Regardless of how the controversy over the UPSC examination is resolved it can be confidently stated that fresh crises based on differences in language will continue to erupt. Protesting students claim that the dispute is not between English and Hindi. They claim cultural bias against rural students. But even culture is largely influenced by language. To solve such crises permanently the fundamental Indian language problem needs to be addressed. What is it?
Quite simply, India is a nation state without a national language. Regional leaders can argue that national language is not essential and the mother tongue is sufficient. It is not. I venture to state some candid views about the language problem that might ruffle feelings. The problem arises from the following truths.
India does need a national language. There is none at present. Of all regional languages Hindi holds the best promise of becoming a future national language because it is spoken by the largest number of people in the country. But a national language cannot simply be imposed by law. It has to be accepted by people voluntarily. People in the south favour English as the language of national discourse. People in the north dispute that. They consider English as a relic of colonial rule. They are wrong.
The world has moved on. English is the premier world language in a global system. Its knowledge is advantageous to all people. It remains the language of maximum information. Much of the information in regional languages, including in Hindi, is acquired second hand through translation from English. Apart from bias favouring people knowing English, which is there, it is a fact that English speaking people generally are better informed than regional counterparts. Therefore how to solve the language problem?
Two goals have to be achieved. First, every school child in India should have access to English which is the world’s premier language. Secondly, Hindi must be developed into a global language which in the natural course would make it acceptable as the national language even in the south. I believe both goals are achievable within the next decade. The following steps need to be taken.
Adopt the Roman script for Hindi retaining the Devnagari alphabet. This has been scientifically accomplished in the world’s premier centre of Sanskrit studies in the Heidelberg University of Germany. Make the use of this script as a voluntarily chosen alternative in all schools in all regions. Most parents would like their children to facilitate learning of English without compromising the learning of the mother tongue. With India emerging as a global trading nation many foreigners will learn Hindi. The language would adopt words from regional and foreign languages. It will acquire a rich vocabulary like English. It will remove the artificial difference between Hindi and Urdu. It will become the premier link language of all South Asia. Within ten years Hindi can become a global language used in the United Nations. No wonder Roman Hindi was recommended by Netaji Subhash Bose!