ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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From 50 Years Ago: Language Controversy- The New Phase.

Editorial from Volume X, No 2, January 11, 1958

Nationalism is a strong emotion, the roots of which are supposed to go far into the past. How far the memories of the past and a common history feed this emotion and how far the feeling once aroused feeds on itself and on other things, and fashions history after its own heart – these are disputed questions on which there is no simple answer. When this spark first burst into a flame on the Indian soil, the immediate exciting cause was the partition of Bengal. The autocratic and arbitrary separation of Bengali speaking people into two administrative units lighted that spark and a common language became in the minds of the pioneers of the movement identified with this heady emotion which fed later on other things and made us into what we are today – the Indian people, forming this Sovereign Republic. India could not be a nation on the basis of a common language in those days – can it be, in the foreseeable future? – but language did not matter. We had other things in common but what they were still escape the scrutiny as much of the political scientist as of the historian. We are a heterogeneous people, we quarrel among ourselves we speak so many different languages, we have a variety of cultures and social customs of a range hardly equalled by many other countries. Yet we are a people and a nation and no one has seriously questioned that.

What sort of logic, then, did Pandit Nehru have in mind when conceding the demand, grudgingly, for giving up the rigid dead line fixed in the Constitution for replacing English by Hindi? He said at his last press conference, answering a question on the subject, “I attach far more importance to co-operation and unity as well as other matters and not to follow rigidly any pattern simply because it is logically correct in my mind. I am prepared to give up logic for more important reasons where it is necessary.” Does logic of history demand that all Indian people should speak one language, here and now, or by 1965 or by any other date which the Indian Parliament in its wisdom may choose to incorporate in the Constitution?

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