Union Home Minister Amit Shah while presiding over the 37th meeting of the Parliamentary Official Language Committee stated that “22,000 Hindi teachers have been recruited in the eight states of Northeast India. Also nine tribal communities of the Northeast have converted their dialects’ scripts to Devanagari. Apart from this, all the eight states of the Northeast have agreed to make Hindi compulsory in schools up to Class X” and all hell broke loose with many groups opposing the statement that it is nothing but imposition of the language with a political agenda and is an hegemony of the Centre over the states.
Unfortunately questions were not raised to the eight state governments whether they had agreed to such a proposal and the ire is focussed to the Union Government. The CM of Assam had however clarified that “Forget about compulsory, Assam government had not even received a letter asking Hindi to be made an optional subject in the schools. Amit Shah’s statement has been misinterpreted”. Sharp reactions have come from various quarters, including our MP from Outer Manipur Constituency. However, Manipur Government is yet to officially react perhaps with the hope that the opposition will slowly subside though questions have been raised to answer!
However, a few officials in the State Education who want to remain incognito echoed Assam CM’s version. Thus, the only inference one can draw is that UHM is putting pressure on the state governments of the NE region to make Hindi compulsory up to Class X. India follows the three language formula, where the mother tongue, English and Hindi are taught at lower level. Despite claims that English is a foreign language it has been adopted widely and even a dialect has emerged known as Indian English or even Hinglish. English is a language that opened up opportunities especially for the marginalised section.
The native speakers of Hindi will always have an advantage over non-native speakers if Hindi is made the language for official and other communications. In other words, English is a ground levelling language for all Indians. The attempt to impose Hindi as a compulsory subject up to Class X will only be seen as an effort to impose hegemony over the northeast region, many of whose languages are from the Tibeto-Burmese family.
In a push to popularise Hindi, large number of Hindi teachers has been recruited but due to lack of interest by the parents most of them teach other subjects also; particularly in schools where there is a lack of teachers. Besides, they are teaching the language up to Class VIII up to which at present it is compulsory. Just because teachers are available does not mean that the subject can be made compulsory or is liked by the students and parents. There is no denying the fact that in India learning Hindi has an advantage and this should be the driver for learning the language rather than imposing it. Once there is a belief that a language is imposed there will be resistance and the whole effort will come to nought.
It is quite interesting that while efforts are being made to re-write history, ‘Itihasa” to counter the version written by the Europeans and later by the so called leftists, claims were made that Aryans are home grown, the contribution of foreign invaders who settled in the country like Mughals marginalised, etc the effort seems to be to make Hindi the universal language of the country. But one should remember the violent language agitations in Madras Presidency (now Tamil Nadu) in 1937 and 1965 and the latter propelled DMK in power. Any imposition may be countered by similar agitation and the present move seems to segregate NE region and the South, a trial in the NE region as the opposition may not be as united and strong as in the South. The CM of Tamilnadu sees this and thus his vociferous opposition to the statement of the UHM.
Modern Hindi like most current languages, is not a pure language per se but a result of the admixture of Khoribol with the languages of those invaders from Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey, Central Asia and elsewhere. Hindi is a standardised version of Hindustani and its progenitor Khoribol is regarded as a direct descendant of Vedic Sanskrit through Sauraseni Prakrit and Sauraseni Apabhramsa and sound changes characterised the transition from Middle Indo-Aryan to Hindi. Compensatory lengthening of vowels preceding consonants, loss of all word-final vowels, formation of nasalised long vowels from nasal consonants, loss of unaccented or unstressed short vowels etc occurred due to interaction with various foreign languages. In fact all languages evolve through time due to interaction with other languages. It is quite interesting that while re-writing history, the contributions especially of Mughal are being marginalised, but in respect of language the composite language of the invaders and the original language are being supported.
If Hindi is made into a compulsory subject for Class IX and X, it cannot substitute other compulsory subjects and thus the load on the student will increase by one more subject. The three language formula adopted due to political reasons put tremendous pressure on the Indian students whose native tongue is not Hindi and are at a disadvantage vis a vis those of other countries, who learn only one or two languages. Can the Union Government point out what subject can be replaced by Hindi at Class IX and X. They may say English but as English is an international language no parent will agree as English opens up door to vast knowledge and people who are adept with English can move and work in most part of the globe. India doing well in IT sector is due to the learning of English language. Hindi can only bring advantage to work in the Hindi belt but non-native speakers just cannot compete with the native speakers and it can bring only lowly paid jobs.
Hence, the intent to impose Hindi up to Class X will be interpreted as an effort to continue the hegemony of the Hindi native speakers over non-native speakers. In Manipur, as mentioned above students have to learn Hindi up to Class VIII as a compulsory subject and there is no clear cut benefit to further study the language as a compulsory subject up to Class X. From Class IX to XII it is an optional subject and a few who had opted for Hindi are doing well in life. What is the disadvantage of the present system over the present proposal is unclear and the advantage of keeping Hindi as a compulsory subject up to Class X need to be spelt out in clear term. Before implementing, the matter may be debated by all stakeholders and the best option adopted. Due to various reasons, Manipur could never fulfil the 240 instructional days in school education, and addition of one more subject will only put further pressure on the time resulting in lower quality.
In a TV panel discussion one panellist argues that learning another language, especially Hindi in India is a good idea. And rightly so! But he seems not to understand that Hindi is taught as a compulsory subject up to Class VIII and what is the advantage of making it into a compulsory subject up to Class X seems unclear to him. The issue now in school education is not what are to be taught but what can be left out; as the knowledge and information had exploded. It is said that the total knowledge available at the time of Sir Isaac Newton can be gone through in three year’s time by a person; but now even in a century a person will not be able to go through all.
The 20th century had seen an explosion of knowledge and information which is still continuing in the 21st Century. Thus the challenge is to identify what need to be taught to make a kid into a responsible individual as all knowledge just cannot be imparted. Before the proposal is considered at the political level; it needs to be examined by experts, including child psychologists, education specialists, etc as to its suitability. All children in the country must have similar work load and opportunity and one section must not have an advantage over others as it will be pure and simple discrimination. If Hindi is made into a compulsory subject up to Class X in the NE region, will it not be appropriate for the students in the Hindi belt to learn one major Indian language other than Hindi at this level?
The non reaction from the state government on this issue is not surprising but in the larger interest of the children of the state, it should come out with its view like the CM of Assam. This will show the sagacity of the leaders and their desire to work in the interest of the people of the state.