Triveni Journal

1927 | 11,233,916 words

Triveni is a journal dedicated to ancient Indian culture, history, philosophy, art, spirituality, music and all sorts of literature. Triveni was founded at Madras in 1927 and since that time various authors have donated their creativity in the form of articles, covering many aspects of public life....

Linguistic Provinces and the Problem of Minorities

By R. R. Diwakar

Linguistic Provinces and

the Problem of Minorities


The principle of linguistic re-distribution of provinces was accepted by the Indian National Congress as long ago as 1920, and it immediately divided India into linguistic provinces for the organisation of its own work. The principle has now advanced far ahead, in so far as the All Parties Conference at Lucknow in August, and the All Parties Convention at Calcutta in December 1928, have both accepted the Nehru Committee Report embodying the principle, and have recommended separate provinces for Andhra and Karnataka, immediately the scheme came into operation.

However, we have to lay down certain principles and devise some methods for solving the problem of linguistic minorities when the new order comes into existence. It would be wrong to suppose that the problem does not exist under the present arrangements. But it is equally true that the problem will be keener under the new dispensation. There is the problem of other minorities also, religious, racial, communal, etc. But so far as I am concerned, I want to isolate the problem of linguistic minorities and deal with it here. I shall deal with the problem generally, and with that of Karnataka particularly. I shall also refer to the solutions arrived at by different countries in post-war Europe.

Together with other advantages, the main idea behind the formation of linguistic provinces is that a kind of unity and integrality should be restored in each province: that there should be greater facility in the spread of ideas and education, that the Councils and other administrative bodies should be able to carry on their business in a way which is intelligible to everyone of the councilors and to which every one can contribute something according to his own lights, that it should be convenient to establish a University which can foster a particular tongue as its main charge, and so on. Naturally we expect that everything else, unless it be the interests of the nation as a whole, must be subordinated to these main advantages that are to be gained by the new, distribution of provinces.

But at the same time, we can never close our eyes to the linguistic minorities which are bound to be there in the border districts, or might be like islands in the midst of a people speaking another tongue. Everyone will admit that the best thing for the minority as well as for the province is that the minority should merge in the majority. But taking human nature as it is, it is too much to ask of a linguistic minority to merge like this. As a practical measure and with due respect for the mother-tongues of all, the mother-tongue of the minority can be given some protection, while the language of the province can have full sway in the province, both as the language of the majority and the language of the province. If we can make an equitable adjustment between the claims of the minority and the interests of the majority, we have solved the problem. In doing this, we have to take into consideration the fears of the minority that they would be lost in the majority, which they do not want to do so far as language is concerned, and we have to see that the minority does not render the majority hostile by trying to come in the way of its progress.

In my opinion, the following should be the main principles that should guide our steps in this matter: - (1) every majority should adopt a generous and a tolerant attitude towards every minority; (2) the majority should think it to be its duty to safeguard the interests of the minority; and, (3) the majority should treat the minority in the same way as it would be treated by, whenever it is in the minority.

On the other hand, (1) the minority should be content to live its life and should not try to be aggressive; (2) the minority should realise that it can live better and grow in greatness mainly by identifying itself with the majority and by its intrinsic value, and not by mere assertion of individuality and separateness; and (3) the minority, while it has a right to live as a minority, is under the obligation to serve the claims of the province.

As a broad rule, when we set about forming linguistic provinces, the language of the ryot or the agriculturist should be considered as the language of the locality, as he is the most conservative element and as his interests are the most predominant in the land. The languages of all others may be considered as languages of immigrants and not as those of the sons of the soil.

While demarcating the boundaries of linguistic provinces, the division of existing provinces can either be (1) by districts, or (2) by taluks, or (3) by villages. In any case, the language of the majority will be the deciding factor as to which province each district or taluk or village should belong. In my opinion, subject to administrative conveniences, it is equitable to take taluks or villages as units rather than districts.

Now let us take the case of Karnataka.

The Marathi, Telugu, Tulu, and Urdu speaking peoples would be the considerable minorities in Karnataka, though the importance of the question would be minimised if the division is by taluks and not by districts. The main principles have been already laid down; it only remains for me to work out some of the details.

It is necessary to state plainly at the outset that the most predominant claim, both on the majority and the minority, is the claim of the province, as such, in all aspects and not merely as any linguistic unit. Every one must aim at serving the province first in all its various aspects of physical, intellectual, moral and cultural development.

Every minority has the right to preserve its own mother tongue and can have primary schools; and in secondary schools and colleges, facilities for teaching it may be provided for, whenever such a minority is in considerable numbers. But it should be a condition that in every such school, the provincial tongue is taught, together with the history and geography of the province, the latter always in the provincial tongue. It is but plain that unless and until the minorities learn the majority language, they have to forego the broader life of the province. In fact, while any minority-linguistic group has a right to keep its own individuality as regards its language and can claim certain privileges such as provision to teach it in schools, etc., it has to learn the language of the province as well, and identify itself with the province in all other matters, if it wishes to live the full life of the province.

Certainly every minority has the right to depose in court in its own mother-tongue, but it cannot force the court to take it down in that tongue, while it can certainly claim that the deposition, taken down in whatever language, be read in the tongue in which it has been given, before it is endorsed by the deponent. The pleading class should have the right to plead in the provincial and the national tongue, but it cannot claim to plead in any and every minority language, unless the court allows it in particular cases.

The provincial language and the national language should be the languages in which the public records are to be kept.

Everyone shall have the right to speak the provincial and the national language in the Council chamber as well as on the public platform, provided that the majority of the audience may allow any speaker to speak in any language in particular cases.

In each of the Universities, the medium of instruction shall be the language of the province and the language of the nation, whichever may suit them in different cases. But chairs should be provided for the minority languages in each province, so that higher studies in those languages may be promoted in the Universities.

Just as a province has to sacrifice its own tongue and interests where the national interests are concerned, so too minorities may have to sacrifice to a certain extent their tongue whenever the broader life of the province is concerned. It is always by a sacrifice that we can go from the narrower to the broader life.

These are, in brief, my views on the question of the rights and duties of linguistic minorities. The details are to be worked out by some expert committee with their eye on the solutions arrived at by post-war European nationalities which I give below.

Now I shall refer to some of the adjustments in Europe, which are very important in so far as they are practical solutions and are the outcome of experience.

The post-war reconstruction of Europe was made mainly on the strength of the principle of self-determination and the protection of minorities. These were what were called the Minorities Guarantee Treaties. The States that had to agree to such treaties were Poland, Czech-o-Slovakia, Serb-Croat-Slovene Kingdom etc.

I reproduce below some of the relevant and most important articles in the Constitutions of the several States.


Art. 4. There shall be one nationality in the Kingdom.

Art. 16. Minorities in race and language shall be given primary instruction in their mother tongue under conditi9ns prescribed by law.


Art. 109. Every citizen possesses the right of safe-guarding his nationality and of cultivating his national language and customs.

Art. 110. Polish nationals belonging to minorities in this nation, whether based on religion or language, have equal rights with other citizens in forming, controlling and administering at their own expense schools and other educational establishments, with the free use of their language and practice of their own religion.

In 1924, Poland signed the Minority Guarantee Treaty, one of the provisions of which permitted the opening of private schools in which instruction was to take place in the language desired, and provided that at the request of parents of 40 children in regions where there was a non-Polish minority amounting to 25% of the population, instruction might be conducted in the language of the minority, although in all instances, Polish, Polish history and Polish geography should be taught, the last two always in the Polish language.


Art. 68. Austria will provide in the public educational system in towns and districts in which a considerable proportion of the nationals of other than German speech are resident, adequate facilities for ensuring that in the primary schools the instruction shall be given to the children of such Austrian nationals through the medium of their own language. This provision shall not prevent the Austrian Government from making the teaching of the German language obligatory in the said schools.


Art. 106. A minority school shall be established on the application of a national supported by the persons legally responsible for the education of 40 children of a linguistic minority.

Should a school be inexpedient, minority classes shall be formed if there are at least 18 pupils of a minority language.

Art. 118. For secondary and higher schools, 300 pupils are required to claim Minority State schools, 30 for minority classes in the lower forms; 25 for minority-language course in the ordinary State schools; and 18 for minority religious courses.


In these laws 20% of the population is taken as constituting, ‘a considerable proportion.’

While the majorities in Poland, Czech-o-Slovakia and Serb-Croat are 69, 64, and 73 percent respectively the lowest minority given recognition is 20% in Hungary. In Czech-o-Slovakia and Poland, the minorities are 23 and 25 p. c. All the new European Constitutions agree that a minority should form a considerable proportion of the population by concentrating at certain places.

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