Emotional Integration of India

By Jawaharlal Nehru

Speech at Bangalore, October 6, 1955

Always when I come to South India, the question arises in what language I should speak. I am afraid I do not know your language, Kannada. Otherwise I would most certainly speak it here, because my object is to be understood, not to propagate any particular language; and so I will choose a language in which I can make you understand best of all. Unfortunately, I can speak with some fluency only in two languages, Hindi and English. Normally, of course, I speak in Hindi. I have no idea how many of you here understand Hindi and how many of you understand English. So I am in a quandary. Perhaps, it might be best for me to be bilingual on this occasion, and speak a little in English and a little in Hindi. Anyhow, I should like your help in this matter. Will those of you, who understand English, please raise your hands?

Friends, as I have begun and referred to the question of language, I might as well say a few words about it, because it appears that some people in South India are rather anxious over this question and even somewhat excited. Now obviously, any decision that we might make about language is likely to cause inconvenience to some, situated as we are in India. Some things are quite clear. First of all, India is a multilingual country. It is true that all our languages are in one way or another associated with Sanskrit. Some, like the northern languages, are descended from Sanskrit; others, though they have independent histories, have nevertheless many Sanskrit words. Indeed, as you perhaps know well, in later years South India became, if I may say so, a greater home of Sanskrit learning than North India. Anyhow, our languages are fairly intimately connected with one another.

Nevertheless, they are separate languages, great languages, and they are all languages of India. Therefore in our Constitution we have enumerated these great languages of India as the national languages of India, but Hindi was mentioned as the official, all-India language of India. Why was that so? The idea is that English should be gradually replaced by an Indian language for those purposes for which it has been used for these many years. I need not go into the reasons. The language for this purpose has to be Hindi. That does not mean the slightest conflict between Hindi and other Indian languages like Kannada, Tamil, Telugu as well as the northern languages. In fact, as you know, all the Indian languages are developing fast, as they should. They are becoming the medium of instruction in the various States, as they should. All that is good. There is no question of conflict between Hindi and other languages.

What does an official, all-India language mean? So far English has more or less been our official language. Obviously we cannot continue English as the official language. Mind you, I do not mean that you should give up learning English. I am anxious that you should continue to learn English and learn it well, as a foreign language. I should like you to learn the other principal foreign languages like French, German, Russian, Chinese, Arabic, Persian and Spanish. As a great, independent country we have naturally to play a part in the world—in international affairs, in politics, in economics, in trade, in commerce, in science, in technology and in many other matters. For this purpose, it is necessary for a sufficient number of us to learn foreign languages. Since we are acquainted mostly with English, it would be foolish for us not to take advantage of our acquaintance with the language and not to continue learning it. And if we learn it, we should learn it well, and not be satisfied with a mere smattering of it. I am not at all opposed to English. I think English is obviously one of the great world languages today, used and spoken more than any other world language, perhaps. Nevertheless, I think it would be totally unbecoming for us in India to adopt as an official language a foreign language. I can tell you that many times it has been rather embarrassing for me as for others who go to foreign countries to have to talk in English to our own countrymen there. People are surprised and ask whether we have no language of our own that we have to talk in a foreign language. To take a very small instance, until now, the words of command in our defence forces were in English although the average soldier obviously does not know English. This is absurd, unbecoming and embarrassing.

Obviously we cannot have our words of command in a dozen languages in India. We cannot have an army spread out and separated in this way. Then comes the question of communication between two States or between a State and the Central Government. Naturally we would like to use an Indian language instead of English when we are ready. Not that we rule out English which may be used when necessary for scientific and other purposes. I am merely saying that from any national point of view or point of view of self-respect, we cannot carry on official work continuously in a foreign language.

The difficulty arises because there is an apprehension in the minds of many people of the South, that the constitutional provision about Hindi may lead to a disadvantage to them in regard to many matters, more particularly in regard to the all-India services. Now obviously people in the all-India services are recruited from all over the country as they should be. Anything else would be improper. It would also be improper and unfair for examinations or tests that are held for the all-India services to be such that those who do not know Hindi suffer a disadvantage. Many of you must have been in Delhi and seen that the Central Secretariat is full of people from South India. Why are they there? Well, simply because they are found competent and capable. There is no question of partiality. Since we are anxious that the people from the non-Hindi knowing parts of India should suffer no disability on that account we have laid down that the tests or examinations for the all-India services, which are now in English, should later on be such as not to cause this disability. Further, we have said that these tests or examinations should, when the time comes, be conducted in three languages, in Hindi or in English or in the regional language of the candidate. After he has taken the examination and passed, then he will have to take up Hindi as a new language and learn it in order to do his work. Similarly at that stage we shall try to make the Hindi-knowing people take up a South Indian language and pass a test in it. I know that in every State efforts are being made, quite rightly, to encourage the language of that State in every way. Even in the Central Government, we have a Sahitya Akademi, of which I have the honour to be Chairman, which deals with all the languages of India which have been enumerated in the Constitution. We help all these languages to develop, without any partiality. I know that there are enthusiasts for Hindi and for other languages who get so excited and place their claims so high that they naturally irritate others. We are thinking now of establishing a central publishing house, the purpose of which will be to publish books in all the languages of India and make them available at very moderate prices. These will include translations from foreign languages as well as new books written by competent persons.

At the present moment there is another very important question, the question of the report of the Commission on the redistribution of our States. I hope that it will soon be available to the public so that everybody can read it fully, consider it, digest it and be in a position to form an opinion or express an opinion. There is no desire to hustle this report through and we want to give the fullest opportunity to the public to consider it. That is why we are publishing it before the Government have formally considered it or made up their mind about it. Of course, it will be considered by the different State Governments and the State Legislatures. No change in the Constitution can be made without this complicated process. The point is that the question of the reorganization of States should be considered by all of us as calmly and dispassionately as possible. It does not help us to get excited and it helps still less for people to hold out threats. There is a modern form of threat which is peculiarly unfortunate: the threat of hunger-strike.

When there are conflicting interests, how is one to decide? Surely, there are only two ways of deciding. One is by compulsion, force, armed might—what you might call the power of the stick. The other way is the democratic way, the way of consideration and discussion, and finally of deciding and everybody accepting that decision. Obviously we are not going to decide this or any other question by armed force. That would be perfectly ridiculous. Therefore, the only other course left is to decide by the fullest discussion amongst ourselves, by the democratic method. The democratic method inevitably implies trying to understand the other party’s opinion, a certain give-and-take, and a certain adjustment to whatever the final decision might be. If this does not happen, we simply go to pieces. In a great country like India, there is a variety of opinion over almost every subject. We are not all regimented into thinking one way. Nor should we be. I object to regimentation and to authoritarianism. I want people to develop their own minds and thoughts and to give free expression to them.

But democracy, while it ensures free expression, and freedom of thinking, also demands something else. It demands unified action afterwards. It demands acceptance of decisions taken. Otherwise, there is a break-up. You are acquainted somewhat with the history of India. It has been our misfortune through long periods of history to be very factious, to be liable to separatism, with the result that the great strength of India has been wasted in inner conflict, in inner argument and in fissiparous and separatist tendencies. Surely, we should learn something from the history of India. We have produced great men in every field of human endeavour, in thought, in action, in art, in literature, in music. Yet we have failed to take advantage of this greatness because of the tendency amongst us to disrupt, to go our individual ways. Hence we have been weak, and often subjugated and dominated by foreigners who have come here. I think it is correct to say that foreigners who came here hardly ever really conquered India. Certainly the British did not, in spite of their superior arms. They simply took advantage of the divisions in India. Others who came did the same thing. That is the big lesson of Indian history. And therefore we must learn to hold together. Let us have all kinds of arguments and disputes amongst us. But once we decide, and decide democratically and peacefully, let us act accordingly.

It was in the measure that we acted up to this principle during the great movement led by Gandhiji that the strength of the Indian nation was built up. I have these last 30 to 40 years in mind: they have been a great period in India’s history and much will be written about them by future historians. Those of us who were privileged to live through them and to be minor actors in that great drama of Indian history can never forget them. Others will read about them in history books later; but they will never have that vivid impression which those who participated in them had. And during these forty years or so, Gandhiji trained us repeatedly, repeatedly pulled us up when we went wrong, and taught us about the unity of India amid her great diversity, diversity of States, of provinces, of climate, of language, of religion and so many other things. If you travelled with me to the far corners of India, you would see that diversity even more than you do now. If you came with me to Ladakh, which is across the Himalayas, almost the continuation of the Tibetan Plateau, you would see a different picture of India. The northeast frontier, the North-East Frontier Agency as it is called, or the other hill areas of the north-east, present an entirely different picture of India. If you go to the Himalayas you will see a Himalayan India which is very different from the great central plains or the plateau of the South. Despite this great diversity and variety we have come together.

We came together long ago really, and the first coming together was between two mighty civilizations as we call them, between what might broadly be called the Dravidian civilization of India—a very fine civilization, very highly developed, which perhaps was connected with the old Indus Valley Civilization, Mohenjodaro and the rest, going back 5,000 years from now—and the civilization of the Aryan hordes that came across the north-west frontier of India. It was the impact of the two that produced the basic civilization of India which has lasted throughout these ages. Of course, it has been influenced repeatedly because it was a dynamic civilization. If it had been static, it would have been dead long ago. But because there was dynamism in it, it changed itself from time to time, although basically it clung to its roots. All kinds of people came, especially to North India. The Scythians came, the Huns came, the Greeks came and Turks came, even before the so-called Muslim invasions. Then came the Afghans and the Moghuls. They all affected us, of course, but so great was our capacity to absorb, that we absorbed them all. The newcomers became Indian. They functioned as Indians, from the Indian soil. There was no foreign authority in the sense of an authority situated in a foreign country.

It was only when the British came that the authority that ruled India came to be situated outside India, five thousand miles away. A new element came into the picture. British and European civilization, or more correctly, the industrial civilization of the West, crept in and influenced us. The language of the British also influenced us. It is their language that I now speak to you. So India is a strange land whose peculiar quality is absorption, synthesis. When this capacity for synthesis became less, then India became weak. India was weak for several hundred years because it had become a closed country which did not look outside. In the old days when India was dynamic, Indian expeditions went out far, carrying India’s religion, language, culture, habits, art, and archaeology all over the south-east portion of Asia, Western Asia and Central Asia. If you go to the Gobi desert today you will find in the city of Turhan the veins of Indian culture, of Indian art and Indian archaeology. In fact, some of the oldest books in Sanskrit drama have been found in the Gobi desert, not in India. This Indian culture which had been derived from the fusion of Dravidian and Aryan elements, with the vitality of both, was a dynamic thing and it spread out. Asoka, the great emperor, sent his missions bearing the message of the Buddha all over the then known world.

Then came a static period in India’s culture. We became closed in in our own country, and forgot the world outside. We were afraid of going out. We developed all kinds of religious taboos and customs, that we must not go out, that we would lose our religion, caste, if we went out, and so on. We developed an exceedingly narrow idea of caste and we split up into innumerable divisions. That was a period of political, cultural and social degeneration for India. It is because of this that we became weak. When foreign conquerors came, we were too weak to absorb them.

Now that we are again free, we have got the opportunity to shed these shackles. We have shed the political shackles. But we have to shed many other shackles. And we have to develop a dynamic mentality again. We have to develop daring and the spirit of adventure and cast aside every custom that binds us down. Our great ancestors had enough daring. In the realm of thought they dared to pierce the heavens; they were not afraid of any idea. They were not bound down to any dogma; they developed a magnificent language, the Sanskrit language, for the whole of India. The Sanskrit language was the classical language. History has taken a turn and we are again free politically. We did not become free politically through political manoeuvres. We are free because we developed certain qualities of freedom. We developed discipline, we developed a new dynamism, we developed a capacity for sacrifice. And above all we developed the habit of working unitedly under Gandhiji. Having developed all these qualities we became free. Now we have not only to keep these qualities, but to develop them still further.

All over India, whether it is our Five-Year Plans or our Community Schemes or our dancing and music or our literature, there is a certain vitality. A powerful life force is acting not on a new or inexperienced people, but a race with thousands of years of experience. All that had happened was that we had forgotten much of that experience. We have to renew our acquaintance with it, and also to gain acquaintance with the new experience of the Western world which has helped to build a magnificent civilization out of science.

Western civilization today has many faults which have led it into conflict and war, but it has, nonetheless, been a magnificent civilization. It has brought higher standards to the people of the West through science and technology. It has produced magnificent literature, great music, great art. It is a great civilization and we have to learn much from it. But we cannot learn anything from it if we forget what we are, and uproot ourselves. Therefore, while we must maintain our roots in our soil and our country, we have also to learn much. The problem today for you and me and all of us is how to keep this great experience, this great culture of India, this great thought of India, how to maintain it, preserve it, nourish it, and how to plant on to it the dynamism and science and technology and thought of the West. We can see disruptive forces at work in India. Some people are deliberately disruptive. Others are unconsciously disruptive and they become parochial or provincial or communal. They forget the large purposes that we have in view, forget the great destiny before India, forget that India aims high, that India never aimed low.

We should not become parochial, narrow-minded, provincial, communal and caste-minded, because we have a great mission to perform. Let us, the citizens of the Republic of India, stand up straight, with straight backs, and look up at the skies, keeping our feet firmly planted on the ground and bring about this synthesis, this integration of the Indian people. Political integration has already taken place to some extent, but what I am after is something much deeper than that—an emotional integration of the Indian people so that we might be welded into one, and made into one strong national unit, maintaining at the same time all our wonderful diversity. I do not want this diversity to be regimented and taken away, but we must be wary of losing ourselves in petty quarrels. We may often have to accept somebody else’s opinion even though we do not like it; that is the way of democracy. That is how we functioned in the Congress movement for forty years. Gandhiji was no autocrat. He could have imposed his will on anybody, but when he did impose it, it was only through his love and affection and through the regard we had for him and for his wisdom. Often we argued with him, fought him, and sometimes even convinced him of our point of view.

The main thing we have to keep in mind is the emotional integration of India. We must guard against being swept away by momentary passion, whether it is religion misapplied to politics or communalism or provincialism or casteism. We have to build up this great country into a mighty nation, mighty not in the ordinary sense of the word, that is, having great armies and all that, but mighty in thought, mighty in action, mighty in culture and mighty in its peaceful service of humanity.

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