English is used by nearly one-fifth of humanity. Language implies a manner of expression, a medium of conveying ideas, thoughts and concepts from one person to another or to a large section of society. Language is, thus, the dress of thought. The great author Webster was, however, on a weak wicket when he said that language, as well as the faculty of speech, was the immediate gift of God.

The very fact that there are people who do not know any language because they were not exposed to human sounds shows that language is very much an ability inculcated and developed by human beings to serve as a means of purposeful communication.

A living language, to quote Nehru, is a throbbing, vital thing, everchang ing, ever-growing and mirroring the people who speak and write it. A language is infinitely greater than grammar and philology. It is the poetic testament of the genius of a race and culture, and the living embodiment of the thoughts and fancies that have moulded them. The best way to encourage the growth of a people is through the language they speak, and a language ultimately grows from the people; it can hardly be imposed by any external agency. Unfortunately, language, which is supposed to promote unity and cohesion, has often become a highly controversial issue. Many people, working under a wrong concept or impelled by exaggerated notions, have become linguistic fanatics. They have fought bitter battles in the name of language; they have killed people in linguistic riots; and they have made many sacrifices in the name of their languages as if it were a god or goddess who would be appeased by bloodshed and destruction of private and public property. The principle of linguism has been exalted to high dogma, which has been the bane of Indian life in first 50 years of independence.. Linguistic chauvinism seems to be the governing factor.

Thus, language, which was evolved to serve a vital need and provide a vital link between man and man, has often brought about destruction and wrought havoc. In Andhra Pradesh a noble man starved himself to death for the cause of a linguistic State. Similarly, in Punjab an earnest, well-intentioned person, fasted unto death for the sake of Punjabi Suba. The Government of India was virtually compelled to appoint a States  reorganisation Commission to suggest demarcation of boundaries of States and to make proposals for creation of new entities, if necessary, on the basis of language. In several regions language has created discord and divisive trends instead of serving as an eminently useful link to establish links and promote harmony. Language, and sometimes the script issue, thus feeds fissiparous tendencies, even threatening to disrupt society and the State. Exponents of a particular language, apparently, develop an obsession, which indicates bias and prejudice. In many parts of India, and also in some foreign countries, sustained campaigns have been conducted for official recognition of a particular lan-
guage as the State language. Linguistic controversies, for instance, raged for quite some time in Bangladesh for priority status to Urdu as against Bengali, and in Pakistan for Urdu as against Punjabi. In India language controversies were carried on for years in U.P., West Bengal, Punjab and other areas. Before partition the Congress itself advocated
the formation of linguistic States. The J.V.P. Report may be said to have started the process, which turned out to be vicious at certain places. Article 343 (1) of the Constitution of India lays down that Hindi in Devanagari script shall be the official language of the Union. But there is a provision that English shall continue to be used during the transitional stage. Because of the strong opposition of the Southern States to Hindi, the use of English is continuing and is likely to continue for many years. There are Hindi-speaking regions in the North (U.P, M.P., Haryana and Himachal Pradesh) which, backed by the Centre, want the cause of Hindi to be propagated and this language made the national language without further delay. But the Central Government has assured the people that there will be no imposition of a particular language and no switch-over without the consent of the Southern States. Interestingly, English-medium schools are still popular in the country, and students seeking bright careers opt for English as the medium of instruction for the post-graduate courses. Consequently, the political leaders’ initial fervour for switching over to Hindi has cooled off, for the present. Other controversies and developments have engaged the prior attention of the politicians and political parties.

Thus, there is less of linguistic fanaticism in the country now than a decade or so ago. This is all to the good. After all, language should be used for every-day communication, official work and literary pursuits, and it must not be exploited for ulterior or extraneous ends.