The British always claimed the credit that it is they who welded India together into a vibrant nation. They go so far as to say that Indian nationality was a product of the English language. As against this, the finest minds of India vigorously maintained that India had always been a nation that underlying the manifold diversities and differences of race and language and habits, there had always been a sense of fundamental unity, a feeling of togetherness. Indeed, our heterogeneous differences are on the surface only, they were overplayed and stressed by our foreign rulers.
On the subject of nationality, it is commonly held that nationhood depends on strong feelings of sentiments. A people become a nation when it feels it is one. Stalin’s words are worth quoting in this connection. “A nation is historically evolved; stable community of language, territory, economic life and psychological make-up, manifested in a community of culture”—are the essentials.
The problem in India is that the country has a geographical or territorial and ethnic unity and continuity, a common historical and cultural heritage, an economic inter-dependence, but without pronounced psychological integration and without linguistic homogeneity. Thus there is, on the surface, a good deal of difference between a Punjabi and a Madrasi (Tamil) or between a Bengalee and a Parsi. Stalin pointed out that of the four bases of common language, territory, economic life and psychological make-up, the absence of any one will prevent the growth of a nation.
Language constitutes difficult barrier to the fusion of our people into a homogeneous nation. The Congress party had all through its struggle for independence recognized this necessity of forming linguistic states. Instead of a federal type in which each state is guaranteed maximum internal autonomy, our founding fathers created a unitary type of Constitution with powers reserved at the Centre, and with Hindi as common State language, to be gradually used as the main medium of communication. Inter-state jealousies are making themselves felt, standing in the way of fuller national integration.
So the problem was—how to deal with this question of nationalities in the best interest of a peaceful and co-operative growth of the country. To obviate the difficulties Nehru declared on the floor of the Parliament that English would continue to be the Alternative State language as long as the inhabitants of the Non-Hindi regions would want it.
Since then English is continuing as a recognised link language, though efforts are fully in progress to give ascendancy to Hindi, to cement national integration. However, the three-language formula, that of mother tongue, Hindi and English (with provision for Hindi-speaking students to learn a language of the Non-Hindi States) has failed and discontinued since.
A common State language for the whole country can be contemplated only by a Government that thinks in terms of administrative unity. The study of one or more state languages should be assiduously encouraged, though the basic language of every state should be its own medium. So come in the linguistic states, — each state having its own university and educational system, based on its own language.
The emotional integrity in a multi-national country will always be opposed by a group of interests who fear that the new set-up may jeopardize their interests in future. Hence the solution of the problem of nationalities in India depends, first, on the recognition of India as a multi-national geographical unit. The bond that best unites a heterogeneous community of people is an equally shared conviction — ideals, sentiments, cultural legacy. It is to be remembered that freedom is a privilege that is inviolable and guaranteed, not only by the Constitution but by a strong national consciousness.