Hindi should not be made a mandatory third language in schools, a popular campaign on social media said on Saturday, as Twitter was flooded with messages protesting a draft education policy submitted to the new government at the centre a day ago.
Politicians from Tamil Nadu, where the subject has long been a highly emotive issue, took the lead to slam the Hindi-focused recommendations by an expert panel led by Krishnaswamy Kasturirangan, a former chief of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
The Draft National Education Policy 2019, says while the “three language formula” followed in a section of schools since 1968 should be continued, “children will now be immersed in three languages early on, starting from the Foundational Stage onwards.”
This has been seen by many as an effort to make Hindi mandatory till Class 8 as Twitter users inundated the social network with messages against the move, making #StopHindiImposition and #TNAgainstHindiImposition the top trends on platform. By 5 pm on Sunday, there were about 1 lakh tweets under the two hashtags.
The school education minister of Tamil Nadu said that the new policy will be shunned by the state. “Tamil Nadu will follow only two-language policy. Only Tamil and English will bravely march in Tamil Nadu,” said KA Sengottaiyan, whose AIADMK party is an ally of the BJP which rules at the centre.
The opposition also spoke out in one voice, attacking the policy.
“I warn BJP any such move will cause them a huge disaster,” DMK leader MK Stalin said. MDMK leader Vaiko warned of a “language war”.
AMMK leader TTV Dhinakaran said, “Imposing Hindi on non-Hindi speaking states will destroy pluralism. This would make non Hindi speakers second class citizens.”
Actor-turned-politician Kamal Hassan said, “I’ve acted in Hindi movies… (but) no one should impose anything on anybody. After all, it’s up to the individual to learn any language of their choice.”
Tamil Nadu has long opposed any moves to give Hindi greater prominence than other Indian languages. Even in pre-Independence era, the region saw anti-Hindi protests in 1937 that went on till 1940. In 1965, the issue flared once again, triggering riots that killed as many as 70 people. The incident led to an assurance by the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru that Hindi will not be imposed on non-Hindi speaking states till they want and English would continue as a link language.
The draft of the new policy, which is accused of tinkering with that promise, was handed over to the Union Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, who took charge of the Union Education Ministry on Friday.
The current National Education Policy was framed in 1986 and revised in 1992. A new education policy was part of the BJP’s manifesto ahead of the 2014 general election.