CHENNAI: Is the three-language formula prescribed in the National Education Policy-2020 a ploy to push Hindi into non-Hindi speaking States? The unveiling of the policy has triggered emotional debates, after a long gap of 53 years, over the subject in Tamil Nadu. With the ruling AIADMK rejecting the three-language formula outright and reiterating two-language policy, the State appears to have thwarted a perceived third attempt for imposition of Hindi in the last 83 years. Barring BJP, no other political party has backed the policy.
In 1937, the first attempt for Hindi imposition was prevented through a series of protests by Dravidar Kazhagam and a few other organisations in Madras Presidency. In 1967, massive agitations led by DMK spoiled the second attempt.
Unlike the National Education policy-1968 which mandated teaching of Hindi in non-Hindi speaking States, the latest NEP does not explicitly mention the ‘third’ language shall be Hindi. Instead, the policy noted that three languages learned by children will be the choices of States and the students, provided two languages must be native of India. This means, apart from Tamil and English, students must learn any one of Indian languages.
Several linguistic activists and educationists observed that the move would eventually end up in students being forced to learn Hindi because of scarcity of teachers in other languages. Aazhi Senthil Nathan, convener of CLEAR (Campaign for Language Equality and Rights) said indicators of social, economic and educational development of the State are testimony that the State’s two-language policy was a successful model. “Three-language policy is neither politically needed nor it is educationally effective,” he said.
Educationist Prince Gajendra Babu said that school children need to learn many things and all their mental power need not be spent on learning languages. “The Centre has allotted `50 crore for development of Hindi, while no such funds are given to other languages. Apparently, there will be no faculties for teaching other languages, except Hindi. The move is aimed at promoting Sanskrit via Hindi,” he said.
The BJP, however, said allegations against the Centre does not hold water given that more than four lakh people from the State learn Hindi every year. “Advertisement boards inviting people to learn Hindi are displayed in every street of the State. Can anyone deny that?” BJP State general secretary Karu Nagarajan said. “Students studying in private schools learn Hindi for several years.
Does that make any difference to local language? Now people from economically weaker sections and rural students who study in government schools will be deprived of the opportunity to learn Hindi for free,” said Nagarajan, adding that he noted nowhere in NEP it is said that students will have to learn Hindi.
Senthil Nathan said West Bengal, Punjab, Odisha and Maharashtra have accepted the three-language policy since 1968 and allowed teaching of Hindi from school level since then, while Northern States still follow two-language policy.
“How many people in Northern states learned Tamil or Telugu for the past 50 years. For a brief period of time, Tamil was taught in Haryana so as to prevent the teaching of Punjabi as a third language. But in contrast, many people have ignored their own mother tongue in non-hindi speaking States. Hindi promotion will not achieve anything but create a conducive atmosphere for employment of Hindi speaking population,” he said.
With the ruling AIADMK rejecting the three-language formula outright, the State appears to have thwarted a perceived third attempt at Hindi impositions