Impact of Language in Indian State Politics.

Role of Language in Indian State Politics:

Language is one of the important factor which has exercised as deep impact on the politics as caste and religion. This factor posed many problems for the framers of the Constitution and there was a strong demand for the reorganization of the states on the basis of language.

However the framers of the Constitution were convinced that the creation of linguistic units would abstract the spread of national language and of national feeling.

So adopted Hindi as the official language of India, while permitting the use of English for all purposes for a period of fifteen years from the commencement of the Constitution.

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The Constitution also accorded recognition to fourteen regional languages (to which Sindhi has been subsequently added) and the states were authorized to use any one or more of the languages for their official purpose.

This was done to ensure the unity and integrity of the nation while permitting the states to carry on the work in their regional language.

However, this provision in the Constitution has encouraged the linguistic groups to have their states or unity reorganized on linguistic basis. Now demand of separate state has subsided as new states of Uttranchal, Jharkhand and Chhatisgarh are separate states though Hindi is language of all these states.

The most important problem which has confronted the leaders has been as to which language should be used for the purpose of communication between the center and states.

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If Hindi is accepted as the chief language of communication, this inevitably gives advantage to the Hindi knowing people with regard to the acquisition of high government posts and they would dominate the political life of the country.

On this account the non-Hindi speaking area have resisted the imposition of Hindi.

According to Constitution when in 1965 the government was expected to take a decision regarding the continuance of English as official language beyond the limit stipulated in the Constitution, the protagonists of English started agitation for its further continuance and the government had to yield to the mounting pressure, so English is still popular.

The process of the formation of states on linguistic basis started with the creation of the State of Andhra Pradesh in 1953. The state of Andhra was created as a result of the growing agitation by the Telugu speaking people of the states of Madras and Hyderabad.

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This led to similar demands in other parts of the country and the Government appointed a Commission under the chairmanship of Mr. Fazal. Ali (known as State organization Commission) to examine the issue of organization of states on linguistic basis.

The Commission after rough consideration of the problem recommended the formation of sixteen states and three centrally administered areas on linguistic basis. It also made other suggestions for safeguarding the interests of the linguistic minorities.

The recommendations were accepted by the government of India and the State organization Act was passed in 1956. Under this Act the states were reorganized on linguistic basis.

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Though this was thought to be the best solution of the problem under the then existing circumstances, it voting the narrow linguistic considerations and forging a feeling of national unity.

In 1965 when an announcement was made that Hindi would of the official language, the students formed a Tamil Nadu students Anti Hindi Agitation Council and started a state wide agitation.

This agitation assumed violent shape at certain places and resulted in police firing, destruction of public and private property, and arrest of thousand of youth. In this agitation a number of persons lost their lives.

In December 1967, fresh anti-Hindi demonstrations were organized by the students in Tamil Nadu, which soon spread to other states of south like Andhra and Mysore etc.

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These demonstrators made attacks on the government and private property and the police had to resort to lathi-charge and firing. On 21 December, 1968 the Madras Assembly in a special session adopted a resolution by voice vote, demanding the amendment of the Constitution to provide for the adoption of all the fourteen regional languages as the official languages of the union and the retention of English as the official language until this was achieved.

It also demanded the immediate suspension of the operation of the resolution on the language policy and a national conference of all the parties to devise ways and means for removing the injustice, caused by the language solution and to find out a solution to the language problem.

The resolution further insisted that only Tamil and English should be taught in Madras’s schools and Hindi be completely eliminated from the curriculum. In view of this resolution the government issued orders abolishing the teaching of Hindi in school. Tamil is the official languages of Tamil Nadu.

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In other southern states also there were strong linguistic agitations. In Andhra Pradesh strong resentment was expressed to the official language bill of 1963, and the state legislature passed a bill on June 6, 1964 providing for the continued use of English for the transaction of legislative business even after 25 January, 1965.

Demonstrations and agitations were organized in various parts of the state as a protest against the imposition of Hindi. In other states of south like Mysore and Kerala and in the Union Territory of Pondicherry also there were troubles over the language issue but they were not that wide spread and serious as Telugu became official language of Andhra, Kannad at Karnataka and Malyalam of Kerala.

Thus the language issue continued to irritate the non Hindi states. They saw in the effect to impose Hindi as the national language, a deliberate plan to discriminate against the non-Hindi speaking states.

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Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru tried to pacify the non-Hindi speaking people and assured them in 1958, “I am all in favor of study of English being continued and even made more widespread:

But I confess that I do not understand now we can lay down for the future that English should be our all India language. It may continue as such for some time and even later it will no doubt play an important part.

But it seems to me rather humiliating for us to adopt a foreign language as the official all India language. I say so even though gave rise to new conflicts and tensions, especially with regard to the rights of the minorities and claims of various states on areas bordering their states.”

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In the state of Bombay riots took place between the Gujarati speaking and Marathi speaking people, which took heavy toll of life. The normal life was dislocated and the tension grew so high that the government had to agree to the bifurcation of the state of Bombay on linguistic basis.

Thus two uni-lingual states of Maharashtra and Gujarat were created on the basis of Marathi and Gujarati language as Andhra was separated from Tamil Nadu due to Tamil and Telugu language differences.


In Punjab, the Akalis in Punjab started alleging that injustice had been done to the Punjabi speaking. people and demanded the creation of a uni-lingual Punjabi speaking state.

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They started an agitation for this purpose. The Punjab Assembly tried to solve the problem by passing a bill which provided that Punjabi in Gurumukhi script and Hindi in Devnagri script would be the official language in Punjab and Hindi-speaking regions respectively.

With a view to promote and develop Punjabi language it also created the Punjabi university at Patiala. But all this could not satisfy the Akali leaders and they insisted on creation of a separate Punjabi speaking state.

The agitation grew stronger and the Akali leader Sant Fateh Singh threatened to immolate himself if the demand was not conceded.

Ultimately the government had to yield and Punjab was divided to create two uni-lingual states of Punjab and Haryana in November 1966. Favoring of Hindi as mother tongue by majority of Hindus and Punjabi by Sikh created conflict and disharmony.

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West Bengal:

In West Bengal, the linguistic problem appeared in a different manner. In March 1968, the Legislative Assembly of West Bengal passed a unanimous resolution for the retention of English as the official language in place of Hindi.

In 1961, the Legislative Assembly adopted an official language bill which provided for the adoption of Bengali in place of English by 10 November, 1963.

However, due to certain practical difficulties (Non-availability of Bengali typewriters) the final date for the implementation of this resolution was deferred by two years. Later on Bengali became official language of Bengal. At Calcutta people know Hindi but all official work is done in Bengali.

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In Assam, the state government discarded both Hindi and English and declared the Assamese as official language of the state. Certain sections of the population wanted Bengali as one of the language of Assam and they started an agitation for the purpose: This was strongly opposed by the protagonists of Assamese language.

As a result much tension was generated between the two sections and riots followed, which took a heavy toll of life and property. A large number of Bengali’s living in Assam were forced to leave the state and had to take shelter in West Bengal as refugees. After hectic political efforts an agreement was reached between the governments of Assam and West Bengal.

As a result of this agreement most of the Bengali refugees returned to their homes in Assam. The Official Language Bill of 1960 which had sparked this tension, was also modified suitably to pacify the Bengali’s.

Later on Assam was divided into Meghalya Manipur, Nagaland, Arunanchal and Mizoram etc. having difficult and different dilects and ethnic differences etc.

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Tamil Nadu:

In Tamil Nadu strong protests were made against the imposition of Hindi and the relegation of the people of South to the position of second-class citizens. A strong campaign was started against the Official Language Bill in June 1963.

Subsequently in the months of November and December copies of part XVII of the Constitution dealing with the official language were publicly burnt and offices of the central government located in Madras city were picketed would be in favor of English. “In any event, I see no reason why we should hustle any decision of fix strict time-!units in a matter of this kind.”

This assurance of Nehru was reiterated by the various leaders subsequently also but the state of south were not fully pacified. Now Tamil is official language of Tamil Nadu, Telugu of Andhra, Kannada of Karnataka and Malyalam of Kerala.

It may be noted that language has not only influenced the politics of the South alone. In the states of North also it has been a dominating factor. In the North the Hindu protagonists protested against the Constitution of English as an additional official language and they insisted on imposing Hindi. In their over-enthusiasm for Hindi they smeared innumerable English signs.

Urdu is favored by majority of Muslims and is making its impact felt in Bihar, M.P. and Andhra. Thus there are 18 languages in India. In Delhi, English and Hindi are official languages while Urdu and Punjabi are also official languages.

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