However, it is heartening to see evidence that we're moving in the right direction. India's linguistic policy has undergone many changes, with the creation of linguistic states being an important step in the right direction. India has begun her march on the road to becoming a true multilingual country, and on that march left behind some of her most illustrious thinkers and policy-makers who were in some ways opposed to the march itself.
One such thinker and policy maker was Dr. B. R. Ambedkar - the architect of the Indian Constitution.
Dr. Ambedkar was a strong proponent of the creation of linguistic states, but asserted that the linguistic states so created must use Hindi as their official language (instead of the language of the state itself). This, he held, was necessary to prevent India from becoming "the medieval India consisting of a variety of States indulging in rivalry and warfare". Today, of course, the Constitution of India itself allows for states to use their own languages as official languages without India becoming what Dr. Ambedkar feared.
In his Thoughts on Linguistic States, first published in 1955, Dr. Ambedkar observed that not creating linguistic states poses a greater danger than creating them. While the consequences of creating linguistic states can be handled, he observed, the consequences of not creating linguistic states poses a danger "greater and beyond the control of a statesman however eminent":
A linguistic State with its regional language as its official language may easily develop into an independent nationality. The road between an independent nationality and an independent State is very narrow. If this happens, India will cease to be Modern India we have and will become the medieval India consisting of a variety of States indulging in rivalry and warfare.Dr. Ambedkar's way of preventing India from becoming "the medieval India consisting of a variety of States indulging in rivalry and warfare" was to prevent linguistic states from using their own languages as official languages, and to posit Hindi / English instead. He proposed in the same essay:
This danger is of course inherent in the creation of linguistic States. There is equal danger in not having linguistic States. The former danger a wise and firm statesman can avert. But the dangers of a mixed State are greater and beyond the control of a statesman however eminent.
How can this danger be met? The only way I can think of meeting the danger is to provide in the Constitution that the regional language shall not be the official language of the State. The official language of the State shall be Hindi and until India becomes fit for this purpose English. Will Indians accept this? If they do not, linguistic States may easily become a peril.But, of course, India has gone beyond Dr. B. R. Ambedkar's proposal, and today the states use their own languages as official languages - Karnataka uses Kannada, Tamil Nadu uses Tamil, Andhra Pradesh uses Telugu, and so on. None of this has resulted in the peril of India disintegrating and becoming "the medieval India consisting of a variety of States indulging in rivalry and warfare". It is suppression of diversity which can lead to that result, not its celebration - and we must be thankful to those wise statesmen who have had the courage to do what is good for India.
I have no doubt that the glorification of Hindi in the Central Government and its works will also end, albeit not without effort, especially from the non-Hindi speaking states. There will be a day on which this glorification will be forgotten - just like the truth about Dr. Ambedkar's insistence of Hindi being used as official language in all the states is now forgotten. The little skirmishes that we're seeing today are but pebbles on the road to India becoming a truly multilingual and federal country. Laying down those pebbles is a difficult and time-consuming task, and not achievable without regard for unity in diversity.