Should India have only one official language instead of two? Does Hindi qualify to be the chosen one over English? While there are for and against arguments, here are some political insights on picking Hindi as the official language of the country.

Speaking to My Nation, Professor Rajaram Tolpadi, who has worked closely with freedom fighter Ram Manohar Lohia, shared his views. Lohia had proposed to make Hindi as the official language of India.

The question of having country's own official language became prominent during the nationalist movement. Leaders in the north of India unanimously had agreed on Hindi as the national language.

Lohia even had started Angrezi Hathao movement, which meant “Remove English”. The basic argument of this movement was to pick any Indian language as the country's official one as an alternative to using English. Hindi was not pushed as the only choice but was one among a number of other Indian languages.

As Hindi and other languages were derived from the same, were spoken by the majority of Indian population, it was considered as an option. But Lohia's argument was that every Indian language is important and must be given equal preference. So a formula of using Hindi along with the language of that particular state was proposed.

"What Lohia’s suggestion was that whenever the Centre wanted to communicate to a state, the official letters should be in Hindi as well as in the language of that particular state. For example, if a letter has to be sent to the Chief Minister of Karnataka, one side of the letter should be in Hindi and the other side in Kannada. Likewise, in Tamil Nadu it will be in Hindi and Tamil," said Professor Tolpadi.

"But this idea was not carried forward as the bureaucrats working in the administration, led by the then British government were stuck to the use of colonial language English for official purposes. This was also favoured by the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and English was accepted as the official language," the professor added.

Another reason for the fallout of Hindi was that Lohia's argument was misread, says Prof Tolpadi. His proposal was misunderstood as making Hindi the ultimate language and subduing all the regional languages, according to Prof Tolpadi.

Speaking about the dissent of South Indian states to consider Hindi as the official language, the above said argument was believed in the south. As there are very less number of Hindi speakers, this idea of Lohia was rejected outright.

On Karnataka as a whole, Prof Tolpadi feels that apart from some groups who fight in the name of “protecting Kannada”, the state is not completely against use of Hindi.

North Karnataka has Marathi influence. In fact, many regions in North Karnataka actively took part in the Tilakite Movement organised by freedom fighter Bal Gangadhar Tilak from Maharashtra. Parts of Bellary have Telugu connection and areas bordering Kerala have Malayalam influence.

Hence, Karnataka is diverse and is living with many languages and is not against Hindi as much as the people of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

"The recent development of identifying Hindi with Hindustan and Hinduism is the overstretching of the agenda of Hindi. This has led to Hindi imperialism. Demanding others to speak Hindi and the attitude of the North, relating Hindi to being Indian, has led to resentment from the states where there is not much use of Hindi," explained Prof Tolpadi.

So is this an attitude problem rather than a political agenda?

In terms of considering the linguistic aspects of Hindi, a linguist Dibyajyothi Jana is of the opinion that though Dravidian culture and languages being pushed to the South is a popular notion, there are many competing proposals including otherwise unknown languages like Witzel's proposal of “Para-Munda” which states that neither Aryans nor Dravidians built or destroyed the Harappa civilisation and calls both of them as intruders.

But just like the Dravidian theory, Witzel's theories have also been confronted for lack of proof.

Speaking about the concept of sanskritising the native Dravidian languages, Jana says that this phrase is misleading. He opines that the term is simply used to denote the modernising of languages.

"The phenomenon would be akin to how many tribal people in modern India are abandoning their heritage languages and moving over to the local dominant or state languages. But when they adopt this (for them) new language, they develop a somewhat distinct way of speaking it – it may include detectable traces of their respective heritage (tribal) languages – in accent, syntax, and to an extent vocabulary," Jana said.

“Spoken Vedic Sanskrit was also adopted in a similar way all over the Indo-Gangetic plains around 1000 BC. While the educated standard form of the language, as used in the Vedas, Brahmanas, Upanishads and others remained reasonably unified throughout this whole region (but changed with time), the spoken forms diverged, and eventually emerged as local dialects, often called Prakrits," Jana added.

Thus these are two distinct ways (political and linguistic) of looking at the Hindi phenomenon. As confusion over making Hindi as the official national language remains, the different way of approach and Lohia's argument put together may play a vital role in providing a solution to the decades old problem.