[lg policy] Muhammad Ismail, Indian Muslim

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Sun Sep 30 14:43:52 EDT 2018

Muhammad Ismail, Indian Muslim League pioneer who wanted Hindustani as
official language
Rupanwita Bhattacharjee
<https://theprint.in/author/rupanwita-bhattacharjee/> 29 September, 2018
Muhammad Ismail | ThePrint
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*During Constituent Assembly debates, Ismail pushed for Hindustani because
it was the most spoken and understood language in India.*

Muhammad Ismail, one of the members of the Constituent Assembly, was an
important participant in the debates that shaped the country’s official
language policy.

Ismail, who was a pioneer of the Indian Union Muslim League, believed that
the language which was spoken by the majority in the country — Hindustani —
should be made the India’s official language.
*Political journey*

Born in Tirunelveli in Tamil Nadu on 5 June, 1896, Ismail received his
education in the same city.

His political journey began in 1909 when he established the Young Muslim
Society in Tirunelveli. Soon, he became a member of the Muslim League. In
1945, he was made the president of the Madras Presidency unit of the Muslim

*Also read: The man who played a role in the politics of India, Pakistan
and Bangladesh

Ismail was among the few Muslim League members who chose to stay back in
India after Partition. He went on to became the IUML’s first president in
1948. The party remains relevant in Tamil Nadu.
*Language debates*

During the Constituent Assembly debates, it was decided that India’s
official language should be able to “assimilate the modern tendencies and
modern conditions in the national life”.

Looking at the country’s Hindu and Muslim populations, Ismail advocated
making Hindustani with Devanagari and Urdu scripts the official language
because it was the most spoken and understood in the nation.

Quoting Mahatma Gandhi while making his point, Ismail said the father of
the nation always wanted a common language to be made the official one in
the country. Hindustani met all the conditions as it was spoken by the
villagers, was an indigenous language and also “born and bred on the soil”,
making it the most suitable language.
*Tamil language *

During the debates, many leaders wanted a Dravidian language to be the
official language because of their ancient history. Tamil checked the
criterion due to its Dravidian roots and the fact that it was “first spoken
on the soil”. Ismail also favoured making Tamil, which was his mother
tongue, the official language. However, the fact that Tamil was not spoken
by a majority in the country held it back.

*Also read: Harekrushna Mahatab: The man who started the merger of princely
states with India

Ismail’s logic for choosing an official language for numerals was the same.
Unlike other Indian languages, he supported foreign numerals due to their
wide acceptance.

The Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution
of 22 official languages, 14 of which were originally listed, including
Tamil. The rest were added through amendments in 1992 and 2004. Hindustani,
however, is not recognised as an official language in India.
*Away from politics*

Apart from being a politician, Ismail was also a businessman dealing in
leather goods and the meat industry. In the Madras Presidency, Ismail was
office-bearer in several business organisations.

After stints in both Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha, Ismail died on 5 April,
1972, after a prolonged illness.

 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com

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