HT THIS DAY: Dec 14, 1967 – Lok Sabha approves Language Bill


After a long and furious debate, the Lok Sabha today heard Home Minister Y. B. Chavan reiterate that the Official Languages (Amendment) Bill was the most acceptable and balanced compromise possible in the present circumstances, before approving it by 224 votes to 75.

Among the Congress Party members, Seth Govind Das, a conscientious objector, voted against the Bill. The DMK also voted against the Bill on the ground that the assurances given by Mr Nehru and Mr Lal Bahadur Shastri had been watered down and that “a reappraisal of the Constitution” was necessary.

Replying to the general debate, Mr Chavan said the many differences of approach to the issue made a compromise necessary, but added that the purpose of the Bill was limited.

He declared with widely appreciated emphasis, that Hindi would of course be the sole official language of the country eventually, since only one of the Indian languages could be given such a status and since Hindi was the most widely-spoken Indian language.

He, however, added, that English would have to be retained as associate official language for some time in order to accommodate, those States which were not immediately prepared to accept Hindi alone in that status, and that the rest of the country would do well to show some understanding of their predicament.

This, the Home Minister, said was the only way to make practicable the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi and the assurances given by Mr Nehru and Mr Lal Bahadur Shastri.

There was no question of amending the Constitution to make English the associate official language. This, he said, was not warranted by the country’s traditions and history. An Act of Parliament was sufficient to retain it as a provisional link language until Hindi became unanimously acceptable.

Rightful Place

He assured the House that energetic efforts would be made to improve Hindi and develop it to a point where it could assume its rightful place. Mere, legislation, Mr Chavan said, did not change or develop a language- it must grow.

Among the members who spoke notably in the discussion today, Mr Mohammed Ismail (Muslim League-Kerala) drove home a point by remarking that since Hindi protagonists in Uttar Pradesh itself were not giving Urdu its rightful place and repeatedly promised secondary place to it in that State, the sincerity of their assurances to other Indian languages in the non-Hindi States was open to doubt.

Mr M. Maran, (DMK), who made his maiden speech today, contended that Hindi was as foreign to Tamils as English.

Mr Rabi Ray (SSP) made part of his speech in Oriya to demonstrate its closeness to Hindi.

The Lok Sabha is expected to take up clause by clause reading of the Bill tomorrow.

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