New languages recognized constitutionally in India

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Mon Jan 5 20:22:43 UTC 2004

Welcome More Languages to the Constitution Club
And Other Matters



The Constitution (One-Hundredth Amendment) Bill, 2003 passed by both the
houses of the Parliament widened the berth to include Bodo, Santali,
Maithili, and Dogri in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution taking the
number of official languages to 22. One would never have expected this
development in the past. From the reports we read in the newspapers the
Amendment was passed with overwhelming acceptance from all. Mr. Advani has
assured members to bring a comprehensive legislation to include more
languages in the Eighth Schedule after consulting experts and linguists.
In his estimate, there is demand for the inclusion of 35 more languages.
As it is there is demand for inclusion of 35 more languages including
several dialects of Hindi like Rajasthani, Bhojpuri and Brij Bhasha," he


Amazing changes have taken place in the political scene as regards the
recognition and use of Indian languages. To quote the newsitem that was
published in THE HINDU, "Mr. Advani said the Constitution Amendment to
include Bodo was brought in as part of the memorandum of settlement
between Bodos, Assam Government and the Centre. Santhali language was
included to keep the balance as it is a widely spoken language by another
tribal group in the area. Regarding a demand for substituting English with
any other Indian language, he said for the unity of the country it was
necessary that both English and Hindi co-exist. "National unity is more
important than language issue," he said, adding that de-linking from
English was not a good thing as India had its advantages in Information
Technology sector over China because of the knowledge of English." Very
remarkable, indeed!


Some interesting and insightful comments of the parliamentarians include
the following:

L.M. Singhvi (BJP): While the intention was not to reduce the impact or
acceptability of Hindi by including more languages in the Eighth Schedule,
let there not be a feeling that only when people demonstrate or take to
the streets they were heard. He said that he had been campaigning for
inclusion of Rajasthani since 1962.
Rama Shankar Kaushik (SP): The Government should differentiate between
"Bhasaha aur Boli'' (Language and dialect). "If you cease to differentiate
between language and dialect, you will end up reducing the status of Hindi
as the official language and that will create tension on the basis of
Laloo Prasad Yadav (RJD): The inclusion of a language or dialect in the
Eighth Schedule should be done carefully and comprehensively so that there
was no dispute on the medium of examinations, finding teachers, programmes
on radio and television.
Arjun Singh (Congress): The Government should be cautious in not creating
circumstances when dialects became language and a language gets
Viduthalai Virumbi (DMK): Hindi is not a "majority language." The official
language of a State should be included as one of the official languages of
the country.
Amar Singh (SP): I respect Tamil but to oppose Hindi is not correct.
Janeshwar Mishra (SP): No Indian language could flourish as long as
recognition was given to English remained.

Interesting arguments, and some lurking fears both in the minds of the
pro-Hindi and anti-Hindi leaders! We hope to get a copy of the debates on
this amendment in both the Houses soon and analyze the scenario in these

We need to wait and see how the Mandarins in the ministries such as Home
Affairs, Human Resource (Education), and Law will put the amendment into
practice and how the politicians on the ground in Hindi-speaking states
will interpret the amendment. This is only the beginning.


In a recent gathering in Chennai, several interesting suggestions were
offered to help the blind to find jobs, and a place of honor in our
society. The occasion was a function organized by a voluntary organization
called Vidya Vrikshah. Speakers urged that teaching for the blind should
move away from the traditional system implemented in special schools to a
more technology-based system that could be applied even in regular
schools. It was suggested, "Only then can the visually impaired become
more productive citizens." Caregivers with sight were urged to learn the
Braille system. "Any literate person can learn Braille in a short time
with the ready reckoner and teach it to their child at home." Class text
and reading material in local languages could also be converted to Braille
using a special software developed by the Indian Institute of Technology,
which when printed out using a Braille printer would be of great
assistance to the visually impaired. At the high school level, the said
visually impaired students could make use of the voice activated system.
Efforts are on to convert voice text into Braille in a selected local
language, the organizer said. The `National Initiative for the Blind' is a
good document with good intent, but many states are yet to adopt this and
implement the suggestions.

Prime Ministers of India always had a special place for the handicapped.
Indira Gandhi's initiative led the establishment of several national
institutes for the physically, mentally, linguistically, and visually
challenged people in India. Awards apart, the government needs to
encourage business and industrial corporations to get involved to meet the
needs of visually handicapped. Studies on the language use of the visually
handicapped are an area that still needs to be explored extensively in
India. Why can't the students of linguistics show some interest in such
useful areas of research?

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