Guwahati: Union Home Secretary Amit Shah’s recent announcement to make Hindi a compulsory subject in all North Eastern states up to grade 10 has drawn mixed reactions. Over 200 dialects have been carefully preserved in the region’s unique linguistic mosaic.
Various political and non-governmental organizations have stressed the importance of developing and maintaining indigenous and regional languages for global integration.
According to the 2011 census, the northeastern region of India has a population of 45.58 million, with indigenous tribes making up about 28% of the population and mostly speaking their native or indigenous language.
Of the eight states, the majority of people in three northeastern states – Nagaland, Mizoram and Meghalaya – are dominated by Christians, while a considerable percentage of people in other northeastern states – Assam, Tripura , Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh are either Hindu, Muslim or Buddhist.
Data shows that out of a total of 31,205,576 people in Assam (2011 census), 15,095,797 are Assamese speakers, 9,024,324 are Bengali speakers, 14, 16,125 are Bodo speakers and 21,01,435 are Hindi speakers.
According to the 2001 census, there were 13,010,478 speakers of Assamese, 73, 43,338 Bengali, 12, 96,162 Bodo and 15,69,662 Hindi speakers.
The increase in the absolute number of speakers of these four languages during the decade 2001-2011 in Assam was 20,85,319 Assamese, Bengali 16,80,986, Bodo 1,19,963 and Hindi speakers 5,31,773.
On April 10, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, while chairing the 37th meeting of the Parliamentary Official Languages Committee, said that Hindi should be accepted as an alternative language to English but not local languages.
“The nine northeast tribal communities have converted the scripts of their dialects to Devanagari while the eight northeast states have agreed to make Hindi compulsory in schools up to grade 10. There is a need to give elementary knowledge of Hindi to students at Class 9 and pay more attention to Hindi teaching exams,” the Home Minister reportedly said at the meeting.
While political parties in the North East region are divided over the issue of learning Hindi, language experts and political commentators have said that while teaching English and Hindi, local and indigenous languages should be given equal convenience for promotion and practical use.
Assam’s influential supreme literary body, Asom Sahitya Sabha (ASS), has opposed the decision to make Hindi a compulsory subject up to grade 10 in the northeastern states. SSA General Secretary Jadav Chandra Sharma said making Hindi a compulsory language would endanger the indigenous language.
Renowned North East region political commentator and famous writer, Sushanta Talukdar said that language is an important marker of identity for ethnic communities in the North East.
“The linguistic debate has not been settled and even after the formation of the state on the basis of language, the region continues to witness identity movements of various linguistic groups for the state and autonomy. C ‘is in this context, any proposal to push a particular language either as an official language, or as a medium of instruction or as a compulsory subject is met with protests and opposition,’ said Talukdar, the publisher of the online portal multilingual “Nezine”, at the IANS.
He said the replacement of Assamese with Hindi as the lingua franca in Arunachal Pradesh and the increase in population of Hindi and Bengali speakers in Assam in the 2011 language census have stoked fears that the Assamese language is being further marginalized, which also resonates with the small ethnic communities in the state. and other states in the region.
At a time when ethnic communities are striving to promote their own language, including as a language of instruction, making Hindi a compulsory subject up to grade 10 is seen as a move contrary to their language aspirations , observed Talukdar.
The Marxist Communist Party of India, Congress, Trinamool Congress and a few other local parties strongly opposed the move, while the National People’s Party (NPP), a national party in the North East, backed the Center decision. , demanded to promote the local and indigenous language.
CPI-M Central Committee member and veteran tribal leader Jitendra Chaudhury said the BJP government, at the behest of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), was trying to impose Hindi on all communities.
“If the BJP government at the Center continues to insist on imposing Hindi on all communities, it will affect the national integration of the country. Such an attempt is contrary to unity in diversity and the philosophy of India’s freedom struggle,” Chaudhury, a former minister of tribal welfare and forests from Tripura, told IANS.
Trinamool Rajya Sabha Congresswoman Sushmita Dev, who hails from Bengali-dominated southern Assam, told IANS that Hindi imposition is an RSS agenda.
“Instead of protecting and promoting the local languages of the North East, the BJP with a motive is trying to impose Hindi,” she said.
NPP Supremo and Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma, supporting the Center’s decision, said the Union government should also take steps to promote local languages.
“Institutional and financial support must be provided to protect and promote the local and indigenous languages of the northeast,” Sangma told Shillong.
Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who is also the organizer of the BJP-led North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA), said there was no instruction from the Center to make learning Hindi compulsory.
“Assamese is the mother tongue of the majority of citizens of Assam. The Government of Assam, in consultation with Asom Sahitya Sabha and predominantly tribal organizations, has prepared a language policy that a student will learn the Assamese and a tribal language in addition to English and Hindi. Bodo Sahitya Sabha has some opposition and that is why the state government has yet to announce the policy,” the minister said. chief.
Sarma said Shah said one should know Hindi even though “we want students to learn English and Hindi”.
“Amit Shah did not say that you should not stop learning Assamese and learn Hindi. He said that after learning Assamese or his mother tongue, learn Hindi We also want the same because by learning Hindi, a student from this region would be able to apply for government and non-government jobs in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra,” he said.
Assam opposition leader Debabrata Saikia (Congress) said Shah’s announcement is at odds with the new education policy introduced by the BJP-led central government, which seeks to support the primary education in the mother tongue.
Manipur Pradesh Congress Committee Chairman Keisham Meghachandra told Imphal that his party strongly opposes the Union Home Secretary’s statement “on the imposition of Hindi language in Manipur and in other northeastern states of India”.
In Meghalaya, former Congress leader and incumbent MP Ampareen Lyngdoh, who along with 4 party lawmakers recently announced his support for the BJP-backed Meghalaya Democratic Alliance (MDA) government, also strongly opposed to Shah’s announcement.
“The central government is unilaterally trying to impose Hindi in the northeastern states,” Lyngdoh told media in Shillong on Sunday.
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Posted: Sunday, April 17, 2022, 11:53 a.m. IST