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Protests Against Hindi in Northeastern States

  • 11 Apr 2022
  • 7 min read

For Prelims: Three-language policy, Sixth Schedule of the Constitution, Constitutional Provisions Related to Language, Kothari Commision 1968

For Mains: Government Policies & Interventions, Identity politics, Linguistic Organization of States, Kothari Commision 1968, Unity in diversity

Why in the News?

Recently, the Government of India provided that Hindi would be made compulsory up to Class 10 in the eight northeastern states.

  • Hindi is described as “the language of India”.
  • However, the move has been met with protests from various organisations in the Northeast. Also, several south Indian states have criticised the central government decision.
  • Instead, these groups are supportive of three-language policy – English, Hindi and the local language.

What are the Arguments Presented by Northeastern Organization?

  • Sixth Schedule: The state is protected by the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution and the Centre would not be able to impose Hindi on the students.
  • Discrimination: Centre’s move will provide Hindi-speakers the economic, academic and administrative edge and let them control non-Hindi speaking regions of the country in the long run.

What is the Issue with Hindi Language and Identity?

  • Linguistic Organization of States: In India most of the states have been formed on linguistic basis.
    • Conflicts over identity, especially over languages tend to be escalated due to limited resources in India.
  • Examples of Linguistic Division: The status of language has been a critical issue that has caused division of states in the past.
    • Such states as Andhra Pradesh (1st state formed on linguistic basis), Punjab and Gujarat were created due to statehood demand on linguistic basis.
  • Instrument of Managing Conflict: Language policy is one method by which governments attempt to manage ethnic conflict.
    • Thus, to develop federal cooperation, autonomy of the states over language policy can be a more viable option than the imposition of a three language formula.

What is the Three-Language Formula & Its Need?

  • About: Three-Language Formula was first proposed by Kothari Commision 1968. Under this scheme:
    • First language: It will be the mother tongue or regional language.
    • Second language: In Hindi speaking states, it will be other modern Indian languages or English. In non-Hindi speaking states, it will be Hindi or English.
    • Third Language: In Hindi speaking states, it will be English or a modern Indian language. In the non-Hindi speaking state, it will be English or a modern Indian language.
  • Need: The primary aim is to promote multilingualism and national harmony.
    • The Kothari Committee’s report observes that learning languages is an important part of a child’s cognitive development.
  • Modus Operandi: At the secondary stage, State governments were to adopt the three-language formula.
    • It included the study of a modern Indian language, preferably one of the southern languages, apart from Hindi and English in the Hindi-speaking States.
    • In the ‘non-Hindi speaking States’, Hindi should be studied along with the regional language and English.
  • Issue in Implementation: The states in the hindi belt (such as in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar) could not promote learning of south Indian languages under a three language formula.
    • The states like Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Tripura were not ready to teach Hindi in their school curriculum.
    • Instead they demanded autonomy of this issue.

What are Constitutional Provisions Related to Languages?

  • Article 29 of the Constitution of India protects the interests of minorities. The Article states that any section of the citizens who have a distinct language, script or culture of its own shall have the right to conserve the same.
  • Article 343 is about the official language of the Union of India. According to this Article, it is to be Hindi in Devnagri script, and numerals should follow the international form of Indian numerals.
    • This Article also states that English will continue to be used as an official language for 15 years from the commencement of the Constitution.
  • Article 346 is about the official language for communication between the states and between a state and the Union.
    • The Article states that the “authorised” language will be used. However, if two or more states agree that their communications shall be in Hindi, then Hindi may be used.
  • Article 347 gives the President the power to recognise a language as an official language of a given state, provided that the President is satisfied that a substantial proportion of that state desires that the language be recognised.
    • Such recognition can be for a part of the state or the whole state.
  • Article 350A facilities for instruction in mother-tongue at the primary stage.
  • Article 350B provides for the establishment of a Special Officer for linguistic minorities.
    • The Officer shall be appointed by the President and shall investigate all matters relating to the safeguards for linguistic minorities, reporting directly to the President.
    • The President may then place the reports before each house of the Parliament or send them to the governments of the states concerned.
  • Article 351 gives power to the union government to issue a directive for development of the Hindi language.
  • The Eighth Schedule of the Constitution of India contains a list of 22 recognised schedule languages.

Way Forward

  • Unity in diversity has always been the strength of India. Therefore, in the context of identity associated with language and India being a federal polity, both center and states should follow cooperative models and avoid language hegemony/chauvinism.

Source: TH

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