Chennai: A circular of the Central Board of Secondary Education to schools under it aimed at promoting Sanskrit and the political row it sparked in Tamil Nadu is nothing new as the State had opposed both Sanskrit and Hindi as early as in 1949 even in the Constituent Assembly.
"We have been priding ourselves that we have had nothing to do with Sanskrit. We do not claim that Tamil is derived from Sanskrit or is based on Sanskrit in any way. We have been trying to keep our vocabulary as pure as possible without the admixture of Sanskrit," TA Ramalingam Chettiar, representing Madras told the Constituent Assembly on September 13, 1949 (Volume IX, Constituent Assembly Debates).
Participating in the debate on the questions of national, official languages chaired by Dr Rajendra Prasad, Chettiar said the question of language was very important.
"It is much more important than even the question of capital....If you are going to impose...It will lead to very bitter results," Chettiar said, the substance of which continues to be raked up even now.
Maintaining that "we have accepted Hindi in Nagari script as the official language," he told the Constituent Assembly that "you cannot use the word national language, because Hindi is no more national to us than English or any other language. We have got our own national languages."
Interestingly, Chettiar made these observations after Lakshminarayan Sahu (Odisha), who spoke, said, "then there is the question of accepting Sanskrit as the national language. If all the South Indian friends and others accept Sanskrit, I would have no objection and would accept it."
Some of Sahu`s remarks also provide insights about how the adoption of national language had proved ticklish in the face of competing claims.
Referring to an amendment seeking national language status for Bengali, Sahu said, "I can also claim the same status for Oriya, which is far more ancient than Bengali...The latter was not born when Oriya had taken shape as a language."
Stating that "friends from the South" would claim that "their language was very ancient," the leader from Odisha said this was not a right approach.
"When we wish to adopt Hindi written in Devanagri as the national language, we should also keep in mind that the other provincial languages should also be allowed to develop and their progress should not be handicapped," the Odisha leader said.