Social media is battleground for Hindi policy pushback

Social media is battleground for Hindi policy pushback

Online wars are raging in the wake of a controversial draft national education policy

Many in the southern states are using social media to push back against the Centre’s proposed language policy favouring Hindi.

A big war broke out online on Friday when the Modi government released its draft National Education Policy that proposing Hindi as a compulsory language in all schools across the country. 

This created an uproar in non-Hindi states, especially Tamil Nadu, where the hashtag #StopHindiImposition and #HindiIsNotTheNationalLanguage took over social media.

In Karnataka, Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy criticised the policy. Tejasvi Surya, BJP MP from Bengaluru South, however, said that opposing Hindi was “breaking India’s force.”

He claimed aspects of the policy had been twisted, misinterpreted and misunderstood. He received a lot of flak on Twitter, with comments like: “This (the three-language policy) seems to be implemented in non-Hindi speaking states only.”

Tejasvi tweeted again, saying that those opposing Hindi are against the integrity of India: "These ‘Breaking India’ forces are afraid that if this policy sees the light of the day, their hideous agenda of disintegrating Bharat by peddling false narratives will fall flat."

Ministry of Railways Suresh Angadi supported the draft, describing Hindi as a ‘national language,’ and perpetuating a lie promoted by many champions of the language. 

But here’s the thing — India has 22 official languages. The Central Government conducts its business in two languages: English and Hindi. 

Many schools teach children that Hindi is our national language, and generations have grown up unaware of the Constitutional protection for other languages. 

After the controversy erupted, central minister Prakash Javadekar said the policy was still a draft and no decision had been taken on making Hindi mandatory.

Non-Hindi states say the privilege accorded to Hindi will turn them into second-class citizens.

Tamil Nadu is at the forefront of the fight, and goes with a two-language formula, with Tamil and English, at the school level. Many Tamils are tweeting against the draft. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K Palaniswami on Wednesday said Tamil should be an optional language in other states.

The Facebook page ‘Stop Hindi Imposition’ is inviting all non-Hindi speaking groups to connect and put up a combined resistance.

Groups from Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra, West Bengal and Punjab have joined forces on the page. The divide is clear on Twitter: South Indians mostly want to preserve their languages while a majority of Hindi speakers are pushing for compulsory Hindi.

People's voice

Many in Bengaluru are voicing their opinion against the draft policy.

Gowri Om, co-founder, BRC Audio Newscast, “The federal system is devoid of the local context, which the state governments should safeguard. To impose a language is to wipe out the history of a people. We know that through history we have studied. Dravidian culture has lost the dominance of its own narrative because of gentrification. The cultures of Tamil, Malayalam and Kannada predates the formation of Hindi.”

Nitya Sriram, content manager, says, “Hindi is the mother tongue of only 44 per cent Indians. What we must realise is that there are so many other languages and ethnicities whose narratives are obliterated when you try and impose a singular language. Where’s ‘unity in diversity’ in this new-era nationalism? So many years on, this shouldn’t even be a debate. When the country was divided linguistically, we accepted these differences. The fight isn’t against the Hindi language or culture though; it’s against this new wave of nationalism that seeks to unite under a controversial ‘unifier’.”

City activists meeting CM, MPs

Arun Javagal, member of Bengaluru-based group Banavasi Balaga, says social media has helped collate voices from across the city and the drive the language equality campaign.

“At the banks, railways and other places, we have heard so many instances where non-Hindi speakers have been treated poorly for not speaking the language. Union government exams can be taken only in Hindi and English,” he says.

This results in employment being denied to those who don’t know Hindi. Apart from voicing out on social media, the team is planning to meet the chief minister and MPs of the state. “We want to educate the newly elected MPs about what Hindi imposition is actually about. We realised that most of them don’t know what it actually implies,” he told Metrolife.

What’s A R Rahman saying?

The usually circumspect music composer A R Rahman has left a mysterious message on the controversy:

He says "Autonomous" and links the word to its meaning in the Cambridge dictionary: "independent and having the power to make your own decisions" and "an autonomous organisation, country, or region that is independent and has the freedom to govern itself".

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