Hindi teaching in Assamese medium schools

Controversy over Hindi has been plaguing our country since the time of the British rule, sometimes it even took violent turns in the past. These days it is surfacing again after Amit Shah
Hindi teaching in Assamese medium schools

Controversy over Hindi has been plaguing our country since the time of the British rule, sometimes it even took violent turns in the past. These days it is surfacing again after Amit Shah reiterated his stand to introduce Hindi up to class-X in non-Hindi speaking states, thinking it to be most appropriate time as the Centre and a few states are being ruled by the BJP whose motto is "Hindu, Hindi and Hindustan". India is home to 19,500 languages and dialects according to statistics, 22 languages are included in the 8th Schedule which covers 96.71 per cent of the total population of India. Mahatma Gandhi also felt the need of a common language - Rastra Bhasa - in India for unity and advocated it as early as in 1918. Accordingly, a policy was drafted by the Congress. In 1918 the Dakshin Bharat Hindi Prasar Sabha was established for propagation of Hindi in South India and Gandhi was its president till his death. In Assam too, Lakshmi Nath Bezbarua, doyen of Assamese literature, supported Hindi to be the Rastra Bhasha,

Hindi is mostly spoken in ten North Indian states and spoken by 44% of the total population of India. Hindi is their official state language and in 35 other states and Union Territories people speak different state languages. But the above 44% of Hindi-speaking population includes other languages such as Maithali, Magadhi and Bhojpuri and other spoken dialects. As Hindi has similarities with that of other North Indian languages and people have intimate contact and intermixing, the whole North India naturally supports Hindi to be India's Rastra Bhasa. North Indians support Hindi to such an extent that Raghunath Vinayak Dhulekar, a member of the Constituent Assembly from Uttar Pradesh had said , "People who do not know Hindustani have no right to stay in India". There was stiff opposition from the South Indian states. TT Krisnamachari on 5th November 1948, said: "Sir, it is up to my friends in UP to have whole India , it is up to them to have a Hindi India the choice is theirs". The languages of the South Indian states are of Dravidian origin and have no common link with that of Hindi. People find it difficult to pick up. There was a large-scale agitation lasting three years (1937-1940), over 1,000 people were arrested and things got settled after Jawaharlal Nehru mediated, agreed to continue English, opposed the imposition of Hindi. Northeastern states, more particularly the hill states, are not in a mood to accept Hindi for the same reasons as mentioned above, as proposed up to class-X. The total population of South India constitutes 44% of India's total population and their sentiments cannot be neglected. So long as the three-language formula is being practiced as initiated by Triguna Sen - English, mother tongue and Hindi - it was decided that in non-Hindi speaking states English , mother tongue and Hindi are compulsory subjects. In Hindi-speaking states students will learn Hindi as their mother tongue, English and would select one more language from other state languages. But in practice it is seen that in Hindi-speaking states students learn Sanskrit in place of other state languages. Now Hindi is taught up to class-VIII. Of late, one more tribal language is proposed by the government of Assam. There is only 4% population in the world who can speak four languages. The more the number of languages, the less and less time is available for core subjects to learn - such as Mathematics, Science, Geography History etc. Knowledge in these subjects is more important for competition. The CBSE syllabus teaches only two languages - English and Hindi (Modern Indian Language) in class-IX and class-X. Students in Tamil Nadu learn only Tamil and English and are ahead of many other states. Instead of teaching Hindi as a compulsory subject up to class-X (MIL), the syllabus should be designed to suit the lingua franca level, suitable for general communication, conversation, to read sign boards, signage etc. All need not learn Hindi literature comprising prose- poetry (MIL) etc., as required by Hindi-speaking states where Hindi is their mother tongue. Those interested in continuation of Hindi at higher education still can go ahead. Late Debakanta Baruah could deliver vibrant speeches in Ram Leela Maidan in Hindi probably without any formal Hindi education. Assamese candidates (CBSE) are taking Hindi in UPSC examination and emerging successful. Assamese police officers serving in Hindi-speaking units can write articles in Hindi with lingua franca background in Hindi (old Rastra Bhasa). Proficiency in Hindi could be enhanced depending on personal need and merit. South Indians are learning Hindi in Delhi, North Indians are picking up Tamil, Kanada etc., in the south, in Mumbai people are picking up Marathi, Gujarati etc., for survival by adaptation. People's requirements are different in different states.

Hindi cannot replace English. It is an international language which is spoken in more than a hundred countries. In 1972, during the Assamese language agitation, Prof V Venkata Rao, HoD of the Political Science Department of the Gauhati University, said: "We the South Indians learn English as much as Indian languages, not as a foreign language". In the South it is seen that that children of different state identities converse in English. Some artisan-level professionals like electricians, washer-man, barber, plumber etc., in the South can speak communicative English fluently. They prefer English to Hindi. English is a lingua franca in the South. New generation English-speaking artisan-level technicians would be an asset to take advantage in the global job market in the emerging demographic transition stage. In fact, to produce such English-speaking, world-class technicians is an objective of the Skilling India Mission – 2. Another option may pay more dividends if students learn foreign languages such as Spanish, French, German, Japanese etc. Students would be benefitted more than learning Hindi. New Education Policy also allows students to take up one foreign language. Hindi is confined only to ten North Indian states. Proficiency in English and other foreign languages would provide more employment both in India and abroad that Hindi cannot. Even now in all MNCs in India, the language in usage is only English. The scenario and world order are changing fast, old attachments with Hindi may not hold good now and yield fruits.

People are opposing the imposition of Hindi, but not learning Hindi. Its learning module (syllabus) should be restricted to lingua franca level , just sufficient for general communication. It need not be of MIL (Modern Indian Language) level. Learning Hindi up to class-VIII is more than enough. Too much emphasis on learning Hindi would leave Assam backward, unsuitable for multinational working culture of present day requirements of the world. But one ought to learn one's own mother tongue, in-depth knowledge of Assamese is a must. We must not forget that our forefathers were very good both at Assamese and English.

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