In a multi-lingual country, the choice of a National Language was by no means easy. Preference for any one language causes jealousy and heart burning to those who speak another.
Let us first consider the claims of English in this respect. One section of our people holds that English should continue to be the State language as before. They argue that English has been a powerful factor in establishing political and national unity in recent times. Secondly, knowledge of English is necessary in the interest of culture, to ensure contact with the progressive thoughts of the West. Thirdly, since the State language need not be universal language spoken by all our peoples, English may continue in its present position, since machinery, the infrastructure exists for teaching it on a large scale. We have English-knowing able teachers, schools, newspapers, libraries, records etc. Today English is the language most extensively learnt throughout the world; its choice would be practically useful to us. For English is the recognised language of commerce, sports and even of aviation and travel agencies.
As against this view, it is argued that retention of the language of former foreign rulers goes against our national prestige. The cultural need for learning English will remain only so long as our own languages are not sufficiently developed.
There is no doubt that Hindi of a sort, with its large percentage of Sanskrit words, is generally understood—though not spoken all over Northern India and in some other parts of the vast country.
The adoption of Hindi as a State language will give an undue advantage to the people speaking that language. This, however, can be countered by allowing UPSC examinees to answer in one of the regional languages recognised in the 8th Schedule of the Constitution. Also a gentleman's agreement was made to the effect that students of the Hindi region will learn a language of non-Hindi region and pass its examination.
But this three-language formula agreement has by now become all but a dead matter. If we make it compulsory for all to learn at least one of our other major vernaculars, beside the official language selected, as the National Language English must be learnt, then the problem largely ceases to exist. Geographically and culturally, our country is one. But it contains a variety of races speaking a variety of languages. English has also come very much into the picture because it is a language that has been used by the educated community for nearly a century and a half and has opened to us the gateway of modern knowledge.
So the question of finally selecting the National Language was considered on practical and sentimental grounds. Pandit Nehru, our first Prime Minister, however, found a solution out of the raging controversy. He declared as a national policy on the floor of the Parliament that English would continue to be alternative National Language as long as the people of the Non-Hindi regions would want it. He also assured that Hindi would not be forced on others and that every Indian language would be allowed to develop without coming in the way of others. But after Nehru's death the Hindi Zealots, with the control over the official machinery, have started imposing and infiltrating Hindi bluntly on Non-Hindi regions. This is broadly noticed in selecting the programmes of Radio and TV. Even from Railway Stations English names have been removed.
The need for a National Language is essentially political and administrative. In the first place, since centralised administration, must use some one language in order to transact its business with the States, a common language simplifies the problem of intercommunication between the States as also between the States and the Centre.
Secondly, India must have one language of her own in which to address the rest of the world. National prestige demands this. A free Indian cannot use a foreign language for all times.
Thirdly, there must be one language to carry on inter-state cultural conferences and transactions of other business. Finally, there should be a language in which people of one State may address the people of another. Obviously, the language which is most likely to serve all these purposes of our national life is best fitted to be chosen as the National Language.
The question is—which is to be that language? National integration would be much more commented by accepting Hindi. In fact, this was the recommendation (Hindustani) of the Congress a few years back, which received almost unanimous support from all others.