Should Hindi be Imposed on Non-Hindi States?

There are different languages which are spoken in India
Map of India depicting the languages which are spoken in different states.
There are different languages which are spoken in India
Map of India depicting the languages which are spoken in different states.

June 4, 2019: In the revised draft of the National Education Policy uploaded by the Ministry of HRD on Monday, the requirement to study Hindi in non-Hindi  states has been dropped. However, the three language formula has been retained.

A Committee led by the Chairman Dr. Krishnaswamy Kasturirangan (a former ISRO chief) submitted the draft of National Educational Policy to the Union HRD Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ and MoS for HRD Sanjay Shamrao Dhotre on Friday, May 31, 2019. However, it has stirred a hornet’s nest by suggesting teaching Hindi in all Indian states including the non-Hindi speaking states.

Three Language Formula and Social Media Backlash

The Draft National Education Policy 2019 says that the “Three language formula” that is being followed in some schools since 1968 will be continued, with an emphasis on teaching children three languages from the foundational Stage. This suggestion is being seen by many as a proxy for making Hindi mandatory till Class 8. The backlash is being felt strongly by Tamil Nadu, across party lines. #StopHindiImposition and #TNAgainstHindiImposition have started trending on social media. Around 1 lakh tweets have been tweeted under these two hash tags till 5pm on Sunday.

Tamil Nadu Leads the Protest

Tamil Nadu’s school education minister KA Sengottaiyan (of AIADMK, an ally of ruling BJP) has made it clear that they will shun the new policy, if implemented. He categorically said that ,“Tamil Nadu will follow only two-language policy. Only Tamil and English will bravely march in Tamil Nadu”.

The opposition parties in the state also chastised the new policy’s 3-language formula. While DMK leader MK Stalin said that there will be a huge disaster if BJP makes any such move, MDMK’s Vaiko went on to call it a language war.

AMMK leader TTV Dhinakaran said that this new 3-language formula will destroy pluralism, as the new education policy will lead to imposition of Hindi on non-Hindi speaking states. He went on to say that “This would make non Hindi speakers second class citizens.”

Kamal Hassan (actor-turned-politician) said, “No one should impose anything on anybody. After all, it’s up to the individual to learn any language of their choice.”

New Union HRD Minister Cowers Down under Intense Pressure

The social media backlash soon snowballed into an intense political debate. This led newly appointed Education minister Ramesh Pokhriyal to say that the draft has made some suggestions only and they shouldn’t be mistaken for implemented policy. He also said that, “Public feedback will be sought…No language will be imposed on any state.”

Historical Perspective of Anti-Hindi Agitations

The Genesis: The Pre-Independence Era Agitations

The roots of “Anti-Hindi Agitations” or “Anti-Hindi Imposition Agitation” can be traced back to pre-Independence time.

First ever protest started in 1937 when the provincial Government of Madras Presidency (Province) under C. Rajagopalachari (Rajaji) tried to implement Hindi. On April 21, 1938, Hindi was made a compulsory subject in schools.

Protests against Hindi imposition continued and led to the call of “Tamil Nadu for Tamils” (calling for an independent country) during the Anti-Hindi Meeting on September 10, 1938. The protest started snowballing, leading to arrest of Natarajan and Thalamuthu. Both died in prison, leading the Anti-Hindi Agitations to a peak. On February 21, 1940, Government of Madras Presidency withdrew the earlier order of making Hindi a compulsory subject in schools.

Indian Independence and New Wave of “Anti-Hindi Imposition Agitation”

Once India became independent on August 15, 1947, the effort of making Hindi a compulsory subject in schools started again, and it was implemented in 1948. This again led to Anti-Hindi Imposition Agitations across Tamil Nadu, led by Dravidar Kazhagam (DK).

The New Indian Constitution

The new Indian Constitution came into effect on January 26, 1950. Hindi was made India’s official language along with English. This situation was expected to remain in place for an interim 15-year period, till 1965. It was decided that on January 26, 1965, Hindi would become the sole official language of India.

On May 2, 1950, Hindi was again made a compulsory subject from grades 6 to 11. It again led to protests, now spearheaded by the then newly formed Dravida Munnetra Kazahagam (DMK). Under intense pressure, the government again withdrew Hindi as a compulsory subject.

In 1959, the President of India issued an order saying that efforts should be made to implement Hindi as the sole official language of India, as per the Indian constitution. The Anti-Hindi agitations erupted again, leading to a huge success of the Anti-Hindi Imposition Meeting held under DMK. Over one lakh people attended the meeting. This prompted the then PM Jawaharlal Nehru to send a letter to E.V.K. Sampath (leader of DMK’s Anti-Hindi Agitation Committee) saying that Hindi will not be imposed on Tamil Nadu.

Anti-Hindi Agitations Erupt in Tamil Nadu

The volcano erupted in 1965 again, as India prepared to adopt Hindi as the sole official language of India. While DMK called January 26 a ‘Day of Mourning’, student protests erupted leading to a one-day strike on January 25 by the University of Madras students. Tamil Nadu’s largest mass protest took place on January 27. The period from January 27 to February 13, 1965 saw clashes between the students and pro-government forces all across Tamil Nadu, leading to 63 deaths and arrests.

In 1967, DMK came to power in Tamil Nadu with a landslide victory. Thereafter, Chief Minister C. N. Annadurai removed Hindi from all schools under the state government jurisdiction in 1968.

What Now?

Will India again witness such violent clashes between the government and the “Anti-Hindi Imposition” protesters regarding Draft National Education Policy 2019? Only time will tell. Let good sense prevail in all stakeholders.

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