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50th anniversary of JH Patel's historic speech in Kannada in Lok Sabha

By Chennabasaveshwar
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    Today marks the 50th anniversary of former Karnataka chief minister JH Patel's historic Kannada speech in Lok Sabha. JH Patel is the first Kannadiga to table his debates in his mother tongue Kannada in the lower house of the parliament. Patel was elected to Lok Sabha from Shimoga constituency in 1967.

    Former Karnataka Chief Minister J H Patel.

    Though some members objected to it, the then Speaker of the Lok Sabha, Neelam Sanjiva Reddy allowed and encouraged Patel to go ahead with his speech.

    The Indian parliament had been active for 17 years and Patel became the first member to speak in a regional Indian language. He did so in vindication of the eighth schedule of the Indian constitution in which all the great languages of India have been given place.

    This prompted the Speaker of Lok Sabha, Sanjiva Reddy to decree in his famous ruling that henceforth any member of the Lok Sabha who is inclined to exercise his/her inherent right to speak in his/her mother tongue would do so without any hindrance.

    This is how The Hindu reported the Lok Sabha proceedings of March 30th, 1967.

    Stormy scenes in Lok Sabha

    [March 30, New Delhi] Stormy scenes were witnessed in the Lok Sabha today during which a Samyukta Socialist Party (SSP) member from Mysore, Mr. J.H. Patel, insisted and got recognised his right to speak in Kannada without having to submit to the Speaker an advance translation of his speech in Hindi or English.

    The Lok Sabha thus broke with past practice. The noisy proceedings also witnessed the naming and expulsion, although temporary, of a Congress member, Mrs. Tarakeshwari Sinha, and a walk out by many of her party colleagues.

    The Prime Minister, Mrs. Indira Gandhi, who came into the House at the height of the storm, appealed to the members to discuss the issue without heat and emotion. She said she did not question Mr. Patel's right to speak in whatever language he wished. But there were certain "practical technical" difficulties regarding simultaneous translation in the various national languages. She would later discuss the matter with the party leaders.

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