Language is a personal choice Hindi conundrum

Learning a language is a personal choice. It cannot and should not be thrust down anyone’s throat. Perhaps this universally irrefutable line blew over the head of Union  Home Minister Amit Shah while announcing that Hindi will be made a compulsory subject till Class X for the North Eastern States of India. Communicate in Hindi, instead of English is the one line statement that may be inferred from the announcement of the Union Home Minister, but here it is important to distinguish between learning a language as a subject in school or college or knowing how to speak the said language. There are many in the country, especially in the North East region of the country, who can speak fluent English but the minute you ask them to write a comprehensible essay in English, many more will be found wanting. There must be many more who can speak passable Hindi but will be lost when asked to read the same in the fine print or from the text book. This is where the Centre should come clear. Is it that New Delhi wants all the people to know how to speak Hindi or know how to read and write Hindi ? The difference here must be clear to all those who can speak passable Hindi or Bazar Hindi-as is understood by many in the North East-and those who are literate in Hindi as a subject. The Centre will need to spell this out before going ahead with the grandiose plan of making Hindi compulsory for all students in the North East till Class X. On the other hand, it was also interesting to note that the Union Home Minister mentioned only the North East, but not the other parts of the country where Hindi is not as widely spoken as in say Bihar or Uttar Pradesh or Gujarat. Will the announcement of Amit Shah find any takers in say Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala or Karnataka ? This is a question which can best be answered by looking at how the DMK came to power in the latter part of 1960s. Moreover how true is it that a language defines a country like India ? This is a question worth pondering over and there will be different takes on this and the Hindi debate may not just die. If it was South India, particularly Tamil Nadu in the 1960s, it may well now become the North East. One wonders what Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma will have to say if and when this poser is raised to him.
Learning Hindi or any new language can only be to the advantage of the person who has learnt it. But as noted earlier here, it should be a choice and should not be thrust down anyone’s throat. Moreover, learning it in the classroom will not make anyone learn how to speak the language. Best exemplified by many in the North East who know how to speak in English but have problems while writing an essay in the said language. Imposition can never be equated to learning and this is a point which should sink on anyone and not only those advocating for making Hindi a compulsory subject in the North East till Class X. Students should be given the choice and hope this point is not lost on anyone, particularly amongst those who have raised their opposition to make Hindi compulsory. As things stand, many from the North East, including six student organisations from Manipur have raised their voice against the move of the Centre and while the BJP led Government at Imphal has not said anything as yet, its partner in Government, the NPF has already spoken out its mind against the said move in Nagaland. Language surely is a delicate and sensitive issue and if not handled right, what happened in South India, may well just happen here in the North East.