The Babel that is India

I was reading some random stuff on the net, and as is usual with me, attention drifted to issues of language. I came across a newsletter about Indian languages, especially an article about the 92nd Amendment to the Constitution of India. This amendment now makes 22 the number of official languages of India (8th Schedule of the Constitution). So now Indians can correspond with their government in:-

Sanskrit: Mama priya sarakaara...
Urdu: Mere chaheede hukoomat...
Hindi: Mere priya sarkaar...
English: My dear government...
Dogri (new): (help)
Kashmiri: (help)
Punjabi: Mainnu chaheede sarkaar...
Sindhi: (help)
Gujarati: mare priya sarkaar...
Marathi: majhe priya shaasan...
Konkani: magele priyo sarkaar...
Kannada: Nanna preethiya sarakaara...
Malayalam: (help)
Tamil: En uyir arasaangame...
Telugu: (help)
Oriya: (help)
Santali (new): (help)
Bangla: Amar priyo sorkar...
Asomiya: (help)
Bodo (new): (help)
Meitei (Manipuri): (help)
Maithili (new): (help)

Do help fill in the gaps.

You can actually write to your unfriendly neighbourhood government babu in Sanskrit and expect a reply. If he doesn't he is liable to answer you in court. Of course, if he chooses, he may reply in Kannada and not be held responsible if you can't understand him. (Then of course, there is this universal language of gandhis* that everyone in our hallowed babudom recognises, in which you open your wallet, not mouth). There was this famous (and perhaps apocryphal) story of Mulayam Singh Yadav who wrote to E. K. Nayanar in Hindi (since it is our Raashtrabhaasha), and got a reply in chaste Malayalam.

But apart from asides, here are some comments by our best beloved MPs when the amendment adding more languages to the 8th schedule

  1. Rama Shankar Kaushik (SP): The Government should differentiate between "Bhasha 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 language.''
  2. 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.
  3. Arjun Singh (Congress): The Government should be cautious in not creating circumstances when dialects became language and a language gets disintegrated.
  4. 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.
  5. Amar Singh (SP): I respect Tamil but to oppose Hindi is not correct.
  6. Janeshwar Mishra (SP): No Indian language could flourish as long as recognition was given to English remained.
Why is that Laloo (Yes the same Laloo we love to hate) was the only one bothered with finding school teachers?

*Gandhi here refers to the old man Mahatma (as opposed to the new renouncing one), whose photograph is everywhere on legal tender, to which his decapitalised name name has been given as a popular slang.


"You can actually write to your unfriendly neighbourhood government babu in Sanskrit and expect a reply. If he doesn't he is liable to answer you in court."

More often than not, of course, nothing happens. Forget exotic Sanskrit; as the report of the National Commissioner Linguistic Minorities states:

"One more point is about the almost total reluctance to receive the applications and representations in the local languages notwithstanding the Constitutional provisions. There is even less inclination to reply to them in the same language." (39.7)

"Constitutional provisions": As the Esperanto proverb has it, "Granda parolisto estas duba faristo."

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