India has an extraordinary complex pattern of linguistic grouping.
No nation surpasses it in sheer multiplicity of languages. It has therefore not one language problem but a complex of language problems.
Language can be a powerful unifying as well as divisive force. It can bind and unite and promote brother-hood. It can also separate and divide and hatred. We have had many bitter experiences in the past.
The misplaced zeal to impose the use of Hindi or particular state language as a medium of instruction on those whose mother tongue is different has in variably proved to be counterproductive. Question of special status for an ethnic group and its language have agitated the politics of various regions of the Indian Republic.
The stress on the mother tongue in higher education and the concomitant preference for sons of the soil in appointments has brought infinite harm to our universities. They have ceased to be the store houses of values and creators of ideal Sarakaria Commission in its report has laid emphasis on the need to cultivate for balance and caution and sort out the languages problems before it became very explosive.
The unfinished and continuing task of nation building require a more relaxed and practical approach to languages. Let us use it as a means of enlargement of knowledge of the spirit language policy failure or success?
The language problem in the past has had three main dimensions (i) the determination of an official language, (ii) the status of regional languages (iii) the creation of linguistic states.
These issues for a time posed the prospects of a ‘bankanisation’ or disintegration of India into a number of separate linguistic nations.
It goes to the credit of Indian leadership that despite intense conflict it succeeded in keeping the disputes under control and ultimately in bringing about a compromise solutions to both official language and regional language issues.
The various studies which have been published an India’s language problem have arrived at a consensus that the major linguistic issues have been resolved in a manner that preserves the cultural integrity of major linguistic groups in India and the unity of India. Of course matters pertaining to the right of linguistic minorities and the status of migrants in the linguistically organized states still remain unresolved.
In the opinion of some critics, the language policy of the Indian government has proved a failure. A monolingual policy, with another language as a temporary prop has done us immunizer harm instead of there being the growth of a sense of unity a wedge has appeared between north and south.
All important political, economic, administrative, scientific, and managerial work continues to be done in English a language which over 95% of the population cannot effectively use. This according to same is one of the reasons at alienation of the masses.”
The spirit behind the so called three language formula in schools has been contemptuously flouted and the growth of the study of southern language in the north has been negligible. Now there is an increasing in tendency to ensure that the more talented among common people are alienated the masses by putting them in separate English medium schools which would effectively help them to join the ruling and dominant strata.
Politics of Linguistic States:
After the attainment of freedom and integration of princely dominions, the cry for redrawing of provincial frontiers on linguistic lines began to echo from all corners of the sub content. Pandit Nehru’s govt was called upon to fulfill the promise of creating linguistically homogenous states within the Indian union.
The disruption of partition and problems arising from the integration of princely states did not favour any further reorganisation. The Indian Republic has yet to meet similar demands from Jharkhand tribals and Bodos of Assam.
Stages in the Pattern:
Paul Brass has identified four stages in the regular pattern which has been adopted by the central govt, in the past (i) initiation of demand for reorganization by most regional conscious linguistic group or party which hoped to gain from division, (ii) opposition and resistance to the demand from the provincial congress organization and others who feared to lose by division, (iii) the crumbling of opposition to the demands in the face of growing popular sentiments for reorganization, (iv) the intervention of central govt, directly or through a commission and the decision to divide and reorganize.
Looking back on the linguistic state agitations one can see without any confusion that Mrs. Gandhi, being more amenable to linguistic nationality pressures acceded to the demanded for Punjabi Suba and presented a plan for autonomous will state in Assam called Meghalaya.
In 1971, the North Eastern Re-organisation Bill was passed which gave statehood, to Tripura, Manipur and Meghalaya and union territory status to Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh. Her favourable attitude towards linguistic issues paid her rich political divided.
The linguistic agitations proved to be one of the decisive factors in setting the course of politics for the next few decades. Political agitations, mass demonstrations, civil disobedience were all resorted to by linguistic state agitators.
This style of political protest continues to be part and parcel of the current agitations for Uttarkhand, Jharkhand etc. Linguistic states have not led to the political disintegration. It is true they have given impetus to regionalism and” sub-regionalism.