The Making of India’s Official Language: Hindi Diwas

Hindi Diwas, observed annually on September 14th, has a distinct position in India’s cultural and linguistic tapestry.

Official Language of Hindi Diwas:

  • Following independence, India recognised the importance of having a unified official language to ease communication between government departments and the general population. According to Article 343 of the Indian Constitution, Hindi was designated as the official language on September 14, 1949.
  • Advocates who are breaking new ground: Leaders like Seth Govind Das, Maithili Sharan Gupt, Kaka Kalelkar, and Beohar Rajendra Simha were essential in establishing Hindi as the official language of the country. On September 14, Beohar Rajendra Simha’s birthday became linked with Hindi Diwas.

Debate on Language in the Constituent Assembly

  • RV Dhulekar Fights for Hindi: RV Dhulekar, a congressman from Uttar Pradesh, argued vehemently that Hindi should be both the official and national language. He claimed that Hindi had won a language race and deserved to be recognised.
  • The Case for English by Frank Anthony: Frank Anthony, speaking on behalf of the Central Provinces and Berar, presented a persuasive argument for English. He emphasised that India’s two-century-long grasp of English was a tremendous asset on the international stage.
  • Push for Sanskrit by Pandit Lakshmi Kanta Maitra: Pandit Lakshmi Kanta Maitra, who represented Bengal, lobbied for Sanskrit as the national and official language. He claimed that it was a revered language with a rich history.
  • Support for Hindustani by Qazi Syed Karimuddin: Qazi Syed Karimuddin, also from the Central Provinces and Berar, emphasised Mahatma Gandhi’s endorsement of Hindustani. He advocated Hindustani as the national language, written in both Devanagari and Urdu scripts.
  • T A Ramalingam Chettiar’s View on Hindi: T A Ramalingam Chettiar, representing Madras, recognised Hindi as an official language because of its extensive use, but he questioned its claim to be the national language. He contended that India had multiple national languages, each of which deserved equal recognition.

The Munshi-Ayyangar Equation

  • Over three days, the Constituent Assembly deliberated extensively, resulting in the Munshi-Ayyangar formula.
  • It was a compromise named after the members of the drafting committee, K M Munshi and N Gopalaswamy Ayyangar.
  • According to this formula, Article 343 of the 1950 Constitution specified that Hindi in the Devanagari script will be the official language of the Union.
  • However, English would be used for official purposes for the next fifteen years following the adoption of the Constitution.
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