Select Speeches and Writings of Nehru

Some things are quite clear. First of all, India is a multilingua 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.

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.

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 at 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.

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.

Speech at Bangalore, October 6, 1955