India is a unique medley of various cultures, religions, languages, geographical features and art forms. To us Indians, such diversity is the source of immense national pride. In this light, there is some more good news. Rajasthani and Bhojpuri are all set to join the list of official languages of the country.
There are currently 22 languages listed in the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution of India. These languages are the official languages and find representation in the Official Languages Commission. These languages are (in alphabetical order) – Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Oriya, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu, Bodo, Santhali, Maithili and Dogri.
While the demand for inclusion of both Bhojpuri and Rajasthani in this list is a long standing one, it has grown stronger in recent years. For instance, last year, the Chief Minister of Rajasthan, Ms. Vasundhara Raje had flagged off a procession of people who voiced this demand for granting Rajasthani language a place in the Eighth Schedule. This Rajasthani Rath Yatra commenced in Mumbai and made its way to Delhi through Jaipur. The matter of including Rajasthani and Bhojpuri among the official languages of the country has been raised in the parliament as well. In fact, the Home Ministry has on different occasions assured MPs from Bihar, UP and Rajasthan that the languages would be included. But there has been no implementation until now.
On October 19, 2016, the Union Minister of State in Finance and Corporate Affairs, Mr. Arjun Ram Meghwal promised his audience at a function in Bikaner city, Rajasthan, the inclusion of Rajasthani and Bhojpuri in the official languages list. “A study has been conducted as per the direction of the Central government and on the basis of the report of the official language commission, three languages, including Rajasthani and Bhojpuri, would be included in the Eighth schedule of the Constitution,” said the minister.
This addition to the Eighth Schedule will come as a great boon to the speakers of Rajasthani and Bhojpuri languages. This also means that the government will be required to work towards the preservation and development of these languages; and candidates appearing for the public service examination will have two more language options to choose from while answering the paper.
Remove English Medium, Demands RSS
While on one hand, Rajasthani and Bhojpuri speakers may have a reason to rejoice, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has set out to stir yet another language controversy in the country. The RSS has recently demanded that the Education Ministry remove English as a subject and as a medium of instruction at all educational institutions.
The RSS-backed Shiksha Sanskriti Utthan Nyas (SSUN) demanded that the ministry “immediately provide facilities to introduce education in Indian languages in English-medium institutions like IIT, IIM and NIT.” The institution also demanded that the study of foreign languages be removed from the curriculum of schools, colleges and universities, and special emphasis be laid on the study of the ‘mother tongue’. This demand comes ahead of the formulation of a new education policy by the ministry. The SSUN also demanded legal action against schools that dissuade students from speaking in the vernacular and instead favour English as the official language.
While the demand to promote vernacular languages may not in itself be a bad suggestion, removal of English altogether is not feasible. India is the second largest English-speaking nation in the world, just behind the United States, and the language is a common platform adopted by all regions, states and communities. Those who recall the anti-Hindi agitation of the Madras Presidency between 1937 and 1940 will remember why the imposition of Hindi in the southern states is a bad idea.
The mandatory Hindi education of the southern states was revoked after mass protests were staged at the time. English acts as a unifying factor between various states and allows people to easily migrate to a different state, live and work in the far reaches of our country.
More recently, the Gujarat High Court decreed that though the majority of the people of India understand and perhaps even speak Hindi, the language is certainly not a national language. “Normally, in India, majority of the people have accepted Hindi as a national language and many people speak Hindi and write in Devanagari script, but there is nothing on record to suggest that any provision has been made or order issued declaring Hindi as a national language of the country,” said the court.
Another major objection raised to the RSS demand is that of “saffronisation of education” – a neologism, meant to represent the attempts of the Hindutva brigade to use education as a tool to promote its political ideologies.