On Sunday, the central government fielded External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to clarify that the government respects all languages and no language would be imposed on anyone without consultation.
A day after the Centre deployed two of its top ministers, both Tamil-speaking, to quell any misgivings in the wake of the three-language rule which was part of the draft National Education Policy put up for comments, the government has indicated a climbdown and issued a fresh draft which skips reference to any particular language. The three-language rule was seen as a bid by the BJP-ruled Centre to impose Hindi on states which did not speak this language and drew immense criticism from political parties, particularly those from Tamil Nadu.
The revised draft issued on Monday did not have a mention of the language being compulsory. “Students who wish to change one or more of the three languages they are studying may do so in Grade 6 or Grade 7, so long as they are able to still demonstrate proficiency in three languages (one language at the literature level) in their modular Board Examinations some time during secondary school,” the revised draft of the NEP said.
In the earlier draft, the panel had suggested mandatory teaching of Hindi in non-Hindi speaking states. “Students who wish to change one of the three languages they are studying may do so in Grade 6, so long as the study of three languages by students in the Hindi-speaking states would continue to include Hindi and English and one of the modern Indian languages from other parts of India, while the study of languages by students in the non-Hindi-speaking states would include the regional language, Hindi and English,” the draft policy had earlier said.
On Sunday, the central government fielded External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to clarify that the government respects all languages and no language would be imposed on anyone without consultation. Jaishankar said that the government will take all stakeholders in confidence before taking any such decision.
“The National Education Policy as submitted to the Minister HRD is only a draft report. Feedback shall be obtained from general public. State Governments will be consulted. Only after this the draft report will be finalised. GoI respects all languages. No language will be imposed,” he said in a tweet on Sunday.
Sitharaman said that the new Education Policy is yet to be finalised and it will be implemented only after consulting all the states. She said that the BJP government respects the ancient Tamil language. “Only after hearing public opinion the draft policy will be implemented. Only to nurture all Indian languages PM launched Ek Bharat Sreshtha Bharat. The Centre would support to honour and develop the ancient Tamil language,” Sitharaman tweeted.
The assurances from the two Tamil speaking Ministers of the Modi government comes after a controversy over the draft of the National Education Policy 2019. The draft of the policy was submitted to new HRD Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal on Friday by eminent scientist K Kasturirangan. The draft of the new policy was available on the government website and recommended a three-language formula throughout the country to promote multilingual communication abilities for students. It said that schools in Hindi speaking areas should also teach other Indian languages to the students and its vice-versa.
Many parties from South India, especially Tamil Nadu’s DMK, alleged that it was an attempt by the Modi government to impose Hindi on non-Hindi speaking students. DMK leader MK Stalin, JD(S) leader and Karnataka CM HD Kumaraswamy and Congress’ Shashi Tharoor issued warnings to the Centre against the forced imposition of Hindi language on students. Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram too slammed the government, saying, “What is the meaning of three language formula in schools? The meaning is they will make Hindi a compulsory subject.”