‘The anti-Hindi agitation in the South is very powerful’

Constituent Assembly Debates: Durgabai Deshmukh of the Andhra Mahila Sabha asked why there was no obligation on the Hindi speaking people to learn one of the provincial languages

“Mr. President, the question of national language for India which was an almost agreed proposition until recently has suddenly become a highly controversial issue. Whether rightly or wrongly, the people of non-Hindi speaking areas have been made to feel that this fight or this attitude on behalf of the Hindi speaking areas is a fight for effectively preventing the natural influence of other powerful languages of India on the composite culture of this nation. I have heard some honourable Members who are supporters of Hindi with Hindi numerals say, "You have accepted nearly 90 per cent of our thesis; therefore, why hesitate to accept the other 10 per cent ?" May I ask them with what sacrifice, we have accepted this? Some friends said: 'Absolutely there is no sacrifice on your part. You have to accept. You must'. This is the attitude in approaching the people of the non-Hindi speaking areas for asking them to accept their proposition in its entirety.”
– Volume 9, Document No.140, Paragraph 18, Constituent Assembly Debates

“Sir, the National language of India should not be and cannot be any other than Hindustani which is Hindi plus Urdu. For the sake of satisfying the sentiments of our friends we have accepted Hindi in Devanagari script. It is no less sacrifice for us to have had to depart from a principle, which we have all along fought for and lived for. This departure means a very serious inconvenience to us and it is not without a pang that we have agreed to this departure from the tolerant Gandhian ideology, the Gandhian philosophy and the Gandhian proposition, namely, that the official language of India should be only that which is commonly understood and easily spoken and learnt. Sir, this is the sacrifice that we have made.”
– Volume 9, Document No.140, Paragraph 19, Constituent Assembly Debates

“Perhaps Tandonji, Seth Govind Dasji and others do not know this and are not aware of the powerful opposition in the South against the Hindi language. The opponents feel perhaps justly that this propaganda for Hindi cuts at the very root of the provincial languages and is a serious obstacle to the growth of the provincial languages and provincial culture. Sir, the anti-Hindi agitation in the south is very powerful. My Friend Dr. Subbarayan dealt at some length on this point yesterday. But, Sir, what did we do, we the supporters of Hindi ? We braved that fierce agitation and propagated Hindi in the South. Long before the Pandits of Hindi Sahitya Sammelan realised the importance of having a national language for India. We all in the South obeyed the call of Mahatma Gandhi and carried on Hindi propaganda in the South. We started schools and conducted classes in Hindi. Thus with great inconvenience we dedicated ourselves very long ago to the propagation and learning of Hindi.”
– Volume 9, Document No.140, Paragraph 20, Constituent Assembly Debates

“Sir, leaving alone the efforts of the Dakshina Bharat Hindi Pracharak Sabha, I must in this connection pay a glowing tribute to the women and children of the south who have taken with great zeal and earnestness to the learning of Hindi. Sir, Gandhiji's efforts and influence, worked tremendously on the students of colleges who, after putting in hard work in their colleges, used to come in the evenings to the Hindi classes to learn this language. Not only the students, even the lawyers after their court hours, officers after finishing their office work, instead of going in the evenings to the recreation clubs, attended Hindi classes and learnt Hindi. I am impressing this fact upon you just to show how genuinely and honestly we took to this propagation of Hindi as a result of Mahatmaji's call and appeal to us.”
– Volume 9, Document No.140, Paragraph 21, Constituent Assembly Debates

“I ask you, Sir are we going to have this Constitution only for ourselves and our lives? What about our children and the generations to come? Are they not to follow this? I am speaking from my own personal experience. I learnt Hindi, I taught Hindi to some hundreds of women at least, in the South. My experience is this: Those who have passed the highest examinations in Hindi can read and write, but it is impossible for them to speak, because for speaking there must be some kind of environment, some kind of atmosphere. In the South, where do we find this atmosphere? Nowhere in the South have we opportunities of speaking what we have learnt. You will only realise this difficulty when you come to the South and you have to speak one of the provincial languages there. Therefore be patient and cultivate the spirit of accommodation and tolerance. This is the thing that we ask of you to show to us.”
– Volume 9, Document No.140, Paragraph 27, Constituent Assembly Debates

“The third condition which is not clear from Shri Gopalaswami Ayyangar's draft is that there is some obligation placed on the non-Hindi speaking people to speak Hindi. There should be equally an obligation on your part to learn one of the provincial languages. It does not matter whether it is Bengali, Tamil, Telugu or Kannada or any other language for that matter. Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee, while speaking on this subject yesterday, dwelt on this point sufficiently and on the resolution which the Sahitya Sammelan passed recently in their conference in Delhi. We will carefully wait and watch and see how that resolution would be implemented by the premiers of provinces who were parties to that resolution.”
– Volume 9, Document No.140, Paragraph 28, Constituent Assembly Debates

Durgabai Deshmukh, September 14, 1949
Deshmukh founded the Andhra Mahila Sabha in 1937. She was a member of the Constituent Assembly and the Planning Commission of India, apart from being the founding chairperson of the Central Social Welfare Board

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