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State Apathy Of Tribal Languages In Manipur-II ‘”Safeguards For Linguistic Minorities

The intention of this paper is neither to attack the State Government nor to entirely blame it. It is purely intended to point out the weak areas of serious nature in the State of Manipur and to make aware of the rightful ways to regain ourselves so that we can bring a new social order in the State and together we can build a strong Manipur by revitalizing the bond of mutual trust and understanding, common belongingness and emotional integrity among the people through the unity of the old languages of Manipur.

Let us resume on the topic. The provisions of safeguard for the linguistic minorities in the Constitution are not a new thing. They are as old as the Constitution itself.

However, many of the general public is not aware of these safeguards. Also, many of the State’s authorities are seemed not aware of it or are totally unconcerned about it. The post of Commissioner for Linguistic Minorities was created and started functioning at the Centre with the Constitution (Seventh Amendment) Act, 1956 only.

Here, we can have a look of the texts of

(i) The First Report of the Commissioner Linguistic Minorities, GoI (1957-58) dated 23-12-1958;

(ii) the Safeguards enshrined in the Constitution of India;

(iii) the Safeguards for Minority Languages – the latest version which are their conversion into practical steps (approved at national level); and

(iv) Language policy for minority languages – a view of the Commissioner Linguistic Minorities, Ministries of Minorities Affairs, GoI.


These safeguards were clearly written down beginning from the First Report of the Commissioner Linguistic Minorities, GoI (1957-58) dated 23-12-1958 which runs thus

‘Consequent upon the reorganization of the states on the basis of language, the SRC (State Reorganization Comm) thought it appropriate to suggest safeguards for the linguistic minorities in various states. Accordingly some provisions were introduced in the Constitution. One was Article 350A which states ‘˜Every State and local authority shall endeavor to provide adequate facilities for instruction in the mother tongue at the primary stage of education….’

Another provision was for creation of a ‘˜Special Officer for linguistic minorities to be appointed by the President.’ under Article 350B.

Under Article 350 B (2), the Commissioner was charged with investigating’ all matters relating to safeguards provided for linguistic minorities under the Constitution.’ In addition, he has to submit an annual report to the President. This is laid before both the houses of the Parliament.

The Ministry of Home Affairs, at that time, announced the safeguards in a note detailing the circumstances under which the safeguards will be provided. This was, in its turn, based on the recommendations of Conference of the State Education Ministers held in August 1949. The medium of instruction and examination in the junior basic stage must be the mother tongue of the child. Where the mother tongue of child is different from the regional or the state language, arrangements should be made to appoint a teacher for mother tongue provided there are not less than 40 students offering the language in the school or ten such pupils in the class. …

For the secondary education, if the number of students, whose mother tongue is different from the regional or the state language, is sufficient to warrant a separate school in an area, the medium of instruction will be that particular language. Such schools, if set up by private societies, the Government will provide similar facilities in their schools….

In sub-district areas, where the linguistic minorities consist of 15% to 20% of the population, important notices etc. should be published in such minority language.

In 1957, a ministerial committee of the southern zonal council was formed which submitted a report in May 1959. The Zonal Council accepted this in 1960. This is the basis of the action being taken to provide safeguards to linguistic minorities.

In August 1961, the Chief Ministers of States adopted the general principles on the lines of GOI memo of 1956.


There is no stipulation that the mother tongue be restricted to the languages mentioned in the eighth schedule. This is mentioned only in Art. 344 and Art. 351. Art. 350A says ‘˜mother tongue’ while 345 and 348(2) mention ‘˜any other language used. ‘˜Art. 347 refer to ‘˜any other language spoken’. Art. 29 and 30 also do not refer to schedule VIII.


Art 29, 30, 347, 350, 350A, 350B refers to the constitutional safeguards for the linguistic minorities. Art. 29 refer to right to conserve language, script and culture. Art. 30 refer to setting up of educational institutions on linguistic minority basis and non discrimination for the purpose of granting aid to such institutions. Art. 347 stipulates right to direct the state to declare a language as official language if substantial proportion uses such language in the state or part thereof. Art. 350 are for replying to a representation submitted in any language used in the state or the union. Art. 350 is for instructions, at primary stage of education, in mother tongue.’


1. Facilities for instruction in mother tongue at primary stage (Now upto secondary stage)

Article 350-A

‘It shall be the endeavor of every State and of every local authority within the State to provide adequate facilities for instruction in the mother-tongue at the primary stage of education to children belonging to linguistic minority groups; and the President may issue such directions to any State as he considers necessary or proper for securing the provision of such facilities.’

Article 350-B

‘(1) There shall be a Special Officer for linguistic minorities to be appointed by the President.

(2) It shall be the duty of the Special Officer to investigate all matters relating to the safeguards provided for linguistic minorities -under this Constitution and report to the President upon those matters at such intervals as the President may direct, and the President shall cause all reports to be laid before each of House of Parliament, and sent to the Governments of the States concerned.’

Articles 350-A & 350-B have been inserted by the Constitution (Seventh Amendment) Act, 1956 with the objective of safeguarding the interests of the linguistic minorities which have particularly come to existence as a result of the reorganization of the States.

2. Protection of interests of minorities:

Article 29

‘(1) Any section of the citizens residing in the territory of India or any part thereof having a distinct language, script or culture of its own shall have the right to conserve the same.’

DD Basu rightly comments

‘The right to conserve the language includes the right to agitate for the protection of that language, including political agitation.

The right conferred by 29(1) is an absolute right and cannot be subjected to reasonable restrictions in the interests of the general public. Hence, the political agitation to conserve the language of a section of the citizens cannot be made a ‘˜corrupt practice’ within the meaning of Section 123(3) of the Representation of the People Act.’



Article 30

11(1) All minorities, whether based on religion or language, shall have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.

(2) The State shall not, in granting aid to educational institutions, discriminate against any educational institution on the ground that it is under the management of a minority, whether based on religion or language.’


‘1.1 It would be fair to include here the safeguards as have been enshrined in the Constitution and their conversion into practical steps for ensuring that the minority languages are given a fair deal and the linguistic minorities are made to feel as a part of the larger mosaic. Details regarding the provisions in the Constitution can be seen in the earlier Reports but briefly the safeguards are as follows

a. Translation and publication of important rules, regulations, notices, etc., into all languages, which are spoken by at least 15% of the total population at district or sub-district level;

b. Declaration of minority languages as second official language in districts where persons speaking such languages constitute at least 60% of the population;

c. Receipt of, and reply to, representations in minority languages;

d. Instruction through mother tongues/minority languages the Primary stage of education;

e. Instruction through minority languages at the Secondary stage of education;

f. Advance registration of linguistic preference of linguistic minority pupils, and inter-school adjustments;

g. Provision for text books and teachers in minority languages;

h. Implementation of Three-language Formula;

i. No insistence upon knowledge of State’s Official Language at the time of recruitment. Test of proficiency in the State’s Official Language to be held before completion of probation;

j. Issue of Pamphlets in minority languages detailing safeguards available to linguistic minorities;

k. Setting up of proper machinery at the State and district levels.

Each of these safeguards has been envisaged with a certain objective all of which revolve around the basic promise to the linguistic minorities that they will have a place of honor in the State in which they live.’

– An abstract from 44th Report of Commissioner Linguistic Minorities, Gol



‘We have pointed out earlier that there are various language policies which can be adopted. In India, we have firmly adopted the policy of letting each language flourish. It will be recalled that Supreme Court has interpreted the ‘˜right to live’ as ‘˜right to live with dignity’ and the state should make it possible by undertaking suitable measures. Similarly, we can interpret the’ right to conserve one’s language’ as the’ right to develop the language’. It follows that the state shall assist in doing so. It is, therefore, expected that the State Governments will endeavor to develop the languages, including minority languages. . . .

… by and large, the states have taken to the policy of promotion of all the languages in the state whether they are major languages or the minor languages confined to small groups or tribal languages. .

The development of a language can be done either through the institutions set up by the state or by assisting non-government organizations to do the needful.’

{Fortieth Report of the Commissioner Linguistic Minorities, MoSJE, Gol: Chapter X – Development of Minority Languages. (pp 146, 147)}

*The article is written by Ragongning Gangmei

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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