Tuesday, 24 May, 2022
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Modi must clarify if non-Hindi speakers will be lesser citizens in his ‘New Hindia’

Next generation students must be allowed to choose languages that they consider to be important and not be compelled to learn Hindi.

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Within a week of the Narendra Modi-led government returning to power, the political gloves have truly come off with the release of the draft National Education Policy 2019. The submission of the draft has once again stirred up the debate on the Bharatiya Janata Party’s efforts to impose Hindi on non-Hindi speakers, drawing backlash and protests from southern states led by Tamil Nadu.

With a meek ally in AIADMK at the helm of affairs in Tamil Nadu, the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance is out to implement the three-language formula in school education, which has been the subject of countless controversies since Independence. Though the Modi government has clarified that this is only a draft report and feedback from the public will be taken before, this issue provides a grim glimpse into the extent of cultural imposition which may be unleashed over the next five years.

Inside the draft

The committee for draft NEP was constituted by the previous government, under the chairmanship of K Kasturirangan, to build on the report submitted by the Committee for Evolution of the New Education Policy in May 2016. The preamble of the draft NEP states that it is founded on the “guiding goals of access, equity, equality, affordability and accountability”. Sadly, the Kasturirangan Committee has failed to comprehend the obvious challenges to equality posed by the three-language formula on non-Hindi speakers.

Also read: Almost every Tamil Nadu leader is against Modi’s draft education policy over Hindi

Specifically, the offending section found in P.4.5.9 on page 84, ironically titled “Flexibility in the Choice of Language”, states that “the study of languages by students in the non-Hindi-speaking states would include the regional language, Hindi and English.” This formula has been rejected outright by Tamil Nadu over a series of ill-fated attempts leading up to the 1960s to replace English with Hindi.

New policy, old division

Under any other circumstances, such a policy position would have been viewed as a natural progression of the political agenda to saffronise the nation. However, coming shortly after the humiliating electoral defeat in Tamil Nadu, the BJP has given the impression it was eager to retaliate against the voters of the state. In any case, this only strengthens the strong suspicion held by non-Hindi speakers that the BJP is a Hindi-heartland party, which has no qualms in prioritising one Indian language over all others.

Also read: Larger Supreme Court bench to hear plea against Sanskrit shlokas, Hindi prayer at KVs

What is particularly troubling about the proposed policy change is that it does not take into account the chequered history of the language policy-related disputes. From 1937 to 1940, then 1948 to 1950, and 1953 to 1956 then 1959 to 1961, and finally 1963 to 1965 — the anti-Hindi imposition struggles of erstwhile Madras Presidency and current state of Tamil Nadu have been inextricable with the progress of the Dravidian Movement. The subsequent electoral successes of Dravidian politics and ideology is in no small part due to people’s belief that Dravidian parties have safeguarded Tamil and resisted the imposition of Hindi.

No Hindi a disadvantage?

What the new and revised National Education Policy requires is the expansion of the choice of languages. Next generation students must be allowed to choose languages that they consider to be important and not be compelled to learn Hindi, which would place non-Hindi speakers at an immediate disadvantage compared to Hindi speakers.

Also read: The Hindi news channel editor who ‘thrives on provoking’ Hindu, Muslim sentiments

The way forward is to treat all languages currently in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution of India on equal footing. Any preferential treatment to one language at the expense of others will create friction, disharmony and unrest.

Soon after the electoral victory in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Narendra Modi spoke about a “New India”. Whether this would herald the rise of New “Hindia” wherein non-Hindi speakers would be treated as lesser citizens is something the Modi government must seriously ponder.

The author is DMK spokesperson and advocate, Madras High Court. Views are personal.

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  1. A pathetic fear mongering article.
    a) How does Tamil culture get threatened if people learn/speak Hindi? There are lakhs of Tamils (self included) living all over India, Hindi helps us bond with others who may not speak Tamil.
    b) Hindi is widely understood in majority of India, and at this point in time, is the most widely spoken language.
    c) How does Hindi equate to saffronisation? If that is the case, then for me DMK equates the Christian conversion mafia.
    d) A child starts learning languages from 1st standard onwards. Is this guy suggesting a 10 year old should be allowed to choose the language which is most beneficial to him? Eh? How?
    e) These same guys who shout at the suggestion of Hindi are perfectly ok to send their own children to private schools (where Hindi is taught). This is 2019 not 1950 – hope the Tamil people teach them a lesson.

    DMK has no progressive agenda, hence creating a fear psychosis and hysteria over fake theories.

    Hope Tamils see through this party of atheists, womanisers and anti-nationals – and join the mainstream.

    – A Tamil

    • Pakistani language people have one language formula and India language people have three language formula. Clearly Pakistani language people and Pakistani language are world class cheats. Ramanujan Chary should change his name to Rahamanuja Sharia going by the support for that Islamic Sharia Mosque language Hindi.

  2. People try to be gentle in disagreements. We tamilians and south Indians do not have an issue with any language but we oppose it only when we are force fed. You look at all the south Indians moving to other states have learnt the language of that particular place. We don’t stick to our language we converse in your language. Tell me how many of the hindi speakers have learnt the local language…. You still try to converse in hindi. So I am leaving it to you to decide. In a country like India you can never bring in one language policy as it India is country of different cultures. And you need to respect. All the abusive coments shows that you don’t celebrate differences. I am happy with my south connection. It’s more than the south moving to the north it’s the north migrating to south so my suggestion all my friends from the north is that instead of imposing your language on us than you better learn south Indian languages.
    NB: 10 lakhs students have failed in hindi in the hindi heart land

  3. I agree that every student should study three languages in school: mother tongue, English and a third, which should be a North Indian language for a South Indian and a South Indian language for a North Indian. For example, Bengal and Tamil Nadu could team up to teach each other’s language in school. In no South Indian State is willing to come to such an agreement with a Hindi-speaking state, the latter should teach both Hindi and Urdu in School to all students up to the High School level.

  4. Cow belt is known to use tax paying revenues of south, they now want identity of south to be also eliminated, this is exploitation of federal structure to suit bjp needs

  5. Find it comical that DMK – a party that is not even “pan-Tamil Nadu” has the audacity to speak for “non-Hindi” speaking people ? Are Telugus, Kannadigas, Odiyas, Marathis, Gujarathis, Bengalis etc all in need of “saving” by these xenophobic regionalists ?

    Tamil Chauvinism is transforming Tamil Nadu into an insular backwater – it is incredibly hard for even South Indians who are not tamil to live in Tamil Nadu – as their people know only one language , tamil. Being multi-lingual is the future of the world -yet Tamils want to go back 1000 years to a monolingual society.

    There are many more pressing issues facing Tamil Nadu – yet the fanatics from DMK are only interested in a 40 year old tantrum for political gains. They seem to forget that Neither Modi, Nor Shah nor Sitharaman have a mother tongue of “Hindi”. Yet this same old meaningless noise is the only politics of the DMK – a party that is totally bankrupt of any new ideas .

  6. Make Urdu as a national language All non BJP politicians will be happy. Any way 30% of the populations of all states are muslims and they continue to grow

    • what to say sir…. we have to think using upper portion of our neck…instead of rear end like U…

    • These Tamilians are the biggest “hindi” “hindi” jokers – there is no drinking water in chennai – no problem, they want to focus on “hindi”.

      Tamil is a great language – but their fanatic reaction to Hindi is not normal. If Tamils were really confident about their language they wouldnt’ react with fear and cry about Hindi for the last 40 years.

      Today, Tamils don’t know English or Hindi. How they expect to survive outside Tamil Nadu is a big question.

      • As though Pakistani language people know any Indian language or English. India is not owned by Pakistani language speaking people i.e. Hindians.

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