The English language has always had an uneasy existence in independent India. While the cultural chauvinists, particularly from North India wanted to root it out due to its ‘foreign’ origins and have Hindi as the national language, the South Indian leaders saw this demand as a threat to their regional languages and culture. They wanted English to stay as a bulwark against the imposition of Hindi in their states.
The NEP 2020 seeks to encourage the teaching of ‘Indian’ languages upto the primary level to students instead of English, although it does not make it mandatory.
In this article published in the July 1953 edition of the magazine Freedom First, Shri P. Kodanda Rao questions the supposed foreignness of the English language and writes that no language can belong to a particular nation or ethnic group. In his opinion, English should just not be seen as a necessary evil but rather welcomed whole heartedly by Indians.
In his presidential address to the Indian Languages Development Conference, held recently in Poona, Mahamahopadhyaya P. V. Kane, a former Vice Chancellor of Bombay University and a great scholar and patriot, observed that it would not be in keeping with the dignity and self-respect of India to retain a foreign language like English as the official language of the Union and the medium of instruction in the Universities for an indefinite period. He added that there was probably no free country in the world where instruction in the schools and even in the University was imparted through the medium of a foreign language. His main objection to the English language was that it was foreign and therefore its retention hurts the self-respect of India, particularly when she became free and independent. Mr. C. Rajagopalachari, no less a scholar and patriot, claimed that the English language was one of the languages “given to us by our Goddess Saraswati,” and pleaded that India should not give up the English language, which was a universal language and the language of modern science, research, politics and scholarship. (Public speech in Madura, March 23, 1953) Mr. Kane admitted that today and perhaps for the next fifty years English had no equal competitor for higher administration and education in the regional languages of India and that it might have to be continued beyond the fifteen-year limit envisaged in the Indian Constitution. His attitude seems to be that the English language should be tolerated for the minimum possible time as an inescapable evil, while Mr. Rajagopalarchari would welcome its retention as desirable…
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The opinions expressed in this essay are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of CCS.