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Samvidhaan – Episode 7/10


No issue was as controversial as that of language. The official language, the provincial languages and the link language were all fiercely contested. There were many points of view. But the contentious claims for the national language, between Hindi, Hindustani and English began with the first session itself. On the 10th of December 1946, the second day of the session, when Dr. Sachchidananda Sinha was the pro tem Speaker, there was a strange interruption. Mr Chairman, I want that the amendment of … Does the Honourable Member not know English? I know English, but I want to speak in Hindustani. Many members do not know Hindustani, like Shri Rajagopalachari. Those who do not know Hindustani, have no right to live in India. Those present here to fashion a Constitution for India, but do not know Hindustani, have no place in this Assembly. It will be best if they leave the assembly. I move that the Procedure Committee should frame rules first in Hindustani and only then translate it in English. As an Indian I appeal that we, who are out to win freedom for our country, should think and speak in our own language. You have to listen to me! The language of India can only be Hindustani! Dhulekar Sahab, you’ve made your point. Now keep the dignity of the House and resume your seat. It is important to maintain decorum in the House. This is not a public meeting in Jhansi that you scream “brothers and sisters” at the top of your voice. Come. Lets go. Pandit Nehru wanted Hindustani as the official language. For decades Gandhiji had been popularising Hindustani speech in the Devanagari script all over India. He knew that independent India had to have its own language. A few months before his martyrdom he wrote an editorial in the “Harijan”. Hindustani needs neither Sanskritized Hindi nor Persianised Urdu but a sweet combination of both. Hindustani should freely admit words from different regional languages and if needed even from foreign languages, provided they can mix well with our national language. This way our national language will have to be made into such a powerful language, that it is capable of expressing the entire gamut of human thoughts and feelings. Confining oneself exclusively to Hindi or Urdu would be a crime against intelligence and the spirit of patriotism. In March 1947 the Fundamental Rights Sub-committee decided that: Hindustani, would be the Union’s national language and would be used for all official purposes written either in Devanagari or the Persian script. English would be employed for the duration that the Union may by law determine.” But when the country was divided into Hindustan and Pakistan, Hindustani was also divided between Hindi supporters and Urdu supporters. And because Pakistan adopted Urdu as its national language, Hindi supporters were determined to pack Urdu off to Pakistan as well. We find that since India has now been divided in two – we should see whether the Constituent Assembly should stick to its views at the time of its inception or whether it should change. At the time, I said that the language of this assembly should be Hindustani. Now I submit for your consideration the question of our language and script. You have strayed far from the matter under consideration What have you to say about the question before the House? Dr. Rajendra Prasad finally managed to quieten R V Dhulekar. Two days later at a meeting of Congress members of the assembly a resolution was passed that the national language would be Hindi and not Hindustani. Members who opposed this were outvoted 35 to 63. On 27th March, 1948 when the Drafting Committee met again there was a decided change in the atmosphere. And what does it say? This resolution. We are not obliged to comply. There are also other amendments, like that of Dr Sachchidanand Sinha. What is your opinion, Dr. Ambedkar? Thus, without the consent of the Constituent Assembly the Drafting Committee replaced Hindustani with Hindi in all its files. In this situation, on 5th November, 1948 when the Draft Constitution was introduced before the Assembly language had become the most important subject of debate. Hindi alone can be the national language of this country. The Hindi-Hindustani controversy has come to an end, simply because Article 99 refers to only two languages – Hindi or English – to be used for the business of our Parliament. As for South India, I agree that for a few years, business will have to be conducted in English. We cannot impose anything on them. But in the end Hindi has to be our national language and Devnagari our national script. The Hindi-supporters exulted in their numerical majority. But those from the other languages felt cheated. There was even talk of seceding from India. Not just the South, those from Bengal were also apprehensive. Even members from Punjab were worried about their language. Before the question had arisen in this form, I saw no difference between Hindi and Hindustani. I recall my own Punjabi couplet: “Ignorance is bliss, knowledge has landed me in a soup.” It means, until I did not know, it was all right. Knowing has caused me trouble. Now further on the question of language; I read the Urdu translation of the Draft Constitution, and asked Hindi supporters, about its Hindi translation. None of them could explain the Hindi translation to me. Even Jawaharlal Nehru after reading Shri Raghuvira’s Hindi translation of the Draft Constitution told Rajendra Prasad – ‘the truth is that I have not understood a word of this translation.’ Yet Hindi zealots never refrained from repeating Hindi-Hindi on every occasion. On 30th July, 1948 when service conditions of the Parliamentary staff were being discussed, Seth Govind Das suddenly stood up on the subject of Hindi. Before we move ahead, I want to draw your attention to an important issue. Ever since we have come here, all sorts of things are being said about the national language. It is said, the matter is going to be left to the Parliament. I want you to put all such rumours to rest. The Hindi supporters continued their aggressive extremism. A sanyasin, a votary of Hindi as the national language and Bharat as the country’s name, went on a fast-unto-death. When Pandit Nehru went to talk to her, she broke her fast, claiming that the Prime Minister had agreed to all her demands. Due to this, a special committee was formed, and Shri K.M. Munshi and Shri Gopalaswami Ayyangar were assigned to find a language formula that would satisfy all. Some even complained about not having Hindi supporters in the Committee In the face of such a vitiated atmosphere, the Munshi-Ayyangar Committee made the impossible, almost possible. Munshi-Ayyangar suggestions were presented on 12th September, 1949. Good. English is gone. Let’s see which language comes now. Hindi supporters were unhappy with this verdict Emboldened by their brute majority they forgot that in a democracy the majority vote should be used carefully, by keeping in mind the minority sentiment. 95% unanimity has been reached in the issue of language. The remaining 5% have some issues of principle. If those principles are not agreeable to members from South India and those from other regions then they should allow us the liberty to stand firm on our principles as well and without animosity, resolve the issue by a vote. We, the supporters of Hindi, have been accused of viewing this issue from a communal prism. We love Urdu, but it has always looked to Iran and Arabia for inspiration. We do not say it is only the language of Muslims. But I will definitely say that the supporters of Hindi are not communal it is the supporters of Urdu who are communal. It is true that we have embraced the idea of a Secular State. But being secular does not mean following many cultures. For centuries there has been a single culture here. And that tradition exists even today. To maintain this tradition and deny the existence of two cultures we want one language and one script for all of India. The simple issue of language, thus became a communal issue. We want to hear your views on Sanskrit in Sanskrit. Should we adopt it as the national language? After all, no one speaks Sanskrit anymore. Naziruddin Ahmad was a Sanskrit scholar and also knew Hindi. But non-Hindi members from the South, were anxious. Hifz-Ur-Rehman from U.P. also had his doubts. I still cannot forget 30th January when a tyrant snatched away Mahatma Gandhi from us. Just three days earlier, I had a talk with him in Birla House. Mahatma Gandhi had said to me: “I am happy that there is peace in the country now. And the way you helped restore peace in Delhi, in the same way, please also help me propagate Hindustani across the country. All of you will have to help me in doing this. I had told him then that I was with him But today Hindustani is being replaced by Hindi, and steps are being taken contrary to Gandhian ideology and 30 years of Congress history. It seems by Hindi they mean a language which would be Sanskritized and where words of Urdu, Arabic and Persian origin would be replaced by new words. My friend Seth Govind Das has said that he loves Urdu but it is the language of Muslims. I never said that Urdu is a language of the Muslims. But you said in Urdu we find only foreign expressions. I would like to submit that Muslims did not bring Urdu from Persia, Spain or Arabia. Urdu is a product of Hindu-Muslim unity. Recently Mohsin Kakori wrote a poem praising the Prophet of Islam – Peace-Be-Upon-Him: “From Benaras the clouds are headed in the direction of Mathura, Carrying holy Ganges water with lightning and morning breeze. It has been said that, The clouds are riding on the wind towards a pilgrimage.” In this verse the poet has described Ganga and Mathura. The poet has compared Mecca, Medina and waters of Zamzam with Kashi, Mathura and Gangajal. That is why Mahatma Gandhi had correctly stated that if there is any language which can be the language of the Union, which can be spoken and understood throughout the nation it is Hindustani. The heated discussions continued the next day. Hindi supporters were against 15 years given to English They wanted to see Hindi implemented as national language immediately. Yesterday my friend Hifzur Rehman made an appeal. I would like to say a few words on that. Taking the name of Mahatma Gandhi he appealed that Hindustani be the national language written in two scripts – Devnagari and Persian. Taking the name of Mahatma Gandhi once again, I ask, why shouldn’t separate electorates be established as well? Besides a few thousand Muslims who are well wishers of India, the rest are not with us. They did not consider this country as their own. That is why they wanted to be separate. Whatever I heard yesterday was said on communal considerations. And leaving aside friends like Maulana Azad, Kidwai Saheb and a few other friends… It is better if the honourable member concludes. Your comments are irrelevant and the House is in no mood to listen to you. With these words I submit my amendment that along with the Devnagari script and Hindi numerals the Hindi language be directly accepted. Because no other language can be India’s National Language. I want to remind Seth Govind Das of his own argument In the Budget Speech of 1945 he had said that I am saddened that I cannot put my point in Hindustani. In 1945 his language was Hindustani which today has become Hindi in the Devnagari script. Has he any reason to offer for this change? It is because after Partition in 1947, Pakistan declared Urdu as its national language. I am not opposed to Hindi, but when Hindustani is our language then why so much aversion to Urdu? Using your majority, you are trying to banish it completely – to finish it off. Who says that? This is evident from the Resolution. Name-calling was not just limited to language. Even the numerals 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9 became the reason for a long debate. Nine numerals looked to tear the country into nine pieces. Dr Syama Prasad Mookherjee, was a leader not just of Bengal but a great scholar and leader of the entire country. He too believed that one language should not be given priority over others. The non-Hindi speakers were simply asking to continue using International numerals. But some were not prepared to grant even that. Regarding language, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru worried about preserving unity in diversity. Nowadays, the anti-Hindi agitation in South India is very powerful. We obeyed Mahatma Gandhi’s call and enthusiastically propagated Hindi in South India. What is the result? This misplaced propaganda for Hindi has become so extreme and corrupt that people like me who both know and support Hindi are becoming anti-Hindi. They say until this country has one language, there cannot be unity and one culture. I would like to point out that the cry “one language one culture” has dangerous implications. The chief of the RSS also appeals in the name of one nation one culture. Today this only means the domination of the few over the many. It seems my friend is fighting imaginary enemies. Who has said all this? I would appeal to the honourable member to control his temper. I protest against the allegations, which are entirely imaginary. Mr. Deo is creating imaginary ghosts and slaying them. Even that is no reason. Every language had its own unique issues, fears and problems. After Partition, Punjab and the language Punjabi had its own difficulties. Not just Punjabi, claims were also made for minority languages like tribal languages. Possibly the most moving speech on the issue of language was made by Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. He was not just an exemplary thinker and linguist but since he was the Minister of Education implementing the decision on the issue of language would become his responsibility. If we desire to replace English by an Indian language which would be the national as well as the federal language… there is no other way but to be patient. And while retaining English for some time, instruction in the national language should be made widespread. In the life of a nation and a country a period of 15 years is not long – it will seem no more than 15 days. About language, it has been largely accepted, that only that language can be the lingua franca which is widely spoken in Northern India There are 3 contenders for the language of Northern India Urdu, Hindi and Hindustani. “Hindustani” embraces all dialects spoken in Northern India. which includes Hindi as well as Urdu with room to spread its wings even further. Hindustani does not exclude any, but embraces every shade of the spoken languages of the North. Languages are not made to order by imposing artificial rules and checks. Languages are never made; they evolve by themselves. Languages are never given shape; they shape themselves. You can try to lock languages within artificial principles and restrictions. That will be a wasted effort. Because the locks will fall off by themselves. The law of language is beyond your reach; you can legislate everything else but not the natural evolution of languages. Language takes its own course, and only through that course does it flow and reach its destination. Both Gandhiji and the Congress acted on this principle Now, in connection with the Constitution when this question came up before the Congress, I naturally emphasized the same view, hoping that my old Congress colleagues would adhere to their previous stand, remaining true to Gandhian principles. Unfortunately I cannot hide my feelings on this when I say I was greatly disappointed that besides a few exceptions all have retraced their steps. Ultimately the drafting committee was asked to take this up and was requested to make a fresh Draft on this part of the Constitution. Several new members were added to this committee and I was also one of the new members. I attended the first meeting of the committee. There I saw that the majority had already set its mind on a particular view point and were not ready to adopt Hindustani instead of Hindi or accept any interpretation of Hindi that could widen its scope In such circumstances I felt it pointless to continue as a member. So I resigned and severed my connection with them. I was disappointed to see that from one end to the other, narrow-mindedness reigned supreme. Do you know what that means? It means pettiness and shrinking of the mind and refusal to accept higher and larger thoughts. I wish to say that with such petty minds we cannot aspire to be a great nation. Of all the arguments employed against “Hindustani”, great emphasis has been laid on the point that if Hindustani is accepted then it will create a scope for Urdu. But I want to know even if you accommodate Urdu, will the world come to an end? Pardon me if I say that I also witnessed an exhibition of this narrow-mindedness during the debate on numerals. The problem of language has not been settled satisfactorily. I and some of my colleagues tried to solve it but we realized that in the present circumstances no improvement can be made on Mr. Ayyangar’s formula. “The Idol after much prayer and persuasion agreed to appear, The heresy was negated after crying out to the gods and heaven.” After this magnificent oration by Maulana Azad perhaps there was no need for any more speeches. But the one who prepared the official Hindi dictionary and translated the Constitution into Hindi – Dr Raghuvira had to have his say. Honourable Maulana Saheb, has introduced the important question of nomenclature, namely Hindi or Hindustani. And now between Hindi and Urdu as well, great differences of opinion can be seen. In the beginning the difference between Hindi and Urdu was not great. But the 19th century Urdu writers made it an article of faith not to use a single word of Indian origin. There was a reaction to this and led to the development of Hindi literature. Whose literary tradition was native to the soil. But the difference kept widening and grew so much that today we find two literatures, which despite having the same origin have taken different directions. Today the problem is not just about bridging the gulf between Hindi and Urdu but to find a language that will serve the needs of all languages from North to the South. And this can be done only by Hindi… How much more time will you take to conclude? At least half an hour. I cannot allow that. The Assembly was adjourned till 5 in the evening. Meanwhile, the Congress party held a meeting where after many complaints and debates a compromise was reached between the Hindi extremists and moderates. Hindi supporters gave up their demand to remove International numerals and agreed to allow English to continue for 15 more years. When the Parliament re-assembled in the evening, the motion for our National Language was adopted. The Constituent Assembly, had perhaps, found a solution to its toughest challenge.

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