NE groups oppose Centre’s Hindi move, call it an ‘imposition’

Several North East-based organisations—including Assam’s apex literary body, the Asom Sahitya Sabha—have urged the Centre to roll back its decision to make Hindi compulsory till Class X in the region.
In a statement on Saturday, the Sabha said that it opposed the move. The statement said, “The Union Home minister should have instead taken steps to develop Assamese and other indigenous languages. Such steps spell a bleak future for Assamese and all indigenous languages in the North East. The Sabha demands that the decision to make Hindi mandatory till Class X be revoked.”
Earlier this week, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, who chairs the Parliamentary Official Language committee, had announced that Hindi would be made compulsory in all eight North Eastern States up to Class X. Speaking at the 37th meeting of the committee, Shah had said that 2,200 Hindi teachers had been recruited in the North East, adding that Hindi was the “language of India”. He had, however, clarified that Hindi should be an alternative to English and not local languages.
In the North East, Hindi is compulsorily taught till Class VIII except in Arunachal Pradesh where the language is the lingua franca and is a mandatory subject till Class X.
Shah’s comment has evoked sharp reactions from civil society groups as well as political parties in the North East. The North East Students’ Organisation, an umbrella group of student bodies in the region, called it an “imposition”. “We have always maintained the three language formula be followed — English Hindi and the local language,” said chairman Samuel B Jywra. “The mother language should be compulsory and Hindi can be made the alternative.”
The Congress also objected to Shah’s announcement. Leader of the Opposition in Assam, Debabrata Saikia, slammed the Centre for interfering with education, which is a “State subject”. “Learning Hindi at the expense of English will deprive our students of future opportunities,” said Saikia.
Suspended Congress legislator in Meghalaya, Ampareen Lyngdoh, also condemned the move. “I don’t know under which circumstances this decision was taken but, surely, they cannot impose Hindi on Meghalaya  where the Sixth Schedule is in place. This diktat cannot be operational in these areas,” said Lyngdoh.
In Assam, the newly-formed regional parties, Raijor Dal and Assam Jatiya Parishad, also opposed the move. “The High Level committee of Clause VI had recommended that Assamese be made mandatory in all State and Central schools. Even the Chief Minister has often spoken of the trouble Assamese language is in and called for its use,” said Lurinjyoti Gogoi, president of the Assam Jatiya Parishad.
Clause VI of the Assam Accord — a pact that the Union Government signed with Assamese Nationalist groups in 1985 to mark the end of a six-year-long anti-‘foreigner’ Assam Agitation (1979-85) — speaks of Constitutional safeguards to Assamese language and culture.
Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma Saturday said that no direction had been received from the Centre with regard to Shah’s announcement. Speaking to reporters, Sarma defended Shah’s statement. “All he said was that students should learn Hindi. He never said stop learning Assamese. After the mother tongue, a person should know Hindi,” he said.
 The Rising People’s Party (RPP) has also asked the United Democratic Alliance Government in Nagaland to clarify the recent statement of the Union Home Minister that all the eight North Eastern States had agreed to make Hindi compulsory up to class X in their States.
Stating that this is a “very serious issue”, the RPP said there is a lingering suspicion that the State politicians may have given their personal assurance to Shah to make Hindi compulsory up to class X following which he must have made the statement.
The RPP demanded that Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio, Deputy Chief Minister Y Patton, State BJP president Temjen Imna Along and adviser to School Education Department KT Sukhalu issue a clarification in this regard immediately.
“The personal nod given by our State politicians cannot be ruled out because two years back the State Government banned the sale of dog meat on the ‘advisory note’ of a Central leader seated in Delhi having no respect for our Naga sentiments or our culture,” the party said in a statement.
“The proverbial sell-your-mother attitude of the State politicians eager to please Delhi is not only utterly disgusting but shameless too,” it said.
The RPP asserted that it stands for unity in diversity and any attempt to impose Hindi in the State or the country is crass chauvinism and majoritarianism at play. The party said it will oppose such policies tooth and nail. It pointed out that the State educational policy falls under the prerogative of the State Governments and any diktats by the Central Government on the issue are violative of the federal structure of the country and thus unacceptable.
The party added that unlike in the south of India where politicians fiercely guard their regional and linguistic identity, Nagaland being helmed by “spineless leaders” and of late “rank sycophants”, it is absolutely possible that the Union Home Minister indeed extracted the nod from “our politicians” to go ahead with his controversial statement.