India is an Ocean of Languages
India is an ocean of languages, recognized or otherwise. We still speak hundreds of languages in tens of thousands of dialects.
To make things simple, India follows a three tiered language system.
Tier 1: Hindi and English have the status of Union of India Languages. Which means all Central Government communication necessarily has to be done in these two languages. India doesn’t have a designated National Language.
Tier 2: Official Languages. As on date, there are 22 official languages in India. The Eighth Schedule of the Constitution consists of the following: Assamese, Bangla, Bodo, Dogri, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Maithili, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Odia, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Santhali, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu. Currently Ministry of Home Affairs has demand for inclusion of 42 more languages as Official Languages under the 8th Schedule to the Constitution of India.
Tier 3: State Languages. Following languages have an official language status in at least one State or Union Territory of India: Mizo, Sikkimese, Lepcha, Kokborok, Kamtapuri, Rajbanshi, Kurmali, Kurukh, Mahl, French.
Current Central Government proposals for “repositioning” status of Hindi as 3rd language in non Hindi speaking states as one of the official languages has ruffled quite a few feathers. Last three days have been tough for the Central Government. Government of India has “deputed” its Tamil speaking Union Ministers to allay fears that there would be any imposition of Hindi without broad consensus. Main challenge to the current proposal has come from the state of Tamil Nadu. The state has often demanded National Language Status on the ground of it being India’s oldest language.
In my opinion, soft imposition of Hindi has been around since independence, and it works. Hard imposition had failed earlier and would fail once again. Hard imposition has potential of riots and bloodbath,soft just happens. Hindi has consumed almost 50 languages since independence which are no longer spoken widely. Why impose when it is happening on its own? More than half the population of India can read, write and speak Hindi anyway. So let it be it.