Education

BJP's Linguistic Agenda Is Antithetical to Progress and Education

Whom exactly does Amit Shah want to impose the learning of Hindi on in south India and the northeast? Clearly, this proposal is only applicable to poor children in villages who study at government schools.

A few days ago, I was giving lectures around the Silicon Valley in California. The IT hub of the world, the Silicon Valley is the site of several pioneering endeavours in the recent past – Apple, Google and so on – and various innovations in the field of electronics which spurred the internet revolution.

South Indians working in different fields ranging from IT to electronic engineering in the Silicon Valley outnumber north Indians. Representation of Indians from the Hindi-cow belt in any one of the major IT and electronic companies is meagre. The top executives of two of the biggest IT companies in the US – Satya Nadendla and Sundar Pichai – are from south India. Why? Not because of Hindi, but English.

South Indians, apart from learning their regional language – Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu or Kannada – learnt English with more emphasis. The movement to learn only two languages at the level of school education by entirely avoiding Hindi was led by Tamil Nadu because of E.V. Ramaswamy Naickers’ anti-Hindi Dravida Khazagam Movement.

Kerala developed its own model of advancing English medium education by negating Hindi because of the presence of a large number of Christian English medium schools. Telugu states and Karnataka were also influenced by the models of Tamil Nadu and Kerala. The first Dalit president of India, K.R.Narayanan, and the first Dalit Chief Justice of India, K.G. Balakrishnan, came from Kerala. These men were not simply handpicked but had built a name for themselves before reaching high positions. Why? Not because of Hindi, but English.

Now the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy has taken a new step to introduce English medium teaching in all government schools with one compulsory Telugu subject, which no North Indian chief minister would dare to do. Gujarat has very poor levels of English education. The educational development patterns in South India are far higher than those of any north Indian State’s and more so than in the Hindi-Cow belt.

Additionally, the youth from the northeastern states have secured entry into some of the best educational institutions due to their English medium education and, in the next few decades, are likely to lead in many fields if English continues to be their primary medium. The RSS and the BJP view this development unfavourably and any attempt to impose Hindi in the northeast will be unwelcome.

Also read: Language Policy: Education in English Must Not Be the Prerogative of Only the Elites

Amit Shah and the BJP however, have plans to turn the clock back and impose Hindi on south India and the north-east and eliminate English, thereby bringing the whole country down to the educational level and standard of the Hindi-cow belt. Only then will the BJP have accomplished their goal of establishing a Hindu-Hindi Rashtra.

I am sceptical of their denial regarding the imposition of Hindi – which has been a long-standing agenda of the BJP and the RSS – despite the fact that Prime Minister Narendra Modi attempted to assuage fears in Houston on September 22 about Amit Shah’s recent remarks. For greater impact, the prime minister could have clarified this issue while he was in India instead of choosing to address it in a foreign country.

The BJP’s long term goal of establishing Hindu-Hindi-Hindustan nationhood and slowly proposing a change in the name of the nation from India – the Bharat as it exists in the preamble of the constitution – to Hindustan is well known.

In this whole scheme, Pakistan is the model and competition with the theocratic and backward Muslim nations is the direction. The competition is not with China or South Africa who have made significant headway with a spirit of global competition with Europe and America. Their focus on learning English is like ours in south India.

School children observe Hindi divas. Photo: PTI

Language is a key link in modernisation and also in the post-modernisation phase. Former French colonies in Africa are not insisting on promoting education in their native languages and are slowly shifting from even French to English. Their economic growth is faster now because of their global integration with English language communication and techno-economy development.

The BJP and RSS leaders do not have any serious understanding of the global direction of linguistic and cultural spheres. Even in Israel, which the BJP and RSS venerate, pushing for English education, apart from Hebrew, is a common cultural shift.

In India, the entire industrial class that finances the BJP and the RSS hardly cares for Hindi. The linguistic and cultural class difference in north India is far greater than it is in south India. In the south, all sections have realised the need for learning English along with their regional languages. Hence the linguistic and cultural gap is narrowing while in north India it remains wide and the poverty of economic and cultural resources is stark.

Can Amit Shah or the RSS force all the top industries that are running global standard English medium schools for the children of the rich to shift to Hindi medium in north India? Can Amit Shah coerce his party leaders into sending their children in the north and south to Hindi medium schools? Whom exactly does Shah want to impose the learning of Hindi on in south India and the northeast? Clearly, this proposal is only applicable to poor children in villages who study at government schools.

Dalits, OBCs and even the upper Shudras must be very cautious regarding the sentimental language discourse being propounded by the Hindutva forces. Their children are only now catching up with modern civilizational and globalised cultures. If they allow themselves to get carried away with Hindutva fantasies of one nation, one language and one culture, they risk slipping back into medieval poverty, ignorance and inequality.

Also read: For Schools in Rural India, the Appropriate Language of Instruction Remains a Conundrum

Comparing the scientific tempers of people in the Hindi-cow belt and south India, it is evident that the absence of superstition, ignorance and exploitation in south India have contributed to an atmosphere conducive for scientific thinking.

Knowledge levels and assertion for social, economic and political equality in south India is much higher. A child who learns a language of global communication, which is rich in its vocabulary, would have better confidence and knowledge than a child who is fluent in a language that is spoken by a small group of people or one small region.

The BJP and the RSS are already inflicting a lot of damage to universities by weakening the study of social and natural sciences. Their belief that puranic science and mythology books will engender knowledge of all the sciences is laughable. They deploy fake scientists as DNA and archaeological science specialists and declare that all theories of human migration by global scientists are wrong. The scientific world is treating all this as a joke. Now their politicians are trying to tell we must learn Hindi by giving up all other languages only then the Akhand Bharat will become the land of gold and silver.

All south Indians, fortunately, rebelled against Amit Shah’s absurd Hindi-Hindu-Hindustan theory. To keep our children’s future safe, we must stick to a two-language formula like Tamil Nadu and strengthen our scientific temper so that India does not get colonised by fast-developing countries like China again.

Kancha Ilaih Shepherd is political theorist, social activist and author.

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