‘Hindi is no more national to us than any other language’

Constituent Assembly Debates: TA Ramalingam Chettiar said unless steps were taken to make the people in the South feel that they have something to do with the country, the South won’t be satisfied

“Mr President, Sir, this is a very difficult question for us from the South to solve. It probably means life and death for the South, unless it is going to be handled in the way in which it ought to be done. Well, Sir, for us coming from the South to go back and face our people with any decision you are going to make here, you will see what it will mean. I have been told by friends of the North that if they were to yield on the question of numerals, they will be twitted by their voters and that they will find their life difficult when they go for elections. What will it be like when we, giving up our own languages, adopt the language of the North, go back to our provinces and face our electorates? They do not seem to care for our position. Sir, I have great admiration for the Hindi people for their great patriotism and the perseverance and the persistence with which they are enforcing their decisions, but at the same time they will have to realise that we too may have some patriotism like that, we may have some patriotism and love for our language, for our literature and things like that.”
– Volume 9, Document No.139, Paragraph 160, Constituent Assembly Debates

“After all, where do we stand? We have got languages which are better cultivated and which have greater literature than Hindi in our areas. If we are going to accept Hindi, it is not on account of the excellence of the language, it is not on account of its being the richest language or on account of its being, as it has been claimed for Sanskrit, the mother of other languages and things like that. It is not that at all. It is merely on account of the existence of a large number of people speaking Hindi, not even a majority of the population of the country, but only among the languages which are spoken in India, Hindi claims probably the largest number of people. It is only on that basis that they are claiming that Hindi should be accepted as the official language of the whole country. Well, Sir, being practical, we do not claim that our languages which are better cultivated, which have got better literature, which are ancient, which have been there for millenniums, should be adopted.”
– Volume 9, Document No.139, Paragraph 161, Constituent Assembly Debates

“Sir, on account of the realities of the situation, as I said, we have accepted Hindi in Nagari script as the official language. I however said that you cannot use the word national language, because Hindi is no more national to us than, English or any other language. We have got our own languages which are national languages and for which we have got the same love as the Hindi speaking people have got for their language. We have agreed to accept Hindi and the Nagari character as the official language and script because, as I said, that language claims a larger number of people speaking it than any other language in India. If, for that reason alone, you are going to say that you ought to change over tomorrow, if you are to claim that it ought to be adopted as the official language today or tomorrow, I think it would not be accepted by the people. It would lead not only to frustration and disappointment -- but something worse.”
– Volume 9, Document No.139, Paragraph 167, Constituent Assembly Debates

“I may say that the South is feeling frustrated. If there is the feeling of having obtained liberty, freedom and all that, there is very little of it felt in the South. Sir, coming here to the capital in the northern-most part of the country, and feeling ourselves as strangers in this land, we do not feel that we are a nation to whom the whole thing belongs, and that the whole country is ours. Unless steps are taken to make the people in the South feel that they have something to do with the country, and that there is some sort of unity in the country, I do not think the South is going to be satisfied at all. There will be a bitter feeling left behind. To what it may lead, it is not easy to say at present.”
– Volume 9, Document No.139, Paragraph 168, Constituent Assembly Debates

“The South is the only part of the country probably which does not feel that it is going to come into line with the other provinces soon, especially my part of the country where Tamil is the language spoken. We have been priding ourselves that we have had nothing to do with Sanskrit. We do not claim that Tamil is derived from Sanskrit, or is based on Sanskrit in any way. We have been trying to keep our vocabulary as pure as possible without the admixture of Sanskrit. Now, we have, to go back upon all that. We have to take words from Sanskrit; we have to change our whole course of action. What it means to the people who have been brought tip in their own language, who have been priding themselves that their language has been independent of Sanskrit, and that that is the only language which can stand against Sanskrit, you have to consider. In that position, we are to prepare ourselves first with reluctance to give up our old position and take to a study of Hindi or Sanskrit. You will have first to educate the people, I mean make them reconcile themselves to the new order of things. Then, they will have to take to the study of Hindi, to enable them to take their place here among those whose mother tongue is Hindi.”
– Volume 9, Document No.139, Paragraph 173, Constituent Assembly Debates

TA Ramalingam Chettiar, September 13, 1949
Chettiar became a member of the Madras Legislative Council in 1921. He was a member of the Constituent Assembly and went on to become a Lok Sabha MP from Coimbatore in 1951.

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