‘TRIVENI’ HAS SHED LIGHT ON MY PATH.
BLESSED BE HER NAME!
While the Fazl Ali Commission on the Re-organisation of States is preparing to draft its Report in the secluded vale of Kashmir, the cross-currents in Indian public life present a bewildering variety of aim and method. A powerful group in Bombay, led by Sri. S. K. Patil, has ranged itself against the basic concept of linguistic States. It seeks to rally all patriotic Indians to the cause of Indian unity which is imagined to be in danger because of the progress of ‘linguism’. This is a new term of reproach coined by the opponents of linguistic States and frequently used in juxtaposition with ‘communalism’, ‘provincialism’ and ‘reactionism’. But tried nationalists like Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Dr. Pattabhi Sitaramayya, Sri R. R. Diwakar and Swami Ramanand Tirtha have, right from the beginning, sponsored the cause of linguistic States as a necessary step towards a composite and democratic Federal State. Bihar and Andhra, Karnataka and Orissa, were not only the strongholds of patriotism in the era of the freedom fight, but also emphasised the need to develop the regional languages as the vehicles of the finest thought, fit to be employed at the highest levels in courts and colleges, secretariats and legislatures. To Gopabandhu Das or Konda Venkatappayya, love of their mother-tongue and of their home-Province involved no conflict with the wider patriotism symbolised by Gandhi and the Gandhian movement.
The post-Independence era has created new situations and thrown up fresh problems in connection with the movement for linguistic re-organisation. Lesser men than the pioneers have come to the fore, and there is a tendency to treat the linguistic minorities in certain states as conquered or subject peoples. It is forgotten that every inch of the territory of the Indian Union belongs to every one of its citizens, and no Indian can be treated as an outsider in any State. He can settle down, acquire property, pursue a profession, seek public employment, and educate his children in the mother-tongue during the earlier stages of the school course. All that any State Government can require of him is that, if he wishes to serve in any Department, he should pass a minimum test in the regional language when it is different from his mother-tongue. Even after the most careful delimitation of boundaries between adjoining States, there are sure to be border areas which will be bi-lingual. The Central Government must frame rules on an all-India basis to make provision in such areas for,
In addition, there should be Central Government officers in every State who will make themselves responsible for the proper implementation of the rules in this regard. It ought not to be necessary for aggrieved parties to resort frequently to the High Court or the Supreme Court for the redressal of grievances.
But bi-lingual areas constitute only a fraction of the problem to be tackled by the Commission. Even if the arrangements out-lined above are faithfully carried out, the larger question of the re-distribution of territorial units remains. There are trouble spots like the Telugu areas in Orissa, the Bengali areas in Bihar, and the Tamil areas in Travancore-Cochin. The local Telugu organisations in Orissa and the Andhra Pradesh Congress Committee have presented a strong case for the re-inclusion in the Andhra State of large slices of the Ganjam and Koraput Districts, which were transferred from the old Madras Province to the Province of Orissa when the latter was carved out eighteen years ago. The then Government of India was opposed to such a transfer, but the Secretary of State decided to include Parlakimedi in the new Province on the ground that the Raja of Parlakimedi wished it, and added on Berhampore because Orissa could not flourish without this important town in the South! A revision of boundaries was promised at the time, and, with the recent formation of Andhra, the demand for such revision has gained momentum. The claim of the Andhras is that these areas are definitely Telugu and that the coastal belt up to the river Rishikulya, including Berhampore, Chatrapur and Gopalpore, must be absorbed in Andhra. Similar claims are advanced by Orissa regarding Saraikela, and by Bengal regarding Singbhum. An important body like the Commission is in a position to give a correct lead in these matters and to set at rest longstanding controversies. Any decision with a touch of finality about it is better than the present state of uncertainty.
The disintegration of Hyderabad is the major headache of the Commission. There is a large consensus of opinion, official and non-official, in favour of a break-up and the inclusion of its three linguistic units in the bordering States. While this is so, tentative proposals have been made in certain quarters that there should be two Telugu-speaking States–Telangana and Andhra, two Marathi States–Maharashtra and Vidarbha, and two Kannada States–Mysore and Karnataka. On principle, there can be no objection to two States in the Indian Union speaking the same language, because there are already four or five States with Hindi as their main language. But once the Commission decides to recommend the break-up of Hyderabad, the wiser course would be to form large, well-knit and homogeneous States like Visalandhra and Samyukta Karnataka, instead of duplicating Cabinets, High Courts and Legislatures. These larger States would be sounder from a financial point of view, and also be able to give greater attention to river valley and other developmental projects covering the same linguistic area.
Claims and counter-claims to territory, allegations of injustice to minorities, fears about the future based on recent outbreaks of linguistic fanaticism,–these cloud the horizon. The Report of the Commission is awaited with keen interest. The greatest service the Commission can render to modern India is to make its recommendations, undismayed by these portents. This is a time of transition and of ferment, when great issues have to be faced and solved. It is necessary to bear in mind the fundamental consideration that any new States that may come into being as a result of the Commission’s labours, will not be independent sovereign States but homogeneous administrative units of the Indian Union, acknowledging the supremacy of the Constitution and owing allegiance to the President who is the symbol of that supremacy.
Allied to the problem of creating new States based mainly on language is that of assigning to Hindi its proper position in the political and cultural life of India. Our Constitution declares Hindi as the official language of the Union, but sets a limit of fifteen years during which English will continue to occupy a prominent place. The Official Language Commission, under the chairmanship of Sri B. G. Kher, will tour the different States, gather evidence, and indicate the steps to be taken for the rapid development of Hindi as the official language. There is a section of Hindi enthusiasts of the type of Sri Purushothamdas Tandon and Seth Govinda Das, which feels dissatisfied with the progress so far achieved with regard to the spread of Hindi and lays the blame on the Central and State Governments for what it considers to be lack of enthusiasm. On the other hand, there is discontent in several non-Hindi States at the methods adopted to hasten the pace of ‘Hindi-isation’ to the disadvantage of the other Indian languages, spoken by millions over vast stretches of the land and possessing great literatures. It is not correct to refer to Hindi as the ‘Rashtra Bhasha’–the ‘National Language’. Indeed, all the fourteen languages recognised by the Indian Constitution are our ‘National’ languages, and Hindi cannot claim any superiority on the ground merely of the numerical strength of the people speaking it. Long before Hindi was placed on a high pedestal by the united will of our Constitution-makers, people in non-Hindi areas studied Hindi with zest, largely owing to the example set by Gandhiji. Several voluntary associations sprang up all over the non-Hindi States, and young and old–and particularly the women–sat for examinations and were proud of the certificates of proficiency granted to them. But after the adoption of the Constitution, and even while it was in the process of being adopted, the aggressive elements in Delhi, Allahabad and Lucknow took up an attitude of hostility to other Indian languages, and spoke as if they had stepped into the shoes of the departing British rulers. It was with considerable difficulty that the Munshi-Gopalaswami Iyengar formula was evolved. Events have happened since then, culminating in the proposal that all competitive examinations for the higher All-India Services should be conducted in Hindi, to the exclusion of English and the regional languages. This was widely objected to on the ground that an unfair advantage was sought to be given to candidates from the Hindi States, and even a sober critic like Sri Rajaji was ‘angry’ and asserted that the only reasonable step was to impose a separate language test in Hindi. It would be equally reasonable to impose a similar test on Hindi-speaking candidates in any one of the other Indian languages.
Hindi is not meant to be the official language of all the States of the Indian Union, for they have the right, according to the Constitution, to declare one or more of the regional languages as ‘State languages’, gradually replacing English. Nor can Hindi be the sole medium of instruction in all Indian Universities. The Radhakrishnan Commission on University Education recommended the adoption of any Indian language as such medium, whenever a particular University wished to change over from English. Attempts are being made to prepare glossaries of technical terms in the different Indian languages as a prelude to the writing of text-books for use at the University level. Dictionaries, encyclopedias, and accounts of the growth and development of all Indian literatures, will follow in due course.
When Hindi acquires the requisite vocabulary and felicity of expression–as it is bound to–particularly in the sphere of politics and administration, it can be employed, in gradual stages, as the official language of the Government of India alongside of English. The Central Government will employ both languages, till such time as the people of the non-Hindi States agree that Hindi shall be the sole official language at the Centre. So too, each State of the Indian Union will exercise its free choice as to whether it will carry on correspondence with the Centre and the other States in Hindi or in English. The Constitution may have to be so amended as to permit of this type of bi-lingualism, even after the expiry of the 15 year limit. Canada is a striking instance of bi-lingualism, French and English taking equal rank as the official languages of the Dominion.
In schools and colleges in non-Hindi States, provision must be made for the optional study of Hindi. There is no need to teach any language compulsorily, at any stage, except the language of the region and Sanskrit where there is public opinion in its favour. Hindi, English, or any other language can be taken up for study during the later years of the High School course, or at the beginning of the College course. The effort to teach four or five languages simultaneously and compulsorily is futile.
Since Hindi is recognised as the official language of the Indian Union, every person seeking admission into any of the Central Government Services–Railways, Posts and Telegraphs, Income-Tax or Excise–must be required to pass a test in Hindi of the standard of the present ‘Rashtra Bhasha’ examination, which needs only a six months’ intensive study. The Government of India can publish officially two or three text-books and a simplified Hindi grammar for the purposes of such an examination all over India. In addition, special prizes may be awarded to students in schools and colleges, members of the public, and to Government servants, for proficiency in Hindi. Thus a proper climate for the free and voluntary spread of Hindi will prevail. This will ease the present tension and eventually secure to Hindi its rightful place as the medium of inter-State communication. Meanwhile, all wild talk about ‘driving away’ English must cease, for English will be taught in our schools and colleges as a very important language, even when it is not the medium of instruction.
The passing away of Sri Oleti Parvatisam at the ripe age of, seventy marks the end of a long career of devoted service to the cause of Telugu literature. Sri Parvatisam and Sri Balantrapu Venkata Rao were students of the late Sri Nadakuduti Veeraraju Pantulu, a scholar and critic of high attainments. The friendship formed at the Guru’s feet ripened into a literary comradeship, as famous as that of the other pairs of Telugu litterateurs,–Venkata Sastri and Tirupati Sastri, and Lakshmikantam and Venkateswara Rao. Together, Venkata Rao and Parvatisam called themselves ‘Venkata Parvatisvara Kavulu’. Their outstanding contribution to the Telugu poetry of the last half-a-century is a volume of devotional poems–‘Ekantaseva’. Love of the Lord and unswerving faith in His tenderness and mercy form the key-note of this collection of poems, which won the high appreciation of the late Sir C. R. Reddy. Sweetness and grace of style make ‘Ekantaseva’ a fine example of modern Telugu poetry at its best.
The twin-poets founded in 1910 the ‘Andhra Pracharini Grandhamala’ and published a large number of novels and stories, some of them original but mostly translations from the Bengali of Bankim Chandra and other novelists of Bengal. Theirs was almost the first successful effort to acquaint the Telugu reading public with the classics of renascent Bengal. They forged a valuable cultural link between Vanga and Andhra.
Sri Parvatisam was a very lovable person, and was on the friendliest terms with two generations of Telugu poets and writers. Even continued poverty and neglect did not sour his temper, and he was grateful for the modest monthly allowance granted by the Education Ministry of the Government of India. In his simplicity and his utter dependence on Providence, he was a modern counterpart of Potana, the poet of the ‘Andhra Bhagavata’. May his memory be cherished by all lovers of literature!