Millennium Post

Efforts to impose Hindi will meet with protests: Bengal academics, writers

Kolkata: Academicians and writers in West Bengal on Sunday opposed the draft National Education Policy that recommends making teaching of Hindi compulsory up to class 8, saying efforts to impose any language would meet with all-round protests.

Former Rabindra Bharati University Vice-chancellor and renowned linguist Pabitra Sarkar said the K. Kasturirangan Committee's suggestion with regard to mandatory teaching of Hindi would "put more pressure" on the students of primary classes.

He said while students of class 6, 7 and 8 could be taught Hindi, it was not be proper to make the language compulsory from class 1. "The present education system already puts too much burden on the students. Let us not increase it," Sarkar told IANS.

He said it was wrong to "impose anything from above", and pointed out that the southern states had already protested against any such move.

Instead, Sarkar suggested that in non-Hindi speaking states, the Hindi speaking people should also learn the main regional language.

"For instance, in Bengal, the Hindi speaking population should learn Bangla. This will help in the spread of regional languages as well as in national integration by upholding India's core philosophy of unity in diversity," he said.

Legendary Bengali author Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay took heart from the Central government's assurance that there would be no imposition.

"This is only a draft. I think if there are protests, they won't impose this on us. South India is already protesting. There will hopefully be protests in Bengal too.

"Imposing anything is not right. What language an individual should learn must be a voluntary decision," Mukhopadhyay told IANS.

The Sahitya Akademi awardee also refused to say if the NEP draft was part of the Centre's efforts to "saffronise education".

"Efforts to impose Hindi on the country's non-Hindi speaking people have been going on for a long time. Some sections in the Hindi belt have been doing this. So I don't think this is saffronisation of education," said the octogenarian, who has penned nearly 100 books of short stories and novels for the adult readers, and 34 for teenagers -- most of them bestsellers.

Jadavpur University vice-chancellor Suranjan Das refused to comment, saying he was yet to go through the complete draft.

Famed poet and academician Subodh Sarkar had a different take on the controversy. "If they want to make Hindi compulsory upto class 8, I'll ask why not Bangla? With 25 crore speakers, it is a more international language. In the world ranking of languages, Bangla mostly figures above Hindi," Sarkar told IANS.

Sarkar said any imposition of Hindi would not be acceptable in a country like India. "There are so many other languages like Marathi, Urdu, Malayalam and so on. Why just Hindi? These languages must be given their due importance," he said.

Dividing states into Hindi speaking and non-Hindi speaking, the Kasturirangan Committee recommends teaching of Hindi in non-Hindi speaking states in addition to the regional language and English.

In the case of Hindi speaking states, the Committee suggests teaching of Hindi, English and one of the modern Indian languages from other parts of India.

However, it has not specified what the modern Indian language would be. Tamil has been accorded a classical language status by the Central government.

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