Left tongue-tied

The recent National Education Policy draft said Hindi must be taught in non-Hindi speaking states. While parts of the nation oppose the 'imposition', language experts say it will uphold the values of a multilingual country while ensuring jobs in other states too

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Left tongue-tied
Representational purpose


Language is a medium of communication, a carrier of culture and the glue that binds a civilisation and society as diverse as India. However, it was language that stirred up an uproar last week after the draft National Education Policy (NEP) released by the Centre had a provision for mandatory teaching of Hindi in non-Hindi speaking states.

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The NEP, the committee for which was chaired by former Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chief K Kasturirangan, has reiterated the existing three language formula. This had led to political parties and the intelligentsia in the southern states, known for their antipathy towards the official language, rising up in arms against the imposition of Hindi. The pushback was intense in Tamil Nadu, where any attempt to "impose" Hindi is like a red rag for most political formations.

Also ReadThe curious case of knowing Hindi: Maharashtra on love-hate cusp

Voices of protest were also heard in other non-Hindi speaking states like West Bengal with charges being made about linguistic and cultural imposition of Hindi. This led to the Centre issuing a clarification that the document which had triggered a controversy was only a draft. It also replaced the clause in a revised draft which watered down the original recommendation for mandatory teaching of Hindi. The human resource development minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank stated it was a "misconception" that the NEP had been put in place.

Also ReadTracing history: South has always resisted Hindi

In Maharashtra, the Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) warned against "inflaming our minds by imposing Hindi." However, even critics of the move admit that it is necessary for students to develop multilingual proficiency as it acquaints them with new cultures and literature and arms them with an additional tool of communication.

Also ReadTussle between politics, economics of language

A Moot Point

Voices of protest unite over linguistic, cultural imposition of Hindi

  • Nativist parties like the Shiv Sena and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) have long protested over the putting up of Devanagari signboards on shops in Maha. They tend to miss out on ‘who owns these shops’  
  • Experts say that the love of language down South transcends community, caste, and religion. Abdul Kalam, a Muslim, had admitted to SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav that he only knows English and Tamil
  • The resistance to Hindi in the South also emerges from the fact that the need to learn the language is not linked with economic obligations
  • Some experts believe, in a multilingual country such as India, individuals knowing more than one or two languages will encourage their participation in protecting them
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