Strength for Today and Bright Hope for Tomorrow

Volume 5 : 12 December 2005

Editor: M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.
Associate Editors: B. Mallikarjun, Ph.D.
         Sam Mohanlal, Ph.D.
         B. A. Sharada, Ph.D.
         A. R. Fatihi, Ph.D.




  • We seek your support to meet expenses relating to some new and essential software, formatting of articles and books, maintaining and running the journal through hosting, correrspondences, etc. You can use the PAYPAL link given above. Please click on the PAYPAL logo, and it will take you to the PAYPAL website. Please use the e-mail address to make your contributions using PAYPAL.
    Also please use the AMAZON link to buy your books. Even the smallest contribution will go a long way in supporting this journal. Thank you. Thirumalai, Editor.


In Association with




  • E-mail your articles and book-length reports (preferably in Microsoft Word) to
  • Contributors from South Asia may send their articles to
    B. Mallikarjun,
    Central Institute of Indian Languages,
    Mysore 570006, India
    or e-mail to
  • Your articles and booklength reports should be written following the MLA, LSA, or IJDL Stylesheet.
  • The Editorial Board has the right to accept, reject, or suggest modifications to the articles submitted for publication, and to make suitable stylistic adjustments. High quality, academic integrity, ethics and morals are expected from the authors and discussants.

Copyright © 2004
M. S. Thirumalai


And the Anti-Hindi Agitation in the South
M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.

Language Policy in the Congress Manifesto for 1937 Elections and After

The Parliamentary Committee appointed in the Lucknow session of 1936 was charged with the responsibility of preparing the Election Manifesto in connection with the elections to the Provincial Legislatures in the ensuing February 1937 elections. 3.5 crores of citizens were to participate in these elections as voters. This was the largest ever election to be held in the country in terms of the number of voters.

The Congress had decided to contest Muslim seats as well as the seats of the Scheduled Classes with their own Muslim and Scheduled Classes candidates. The Manifesto, thus, had to cover and satisfy several interest groups. The draft of the Manifesto was duly approved in August 1936 at the All India Congress Committee Meeting in Bombay.

The Manifesto on the Provisions for Fundamental Rights

The manifesto said that it stood 'by the Karachi Resolution relating to fundamental rights and duties, and will give its first attention to Prohibition, Land Reform, reduction of burdens on lands, war taxation or rent, the removal of intermediaries, the scaling down of debts, and cheap credit facilities. In the domain of industrial labour, decent standard of living, regulated hours of work and conditions of labour, settlement of disputes and relief against old age, sickness and unemployment, and the right to form Unions and to declare strikes, will be the Reforms aimed at. Removal of sickness-disability, maternity benefits and protection of women workers, equality with men in regard to the privileges and obligations of citizenship, the removal of untouchability and uplift of the Harijans and backward classes, encouragement of Khadi and Village Industries, improvement in the treatment of political prisoners, readjustment of communal claims...'

The Socio-Economic Turn in the Indian National Congrerss

Note that the manifesto reiterated the Fundamental Rights Resolution of the Karachi Session, which included protection to culture, language and scripts of the peoples. Note also the socio-economic turn in the policy of the programmes of the Indian National Congress. The original items of the Constructive Programme were retained, but there were quite a few others included to meet the demands of the industrial labour. There was no more a special status for Khadi, etc.

As regards language use, the manifesto did not emphasize and elaborate on the roles to be played by the vernaculars including Hindustani, although the elections were being held for the Provincial Legislatures. Thus, it was not clear as to what the Congress would do specifically in the area of language use once it was elected to power in the Centre and in the Provinces. However, there were already resolutions of the Working Committee and the Karachi resolution on Fundamental Rights, which had laid down the outline of the language policy.

Emerging Linguistic Agaitations Against Hindi

We see that the attempt of at least one of the Provinces to put into practice these resolutions immediately, especially the introduction of Hindi in schools, in the Madras Presidency, led to a mass agitation, for the first time in India, against the language policy of the Indian National Congress.

The 1937 Elections based on the Government of India Act 1935 saw the Indian National Congress winning a clear majority in five provinces, namely, Madras, United Province, Central Province, Bihar and Orissa. The Indian National Congress became the biggest single party in four provinces, namely, Bombay, Bengal, Assam and North Western Frontier Province. In the Provincial Assemblies of the Sind and the Punjab, Congress was in a comparatively smaller minority. The main contender to Congress for power in all the provinces was the All India Muslim League.

The Working Committee of the Indian National Congress held in February 1937 issued a policy guidance for the newly elected members of the Legislatures. The resolution reiterated that the Congress had entered the legislatures not to cooperate with the new Constitution or the Government but to combat the Act and the policy underlying it. The objective of the Congress was Purna Swaraj or Complete Independence and to that end all its activities were directed.

The immediate objective of the Congress in the legislatures was to fight the new Constitution, to resist the introduction and working of the Federal part of the Act, and to lay stress on the nation's demand for a Constituent Assembly. All Congress members of the legislatures shall be dressed in Khadi. Congress parties in the Provincial Assemblies must not enter into alliance with other groups in the Assembly without the permission of the Working Committee. Congress members should press for the carrying out of the Congress programme as enunciated in the Election Manifesto and the Congress agrarian resolution. In particular they should work for

  • Substantial reduction in rent and revenue
  • Assessment of income tax, on a progressive scale, on agricultural incomes, subject to a prescribed minimum.
  • Fixity of tenure
  • Relief from the burden of rural debt and arrears of rent and revenue.
  • Repeal of all repressive laws.
  • Release of political prisoners, internees and detenus.
  • Restoration of lands and property confiscated or sold by Government during Civil Disobedience Movements.
  • Eight hours day for industrial workers, without reduction of pay. Living wages.
  • Prohibition of intoxicating liquor and drugs
  • Unemployment relief.
  • Reduction of high salaries, allowances, and cost of administration of Government.

The Oath in Hindustani

Note that the list of activities given as policy guidance did not specifically focus/revolve around language. However, at the National Convention of the Congress legislators, which met in March 1937 prior to the commencement of Provincial Legislatures, the members took an oath in Hindustani as follows:

I, a member of this All India Convention pledge myself to the service of Indian and work in the legislatures and outside for the independence of Indian and the ending of the exploitation and poverty of her people. I pledge myself to work under the discipline of the Congress for the furtherance of Congress ideals and objectives to the end that Indian may be free and independent and her millions freed from the heavy burdens they suffer from.

Administering a pledge only in Hindustani is a new step, distinct from the earlier instruction when the people were to be administered their pledges either in Hindustani or the local language when the Civil Disobedience Movement started. This departure further emphasized the status and privileges to be accorded to the lingua franca, or, as it was called, the National language.

Such departures were only seen as a natural extension of the already laid down policy and were initiated based on the exigency of the situations-there was no prior deliberation on such matters within the organization, indicating the similarity of views on the matter held within the Indian National Congress.

The New Congress Ministries

As Sitaramayya (1947.54) points out, the new Congress ministries in the six provinces began `a new ferment that began to leaven the dough of national life '

The Congress Ministries had to work towards the realization of the objectives that were set before them by the Congress Manifesto ---

Agrarian relief, scaling down of debts, immediate and total prohibition, removal of intermediaries in cultivation, restriction of the extent of lands possessed by absentee landlords, abolition of illegal exaction's, redress of forest grievances, development of forest wealth, home crafts and large scale industries, a more equitable adjustment of financial burdens, the reorganization of education so as to link it to the life and needs of the nation as against the needs of an alien Government, the recovery of national culture, the rehabilitation of Village Panchayats and the administration of justice so as to make it sure and cheap, quick and equitable, the restoration of truth and of the integrity of the spoken word back to its pristine position, not only in Courts but in all human intercourse, the reorientation of civic rights and duties on the supreme strategy of non-violence, the uplift of social, economic and political position of the Harijans and other backward communities, the recognition of Labour as the real capital in the country, the replacement of the ideal of money by the ideal of service, the large scale campaign of Rural Reconstruction, -- in one word, the supplanting of all competition by cooperation - these were the batch of Reforms which the popular ministers had to address themselves to.

Sitaramayya (1947:55) remarks further:

Not a light task indeed! But that was not all, for ministers in certain provinces had to recknon with local prejudices as well. In South India, an agitation was organized against the compulsory study of Hindi.

No Organized Dissent

With such unanimity in the views relating to the language policy outlined thus far by the Indian National Congress within the Organization, any organized dissent towards it was to be treated by Congressmen as born out of local prejudices, especially when such opposition to the policy came from without as in the case of the agitation in Sough India against the compulsory study of Hindi introduced by the Congress Ministry in Madras Presidency after elections!

Anti-Hindi Agitation

The policy guidance issued to Congress Ministers and legislators did not specifically state the need and urgency for the implementation of its language policy through the teaching of Hindustani (Hindi) in schools. However, the Congress Ministry in Madras Presidency chose to implement the language policy outline of the Indian National Congress in 1937/1938 which led to an agitation against Hindi in the province.

The participants in the anti-Hindi agitation in the Tamil region of the Madras Presidency were arrested and treated and jailed as criminals, to the consternation even of the Congressmen. An agitation that was to arrest the one-sided emphasis only on Hindi in subsequent decades, an agitation that would influence the course of history at least of one state, Tamilnadu, in India, during post-independence period, could be then visualized only as born out of prejudice by Congressmen. And Dr. Sitaramayya was no mean politician - indeed a great statesman who championed the cause of linguistic reorganization of provinces, for whom language was never a mere tool of communication and for whom language identity was an essential characteristic of all the units that constituted India!

This only shows in retrospect the strong determination of the leadership of the Indian National Congress refusing to reconsider its language policy already laid down. What was possible for them was to consider language issue only in relation to the larger issue of religion - a legacy that was haunting the Indian National Congress from its inception.

Dogmatic Positions on Language Policy

The Congress leaders refused to acknowledge that the anti-Hindi agitation in the Tamil region of the Madras Presidency was backed by a majority of the people in the region. Such was the dogmatic position of Mahatma Gandhi that he always referred to the anti-Hindi stance in Tamilnadu as being supported only by some people.

The tendency to equate the allegiance to the use and acceptance of Hindi-Hindustani as lingua franca and National Language as only patriotism and call the anti-Hindi stance as unpatriotic, which was working towards disintegration of India was discernible clearly in the utterances of many Congress leaders. Their utterances revealed their inability and unwillingness to see the point that even when people were against what they perceived to be an imposition of a language over them for whatever reason, they could still be united behind the Congress to fight against the alien rule.

Secondly, there was opposition even among Madras Congressmen both against the hasty introduction of compulsory Hindi in schools and the use of the Criminal Law Amendment against anti-Hindi agitators. Congressmen were vociferously against the British employing the Criminal Law against political agitators, but when it came to handling the anti-Hindi agitators in the Tamil region of the Madras Presidency, the then Congress Prime Minister of Madras, C. Rajagopalachari used the Criminal Law Amendment Act provisions against the anti-Hindi agitators, which was strongly criticized by Congress stalwarts like T. T. Krishnamachari.

However, Mahatma Gandhi (for whom the pre-eminent status of Hindi-Hindustani as the official/national language, was never a matter for any accommodation or adjustment of any different view point and who could see the position of Hindi-Hindustani mostly in terms of Hindu-Muslim unity backed by the history of pro-Hindi movement within the Hindustani speaking states, for his own political expediency) revealed that he was not against the use of Criminal Law provisions against anti-Hindi agitators when he called implicitly the anti-Hindi agitation as "picketing nuisance" (Harijan, 10 Sept. 1938).

Religion and Language: Contrast in Treatment

Mahatma Gandhi as well as the Indian National Congress tried their best to understand the ethos behind the Muslim League demands, but were consistently refusing to accept or consider the demands of linguistic groups, particularly in South and East, wherein language loyalty easily transcended the religious loyalty and thus demanded a radically different approach to the linguistic problem: Gandhi's pronouncements on the National Language were in the nature of expanding, in almost every utterance, the scope of the National Language within the Indian National Congress and were in the nature of setting up the National Language almost as an alternative to the language/language of the provinces, even as these pronouncements vehemently opposed any use of English and were aimed at progressively eliminating ultimately its use, thus demanding on the non-Hindustani speakers to learn with greatest speed the National Language for their survival within India.

Justice Party and the Emergence of the Dravidian Movement

This perception of the emerging language policy of the Indian National Congress on the part of the non-Hindi people was skillfully exploited by the political foe of the Congress in Madras Presidency, the Justice Party. The Congress was willing to see only that opposition to its language policy of according a pre-eminent position to Hindustani came from a political organization, which at least partly supported the continuance of British rule in India. It was unable or rather unwilling to see that opposition to Hindustani could come, well beyond the influence of its political foe Justice Party, from an equally strong pro-Tamil, anti-Sanskrit historical consciousness of the Tamils.

Thus it was easy for the Congress to identify itself with, and accommodate the pro-Hindi movement in North India, which was opposed to the use of Persian and subsequently Urdu, as the official language in North Indian provinces, within its language policy framework. On the other hand, the Indian National Congress became very dogmatic with regard to even agreeing to consider the demands of the anti-Hindi agitators. Thus, the concept of nationhood for the emerging Indian nation was being strongly moulded in favour of Hindi being given a pre-eminent position.

Hindustani in Devanagari and Perso-Arabic Scripts

As we have already pointed out, the Congress had in fact decided in favor of Hindustani in Devanagari and Persian scripts as national language in 1920s, but a serious challenge to the policy could crystallize only in 1930s, and the challenge could be demonstrated only when the policy was sought to be implemented.

The challenge to the Congress policy of adopting Hindustani both in Devanagari and Persian scripts also came to be crystallized during the very same period when the policy was sought to be implemented. The pre-Hindi, pro-Devanagari (and anti-Urdu and anti-Persian script) lobbyists became so strong in 1938 that the Working Committee had to issue a clarification, on the defeat of a non-official motion regarding Hindustani in the AICC meeting. The statement said that the Working Committee regretted the falling through of the resolution, owing to the confusion of issues created by a variety of amendments. But the rejection of a resolution did not in any way affect the position of the Congress as defined in the following Article of the Constitution:

Article XIX (A): The proceedings of the Congress, the All India Congress Committee and the Working Committee shall ordinarily be conducted in Hindustani. The English language or any provincial language may be used if the speaker is unable to speak in Hindustani or whenever permitted by the President. (B) The proceedings of the Provincial Congress Committee shall ordinarily be conducted in the language of the province concerned. Hindustani may also be used.

On Defining Hindustani

Hindustani, according to the practice of the Indian National Congress, is the language of the people of the North and is written either in Devanagari or Urdu script.

`Indeed it has been the policy of the Congress more and more to insist on the use of Hindustani at all the meetings and in the proceedings of Congress Committees. The Working Committee hopes that by the end of the year Congressmen will prepare themselves to speak and write in the national language, so that it may become unnecessary henceforth to make use of English at Congress meetings or in the offices of the Congress Committees so far as inter-provincial communications are concerned, provided that the chairman may, whenever necessary, permit the use of English.'

Redistribution of Provinces on Linguistic Basis

We have already noted that the policy of guidance issued to the newly elected Congress legislators in the elections of 1937 did not include any specific programme or action to be initiated by the Congress Ministries on language use. Though, thus, there were no specific instructions issued on language use by the AICC or the working Committee, the individual Congress Ministries took up the issue of language in several provinces.

During the very same period, since the Indian National Congress was in power in most of the provinces, the opportunity was utilized by the AICC in Calcutta in 1937 to reaffirm the Congress Policy regarding the redistribution of provinces on a linguistic basis, and the AICC recommended to the Madras and Bombay Governments to consider the formation of a separate Andhra and Karnataka provinces respectively. Following this recommendation, the Madras Legislature passed a resolution asking for separate provinces for the different linguistic areas, and after prolonged correspondence between the Madras Government and the Secretary of State, the latter held over the proposal for the time being.

In Bombay, the question of Karnataka province was taken up simultaneously (Sitaramayya 1947:68). So far the Congress was not in actual control of governments. Thus it could only reorganize its own provincial committees based on a linguistic re-grouping, thus creating linguistically re-organized Congress Provinces. Since the Organization was now in power, it implemented its resolutions on linguistic reorganization as one of its early steps while in power.

Circumstances Force the Indian National Congress

Note that, although the original policy guidance did not include matters relating to language, the AICC had to take cognizance of the mounting demand at least in Andhra for the creation of a separate Andhra province. The opportunity was seized upon to suggest the creation of Karnataka Province. But this was not taken up as a general step to cover other provinces as well. That is, even as the policy on linguistic delimitation of provinces was already decided upon earlier, its implementation would not be considered on a basis that would be applicable to all linguistic groups simultaneously. Depending upon the compulsion of pressures, the demands were looked into. Assurance was given as a general policy, but in implementation of the assurance, there was some studied delay.

An Interesting Episode

Sitaramayya (1947:11) reports an episode that has some relevance to the evolution of the consciousness of people as regards the importance of their own territory, language, religion, etc.

Another small but interesting point was that for sometime previously there had been an attempt to change the name of the United Provinces into Subah-i-Hind. The name United Provinces is a relic of the old name North West Provinces of Agra and Oudh, which name gave place sometime before 1920 to the United Provinces. It is a just grievance to the friends of this province that the name is not related to the ancient history of India as Vanga (Bengal), Utkal (Ursing), Andhra (Telugu) or Maharashtra. Indeed there are 56 kingdoms of old and it was open to the U.P. friends to have selected one of those names: - Kosala, or call their Province by the name of its capital, - Prayag Province, Allahabad Province or Lucknow Province. But to appropriate the name Suah-i-Hind for one province out of eleven, did not meet with the approval of the Congress and it was thrown out for the reason that the names `Hind' and `Hindustan' - should be left over for India as a whole.

Choosing Names for the Hindi-speaking Provinces

Certain things may be noted here - the naming of a State/provinces always posed a problem, which was somehow kept under control till the reorganization of the states on linguistic basis in 1956, many years after independence. Secondly, Hindi-speaking States could not fall back to the process of calling their provinces after the language/dialects of the regions, nor even after the names of the dynasties that had ruled these regions with some accepted, commonly agreed upon glory.

Thus, before and after independence, christening Hindi-speaking states posed greater problems than the non-Hindi speaking provinces, which could, more or less, accept a language or culture-based nomenclature for their states. Accentuated religious diversity and/or animosity, multiplicity of dialects, absence of any immediately and commonly agreed upon common standard dialect or language to which all could owe loyalty, the claims of medieval dialects for recognition as standard language in view of their being the repository of popular classical works, the prejudice against the Muslim dynasties all contributed to this situation.

While the situation was thus in a flux, the inclusion of Hindustani in the Constructive Programme and the declaration by the Working Committee in favour of Hindustani for being developed as the lingua franca further developed a sense of equation between the Hindi-speaking provinces and the entire Nation itself. This was perhaps the atmosphere that led to the demand of some sections of the United Provinces leadership to christen their Province as Subah-i-Hind. Note yet another interesting point: the name suggested was a Persianaized word and construction! A compromise indeed between the Hindi in Devanagari and the Hindustani in Perso-Arabic advocates!

A Language and Culture Policy for Free India

The A.I.C.C., which met in Calcutta in October 1937, passed a resolution once again reassuring the minorities that their culture, etc., would be protected:

The Congress has solemnly and repeatedly declared its policy in regard to the rights of the minorities in India and has stated that it considers it its duty to protect these rights and ensure the widest possible scope for the development of these minorities and their participation in the fullest measure in the political, economic and cultural life of the nation. The objective of the Congress is an independent and United India where no class or group or majority or minority may exploit another to its own advantage, and where all the elements in the nation may cooperate together for the common good and the advancement of the people of India. This objective of unity and mutual cooperation in a common freedom does not mean the suppression in any way of the rich variety and cultural diversity of Indian life, which have to be preserved in a order to give freedom and opportunity to the individual as well as to each group to develop unhindered according to its capacity and inclination.

Note that this resolution reiterated the earlier resolution of the Indian National Congress on Fundamental Rights. The resolution had before it mainly the Muslim minority in view but, true to its national character, the Indian National Congress worked out the details so as to take care of all the minorities, linguistic, ethnic and religious.

Note, however, that, for the first time, an explicit assurance on the protection of "the rich variety and cultural diversity of India life" was offered. The focus here was not only upon the protection of individual cultures but also upon the protection of the rich variety and diversity. Thus, resolution was noteworthy also for the fact that it also framed a policy of diversity, `where all the elements in the nation may cooperate together for the common good and advancement of the people of India'. A policy of cooperation was to be ensured even as the diversity and rich variety were to be maintained. The basic elements of a policy of culture for India, of which a policy on language use was but an integral part, were laid by this resolution of the AICC.

A Move for Hindustani sans Perso-Arabic Script

The Haripura Congress held in Gujarat in 1938 brought to surface the emerging language problem between the protagonists of Devanagari and Urdu scripts; and some happenings in the Congress, rather certain arrangements made for the congress relating to language use, portended some of the subsequent outlines of the language policy of the Indian National Congress:

It was Gujarat that had invited the Congress and the language of the province is always accorded due recognition in the speeches, resolutions, placards and sign-boards. That is both natural and inevitable. The national language of India too must equally naturally claim a place in all the notices and literature and placards and sign-boards adopted particularly by the Reception Committee and while there is no dispute for all practical purposes regarding the National language of India, Hindustani of the two scripts that have been recognized, namely, Devanagari and Arabic, it so happened at Haripura that only the former was noticeable side by side with Gujarati and English and not the latter. This became the subject of a complaint later. It may be thought the matter is not significant enough for attention here but it is not insignificant. The fact, however, was that the complaints made in the Urdu Press in this behalf were found to be unjustifiable for there were Urdu posters at all the principal palces' (Sitaramayya 1947: 75).

There are several things to be immediately mentioned here. Hindustani was being groomed to be the lingua franca of the country, with both the options of using it in Devanagari and Perso-Arabic scripts given equal importance so far. In any case, Gandhi was emphatically in favour of this position. Right in his own Province, the organizers of the Haripura Congress chose to display Hindustani in Devanagari only, a sure symptom of a growing demand among Congressmen that the `national' language be written only in a `national' script.

At this juncture in 1938, the incident would only be treated as a sporadic one, but the events of the subsequent decades, particularly after the partition of India became a certainty, proved that what happened in Haripura Congress in 1938 was not an isolated sporadic incident. The provisions in the Constitution of India at present recognize only the use of the Devanagari script and would call the language as Hindi. This final shape of things to come was heralded by the small incident of displaying Hindustani in its Devanagari script only.

Progressive Narrowing Down the Choices

There had been progressive narrowing down the choice of language/languages - originally the Indian vernaculars including Hindustani were given importance; later on Hindustani was given importance, and was raised to the status of the national lingua franca, with emphasis on it finding a prominent place in defining what National Education was; subsequently even in political agitation's, the National lingua franca, Hindustan was clubbed with Provincial Vernaculars, the vernaculars playing a more important role, this position was reversed tacitly in a subsequent set when the freedom pledge was to be administered in Hindustani or local languages in that order. The pledge administered to the Congress legislators subsequent to the 1937 elections was only in Hindustani, thus narrowing further the possibilities of choice. Once this language choice was finally settled, the question of the use of scripts, whether Devanagari, or Perso-Arabic or both, became more important, became more crucial - Congressman were now gearing themselves to insist on the use only of the Devanagari script.

In our assessment, the happenings in the Haripura Congress in 1939, the provisions made for the provincial languages, the National Lingua Franca, and use of English 'for some more time to come' in the Motilal Nehru Committee, and Jawaharlal Nehru's insistence on the development of the specifically Indian genius of the Indian language/languages, helped frame the major outlines of the language policy of the Congress as well as of the present Constitution of India were already drawn. This ultimately led to the provisions in the current Constitution of India on the need to develop Hindi as the vehicle of composite culture of India.

Thus we should state that a language policy for the Indian nation did finally arrive in the mid-thirties and hence the scene was now prepared for those who were opposed to the policy to come out openly, even as the organization itself, having arrived finally at the salient features of the Indian language policy, could not take the policy as a settled fact on the one hand, and, on the since the language policy was now a settled fact, it could now focus only on the urgent and demanding issue of political freedom which it did along with the progressive decrease on its insistence of the constructive programme minus the language policy was on the wane, the language policy was gaining a better form.

National Education

The Haripura Congress was noted for its resolution on National Education as well. The Haripura Congress considered the state of art in the field of National Education and decided that time had come now to reorganize and lay emphasis on National Education, one of the very early items used as a means to demand Swaraj. The Congress had not so far taken up the issue of National education, after the triple boycott movement initiated in the 1920. While the earlier resolution of the congress on the subject laid down the definition of National Education, which according to that resolution should have the teaching of Hindustani, there was indeed no coordination and not much elaboration of the content of national Education.

In fact, the issue of National Education was simply a notion not seriously practiced. Hence the Haripura congress in 1938 looked into the subject, in the context of the responsibility the congress now had for running provincial governments and decided upon certain basic principles that should guide such education. It was decided that the basic education provided would be free and compulsory covering seven year; and this basic education would be imparted in the mother-tongue and would Centre throughout round some form of manual and productive work with all other activities to be developed or training to be given, internally related as far as possible, to the central handicrafts chosen with due regard to the environment of the child. To this end, al all Indian Education board was established with power to frame its own constitution, to raise funds and perform all such acts as may be necessary for the fulfillment of its objects.

Note that the Haripura resolution included education upto seven years in mother tongue and that there was no mention of use of te lingua France as an essential part of this stage of education. This was yet another dimension to the evolving language policy of the Indian National Congress.

The Working Committee resolved that the Congress programmed listed in the Election manifesto is carried but by Congressmen elected to Councils and listed the following for special emphasis.

  1. Substantial reduction in rent and revenue
  2. Assessments of income tax, on a progressive scale, on agricultural incomes, subject to a prescribed minimum.
  3. Fixity of tenure.
  4. Relief from the burden of rural debt and arrears of rent and revenue.
  5. Repeal of all repressive laws.
  6. Release of political prisoners, internees and detenus.
  7. Restoration of lands and property confiscated or sold by Govt. during Civil Disobedience Movements.
  8. Eight hours day for industrial workers, without reduction of pay, living wage.
  9. Prohibition of intoxicating liquor and drugs.
  10. Unemployment relief
  11. Reduction of high salaries, allowances and cost of administration of Govt.

There was no specific mention of any step that the Congress Ministries should take as regards the implementation of the language policy of the Indian National Congress. Thus there were no specific suggestions or instructions in the guidelines given to the newly elected members of the provincial as regards language use. Likewise there were no specific suggestions as regards the development of national education. Both of these fall mainly under mental constructs and as such they did not find a place in the specific socioeconomic and political activities suggested for implementation by the elected Assemblies. However, individual Congress Ministries took their own initiative.

For example, the elected Government of Madras under the Premiership of C.Rajagopalachari made Hindi an obligatory language to be learnt by students in the Madras Presidency and it also brought forth legislation making regional languages as media of instruction upto the end of school final stage.

Ascendancy of the Radical Socio-economic Ideology and the Decline of Interest in Language Issues.

1935 was the Golden Jubilee year of the Indian National Congress founded in 1855, but the year did not see the annual session of the Indian National Congress; because of political turmoil, the Congress leaders, most of them, were behind the bars and the Government let loose repressive measures against Congressmen. In 1936, the Indian National Congress met at Lucknow in April, under the presidentship of Jawaharlal Nehru, who had been released earlier. The Constructive Programme was the plank so far through which the political agitation for Swarajya was carried on so long, with emphasis first on, or simultaneously on national reconstruction.

Congressmen at large believed in the dictum that no measure of political freedom could give happiness unless it was accompanied by economic contentment and social equality : Freedom was found to be unattainable without social reconstruction not at some remote period, not subsequent to the establishment of freedom but simultaneously with the efforts for its attainment. That was why the Congress under the leadership of Gandhi had repeatedly emphasized the Constructive Programme (Sitaramayya 1947).

The AICC, which met at Bombay in the middle of 1929, argued that the great poverty and misery of the Indian people was due not only to the foreign exploitation of India but also due to the socio-economic structure supported and encouraged by the British in India. This resolution was passed six months before the Lahore on Complete Independence for India. Note, however, that while stress on socioeconomic programme was on ascendancy in the Indian National Congress, this ascendancy was in relation to radicalization of the socioeconomic points of view, socialist and/or communist, and not towards the strengthening of the Gandhian socioeconomic throughout.

Jawaharlal's Leadership

With Jawaharlal Nehru becoming the President of the Indian National Congress for the second time in 1936 Lucknow Congress, the emphasis came no doubt to be on the socio-economic as well as political freedom. However the focus was not on Constructive Programme, which focussed on Khadi, eradication of untouchability and eradication of the social evil of drinking liquore, and propagation of Hindustani as a scheme that combined in itself the means to achieve political freedom, or wrest political freedom from the British.

The focus was on future socioeconomic ideology for a future free India. Commitment to eradication of poverty and such other skills for rapid industrialization based on modern science and technology of mass production was the focus, and not immediate steps and practice, such as those given in earlier statements on Constructive Programme of the Indian National Congress. Thus there was a subtle difference made between nation-building future socio-economic activities and the immediate need for political approaches to political problems. Thus, language, which was part of the Constructive Programme, was now slowly being shifted over to the political platform.

In fact, even within the Constructive Programme, Hindustani and the language policy occupied only an ambiguous position in the sense that, in several statements, insistence on learning Hindustani or its use in the deliberations of the Indian National Congress was conspicuous by its absence. With the total elimination of references to the earlier Constructive Programme policies of the Indian National Congress, in the resolutions of the Lucknow Congress of 1936, the elevation of language use to the political plane of the policies of the Indian National Congress was complete.

Some Observations

The following comments may be offered as further elaboration of the situation in 1936 insofar as it was concerned with the language policy of the Indian National Congress:

  1. Economic thought underwent change; influence of modern developments in industry made it imperative for the merging socialist leadership of the Indian National Congress, at that time symbolized by Jawaharlal Nehru, Jayaprakash Narayan, Narendra Dev and others, to take a second look at the Gandhian insistence exclusively on village industries.
  2. Economic models were in competition, with Gandhism having been brought under severe attack by socialists and communists within the Indian National Congress, Jawaharlal Nehru ceased to swear by Khadi, for instance.
  3. Clubbing political goals with economic goals was not frowned upon, but the casual relationship assumed and insisted upon by Gandhi between the successful implementation of the Indian National Congress' Constructive Programme and the attainment of Swaraj and Complete Independence could not be unconditionally accepted, even by those who voted in favour of the Constructive Programme as a sound economic policy.
  4. Lucknow Congress, thus, ignored the Constructive Programme in its resolutions.
  5. There was a parallel move in the course of development of policy itself. Language was not originally a part of the Constructive Programme, it became a part of the Constructive Programme and then at times it was dropped from the Constructive Programme, and then, when finally the Constructive Programme itself was sidelined in the Lucknow Congress of 1936, it began t assume an important role at the political side of the Indian National Congress. Language was part of the Constructive Programme, but was also viewed qualitatively different from the Constructive Programme; it had its inherent political moorings; Constructive Programme or no Constructive Programme, language was now assured of its own important position in the deliberations of the constituents of the Indian National Congress, and in nation-building plans.
  6. Note that there was no specific mention of a language policy in the Election Manifesto. However, the Manifesto reiterated the Karachi Resolution on Fundamental Rights and Duties, which included details of a language and culture policy for the nation. In essence, language was treated as part of other issues which were perhaps considered to be larger issues. Note also that the simplicity and the symbolic character of the Constructive Programme, adumbrated earlier under the leadership of Gandhiji, is totally lost in the listing of items of demands in the Manifesto. The symbolic function of an economic programme as emboiled in the Constructive Programme, for national independence is substituted by a list of concretized items of work that would be accomplished when voted to power. The relationship, rather the programmatic casual relationship between the Constructive Programme or the concetized list of items of socioeconomic development listed in the Manifesto and the emergence of India's independence was not any more insisted upon not even recongized. Thus perhaps ends a saga of a policy, the saga of Constructive Programme, an idealistic programme with immense potential for fruition but with none to take it seriously had to be dropped. However the items included in the Constructive Programme did find a less mystified place in the Manifesto.

Assurance Given to the Minorities

Another interesting development during the period of 1935-1938 was the resolution passed by the AICC at Calcutta in April 1937, which reassured the minorities- linguistic and religious - that their culture, language, and script would be protected in Free India. This assurance to the minorities now covered also the language, script and culture of the different linguistic areas of the country.

In other words, the assurance proffered so far was generally in relation to the demands of minorities, mostly religious, and was intended mainly to bring the Muslims to the nationalist stream; the emerging anti-Hindi agitation (a mere `stir' in the then parlance of Congressmen) thus forced the Indian National Congress to assure the people of different linguistic areas in the country that their culture, language and script would be protected. Protection and development of the major languages was always assured since no major linguistic group was expected to lose its identity in favour of the lingua franca national identity being propagated by the Constructive Programme of the Congress. This assumption was made explicit and in the process the minor (not only the minority) languages were also given an assurance of protection. The AICC held in Calcutta in October 1937, reiterated that

  1. Every citizen of India has the right of free expression of opinion, the right of free association and combination, and the right to assemble peacefully and without arms, for a purpose not opposed to law or morality.
  2. Every citizen shall enjoy freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess and practice his religion, subject to public order and morality.
  3. The culture, language and script of the minorities and of the different linguistic areas shall be protected.
  4. All citizens are equal before the law, irrespective of religion, caste, creed or sex.
  5. No disability attaches to any citizen by reason of his or her religion, caste, creed or sex, in regard to public employment, office of power or honour, and in the exercise of any trade or calling.
  6. All citizens have equal rights and duties in regard to wells, tanks, roads, schools and place of public resort maintained out of State, or local funds, or dedicated by private person for the use of the general public.
  7. The State shall observe neutrality in regard to all religions.
  8. The franchise shall be on the basis of universal adult suffrage.
  9. Every citizen is free to move throughout India and to stay and settle in any part thereof, to acquire property and to follow any trade or calling and to be treated equally with regard to legal prosecution or protection in all parts of India.

Policy on Jobs, Language and Sons of the Soil

Another interesting development in relation to the evolving language policy of the Indian National Congress was with regard to the preconditions of domicile for employment in posts in Provincial Governments. The Government of India Act of 1935 gave the Provincial Autonomy of some sort to the Provincial Governments. The Provincial Governments, by the nature of their constituting elements, had to conduct themselves not only in national interest but also in their provincial interests. So far, the Governors had a free hand and, just as the Indian Princes did, they could pick and choose anyone they wanted for the jobs based on expediency, which might include merit as well. The elected provincial governments had the compulsion of giving a preferential status in employment for their own citizens. However, as Sitaramayya (1947) points out, `there were certain complications. The provinces of India have not remained the same all along. Prior to 1905, Bengal, Bihar and Orissa formed one Province and the Bangalees who were the most educated and the advanced community naturally filled many an important post and settled anywhere in these areas - which since became different provinces. How then should the Bengalees in Bihar, long settled in the province and answering the rules of Domicile be treated?'

This problem was not peculiar or restricted to the employment of Bengalees only. The other two Presidencies of Bombay and Madras, most of the multilingual provinces, and even the Princely States such as the Mysore State were facing this problem, which called for a serious consideration of all the issues. Note also that the Motilal Nehru Committee did not touch upon this aspect in any detailed fashion. Note also that the controversy, if allowed, could lead to further exploitation by the alien rulers just as they did by the introduction of separate electorates for various religious groups and just as they tried to play the same game in dealing with the Scheduled classes.

In short, the alien rulers to perpetuate their own rule in India would use any widening division. Thus, the Working Committee referred the Bengalee - Bihari controversy to Dr.Rajendra Prasad and asked him to present a report on the issue in so far as it related to domicile, public services, education and trade and commerce. While the controversy related mainly to the sharing of economic opportunities and public services, the division was instigated by the differences in the language backgrounds of the parties to the dispute. Based on Dr. Rajendra Prasad's report, the Working Committee, which met in Bardoli in January, 1939, laid down certain parameters to be followed. These parameters, given below, thus, further widened the perspectives of the language policy of the Indian National Congress. True to its own history thus far, the Indian National Congress was taking a position on an issue only when it was confronted with it. Note also that once an issue affecting a section of the people was to be considered and sorted out, the National Organization always took a much broader perspective and worked out solutions in conformity with national needs, not basing its suggestions only on the sectarian demands. Accordingly, the Working Committee concluded as follows:

The Working Committee have considered the report of Babu Rajendra Prasad in regard to the Bengali-Bihari controversy and also various memoranda, including one from Mr.P.R.Das. The Committee wish to express their appreciation of the careful and exhaustive report prepared by Babu Rajendra Prasad and their general agreement with the conclusions arrived at by him. In view of the fact that several of these conclusions are capable of general application, the Committee formulate them hereunder.

1. While the Committee are of opinion that the rich variety of Indian culture and diversity of life in the various parts of the country should be preserved and cherished, the idea of common nationality and common background of our cultural and historical inheritance must always be encouraged, so that India should become a free and strong nation built upon a unity of purpose and aim. Therefore the Committee wish to discourage all separatist tendencies and a narrow provincialism. Nevertheless, the Committee are of opinion that in regard to services and like matters the people of a province have a certain claim which cannot be overlooked.

2. In regard to services, the Committee are of opinion that there should be no bar preventing the employment of any Indian, living in any part of the country, from seeking employment in any other part. But certain considerations must govern such employment, apart from the essential condition of merit and efficiency, which is of particular importance in the higher services and the selection of specialists and experts. These considerations are:

a. A fair representation of various communities in the province.
b. The encouragement, as far as possible, of backward classes and groups so that they might develop and play their full part in the national life.
c. A preferential treatment of the people of the province. It is desirable that this preferential treatment should be governed by certain rules and regulations framed by provincial governments in order to prevent individual officers from applying different standards. Further it is desirable that similar rules should be applicable in all provinces.

3. In regard to Bihar no distinction should be made between Biharis properly so-called and the Bengali-speaking residents of the province born or domiciled there. The term Bihari should in fact include both these classes and in the matter of services, as well as other matters, an identical treatment should be given to both. It is permissible to give a certain preference in services to these residents of the province over people from other provinces.

4. The practice of issuing certificates to domiciles should be abolished. Applicants for services should state that they are residents of or domiciled in the province. In all appropriate cases the Government will have the right to satisfy itself about the correctness of the statement before making an appointment.

5. Domicile should be proved by evidence that implies that the applicant has made the province his home. In deciding that he has done so, length of residence, possession of house or other property, and other relevant matters should be taken into consideration and the conclusions arrived at on the totality of the evidence available. However, birth in the province or ten years' continuous residence should be regarded as sufficient proof of domicile.

6. All persons holding appointments under Government should be treated alike and promotions must be based on seniority coupled with efficiency.

7. There should be no prohibition against any one carrying on trade or business in the province. It is desirable that firms and factories, carrying on business in a province, should develop local contacts by giving appointments, whenever possible, to residents of the province. But suggestions made by provincial government to firms and factories in the matters of appointment may be misunderstood and therefore should be avoided.

8. When accommodation is limited in educational institutions, placed may be reserved for different communities in the province but the reservation should be in a fair proportion. Preference in such educational institutions may be given to people of the province.

9. In Bihar, in the areas where Bengali is the spoken language, the medium of instruction in primary schools should be Bengali, but in such areas provision should also be made for instruction in Hindustani, in the primary schools for those whose mother-tongue is Hindustani, if there is a reasonable number of students speaking Hindustani. Similarly in Hindustani areas, education in primary schools should be given* (* In Hindustani, but if there is a reasonable number of Bengali speaking students they should be taught in Bengali) through the medium of language of the province, but the State should provide for education through the medium of any other language, where there is a demand for it on the part of the residents of any district where this other language is spoken.

10. The Working Committee earnestly trust that the above conclusions will be accepted and acted upon by all the parties concerned in Bihar and the regrettable controversy in the province will cease.

11. The conclusions should also guide the General Policy of other provincial administrations in these matters herein dealt with.

The above resolution of the Working Committee laid down firmly a policy of education and employment based on ethnic and linguistic identity. The resolution, while emphasizing the need for developing a sense of national identity, laid stress also on meeting the aspirations of linguistic minorities. Note also that the proposal that a common background of our cultural and historical inheritance must be encouraged continued to be the guiding principles of the Indian National Congress, and of the Republic of India as adumbrated in its Constitution.

To what extent this encouragement to common background of our cultural and historical inheritance should regulate use of diverse languages in education, administration and other walks of life, and to what extent encouragement to common background of cultural and historical inheritance should sustain the prevailing linguistic diversity was not discussed in the resolution. Perhaps this resolution is to be read in conjunction with the Karachi resolution on Fundamental Rights and Duties. The way the provisions were made for Bengali within the predominantly Hindustani Bihar was a clear illustration that linguistic diversity could not be wished away and could be only canalized through some mould which would contribute to the evolution and strengthening of a common cultural and historical inheritance. Even today the linguistic and cultural mechanics of this process remain unexplored and formally stated in any serious manner.

Language Policy and the Government of India Act of 1935

While the Government of India Act of 1935, which brought forth some constitutional reforms, was opposed wholesale by the Indian National Congress as falling short of the aspirations of the Indian people, the Congress went inside the legislative assemblies to combat the implementation of the Act. However, the sheer opposition to it and a determined effort to wreck the operation of the Act from within was, indeed, a great blessing in disguise to Congressmen in the sense that the Congress provincial leadership had an excellent opportunity to experience the factors that hampered or helped progress of the Nation.

The leadership in the provinces was confronted with the reality of the situation. One such reality was provided by the linguistic complexity/heterogeneity of all the provinces. In provinces like Madras, Bombay and C.P. which were multi-lingual, the Congressmen faced an interesting linguistic problem in the conduct of proceedings of their legislatures. In the Southern Province, the Madras Presidency, there were a hundred Telugu members in the Legislature not knowing Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada, and an equal number of Tamils who did not know Telugu. Ten legislators each with Malayalam and Kannada backgrounds added to the complexity. Of the entire legislature over a hundred members or half of the Assembly did not know English! A situation, which demanded some practical solution. The growing demand for linguistic delimitation found in its favour an ideal opportunity to press ahead further.

Thus Sitaramayya (1947) reports:

The only remedy to this situation was the separation of the Andhra Province from the rest of the Province and the carving out of Kanarese Province compounded of areas in Madras and Bombay and of a Malayali enclave. Accordingly in July 1938, deputation's of Andhra and Kerala separation and Karnataka Unification waited on the Working Committee who heard them at great length and passed the following resolution:

Having heard the views of the deputations of the Andhra P.C.C. the Andhra Mahasabha, the Karnataka Unification Committee, the Karnataka P.C.C. and the Kerala P.C.C. on the question of the redistribution of provinces in India on a linguistic basis for administrative purposes, this Committee declares that the resolution of the Madras legislature on linguistic provinces and of the Bombay legislature on the separation of the Karnatak Province were passed with the previous sanction of the Parliamentary Sub-Committee and the full approval of this Committee. The Committee desires to assure the people of the area concerned that the solution of this question would be undertaken as a part of the future scheme of the Government of India as soon as the Congress has the power so to do and calls upon the people of these areas to desist from any further agitation in this behalf which may divert attention from the main issue now before the country' (Sitaramayya 1947:94).

Emerging Rural Leadership and the Use of English

The widened base of the franchise introduced by the reforms of the Government of India Act of 1935 brought in rural leadership which did not know English, and this resulted in the recognition of the importance that should be given to Indian vernaculars in the deliberations of the Legislative Assemblies. Mutual unintelligibility among the legislators, caused by the absence of a commonly understood language, further strengthened the demand and vividly demonstrated the need for the reorganization of Provinces on a linguistic basis.

More than these two compulsions, the explicit request of the Working Committee, which called upon agitating peoples of multilingual provinces `to desist from any further agitation in this behalf which may divert attention from the main issue now before the country', is of greater significance for an understanding of the evolution of the language policy of the Indian National Congress.

While the Constructive Programme included Hindustani as a lingua franca and National Education came to include teaching of Hindustani in its initial phase, and teaching through Mother tongue Indian vernaculars, in its later phase, linguistic reorganization was viewed as a matter not contributing to attainment of Purna Swaraj, or Complete independence. Constructive Programme as an effective or sole means of attaining independence from the British was quietly dropped, as already pointed out, in the Lucknow Congress 1936; attaining independence began to be viewed more as a political process; most of elements of the Constructive Programme were removed from he plane of the political process and were treated with less than whole-hearted allegiance. Here was yet another step further, which recognized that certain elements of the Constructive Programme, when pressed into exactitude of implementation would only be counter-productive to the on going struggle for independence. Unification of Indian subnationalities via political freedom for the entire nationality, and not via a recognition of their ethnic/linguistic identity became the basis since then.

Use of Indian Vernaculars

The Government of India Act, 1935 saw the use of Indian vernaculars in an extensive manner in the legislative bodies and Municipal Councils throughout the country, thus signifying that even a semblance of democratization and decentralization of institutions which led to a wider participation of representative population would draw automatically the use of Indian vernaculars into its fold, a lesson which is now learnt in the last forty years by Hindi zealots who, because of this inherent revival of vernaculars in any democratization and decentralization process, would thus bank more on the centralization of processes and functions for the propagation of Hindi as the official language of the Indian Union.



M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.
Bethany College of Missions
6820 Auto Club Road, Suite C
Bloomington, MN 55438
  • Send your articles
    as an attachment
    to your e-mail to
  • Please ensure that your name, academic degrees, institutional affiliation and institutional address, and your e-mail address are all given in the first page of your article. Also include a declaration that your article or work submitted for publication in LANGUAGE IN INDIA is an original work by you and that you have duly acknolwedged the work or works of others you either cited or used in writing your articles, etc. Remember that by maintaining academic integrity we not only do the right thing but also help the growth, development and recognition of Indian scholarship.