‘Question of national language may be left to future Parliament’

Constituent Assembly Debates: Travancore representative PT Chacko asserted that a national language can only be decided upon by mutual agreement and not by taking votes

“Sir, my position is that English should continue to be used for a period to be fixed and the question of a national language should be left to the future Parliament. A national language has to evolve itself and is not to be created artificially. The national language for a great country like India should have certain minimum requirements. It should be capable of expressing all the needs of modern civilisation. To be capable of meeting all modern demands, it should have a lore of scientific literature. Language as the vehicle of thought determines to a large extent our mental makeup. The capacity for thought, and for thought development, to a great degree is limited by the thinker's language of expression. Each language has a vocabulary, a method of construction and a scheme of thought process distinctly all its own.”

“A person who knows only a primitive language cannot, of course, think in the same lines as one who speaks a well-developed language. The national language of a great country like India should also be great. Some of our languages in India are really rich in literature. But, Sir, I do not think that any of our languages contain a good scientific literature. It would be almost impossible to teach Chemistry, Physics and such other sciences in any of our languages in India. A language cannot be artificially moulded for ready use. It has to develop itself and that takes time. The adoption of a language from the languages which we are having in India will most probably retard our national progress. It may prevent our higher studies. It may prevent scientific researches which we need. Therefore, I believe we will have to wait till the time when a language in India develops itself and matures to that stage when we can make it our official language and our national language.”
– Volume 9, Document No. 139, Paragraph 281, Constituent Assembly Debates

“To replace an international language like English, very expressive, rich in vocabulary, easy and simple in construction, and one which is recommended to be the international auxiliary language, is almost impossible. Probably Shakespeare decided the national language of England once for all, and for Italy probably Dante decided it. Like that, some literary genius will in future, according to me, decide the national language for India.”
– Volume 9, Document No. 139, Paragraph 282, Constituent Assembly Debates

“A national language can be, decided upon only by mutual agreement. It cannot be done by taking votes; that is what I believe. No language can be imposed upon an unwilling people. No nation has ever succeeded in imposing the language of the majority upon the minority. In the day of Czarist Russia, speaking Lithuanian language was absolutely forbidden and the penalty for breaking this law was very severe, sometimes amounting to death. Nevertheless, when after two centuries, Lithuania declared itself independent, it was found that about 93% of the people still spoke the Lithuanian language. Likewise, in Spain, the Catalan language was prohibited in 1923, but after a strenuous struggle which ensued in 1932, the State had to recognise that language.”
– Volume 9, Document No. 139, Paragraph 283, Constituent Assembly Debates

“On the other hand, we know what happened in Britain. Even now there are about six spoken languages in the British Isles. English evolved itself as a national language and the people willingly recognised it. The result was that Welsh in Wales and Gaelic in Scotland slowly were abandoned by the people. Likewise we will also have, to wait for some time till a language emerges from among the languages which exist in India. We will have to wait till it matures and reaches that position when we can make it our lingua franca.”
– Volume 9, Document No. 139, Paragraph 284, Constituent Assembly Debates

“Before deciding upon the official language, to me it appears that we have to decide one or two very important questions. Firstly Sir, the question is whether we should have one language or more languages as our official language. In Switzerland, for example, there are four languages spoken by the people. In schools the medium of instruction is that language which is spoken by the people in the locality where the school is located. In higher classes a second national language is compulsory and later on a third language. All the four languages are recognised as official languages.”
– Volume 9, Document no. 139, Paragraph 285, Constituent Assembly Debates

“In pre-war Czechoslovakia, though there were about twelve languages, besides some dialects spoken by the people, two languages were recognised as official. In public offices the language of the region in which the office was situated was used. In many other countries also more than one language is recognised as official language.”
– Volume 9, Document no. 139, Paragraph 286, Constituent Assembly Debates

“Therefore it is a question to be decided whether we should have one single language as the official language of India or we should have more than one-for example Bengalee, Tamil, Hindi and even English. If we decide on one national language, we will again have to decide whether we should allow the Union Government to use any other language than the official language. In the U. S. S. R., for example, in European Russia itself there are about 76 languages spoken besides innumerable dialects and only one language is the official language of the U.S. S.R. But in offices the language of the region is also officially used. Where many languages are spoken and there are many other dialects also the question is to decide whether we should permit the Union to use only the official language or other languages also in public offices situated in particular regions.”
– Volume 9, Document no. 139, Paragraph 287, Constituent Assembly Debates

PT Chacko, September 13, 1949
Chacko represented Travancore in the Constituent Assembly. He was a prominent politician from Travancore and was the home minster of Kerala from 1960 to 1964.

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