INDIA: Out of Babel

For three days, in the round-domed chamber of New Delhi's Constituent Assembly, the men who are framing India's new constitution grappled with a question which could wreck any national structure. What should be the language of free India?

The question was as complex as India's linguistic makeup. Its solution was basic to the building of a modern cohesive state out of disparate parts. The nation of Gandhi and Nehru has no majority tongue. Some 41% of its people speak Hindi. Another 14% speak Marathi, Gujarati, Kashmiri and Punjabi—all closely related to Hindi. Some...

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