Congress, Gandhi, India, Indian Politics, Muslim, Narendra Modi, Politics, The Hindu

Development of Linguistic Provisions of the Constitution of India

Jawaharlal Nehru moves the resolution for an independent sovereign republic in the Constituent Assembly in New Delhi
Jawaharlal Nehru moves the resolution for an independent sovereign republic in the Constituent Assembly in New Delhi. Source.

First published in Centre Right India.

“There was no article which proved more controversial than article 115 (which deals with the Hindi question). No Article produced more opposition. No article more heat” – Thoughts on Linguistic States, B. R. Ambedkar

Recently a circular was issued by the Raj Bhasha Department of the Ministry of Home Affairs, asking Government officials to use Hindi, or Hindi and English, while communicating on social media platforms.etc The circular is based on a decision taken on March 10 when the Congress was in power and is dated May 27, two days before Mr Rajnath Singh took charge as Home Minister. The circular is meant for officials in Category A States which use Hindi as their official language.

Though the subsequent furore was quick to blame Mr. Modi personally in a rather uninformed manner, the reaction that the issue generated among the common public, and the comments by some of the political leaders from the north and the south demands a relook at the constitutional provisions regarding the Official Languages of India and the debates which preceded their inclusion into the constitution. One will be surprised that the language debate happening at present is not much different in its tone and tenor from the deliberations held among the members of the Constituent Assembly. The importance given to the issue can be gauged from the fact that the language question remained a point of contention during the entire length of the period of framing of the constitution of India.

Constitutional Provisions

Provisions regarding the Official Language are given in Part XVII of the Constitution from Article 343 to 351. It is divided in four chapters – Language of the Union; Regional Languages; Language of the Supreme Court, High Court etc; and Special Directives.

Regarding the provisions, Granville Austin comments that “The members of the CA did not attempt the impossible; they did not lay down in the language provisions of the Constitution that one language should be spoken all over India. Yet they could not avoid giving one of the regional languages special status, so they provided, not that there be a ‘national’ language, but, using a tactful euphemism, that Hindi should be the ‘official language of the Union’”

Issue at Hand

The Constituent Assembly had not been separated into distinct factions in its early days since the general sentiment in favour of an Indian language as opposed to English, the language of the oppressor, blinded all other concerns. Not all the provisions whipped up extreme reactions in the Assembly. Only as they set to work did the difficulties become apparent and the split grew in an unprecedented manner. The Language issue was considered important because it affected everyone with the issues of mother-tongue instruction; question of medium of instruction in universities; language of the civil services; cultural and historical background of linguistic groups; religious sentiments.There were mainly two groups – the Pro – Hindi members unofficially headed by Purushottam Das Tandon and Seth Govind Das and the moderate non-Hindi bloc headed by South Indian leaders.

 

Gandhi to independence

Mahatma Gandhi was pro-Hindustani. Hindustani is a term used for that language which is neither a Sanskritized Hindi nor Persianised Urdu, but a combination of both freely admitting words wherever necessary from different provincial languages and also assimilating words from foreign languages. Jawaharlal Nehru, Vallabhbhai Patel, Rajenda Prasad and Abdul Kalam Azad accepted this. In fact, Rajagopalachari suggested broadening Hindustani even further by writing it in regional scripts. The 1928 Motilal Nehru Report also wanted Hindustani to be the common language. It was Gandhi-ji who initiated the idea of widening the independence struggle by using provincial languages and based on his suggestion, the 1920s saw Provincial Congress Committees being formed along on linguistic lines. In 1934 Congress made Hindustani its official language. During this time when Nehru said that “Hindustani was bound to become the all-India medium of communication”, it did not cause any resentment since not much thought went into the role envisaged for English, the status of regional language, languages of court etc during this period.

This reason why the top leadership Congress preferred Hindustani instead of Tamil or Bengali which were more developed at that time and ‘met the needs of the state’ was because it was spoken widely in the north and also, more importantly, the leaders felt that it bridged the Hindu – Muslim divide. This is not to say that the issue did not attract any criticism at all. When Rajaji made Hindi mandatory in high schools of Madras in 1938 there was a violent reaction with slogans like “Let Hindi die and Let Tamil live. Let … Rajagopalachari die.

Independence to Partition

The first sign that language will be a thorny issue appeared when Rules of Constituent Assembly was being framed. It had been generally accepted that the members can speak in Hindi or English or in their mother tongue. A pro-Hindi member Seth Govind Das, took exception to this and said in Hindustani “I want to tell my brethren from Madras that if after twenty-five years of efforts on the part of Mahatma Gandhi, they have not been able to understand Hindustani, the blame lies at their door. It is beyond our patience that because some of our brethren from Madras do not understand Hindustani, English should reign supreme in a Constituent Assembly assembled to frame a Constitution for a free India.” In response A K Ayyar promptly asked that Seth Govind Das’s speech be translated into English for him since he could not understand the content and that he was too old to learn Hindustani at this point of time. Issue was settled, with the members free to talk in the language of their wish.

Next mention of language was made as part of the Fundamental Rights. The draft Rights said that Hindustani in Devanagari or Urdu scripts will be the national language and English will be a secondary official language. Two members wanted Roman to be made an optional script for Hindustani since South Indians were not familiar with the northern scripts. But Patel dropped the entire clause on language saying that language will be dealt with by a higher committee.

Partition to Bitter Debates

Partition was a watershed moment as far as the language issue was concerned. Hindi-wallahs upped their ante against the impure Persianised Hindustani. The question of Hindustani becoming the national language was effectively closed. All drafts mentioning Hindustani was replaced by Hindi. “Partition killed Hindustani and endangered the position of English and the provincial languages in constitution” noted an observer. K. Santhanam, one of the more influential national politician from Madras said, “If there had been no partition, Hindustani would, without doubt have been the national language. But the anger against Muslims turned against Urdu. Hindustani became a bad word after Partition and the party leaders were reluctant to divide the party over it [despite being proponents of Hindustani]”. The Pro- Hindi group did not just stop with that, but made their attacks on English and Provincial languages bitter, resulting in the alienation of popular support for them. Initially there were two main strands of opposition against Hindi group – Muslims and South Indians. Muslims wanted Hindustani in both scripts did not care about English while the South Indian bloc, who wanted English to be retained, was ready for Hindi with Devanagari script as an official language in addition to English.

Meanwhile even the Congress Presidential campaign acquired linguistic overtones with Telugu speaking Pattabhi Sitaramayya and a hardcore Hindi proponent Purushottam Dad Tandon pitted against each other. Tandon contested in the election despite requests from Prasad, asking him not to do so as it might virtually become a North versus South contest. This did not happen and Sitaramayya later won with a slender margin.

By this time the outline of the general demand of Hindi group was spelled out

  • Hindi in Nagari as Official Language
  • English optional during a transitional period
  • Mandatory knowledge of Hindi for entry in to Civil Services while the Hindi applicants should know a provincial language.

Members like T T Krishnamachari of Madras and L K Maitra of Bengal warned the Constituent Assembly of threats from secessionist groups and accused the Hindi group of displaying linguistic fanaticism and ‘Hindi-imperialism’. Nehru who had become more of an umpire rather than a player after the question of Hindustani was shelved supported the moderates. He was lamenting the fact that issue of Hindi was hijacked by language extremists there by affecting Hindi’s chances of becoming an all-India language. Nehru had a clear belief that Hindi was superior to the provincial languages and this is known from many of his speeches. In one instance he says “Everybody knows that obviously Hindi is the most powerful language of India. But it is misfortune of Hindi that it has collected round it some advocates who continually do tremendous injury to its cause by advocating it in the wrong way.”

Final Debate – Numerals

Towards the final days of drafting of the language provisions, bitterness and fanatical statements started emanating from everywhere. Seth Govind Das, President of Hindi Sahitya Sammellan said that Hindi in Nagari must be made the national language of India and that ‘this arrangement was quite in accordance with the nation’s will’. Purushottam Das Tandon said that “those who oppose acceptance of Hindi as national language and Nagari as the single script are still following a policy of anti-national appeasement and are catering to communal aspirations.

During the assembly proceedings, the pro-Hindi group had a large base from Bihar, Central Provinces, United Provinces, and interestingly several members from the South also. Their amendments which gave predominance to Hindi were flatly rejected by the non-Hindi bloc led by Southern members who fervently refused the clause that provided for the progressive substitution of Hindi during a 15 year transitional period when English is used as the official language. But a consensus was taken in a meeting of all the Congress members of the Constituent Assembly that Hindi in Nagari will be accepted as the official language. The status of Hindi with regards to this was never in doubt again.

The sorest part of language issue was when the representation of numerals was discussed. Facetiously speaking, this reiterated that Indians were obsessive about numbers. Non-Hindi bloc mentioned that Arabic numerals (which had its origin in India) should be used for all official purpose. Hindi group protested furiously saying that Devanagari numerals must be used. The question of numerals was so hotly debated that nearly 3 hours alone was spent speaking about it. The debate ended with a 75-74 vote in favour of Devanagari numerals but it was accepted that such a controversial issue cannot be implemented with such a thin margin. This issue was a turning point in the language debates. Austin observes that “The pressure of the extremists, particularly on the numerals issue drove many Gujarati, Marathi, Bengali and even Bihari assembly members from the Hindi group into the ranks of its moderates.” South Indian moderates scoffed at the intransigent stand on numerals, and The Hindu called the fight over the numerals “stupid and useless”, which on retrospect indeed looks very much so.

At this time Ambedkar came to the fore-front and suggested that a Language Commission formed after the inauguration of Constitution will consider the question of Numerals and the transitional period of English. Munshi – Ayyangar (MA) formula, which later became the basis for the current provisions of our constitution, had its origin in these suggestions from Ambedkar. MA formula was endorsed by even Patel, who had sympathised with Tandon and group, and who had been annoyed by the southern resistance to Hindi. In his suggestions Ambedkar also recommended that all the Indian languages should be listed in a schedule in the constitution. At a superficial level the reason cited for listing languages in a separate schedule is that these languages were supposed to be the sources from which Hindi should broaden itself. But leaders have later on mentioned that it was out of psychological reasons and to give the languages a status that the languages were listed in a Schedule. “We had these languages listed in the Constitution to protect them from being ignored or wiped out by the Hindi-wallahs.” said a leader.

When the MA formula was finally produced Ayyangar rightly pointed out that it was a compromise between mutually incompatible ideas. In response to MA formula Seth Govind Das said that “Indian had had one cultural tradition for 1000s of years. We do not want it to be said that there are two cultures here.” To which Bharatiya Jana Sangh leader from Bengal, Shyama Prasad Mookerjee responded that “If it is claimed by anyone that by passing an article in the Constitution of India, one language is going to be accepted by all by a process of coercion, I say, sir, that that will not be possible to achieve. Unity in diversity is India’s keynote and must be achieved by a process of understanding and consent and for that a proper atmosphere has to be created.

On contrasting this with Nehru’s attitude who said “Although English must continue to be a most important language in India, no nation could become great on the basis of a foreign language. The language India chose for itself must be a language of the people, not a language of the learned coterie. It is the reference to Hindustani that has allowed me to support MA formula. Else it would have been very difficult for me”, it is clear that Nehru had no more interest in provincial languages being given equal treatment than Ambedkar had when he had introduced Sanskrit to be made the national language, so as to douse the ‘jealousies raised by the special status accorded to Hindi’. After much deliberations and resignations from a couple of members including Tandon, M-A formula was passed with 5 amendments among deafening cheer.

Reference

1. The Indian Constitution – Cornerstone of a Nation by Granville Austin

2. India: A History – John Keay

3. The Indian Constitution – Fadia and Fadia

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Congress, CPIM, India, Indian Politics, Jihad, Narendra Modi, Politics, Sonia Gandhi, Terror Attacks, Terror Fundings

Modi and Kerala

Modi recently visited Kazargod in Kerala and loudly proclaimed in his rally that Kerala has become a nursery for budding terrorists. Some in facebook took exception to this comment and posted in facebook that Modi is trying to indulge in fear mongering in Kerala since he know he has no substantial voter base here.  I try to dissect here what Modi meant, and how a possible Modi Prime Ministership will affect Kerala. Most of the following is part of a discussion I had in facebook and need not be in the form of an actual essay.

This was the initial post

So, the ones who can’t be coerced into following his ideals must all be terrorists. Oh yes… We won’t follow his ideals like the others who would do so blindly without a thought and this makes us terrorists? Applause! Applause!

To all the Modi supporters… Is this the person who you want us to vote for? So sweet of him…

Just because Narendra Modi said it, do not jump your guns. The messenger may not be to everybody’s liking, but the message is important here. Kerala has been slotted under the Red Zone category of terrorist activity by National Investigation Agency acc to whom SIMI and IM are operating in Kerala via ‘micro-modules’. A Kerala-link has been in one way or other established in some of the major blasts in other parts of India (for ex – Chinnasamy Stadium blast in 2010, Gujarat Blasts 2008, 2008 Jaipur blasts,

In Oct 2013, 13 Keralites were given life sentence for training and recruiting 200 men into LeT to work in Kashmir. These 13 jailed people have allegedly misled the 200 young men saying they were going to given a good job. In fact these men were told that if they do not take part in terror training, their families would be harmed. K. P. Sabir, considered to be the ‘kingpin’ of Kerala terror network is still off the radar.

The annual remittance through hawala channels into Kerala alone is Rs 20,000 crore, a % of which has been used to fund the above mentioned blasts. And because of this not just NIA, all anti-terror org in India focus specifically on Kerala. Even the Intelligence Bureau says that up until a few years ago, Kerala, which was only a mere entry point for larger terror activities in India has turned into a breeding centre for extremist groups. IB says that Pakistan ISI uses the Gulf connection of Kerala to sponsor dubious anti-Indian activities.Kerala Police themselves have seized CDs which showed Taliban-style training for new recruits in Kerala.

Main advantage of Kerala for such extremist group is that

1. there is no political will to tack the situation
2. Kerala offers an easy exit route to Gulf due to its long coast.

I must tell here, that I have no bias against anyone. I am just trying to point out the facts. I have not even accused any political party of terror links. I have merely reproduced what the top Anti-terror organisations have put out in the public. Anyone can easily search it and obtain the required information from internet.

I just took the effort to write this because you commented

“We won’t follow his ideals like the others who would do so blindly without a thought and this makes us terrorists?”

That is not the case. Scoring political points is one thing. But, accepting certain facts, how ever unpleasant they are, is the need of the hour.

To this, I got the response

That was a long one. And I assume you must have done your research before writing it. Well and good. Since we are talking about hard truths here, I will also ask you… Can you also assure me that if he wins the election there won’t be any biases to the steps he will take? He already has an impression that Kerala is a nursery to terrorism. How could someone be expected to rule fair if he has such a biase about the people who he will be ruling? Also, if Congress rule was responsible of the rise in terrorism in Kerala, Modi should be for Gujarat riots, should he not be?

Government doesn’t work that way. Similar question can be asked about Chattisgarh which is the breeding centre of Naxals. Is the question going to be, “Oh! Is the government now going to view Chattisgarh with a biased eye?” or is the question going to be “How will government eliminate Naxal problem?” Hence the question of bias, I feel, is irrelevant. It is like a cancer patient asking the doctor “You are biased against my cancerous cells compared to my normal cells.”

That aside, politically speaking, Kerala is a very very important state to India. More imp. than half the states we have, due to a variety of factors. And no government can be stable if it is viewing Kerala with a biased view. Modi cannot sustain if that is the case. His fall will be imminent. And he is a smart enough politician not to let go of something as precious as his Prime Ministerial post. That is, assuming that Modi will be biased in his mind. I, do not feel he is biased. He is genuine.

Post May 2014, if exit polls are anything to go by, Congress will be at its worst tally. Regional leaders like our own Chandi and Assam’s Gogoi will have more muscle power than ever in Congress. Chandi is practical. Modi is too. I think they will make a fine PM-CM duo for the betterment of Kerala.

As far as your Congress responsibility and 2002 is concerned: I do not just blame Congress. I blame all the dominant political parties in Kerala, who have no individuality or ideology. They are nothing but a disgusting alphabet soup of political outfit. I will give a small example to compare Gujarat and Kerala. Ma’adanis case; who is Bangalore jail in Karnataka, where a BJP govt was in power just a few months ago, is no where near the end, not least due to endless influence by our own state politicians. You see our politicians acting like running lackeys of fanatics. But in Gujarat, convictions have been made. Many have been packed to jail. Case is going on with so much scrutiny by media and that too when a hostile government is at the centre. I am not saying everything is A class in Gujarat. But you see movement towards an eventual justice. In Kerala, everything is still in air.

To this I got the response

All of us are pretty sure how irresponsible the leaders of Kerala has been in all the cases that you pointed out. I am just panicking because I’m not sure if we should run away from one evil into the hands of another. I am concerned what will happen if Modi comes to power of the whole nation. People have died in Godhra, and in Naroda Patiya, both of which are the worst hit on man’s conscience. I’m just not sure because Modi took a side in the matter.
Quoted from NYTimes, “A top state official tells one investigation panel that Mr. Modi ordered officials to take no action against rioters. That official was murdered. Thousands of cases against rioters are dismissed by the police for lack of evidence despite eyewitness accounts.”
and Modi himself in 2012,
“There may have been a time when I hurt someone or when I made a mistake,” he says, adding, “I ask my 60 million Gujaratis to forgive me.”
You see, I am just concerned about a leader and followers with a biased state of mind.

I am not here to defend Modi. Do not support NDA just because of Modi. Support them since they have an efficient team who can put an end to the imminent problems we face in a swift manner.

For one quote from New York Times I can quote from a dozen other articles in Time or Guardian or NYT itself.

In fact, I can quote even from Raghavan-headed Special Investigation Team whose investigation was monitored by the Supreme Court, which has absolved Modi of all the allgations levelled against him. I can quote from cases where those “human rights” activists, like Teesta Setalvad, are facing a court cases for misusing the money collected for seeking justice to Gulbarg Society massacre victims, or are linked in a doubtful manner to Congress party (ex – Sanjeev Bhatt; R B Sreekumar). I can go ahead and say that they are just trying to frame Modi so that he will become eletorally irrelvant and Congress can maintain its dominance over Indian political scenario. One can view it this way too.

Regarding Modi’s role; I think he can be accused only of mismanaging the riot situation. Even then, for a newly appointed CM, he handled the situation pretty well compared to Assam Riots under Congress CM Tarun Gogoi or Muzaffarnagar Riots under Mulayam Singh – Akhilesh Yadav govt. I did not see anyone criticising these men with the ferocity that is reserved for Modi. In fact, half the people do not even know the details. And if Modi has apologised he has apologised for his mismanagement; not for plotting the murder of minorities. And in fact, it is good that you are quoting his apology, since one of the charges against him is that “He is so arrogant that he hasn’t even apologised.” So, that takes care of it. Asking for apology shows that he is ready to own his mistakes and not to repeat them. I see no reason why his apology should be used against him. If anything, it should be used to give him another chance to prove that he is being truthful.

The accusation that he is prejudiced against the minorities cannot be proven. What he thinks, feels etc is in his head. Neither I nor anyone else can assume that he must be thinking in a particular way. It becomes your perception versus my perception of him. n fact, what he is fighting is a Battle of Perceptions. Some feel he is a good administrator. Some feel he is a tyrant. Those who feel he is a tyrant, I can only tell that India is not Germany or Italy were Fascist elements sprang up. Those who have read history, in an unbiased and objective manner would know and realise how pluralistic and diverse India is and how different India is from the west European nations. There has been only one tyrant in our history. Her name is Indira Gandhi. And her descendants are still ruling the government. Constitution has been amended since the times of emergency, so that no one, not even the most popular PM can over turn the basic rights of Indians.

At the end of the day, it comes down to whether you believe in our Constitution or not. I believe in it.

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How Car Owners Became Pedestrians

Picture Courtesy – www.123rf.com
There was a narrow street in between two rows of houses. It was the only road which connected the houses to the outside world. All kind of people travelled in it – the one with the big cars; the one with the small cars, the ones having two wheelers; the ones who travel by foot. All used that road. The road was maintained periodically by a body having members representing all the houses. The houses paid maintenance fees depending on the type of vehicle used. Since huge car owners caused greater stress on road they had to pay more. Since  the ones who use the foot path caused minimum stress on the road they paid lesser.
After a long time, it started raining during the monsoon. It was horrible scenery. The rains rendered the road useless. One could see huge potholes filled with muddy waters. Even two-wheeler users started finding travel through the road difficult. A pedestrian fell into an open hole and got heavily injured. Most discomfort was for the houses that had big cars. Already the roads were narrow, add to it the potholes, along with heavy traffic, they found the travel tougher. The two wheeler owners started finding these big car owners to be the main problem as they seemed to cause the traffic. All the two wheeler owners formed a separate group and demanded that car owners either buy two-wheelers or start giving their cars for free to others in the street for usage.
A few car owners protested as they did not want to share their cars for free and they left the road side residential area to a new place. The rest of the car owners proposed a compromise deal which allowed the 2 wheeler homes to use cars after paying a very small fee but the car owners had to take care of the road maintenance. The pedestrians remained out of the picture as they felt that walking would be the best for them. The car owners, who had left, started making fun of those who had stayed back for accepting such a rotten deal. But they did not mind. They felt it was their duty since they were using the vehicle causing greater rupture to the road. Two wheeler homes stopped using their vehicles at all. They started using the cars freely whenever they wanted. They started ignoring their own vehicles and started overtly depending on the cars.
This continued for a few years. Fuel prices got raised. But no change was made on the rate the two wheeler owners paid as the rent for using cars. Some car owners felt it was necessary to raise this issue. But a few of the car owners felt that it would be unfair if the poor two wheelers had to suffer the effect of increased fuel price. Already they don’t have any cars, to add to it, if they have to pay more fees, how will they live? Some of the people having two-wheelers too felt, that they ought to pay more. But the majority two wheeler homes muffled them. As a result of this difference in opinions, the car owners and bike owners who wanted a change in the rent, left the area to the place where initially a few car owners had gone. 
As the number of houses who provided funds got less, the roads in the area started getting depleted. It was full of potholes even during summer time when there was no rain. The only path which connected the families to outside world was in bits and pieces. Yet the good car owners, who did not want to trouble the two wheeler owners and pedestrians, kept spending from their pockets seeking only very little money from the rest. But since the road was in such a bad shape it affected the cars too, and finally the cars were in repair. Hence these two wheeler owners could not travel in car. They went to get their bike. Years of not being in use had made the bikes too faulty. They then decided to sell whatever property they had, to buy a bike and rented a new home in a different locality. The pedestrians as usual walked since they were used to walking in such difficult paths. The good car owners neither had enough money to repair the car nor the funds to repair the roads. That is how the car owners became pedestrians.