Really, a sumptuous read. Very rarely, you come across such a powerful speech of a very good quality.
Mr. President, at the very outset I must apologise to you and to the House for my absence from the House when it commenced its sitting and when you were pleased to call me to speak to my amendment. My only explanation for it is that I was engaged so long in a very important committee meeting of the Government of India elsewhere and therefore my absence was not due to any slackness on my part.
Sir, I must confess that I am the sponsor of an amendment which has caused considerable surprise to many an honourable Member of this House and to many people outside. It has been received, if I may say so, with mixed feelings in the country. One set of reports that I have so far received and the shoals of letters and congratulations seem to indicate that I have hit upon a right and honourable course. The other set seems to suggest that I am trying to take India several centuries back :by proposing that Sanskrit should be the official and national language of India. Let me tell you ‘at once that I am sincerely convinced that if on the attainment of freedom, this country is to have at all anything like an official language which is also to be the national language of the country, it is undoubtedly Sanskrit.
I have no desire to wound the susceptibilities of those who think that Hindi is the be-all and end-all of their existence. I have no quarrel with them.. But let them not make a fetish of it, for that may ultimately defeat their very purpose. If I did not from the very beginning, Mr. President, press on MY friends for acceptance of my amendment, that is, my proposal for adoption of Sanskrit as the national and official language of India , it was because of my deep concern for the very serious efforts that were made by several responsible Honourable Members of the House to bring of India, it was because, of my deep concern for the very serious efforts that about a sort of an honourable rapprochement between the two important contending sections of opinion in the House. I held back and I refused to side one way or the, other because I felt that I could not honestly support either. However, when things reached a stage when we were almost ‘hopeful that an agreed formula for an official language of India was going to be acceptable to both. with sufficient give and take on either side. I felt that I must not bring in my proposal of Sanskrit to upset the apple cart, Unfortunately for us. and may I say for the whole country. the matter took an unhappy turn. as in my humble opinion, for a very small and comparatively unimportant matter the whole agreement had to break. It is regrettable.
Today in this Constituent Assembly we are going to take the most fateful decision, the decision about the official and national language of India. Sir, in the present temper of the House I am really apprehensive that whichever amendment is carried by a majority of the votes-whether Hindi in Devanagari script and with the international form of Indian numerals as proposed in the draft moved by my honourable Friend Shri Gopalaswami Ayyangar on behalf of the Drafting Committee, or that moved by the other group, the’ austere whole-hogger Hindi group with everything Hindi-the defeated Section will be leaving this Assembly with a sense of despair, a sense of frustration born of acute bitterness that has been generated in the course of the debates on this question for weeks on end. I have therefore come forward, knowing full well that it is temerity on my part, to ask the House to accept, as the national language of India, Sanskrit and not any other language.’ Sir, my amendments in brief seek to replace Hindi by Sanskrit with all consequential changes in the draft moved by my honourable Friend Shri Gopalaswami Ayyangar.
Besides that, I have got another substantial amendment, namely the addition of Sanskrit in the list of the languages of the Union. It is surprising that before my amendment was tabled, none even considered the desirability of recognising Sanskrit as one of the languages of India. That is the depth to which we have fallen. I make absolutely no apology for asking you seriously to accept Sanskrit. Who is there in this country who will deny that Sanskrit is the language of India? I am surprised that an argument was trotted out that it is not an Indian language, that it is an international language. Yes, it is an international or rather a world language in the sense that its importance, its wealth, its position, its grandeur have made it transcend the frontiers of India and travel far beyond India, and it is because of the Sanskrit language and all the rich heritage of Indian culture that is enshrined in it that outside India we are held in deep esteem by all countries. Is there any soul in this,., House who can challenge this proposition ? Is India admired and respected all the world over for her geographical size or for the multitude of her population ? Our land has been characterised by uncharitable foreigners as a country hopelessly heterogenous and bewilderingly polyglot. Yet, notwithstanding all that, they have earnestly sought for the message of the East which lies enshrined in the Sanskrit language. [Shri H. V. Kamath (C. P. & Berar: General) : On a point. of information, Sir, may I know whether this language is called Sanskrit or Samskrit] When I am talking in English I think it is natural that I should use the English pronunciation.
Sir, Sanskrit has the oldest and the most respectable pedigree of all the language in the world. I have got here a collection of opinions of some of the biggest orientalists that the world has ever produced; the concensus of opinion of men like Professor Maxmuller, Keith, Taylor, Sir William Hunter, Sir William Golebuk, Seleigman, Schopenhauer, Goether, not to speak of numerous other people like Macdonell and Dubois. All have accorded to Sanskrit the highest place, not to please us, because when these opinions were expressed we were a subject race under a foreign power on whose behalf adverse propaganda was conducted against us by personages like Miss Mayo whose ‘Mother India’ was characterised by Mahatma Gandhi of hallowed memory as a “drain inspector’s report”. Notwithstanding all such adverse propaganda carried on against India by the interested agencies in foreign countries, the world came to know the real India, gradually through these great orientalists who had devoted their lives to the study of the Sanskrit language and literature and an that is contained in it. These great servants unhesitatingly declared that Sanskrit was “the oldest and the richest language of the world,” “the one language of the world,” “the mother of all languages of the world.”
If today India has got an opportunity after thousand years to shape her own destiny, I ask in all seriousness if she is going to feel ashamed to recognise the Sanskrit language-the revered grandmother of languages of the world, still alive with full vigour, full vitality? Are we going to deny here her rightful place in Free India ? That is a question which I solemnly ask. I know it will be said that it is a dead language. Yes. Dead to whom ? Dead to you, because you have become dead to all sense of grandeur, you have become dead to all which is great and noble in your own culture and civilisation. You have been chasing the shadow and have never tried to grasp the substance which is contained in your great literature. If Sanskrit is dead, may I say that Sanskrit is ruling us from her grave? Nobody can get away from Sanskrit in India, Even hi your proposal to make Hindi the State language of this country, you yourself provide in the very article that that language will have to draw its vocabulary freely from the Sanskrit language. You have given that indirect recognition to Sanskrit because you are otherwise helpless and powerless.
But I submit that it is not a dead language at all. Wherever I have travelled, if I have not been able to make myself Understood in any other language, I have been able to make myself understood in Sanskrit. Two decades ago, when I was in Madras, in some of the big temples at Madura, Rameshwaram, Tirupati, I could not make myself understood in English or in any other language, but the moment I started talking in Sanskrit, I found that these people could well understand me and exchange their views. I came away with the impression that at least in Madras there was the glow of culture of Sanskrit. Notwithstanding their inordinate passion-which is only natural-for their regional languages-Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada the Southerners did study Sanskrit on a fairly wide scale.
Our idea of Sanskrit has been very crude. We seem to think that Sanskrit is only composed of big, bombastic phases, grandiloquent phraseology, several feet long, that it has only one style like that of Bana’s Kadambari, or of Horshacharita or Dashakumar Charitam. But may I submit to you what was, with some amount of self-conceit, said by an eminent poet,
Sahitya Sukumarabastuni :-
Tarka ba Moyu Sangbidhatari
Samang Lilayata Bharati.”
You think that I cannot compose simple yet forceful pieces in plain Sanskrit? Whether it is a soft, delicate matter like poetical literature or whether it is learned discourses in abstruse subjects like philosophy and dialectic, when I am composing it I can handle the language for either purposes with equal case.” Sanskrit is such a language that it can be used either for very serious Subjects as philosophy, science and also for light literature, it is an easy vehicle of expression for all shades of thought. I am sure that those who know Sanskrit, will endorse every single word of what the great poet uttered some centuries ago.[An honourable Member: Will you please speak in Sanskrit, so that it may be understood by all of us ?] I am not here to parade my knowledge of Sanskrit. I am not going to commit the blunder of some of my friends, who, in their zeal,–despite the request of others to speak in English so that they might be understood by everybody, persisted in the language of their bobby. I am not going to do that. I want to make myself understood by every single honourable Member in this House. If I can speak Sanskrit, I do not claim any special credit for it. I ought to be able to speak in it; and if I cannot speak, I ought to be ashamed of my culture and education. Therefore, you do not try to put me up as piece of curio here. When I am pleading for Sanskrit, let there be no derisive merriment anywhere in the House. Let me ask every honourable Member of this House, irrespective of the province he comes from, “Does he disown his grandmother ?”
Sir, we are proud of the great provincial languages of this country-Bengali, Marathi, Gujarati, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada and others. They constitute a variety of wealth of Indian culture and civilisation. This is not a province’s property. It is all our national property. But all these languages derive their origin from Sanskrit. That is the parent language and even in the case of the languages in the South, they have taken a large number of Sanskrit words to enrich their language. Therefore, I submit that if we could set our hearts on it, we could develop a simple, vigorous, chaste, sweet style of Sanskrit for the general purposes of our life.
I do not suggest that from here and now every one of us would be able to talk Sanskrit. My amendment is not like that. What I have proposed in my amendment is, that for a period of fifteen. years English will continue to be used as the official language for the State Purposes for which it was being used before the commencement of the Constitution. At the end of fifteen years, Sanskrit will progressively replace English. That is all my amendment purposes.
Let me tell you that in every province, in every University we have got arrangements for teaching of the Sanskrit language. Men like me, who tried to introduce Hindi in anticipation of its being adopted as the State language of this country, experienced a tremendous amount of difficulty in getting Hindi teachers at least in Bengal. You will be surprised to know that That is a problem. If you want to coach up thousands and thousands of your young men in Hindi, you want teachers for that ; you want literature for that, you ought to have elaborate printing machinery, books, texts, primers, teachers and all the rest of it. That would be a very great handicap; and, in spite of all that the Central Government and provincial governments might do, this problem cannot be easily solved. And mind you anybody from the Hindi speaking areas would pose as a great Hindi scholar. I have got them tested and found them no good. If on the, other hand, you ‘have Sanskrit as the official language, every University has got Sanskrit as a compolsory subject up to a certain standard and as an optional subject after that stage. There will be therefore absolutely no difficulty on the score of teaching or learning Sanskrit.[Shri B. N. Munavalli (Bombay States) : The same difficulty will be felt.] I know that in the case of Mr. Munavalli at his age-I hope he will not be offended “,hen I say that he is aged-it may be difficult to learn a new language. But if Mr. Munavalli thinks that he can more easily master Hindi, than Sanskrit, I have no quarrel. Let him have it.
What I am pleading is that I have noticed a deep feeling of jealousy–pro-ing. I do not justify it, but I realize that feeling. Many people, have been led to think, “of all, languages. why should Hindi be set up as the national language? It is after all a provincial language”. Nobody can deny that it is a provincial language. You are lifting a provincial language to the status of a national language. You cannot deny that. There is a vast amount of truth in that. Who Will deny that languages like Bengali, Tamil, Telugu, Gujarati, Malayalam, Marathi, Kannada have got very rich literature of which they can legitimately feel proud ?
Yet Non-Hindi speaking members are not claiming their own provincial languages fox recognition as the official languages of India. Do you realise the spirit of sacrifice that lies behind it? I have never pleaded that Bengalee shall be the State language of this country. I have never suggested it, though I feel that I have a very rich language and literature made richer by our Poet Laureate Rabindranath Tagore and given an international reputation. I felt that in the larger interests of the Union, we must evolve a language, be it Hindi which by our joint co-operative effort might be built up for the use of the whole country.
But, having gone a considerable, way, we stood still at a certain stage. I personally feel that it was regrettable and unfortunate. Some of my friends have criticised, me saying : ‘Having swallowed a camel why do you strain at a gnat?” They ask, why, having agreed to Hindi script, I am objecting to the Hindi numerals ? Now, do you seriously suggest that Indian freedom will not be worth having, will not be worth its name, if it is not cent per cent. Hindi in everything? Does anyone put this forward as a serious proposition? If so, why should they not have the sense of humour to realise that this very argument can be used by people an the other side in favour of adoption of their own languages ? Sir on this question there was a close tie. The Honourable Govind Ballabh Pant on one occasion made a magnificent speech. He said : ‘We are not going to impose this language on the non-Hindi people’. That was a statement’ worthy of the Premier of the biggest province in India. But unfortunately- that province and not mine has now become the problem province in this matter. This language trouble started there. The controversy about Urdu and Hindi and Hindi language with Nagari numerals started there till it reached, a stage when both sides sat down to settle their differences. When we could not achieve a measure of success in our endeavours notwithstanding the appeals made by speaker after speaker for an agreement, the Premier of the U. P. declared : “No, no. We are not going on impose Hindi on you, We must have an agreed formula.” Now, if this is not imposition, Hindi language in Devanagari Script with Hindi numerals-what else is imposition, tell, me, ? If you say that there will be absolutely no imposition of Hindi but voluntary acceptance by all, and at the same time Insist on cent per cent acceptance of Hindi demands. is it not a demand for our voluntary surrender? Be frank about your proposition. But, this is not the way in which an issue like that of language can be solved. Language means the very life-blood of a nation. It cannot be, lightly trifled with. I do not believe in producing a language under a made-to-order procedure or by the fixing of a date-line and all that. It is a, living organism which grows and thrives.
Now if you want to have a language for the whole of India. what language has the largest claim? Certainly from the point of view of democracy from the point of view of the largest number of people speaking or understanding it, probably Hindi, which is spoken by about 14 crores of people. hag the strongest claim. Hindi has, however, a bewildering variety of dialects. People from U. P. have told me that if Hindi is accented as the State language the population of the western United Provinces would have to learn it afresh, because they do not know that language. Yet when the claim is made on the basis of statistics of 1931 that Hindi is the one language spoken by the largest number of people, according to the Common notions of democracy it may be all right But in settling language questions, mere theory of democracy must not prevail. If a language is spoken by a very large section in the land, it does not necessarily mean that it is the language of the majority.
In this connection I will give you an illustration which will show the extent to which passions can be roused on the question of language. I shall refer you to what happened last year in Eastern Pakistan. After the partition of Bengal, the Founder of Pakistan issued a fiat that for the whole of Pakistan, Urdu should be the State language. Do you know what was the reaction in East Bengal to this fiat ? The Bengalee Muslims of East Pakistan got very much agitated over this imposition of Urdu on them, and asked. “Are you going to destroy our Bengalee language ? We whole heartedly supported you in your effort to create the Islamic State of Pakistan. Dare you now touch our language ?” Demonstrations started all over Eastern Pakistan and there were the usual counter measures such as tear-gas attacks, lathi charges etc. Pakistan authorities raised the scare that it was the Hindu fifth column that was responsible for that agitation. But at once the Muslim intelligentsia and their educational and cultural associations came forward and said that it was all bunkum. They said ” you are trying to throttle the language of Rabindranath Tagore. We are not going to tolerate it.” People were lathi-charged, imprisoned for rising in revolt on the question of language. At a gathering of students and professors in Dacca, the moment Mr. Jinnah advised people to take to Urdu in Arabic script as the language, of the newly created Islamic state, there were cries of ‘No, no’. As he proceeded, these cries rose louder and louder which could not be silenced. These things were not reported in the Press. After seven days’ futile efforts, Mr. Jinnah had to retrace his steps to Karachi. Thereafter a communique was issued to the effect that Bengalee would continue to be the State language of Eastern Pakistan. The Bengalee speaking Muslims of Pakistan made it a condition precedent to their acceptance of Urdu in Arabic script, that Mr. Jinnah would make Bengalee also a State language in Central Pakistan. They said that they would go to Karachi to see that in every place there, side by side with Urdu there was also Bengalee used before they accepted Urdu also’ for Eastern Pakistan. So when there was this counterblast by the Muslims of Eastern Pakistan, the authorities came to their senses. Next the authorities said that they would have Bengali in the Roman script. This was not tried. Recently they have proposed to make an experiment with Bengali in Arabic script in certain selected-places. But such efforts are bound to fail.
I submit that language is such a vital thing that if by mere votes or fiats you decide it, it will sink deep into the hearts of those who do not voluntarily accept it. They will go with sore and lacerated feelings, which will ultimately break all asunder. Sir, I am not a pessimist-but I feel that in the absence of an agreement our passions are. bound to be aroused on any decision on this issue of language. I heard the cold calculated speech of my honourable Friend, Shri Gopalaswamy Ayyangar. In it there was an undertone of depression but there was also a note of firmness that he was prepared to go thus far and no farther. When he was making his speech, I interposed an observation-
“Sir, is it your idea that we will have to take the whole draft as it is or we can take out parts?”
He said, “No, no; it must be taken as an integrated whole”. His idea is-and I think it is the right idea-that this whole chapter of linguistic provisions must stand or fall together; there that does not mean that small minor changes cannot be made here and there: but it will be absolutely unacceptable to us if simply the first part for instance, viz., “Hindi in Devanagari script” is carried and the. rest thrown out. The acceptance of Hindi is conditional on the rest of the provisions being accepted. (Hear, hear.)
I am making my position absolutely clear. Now, Sir, it is my firm conviction that if we want to avoid the provincial jealousies and acrimonious feelings which are bound to follow the enforcement of a provincial language or the raising of it to the status of a national language-we must adopt Sanskrit which is the mother of all languages, a language, which can be learnt in my humble opinion in fifteen years by intensified effort, for which the necessary facilities and the arrangements, are already in existence in the country. Perhaps it would seem impossible to enforce it now-within 15 years, within the present generation it may not be possible; though those of you who know it might develop its use. But the coming generation can learn it and use it for all purposes.
Meanwhile I do not want to bring in inefficiency in the administration of the country. Therefore I want that for these fifteen years English should continue as the official language of the country. I know that when I was making a similar speech in another place, I. was severely criticised. A friend of mine from the Hindi-speaking area, told me, “Look here, Maitra, you are passionately pleading for English for the next fifteen years. What is your idea ? Are you waiting for the time when the British would come back ?” I told him that we had our grouse against the Britishers, against the British domination of our country but not against the English language and culture as such. When the Britishers first came to this country, in the last century, English was not understood. People knew not a syllable of it. A story goes that A Bengali babu serving in an English mercantile firm in those days went to his boss and said, “Sir, today is the “Rath Yatra” (car festival). “Leave, Sir, Leave”. “What rath ?”, the boss asked. With, his knowledge of English the Babu could not explain what “rath” was. He said, “Church” “Church” “wooden Church Sir” “Jagannath sitting”, “rope and pull,” Sir. The poor European was dumbfound. ed. This was the earliest stage of English knowledge but soon after, people like Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Keshab Chander Sen, Bankim Chandra, Ramesh Dutt and others mastered the English language. Then, within a few years magnificent poetry and prose were produced in the English language by poets like Kumari, Toru Dutt, Michael Madhu Sudan Datta and others whose poetry compares favourably with the finest lyrical poetry in the English literature So in the beginning there may-be difficulty but if you apply your mind, you will learn Sanskrit in no time. Meanwhile for international commerce, higher and scientific education, Judiciary etc. English has to be used in India.
Sir, I am a lover of the English language and literature in as much as it is the one priceless thing that we have acquired in all our humiliation, miseries and sufferings during the English rule. My honourable Friend, Shri Gopalaswamy Ayyangar, was referring to it as the instrument with which we got our freedom. I found derisive laughter was going round at this observation of his. But is it seriously proposed that the English language should be completely banished from this land and not allowed to play any part in our future lives ? If today, Mr. Krishnamachari or Maulana Abul Kalam Azad or Pandit Balkrishna Sharma and myself have to talk together, not in the English language but in our own tongues., it will be a veritable babel. it is out of such babel that the English language has drawn us together. And if any attempt is made now to banish the English language from this country. India will lapse into barbarism. We must have an international language and English is a language which is spoken by sixty crores of people. English is not now the property of the English people alone. It is their property and mine. There is a brilliant chapter in the book written by one of the Viceroys, called “Babu’s English”. The Britishers know the profundity of the knowledge of English that Indians possess; they know the clarity and precision with which the Indian people speak the language. This has been our reputation. In my experience extending over a decade and a half in high British circles, I have seen how the European members of the Legislative Assembly of old days had often wondered at our mastery of the English language. They often remarked, “We wonder how you people in the Legislative Assembly immediately after you listen to ‘the speech ,of the Home Member or the Railway Member, stand up and criticise. We cannot do it. We must have enormous time to Prepare for it.” So, we had beat them in their own field. English language has opened to us the vast store house of knowledge and wisdom of the world accumulated throughout the ages. We cannot afford to close its doors now. While English win be there, you will also develop Hindi, or for the matter of that every provincial language. Give every regional language of India free scope to develop according to its own genius, to be enriched by accretion of accession from other languages. If you want to do that, you must have Sanskrit as the national language.
What is being done in Israel? Now that the Jews got their freedom, they have installed Hebrew as the official language of their State. They wanted to show respect to their language, their culture, their civilisation, and their heritage. What I am asking, Mr. President, through my amendment is that we should revive our ancient glories through the study of Sanskrit. We should give our message to the West. The West is steeped in materialistic civilisation. The Message of the Gita, the Vedas , the Upanishads and the Tantras, the Charaka and Susrutha etc., will have to be disseminated to the West It is thus and thus alone that we. may be able to command the respect of the world;–not by our political debates, nor by our scientific discoveries which, compared with their achievements, are nothing. The West looks to you to give them guidance in this war-torn world where morals am shattered and religious and spiritual life have gone to shambles.
It is in these circumstances, it is in these conditions that the world looks to you for a message. What kind of message are you going to send to foreign countries through your Embassies ? They do not know who your national poets are, your language, your literature, or the subjects in which your forefathers excelled.
I was surprised to see that in the matter of the numerals, very few knew what magnificent contributions India had made to the world not only in regard to the numerals, but in algebra, in mathematical notation, the decimal system, trigonometry and all the rest of it. All these were India’s contributions to the world. It was given to our illustrious friend from Madras-I am referring to the Chairman of the University Commission-and our present Ambassador to Moscow, whom the late revered father of our Industries and Supply Minister, Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee, picked up from the South and gave him the fullest facilities at the Calcutta University-to bring out the treasures of Indian Philosophy for the benefit of the outside world. If you do not know that language, the language which you have inherited from your forefathers, that language in which our culture is enshrined, I do not see, what contribution you are going to make to the world.
I want to know whether my appeal evokes any response in the hearts of my friends from the north or the south. You should have the highest respect for Sanskrit, the language of your forefathers. Is it not the proper thing for you to do in difference to them, when you have got today the chance of shaping the future generations ? Let us bury our hatchets and cheerfully accept Sanskrit as the National and official language of free India. I honestly believe that if we accept Sanskrit, all these troubles, all these jealousies, all this bitterness will vanish with all the psychological complex that has been created. There may be, of course, a feeling of difficulty; but, certainly, there will not be the least feeling of domination or suppression of this or that, It is in that belief that I earnestly appeal to you in the name of that great culture and civilisation of which we are all proud, in the name of the great Rishis who gave that language to us, to support this amendment; for once, let the world know that we also know to respect the rich heritage of our spiritual culture.
Really, a sumptuous read. Very rarely, you come across such a powerful speech of a very good quality.