When the British left Indian shores it was hoped that English also would leave this country at a no distant date. The most sanguine of its protagonists could only expect that even if it stayed on in some form it would forfeit its predominant status. The view was reinforced by the unequivocal declaration in our Constitution:
“The official language of the Union shall be Hindi in Devanagari script. For a period of fifteen years from the commencement of this Constitution, the English language shall continue to be used for all a official purposes of the Union for which it was being used immediately before such commencement.”
The Constitution commenced in 1950 and English should have been replaced even as a link language in 1965 but by an irony of circumstances this language goes on as merrily as, if not merrier than, before.
The number of public schools, of Convents, of Montessories, all English medium institutions has registered a steep rise. Cases have come to light where I use of a Hindi word in a class is punishable with a fine, if not a slap. Every middle-class family prides itself on sending its children to the schools. Not only government officials, even ministers who cry themselves hoarse on our duty towards Rashtrabhasha do not feel any qualm patronizing these schools.
Et tu, Brute. All sorts of arguments, quite a is of them specious, are advanced in support of the retention of English 33 even the status quo. The most vehement of these is that it is our doorway to the west, and opens up vast vistas of science, technology and literature.
It is the most widely used, spoken as well as written. It has subtle nuances and shades of expression which makes it an ideal medium communication. If nothing else, we should retain it for its beneficent role in our movement of freedom and democracy as well as its contribute towards our cultural renaissance.
Even the most ardent advocate will have to admit that the role English has been that of a catalytic agent. When the experiment is over, only a fool will cling to the catalytic agent. And there is the irrefutable argument from statistics. English, today, touches only a fringe of our population.
In fact, it is the language of our elite or on lower levels, the petty officials, the quill-drivers who move the juggernaut of bureaucratic administration. More than eighty per cent of our people residing in villages do not understand it, except for a word here or a word there which they have picked up during their visit to the town.
At a modest estimate might take two centuries to make this language our lingua franca. With our huge democratic Leviathan waking up out of the slumber of centuries. English cannot remain our medium of mass-communication. Apart from this argument of non-feasibility there is the question of national self- respect. Already a good deal of damage has been done. Our schools, colleges and universities have been greatly handicapped by the use of English as a compulsory subject.
How much of our talent has withered and rotted. The sooner this tyranny is over, the better for the country. With the lucidity and precision characteristic of him, Gandhiji put the issue in the correct perspective. English should go as the medium of instruction and be replaced with the mother-tongue. Gandhiji was English-hater.
In fact he wrote in English which even the Englishmen envied. But as a patriot his heart was sore at what harm this language had done. “It is my considered opinion that English education in the manner in which it has been given has emasculated the English educated Indians, constrained our intellect and rendered us effeminate.”
English has no legal or moral right to occupy the pre-eminent position it did during the British regime. Its place might well be in the eighth schedule of our Constitution.