New language formulas

Issue 13 - Apr 2008

Sujay Rao Mandavilli

India’s language policies have, therefore, not worked as intended. Clearly, they cannot. Instead they have been producing a series of counter-reactions, which historians may one day ponder over. If pushed through artificial means, they can only further destabilise the country.

A recurring proposal to introduce Sanskrit as the neutral link language is not feasible because the of the enormous effort involved, and also because Sanskrit is not as neutral as is claimed by its proponents. But there are a number of directions for a reform of India’s language policies.

A decentralised approach is much likelier to work. Rather than impose Hindi, students could be given the choice of opting for any living Indian language (normally their mother tongue) in addition to the local language and English. Schools can decide to introduce languages depending on demand. This approach will lead to greater choice for students and a greater variety in the languages learnt.

The central government could set up a body to promote all Indian languages without prejudice, set up libraries and research institutes all over the country and translate international books particularly into all Indian languages. It is time for the central government to institute a committee to formulate a language policy for the twenty-first century India.