. Rajagopalachari. Even to this day, most regional parties of South India continue to march protests and agitations whenever the Central government attempts to change language regulations even by an inch. Recently the replacement of English signboards on the National Highways with Hindi scripted ones is seen as clandestine methods of imposing Hindi hegemony. Non-Hindi speaking states are absolutely abhorrent to his idea and react strongly against this enforcement.
This repugnance was evident from the Supreme Court decision to decline the plea to make Hindi compulsory up to Class VIII in schools and declaring it a national language. The bench comprised of Chief Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and the petitioner was a leader of BJP, Ashwani Kumar. The petition was in the spirit of Article 343, 344, 348, 351 and the Preamble of the Constitution of India. He also referred to the National Education Policy of 1986 that reiterated the three-language formula, also recommended by the Jaffri Committee of 1990.
The decline from the bench promotes national unity as they raised concern over the fact that entertaining such petitions would flood the Supreme Court with requests from other language speaking people.
CJI Khehar himself asserted, “Why have you come to court with this demand. You say you are a BJP man. Why don’t you approach the government? Your party is in power…” He even said, “Look the court cannot interfere in such issues. Today you are asking for Hindi. Tomorrow somebody will come to court and ask for making the study of Sanskrit mandatory. You and I would ask for Punjabi”. This clearly indicates that the apex court wants to do away with the agent provocateurs who deliberately intend to destabilize peace and tranquility between the federal states, and rightly so.
Although the Constitution framers had made Hindi the official language of the Union, they specifically kept English for all official purposes for the next 15 years. Presently, the highly diversified population of India with colossal linguistic barriers, this issue of imposition of Hindi can unnecessarily disturb the social fabric of India. People of India are proud of their language, history and its associated culture. They wish to conserve and propagate it to the next generation. Every government has to respect that feeling and avoid any acerbic provocations.
Article by Mausam