The official and regional languages of India play an important role in communication among the people living in the country. India is a vast country with people belonging to various religions and communities living here. Due to this reason, diversity in languages across India can be conceived as a special feature of the nation. Apart from the official languages, there are around 844 dialects, which are used by people living in different parts of the country.
Emergence of the Official Languages of India
English was the only language used for official purpose in the British India. However, when, the Constitution of India was made, it was declared in Article 343 (1) that Hindi will be the official Union language. It was also mentioned that over a period of fifteen years since the commencement of the Indian Constitution, Hindi will replace English, which was used as the official language of the country. However, there was provision made that Parliament can decide whether to use English as an official language or not. The non-Hindi speaking communities across the country protested on the aspect of the change in official language from English to Hindi. This protest resulted in the enactment of the Official Language Act, 1963.
According to the Official Language Act, 1963, since 26th January, 1965, Hindi in Devanagari script has been declared the official language of the Union. International form of Indian numerals was chosen as the preferred form of numerals used for official purpose. However, Section 3 of the Official Language Act mentioned that English may also be used for official purposes even after 1965. English has been given the status of the 'subsidiary official language' of India. It was decided that either Hindi or English can be used for procedures of Parliament. The limitation of the usage of Hindi and English languages for official purpose has also been determined in the Official Language Act, 1963. The Official Language Rules, 1976 also specifies various usages of these official languages. The Department of Official Language was formed under the Ministry of Home Affairs, which is authorized to monitor the developments and usages of the official languages of the country.
Languages included in the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution of India
In the Constitution of India, there is a provision made for each of the Indian states to choose their own official language for communicating at the state level. The selected languages, which can be used for official purpose, have been listed in the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution. Initially there were 14 languages. However, as of May 2007, the number of languages mentioned in the Eighth Schedule has been increased to 22.
Details of the languages included in the Eighth Schedule are mentioned below:
- Assamese: State language of Assam, it is used by 1.6% of the Indian population. Assamese is also used by people living in Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and West Bengal. The language, also known as Asamiya, Asami and Asambe, can be classified under the Indo-European group of languages.
- Oriya: Originated from the Indo-European language family, this language is spoken by 3.3% of the total population of India. State language of Orissa, Oriya is also spoken by people living in Assam, Singhbhum and Ranchi districts of Jharkhand, Raipur, Raigarh and Bastar districts of Chhattisgarh, Midnapore district of West Bengal and Vishakhapatnam District of Andhra Pradesh. Oriya language is also reckoned by several other names like Uriya, Vadiya, Utkali, Odrum, Orissa, Oliya, Yudhia and Odri.
- Urdu: spoken by 5.3% of Indian population, Urdu is the State language of Jammu and Kashmir. The language is said to have originated from the Indo-European language family. The language is used mostly by people of Jammu and Kashmir and other Muslims residing in different parts across India. Islami, Urudu and Undri are the alternate names used for Urdu. Dakhini, a dialect of the language is widely used in Hyderabad and Maharashtra. Other dialects of Urdu, which are used by many people, are Pinjari and Rekhti.
- Kannada: The State language of Karnataka, Kannada is spoken by 3.9% of the total Indian population. People living in other states like Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra also use this language. There are around 20 dialects of Kannada, which are in use in various parts of Southern India. The origin of the language can be traced in the Dravidian language family. Kannada is also known by the names of Madrassi, Canarese, Banglori and Kanarese.
- Kashmiri: Also known as Kacmiri, Cashmiri, Kaschemiri, Cashmeeree and Keshur, the language is spoken by people living in Jammu and Kashmir, Kashmir Valley, Punjab, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh. One of the languages originating from the Indo-European language group, Kashmiri has been given the status of one of the official languages of India.
- Gujarati: Originated from the Indo-European language family, Gujarati is the State language of Gujarat. The language is spoken by 4.9%of the total population of India. People living in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Karnataka also use Gujarati. The language is also known as Gujerathi, Gujrathi or Gujerati.
- Tamil: State language of Tamil Nadu, it is also spoken in the neighboring states. 6.3% of the Indian population use Tamil as a medium of communication. Originated from the Dravidian group pf languages, it is also known as Tamili, Tamal, Tambul, Damulian and Tamalsan.
- Telugu: Classified under the Dravidian language family, Telugu is the State language of Andhra Pradesh. The language is also used by people living in the neighboring states. It is the first language of people belonging to the Yanadi and Bagata ethnic groups. Spoken by 7.9% of Indian population, Telugu is also reckoned as Andhra, Telegu, Telgi, Tailangi, Tengu, Terangi, Tolangan, Telangire and Gentoo.
- Punjabi: State language of Punjab, it is also known as Gurumukhi, Gurmukhi and Panjabi. The language is spoken by 2.8% of the total population. The origin of Punjabi language can be traced to the Indo-European language group. The language is mainly used by people residing in Amritsar District, Majhi in Gurdaspur District and Bhatyiana in South Firozpur District of Punjab, Haryana, Bhatyiana in north Ganganagar District of Rajasthan, Delhi and Jammu and Kashmir.
- Bengali: Spoken by 8.3% of the population of India, Bengali is the State language of West Bengal. People living in Bihar, Dhanbad, Manbhum, Singhbhum, Santal Parganas of Jharkhand, Garo Hills of Meghalaya, Goalpara District of Assam, Nagaland and Mizoram also use this language. Originated from the Indo-European language family, Bengali is also known as Bangla Bhasa, Bangla or Bangala.
- Marathi: A member of the Indo-European language family, Marathi is used by 7.5% of the Indian population. It has been given the status of the State language of Maharashtra. People dwelling in the neighboring states also use this language. It is also the first language of Mangelas. Maharashtra, Marthi, Muruthu, Maharathi and Malhatee are the alternate names of the language.
- Malayalam: Spoken by 3.6% of the total population of India, it is the State language of Kerala. Malayalam is also used by inhabitants of the Laccadive Islands and neighboring states of Kerala. Also known by the names, Mallealle, Malayalani, Malean, Alealum, Mopla, Malayali and Maliyad, the language is said to belong to the Dravidian language family.
- Sanskrit: Belonging to the Indo-European group of language, Sanskrit has been given the status of official language of India. It is also considered to be the classical language of the country. It is mainly used as the liturgical language.
- Sindhi: One of the official languages of India, Sindhi is used by many people residing in Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Orissa and Bihar. The origin of the language can be traced to the Indo-European language family.
- Hindi: A member of the Indo-European language family, Hindi is predominantly used by people residing in the northern parts of India. Used by 40.2% of the total Indian population, Hindi is used mainly in Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttaranchal, Delhi, Rajasthan, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh and northern Bihar. The language is also known as Khari Boli or Khadi Boli. Hindi is the official language of Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Chandigarh.
- Nepali: Spoken by people living in Darjeeling area of West Bengal, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Tripura, Mizoram, Assam, Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, Uttaranchal, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana, Nepali has been given the status of Indian official language. This language belonging to the Indo-European language group is also known as Nepalese, Eastern Pahari, Khaskura, Gorkhali, Parbatiya and Gurkhali.
- Konkani: Belonging to the Indo-European language family, Konkani is also known by several other names like Konkanese, Concorinum, Konkan Standard, North Konkan, Central Konkan, Kunabi, Cugani and Bankoti. The language is used by inhabitants of Karnataka, Kerala, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and the north and central coastal strip of Maharashtra. Origin of the language can be traced back to the Indo-European family of languages. It is the official language of Goa.
- Manipuri: The language is also known as Menipuri, Meitei, Ponna, Mithe, Mitei, Kathi, Meithei, Meithe, Meiteilon and Kathe. People of Manipur mostly use the language. Originated from the Sino-Tibetan language group, it is also used in Karimganji and Cachar of Assam, West and North Tripura districts, Nagaland, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh. Manipuri or Meitei is the state official language of Manipur.
- Bodo: People living in South Bank of Assam, Chandel District of Manipur, West Garo Hills District of Meghalaya and Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri and Coch-Behar of West Bengal mainly use this language. A member of the Sino-Tibetan group of language, the language is also known as Kachari, Bara, Mechi, Boro, Meche, Bodi, Mech Boroni and Meci.
- Santali: The origin of this language can be traced to the Austro-Asiatic language family. The language is mainly used by people living in Assam, Mizoram, Tripura, Bihar, Orissa and West Bengal. This official language of India is also known as Sentali, Santal, Santhali, Hor, Santhiali, Har, Samtali, Sonthal, Sandal and Satar.
- Maithili: The language is mostly used by people living in Bihar. Madhubani, Darbhanga and Janakpur are three linguistic and cultural centers of the state. The language is also used in metropolitan cities like Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata. The language reckoned as Apabhramsa, Methli, Tirahutia, Maitli, Tirhutia, Bihari, Tirhuti and Maitili has its origin in the Indo-European language family.
- Dogri: This language was considered to be a Punjabi Dialect, which now has been given the status of a written and official language of India. The language is used by people living in area between Chenab and Ravi rivers in Jammu and Kashmir, Chandigarh and West Bengal. Dogari, Dogri Pahari, Dongari, Dogri Jammu, Hindi Dogri, Dhogaryali, Tokkaru and Dogri-Kangri are the alternate names by which the language is known. Dogri language is supposed to belong to the Indo-European family of languages.
Other Regional Languages of India
Apart from the 22 regional languages, which have been given the status of official languages, there are many languages and dialects, which are used by a number of people. Some of the regional languages and dialects of India are Aariya, Adi, Andaman Creole Hindi, Andh, Arakanese, Awadhi, Bhadrawahi, Bhattiyali, Bhojpuri, Bilaspuri, Birhor, Braj Bhasha, Chaura, Chhattisgarhi, Deccan, Deori, Dhodia, Dimasa, Gaddi, Garhwali, Garo, Godwari, Gujari, Gurung, Haryanvi, Holiya, Jad, Jarawa, Kanauji, Khasi, Korlai Creole Portuguese, Kumauni, Ladakhi, Lepcha, Lodhi, Majhi, Malapandaram, Maldivian, Marwari, Mizo, Mundari, Newar, Parsi, Powari, Rabha, Rajbanshi, Rongpo, Samvedi, Saurashtra, Shekhawati, Sherpa, Sikkimese, Tamang, Urali, Varhadi-Nagpuri, Vasavi, Wagdi, Yerukula and Zangskari.
Constitutional Provisions for the Official and Regional Languages of India
The Part XVII of the Constitution of India deals with the official and regional languages of India. The Chapter I give an account of the Language of Union. In this chapter, articles related to the usage of languages in different government services have been mentioned. The articles of the Chapter I, which deal with languages of the country, are as follows:
- Article 120: This article deals with the language to be used in Parliament. Here it is mentioned that all the procedures in the Parliament should be carried out in Hindi or in English.
- Article 210: This article specifies the language to be used in the Legislature. It says that all the works in the Legislature has to be transacted in the state official languages, if any, or in Hindi or in English.
- Article 343: This article is about the official language of the country. In this article it is mentioned that Hindi would be the official language of the Union.
- Article 344: This article is about the commission and committee of Parliament on official language. As per the article, a commission has to be constituted comprising a Chairman and other members. These members would represent different languages mentioned in the Eighth Schedule to the Indian Constitution. The chairman, with the aid of the members would decide about the procedure of the commission. The duties and the aims of the Commission and Committee of Parliament on official language are also specified in the article.
- Article 345: This article is about the official language or languages of a State. Here it is mentioned that the legislature each Indian state has the power to choose one or more regional languages or Hindi to be used for official purpose.
- Article 346: In this article official languages for communication between one state and another or between a state and the union have been dealt with. It says that the official language chosen by the legislature of a state should be the official language for inter-state communication or the communication between a state and the union.
- Article 347: This article mentions the special provision relating to language spoken by a section of the population of a state. Here it is specified that President can approve any language to be used by a portion of the population of a state. This language can also be officially recognized across the state.
- Article 348: This article specifies the language to be used in the Supreme Court and in the High Courts and for Acts, Bills, etc. according to this article, all transactions in the Supreme Court and all the High Courts of the country and all text of Acts, Bills and orders should be in English language. With permission of the President, the Governor of a State can use Hindi or any other state official language for the proceedings. However, in such case, English version of the documents has to be published in the official gazette of that state.
- Article 349: Special procedure for enactment of certain laws relating to language has been dealt with in this article. It is specified that without considering the recommendations of the Commission and the report of the committee of Parliament on official language, President should not sanction any bill or amendment regarding usages of language for official purpose.
- Article 350: This article is on the language to be used in representations for redressal of grievances. It is mentioned that people can intimate any authority of the state or union about any grievance in any language used in the country.
- Article 350A: Facilities for instruction in mother-tongue at the primary stage is specified in this article, according to which state should ensure the facilitation of instruction in mother tongue at the primary level of education for the children belonging to the social groups of linguistic minority.
- Article 350B: This article specifies the appointment of a Special Officer for linguistic minorities. As per the article, the selection of this Special Officer should be done by the President.
- Article 351: Directive for development of the Hindi language is mentioned in this article. It says that it is the responsibility of the union to encourage the spreading and development of Hindi language.