India is a multi-lingual country. It is a nation of 28 states and 7 union territories where as many as 1652 languages are spoken and of these 18 languages are recognized as official languages in the 8th schedule of the Constitution. The states in India were created based on linguistic barriers and hence an integral part of the state’s identity.
The First Official Language Commission was appointed by the Government of India under the chairmanship of Mr. B.G.Kher on 7th June 1955. On it’s recommendation English, the principal official language, was to be replaced by Hindi, the subsidiary official language after 1965. However when the Commission’s report was published in 1958, it created disappointment and unrest among the southern states of the country. They were opposed to Hindi being imposed on them as the official language and preferred the use of English. To contain possible outbreak of riots, the then Prime minister Pandit. J. Nehru, pacified the angered states in the Lok Sabha saying Hindi would not be imposed on the non-Hindi speaking states and that English would continue to be an associate language for an indefinite period.
Later when the Official Language Bill was passed in the Parliament in1963 and Hindi adopted as the principal official language of the union in 1965, anti- Hindi riots erupted in South India and W. Bengal against the Hindi speaking. The agitation became strong with Tamil Nadu asking for statehood and several of these states threatening withdrawal of political support to the Congress in the Parliament. Finally to control the situation from going out of hand, the Central Government agreed to reform the Act and made a statutory guarantee to the non- Hindi speaking states that English would not be replaced by Hindi for any official purposes.
However as a reaction to this move, anti-English riots broke out in Delhi and other parts of North India and turned violent against the English speaking. It spurred retaliation in the south. Besides the Hindi vs English riots, other states have also experienced linguistic conflicts. For example, U.P., Maharashtra had disputes with Goa and Belgaum. Goa wished to assume two official languages .viz. Konkani and Marathi, whereas the Belgaum Municipal Corporation clashed with the Karnataka government when it wanted to adopt Marathi and not Kannada as it’s official state language.