Draft New Educational Policy 2019 being submitted to the HRD Minister by the Drafting Committee. (Image: Twitter/@HRDMinistry)
Immediately after the Union Ministers took charge of their respective portfolios, one of the new Narendra Modi government’s first policies landed in a soup.
The Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) released the draft of the National Education Policy (NEP) on May 31. One of the salient features of the draft, prepared by a committee led by former ISRO chief K Kasturirangan, has come under fire, especially in South Indian states.
What is the controversial clause in the NEP?
The clause is on the continuation of the three-language policy in schools. However, it has been a tweaked a little. Now, it proposes that the policy be implemented in primary school itself -- with students in the 'Hindi heartland' states learning a third Indian language besides English and Hindi; while those in non-Hindi speaking states, will have their regional language, English and Hindi.
The draft policy was formed under former HRD minister Prakash Javadekar, but was released by the newly-inducted Ramesh Pokhriyal.
What reactions has the clause triggered?
The Opposition roared out in defence, calling the clause “thrusting” of the Hindi language on students, leading the Centre to issue a clarification.
The sharpest criticism came from Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) President MK Stalin, who said that mandatory Hindi from “pre-school to Class 12 was a big shocker” and that the recommendation would “divide” the country. Recalling the anti-Hindi agitations that began in 1937, Stalin asserted that Tamil Nadu has been following the two-language formula since 1968, learning only Tamil and English.
A similar reaction came from Congress Member of Parliament (MP) from Thiruvanathapuram, Shashi Tharoor, who said that the three-language formula dates back to the 1960s and has never been implemented properly. “Most of us in South India learn Hindi as a second language but nobody in the North is learning Malayalam and Tamil,” he added.
The surfacing of the draft policy opened a Pandora’s Box on Twitter, with hashtags '#HindiIsNotTheNationalLanguage' and '#HindiImposition' being the topmost trends.
In fact, the then Minister of State (MoS) Home Kiren Rijijiu had informed the Lok Sabha in August 2014, that the three-language policy is not being effectively implemented across India, with Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Tripura not allowing Hindi to be taught in their schools.
Is this the first time that an anti-Hindi campaign has surfaced in Tamil Nadu?
Tamil Nadu has been witnessing anti-Hindi campaigns since 1937, when EV Ramasamy, also known as Periyar, spearheaded the movement against C Rajagopalachari’s diktat on compulsory Hindi in secondary schools. At that time, Rajagopalachari, or Rajaji as he was known, was Premier of Madras Presidency.
The next round of aggressive anti-Hindi movement was seen in Tamil Nadu in 1965 in the light of reports that Hindi would replace English as the official language. The DMK consolidated mass support against the move. A comparatively young party, the DMK came to power two years later by using the 1965 agitation in a politically deft way.
After coming to power, the DMK repealed the Centre’s three-language formula in 1968. To this day, the Tamil Nadu government has stuck to the two-language formula of teaching Tamil and English in schools.
Why are Tamil Nadu's regional parties averse to mandatory Hindi in schools?
According to a report in The Hindu, those reviving the anti-Hindi campaign don’t view it as merely a language affair but as the hegemony of the North; the tussle between Aryans and Dravidians and the introduction of mono-culture.
In the contemporary political field, the opposition to Hindi is viewed as the opposition of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is seen as a staunch proponent of the language.
In the same context, making Hindi mandatory is seen as BJP’s assertion in the states where its attempts of establishing a significant foothold have failed.
Distancing from regional politics, national parties (especially in the North) have always been keen on having a common language as a unifying force; and English cannot fulfill that role as it is seen as a foreign language.