In this chapter, as in this book in general, I am going to take the approach that a study of language policy in India (or anywhere, for that matter) cannot rely solely on overt, official, de jure, explicit, codified `text' about language policy. I believe that an understanding of language policy in India (or anywhere else) requires also that we look at what I call covert (implicit, unofficial, unstated, unwritten, de facto) language policy. I will focus primarily on establishing some fundamental notions about South Asian linguistic culture, which is the sum totality of ideas, values, beliefs, attitudes, prejudices, myths, religious strictures, and all the other cultural `baggage' that South Asians bring to their dealings with language from their culture. Since South Asian linguistic culture is deeply concerned with the transmission and codification of language(s) used in the area, we also need to examine what notions of the value of literacy and the sanctity of texts are current in the area.
The perspicacious reader will note that there is a great deal of difference between covert policy in a linguistic culture like that of the United States, and covert policy in a polity like Czarist Russia. In the first, covert policy is in fact the policy, since there is at the federal level in the US no overt explicit policy. In the case of Czarist Russia, the covert policy (as exemplified by Poland pre-1918) was in deep conflict with the overt policy. It was underground and in fact subversive, and was successful in circumventing official policy, while still paying lip-service to it. 4
In Nagaland, in northeast India (Sreedhar 1974), the policy of overt use of English and covert use of Nagamese is a compromise, since Nagamese, though it is the only language that all Nagaland children understand, lacks the prestige to be fitting as an official language of education or the state; Assamese, though known by many, is not acceptable for political reasons, so English, prestigious and neutral, makes a nice face-saving solution. In Nagaland, just as in the US, rather than being subversive, the covert policy is supported at all levels by majority culture members, and is only in conflict with it when squabbles over the use of other languages (e.g. in education) arise.
Though I have identified only two kinds of covert policies (`promotive/supportive' and `subversive') one could conceive of other possibilities that might be applicable in other linguistic cultures. I want only to show that what India had at at least one point in its history was a covert policy that was in tune with the overt policy, but that the advent of colonialism and the Independence Movement brought in ideas about policy (`monism') that were no longer in tune with its longstanding linguistic culture, and finally resulted in an overt policy that was dramatically out of line. In fact, I will argue, the 1950 policy was without any doubt a clone of the Soviet model developed and implemented by Lenin in the USSR in the 1920's (and by Stalin in the 1930's), with the role occupied by Russian in that policy tailored for Hindi in India's policy. More or less slavish imitation of this policy, I claim, has led to incongruities that have plagued the policy from its inception to this day, and are now quiescent only because of the stalemate arrived at in Shastri's `three-language formula' of 1964-5.