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The Constitution of India is the longest in the world. It had 395 articles in 22 parts and 8 schedules at the time of its commencement. Now it has 448 articles in 25 parts and 12 schedules.

The Eighth schedule of Indian Constitution lists the official languages of the Republic of India. It consists of 22 languages that are Bengali, Urdu, Tamil, Telugu, Marathi, Sanskrit, Hindi, Nepali, Gujarati, Kannada, Oriya, Assamese, Konkani, Malayalam, Manipuri, Punjabi, Santhali, Sindhi, Dongri, Bodo, Kashmiri, Konkani and Maithili. Of these languages, 14 were originally included in the Constitution. The 21st Amendment Act of 1967 added Santhali, the 71st Amendment Act of 1992 added Konkani, Manipuri and Nepali and the 92nd Amendment Act of 2003 added Bodo, Dongri, Maithili and Santhali.

Presently, there are six languages that enjoy classical status in India which are Tamil, Sanskrit, Kannada, Telugu, Malayalam and Odia. All of them are listed in the 8th schedule. In the year 2006, Government of India declared the criteria for categorization of these languages i.e., they should be old and antique, should have heritage of literature, etc. Once a language is notified as a classical language, the HRD ministry provides certain benefits to promote it, for illustration, a centre of excellence for studies in classical languages is set up.

There are certain fundamental provisions related to this schedule. Article 344(1) provides for the constitution of a commission by the President on expiration of 5 years from the inception of the constitution. Article 351 provides for the spread of the Hindi language to develop it so that it may serve as a medium of expression for all the rudiments of the compound culture of India.

At the time when the constitution was legislated, addition in this list meant that the language was entitled to representation on the Official Languages Commission, and that the language would be one of the bases that would be drawn upon to enrich Hindi and English, the official languages of the Union. The list has since, however, acquired further significance. The Government of India is now under obligation to take measures for the development of these languages, such that “they grow promptly in affluence and become effective means of communicating ultramodern knowledge”.

However, it can be noted that there is no fixed criteria for any language to be considered for addition in the 8th schedule.

Hindi, one of the prominent languages included under the 8th schedule, was adopted as the Official language of the Union of India on 14th September, 1949 which is now celebrated as “Hindi Diwas”. Later in 1950, the Constitution of India declared Hindi in the Devanagari script as the Official language of the Union. Apart from Hindi, the well-known language English is also recognized as an Official language of India. Different states of India identify their own official languages through legislation.

It is one of the main languages in India and is spoken by around 40 percent of the Indian population. In the year 1950 it was declared that the use of English was to be put to an end, 15 years after the formation of the constitution i.e., by 26th January, 1965. This decision was not met with joy by non-Hindi speaking areas of India, such as South India since their languages are not remotely similar to Hindi. Keeping this in mind, the Parliament implemented the Official Languages Act, 1963 which allowed the continuation of the use of English along with Hindi for official purposes after 1965.

Article 343 states the Official language of the Union and sub section 1 says that the Official language of the Union shall be Hindi in Devanagari script.

If we get into the history of Hindi language, we find that it belongs to the Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European language group. Later it was influenced by Persian and the Mughals made their own modifications to the language along the way. Even though Hindi evolved from Sanskrit, many of its words find their origin in Arabic or Persian.

Apart from being a ‘link language’ for a large Indian diaspora living around the world and also for North and South India, the language is also known as the ‘Language of Unity’ as Mahatma Gandhi used Hindi to unite India.

Above all, Hindi could not be made the National language of India. It is not only against the law but is also against the interests of the regions where the language is not spoken. India is a land of diversity composed of individuals from different communities, backgrounds, faiths, etc. What one eats, how one speaks, differs from region to region. In this diversity, Indians frequently look for symbols and objects to unite them. The national anthem, national animal, national song, national flower are some relevant examples. It is famously said that in India language changes every few kilometres just like the water. Thus, unlike the other public symbols, the choice of a national language for India has been strenuous and has witnessed violence and heated debates.

The perils of imposing a language are multifarious. It can affect the literacy capability of non-native speakers thereby affecting their self-confidence. It can also jeopardize other languages and dialects and reduce diversity. National integration can’t come at the cost of people’s verbal individualities. Language is integral to culture and thus favouring Hindi over all the other languages spoken in India takes far away from its diversity.

There are various reasons why Hindi can’t be made a national language like people in India have the right to speak in any of those 22 languages listed in the 8th schedule and our country is best known for its concinnity in diversity hence the debate on making Hindi the National language disturbs the peace and harmony of the nation. Moreover, Gujarat High Court has passed a statement saying that Hindi is not the language of the country as the Constitution of India has stated Hindi as the Official language and not the National language. Hence, it can be said that it is not necessary to use Hindi as the National language of India.

This article is written by Aditi Ananya of Chanakya National Law University.

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