Politicians in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu have been raising concerns over the country’s National Education Policy, arguing that the policy could be used as a way to impose the Hindi language, according to the New Indian Express. While the policy emphasizes that instruction will be given in students’ mother tongues or the local language, the policy also places additional emphasis on Sanskrit and other foreign languages.
Tamil inscriptions carved 1000 years ago on the wall of the Brihadeeswarar temple.
The debate has been ongoing since the policy, first introduced in the summer of 2019, encouraged a three-language educational system in which students would be required to learn Hindi and English alongside their mother tongues. The state of Tamil Nadu has opposed similar three-language systems in the past, only giving official status to Tamil and emphasizing both Tamil and English language education.
At the time, Congress Leader Shashi Tharoor noted that this was unfair because most students in South Indian states like Tamil Nadu and Karnataka would be required to learn Hindi, but students whose native language is Hindi wouldn’t have to learn Tamil or other Dravidian languages spoken in the southern states.
Supporters of the most recent version of the policy, which was officially approved this July and aims to reshape the Indian education system throughout 2021, have stated that it is unlikely that the new policy would impose Hindi, and even argued that it would do the opposite, however some politicians remain skeptical.
This isn’t the first time tensions have risen in India over Hindi language imposition. India’s linguistic diversity has often been a point of pride throughout the nation’s history, but has also been a source of unease for some. Tamil Nadu in particular has been especially opposed to giving Hindi official status at the local level, with numerous anti-Hindi protests occurring in both the country’s pre- and post-Independence periods. Around 90% of the state’s population speaks Tamil natively, with relatively few using Hindi as a second language.
The most recent anti-Hindi agitation in Tamil Nadu occurred in 2014, when the Ministry of Home Affairs ordered government officials to prioritize using Hindi, rather than English, in external communications such as social media postings. Activists suggested that this might cut off Tamil-speaking and other non-Hindi-speaking users from accessing such communication; as a result of the objection, the order was rescinded.