News: Recently, at the 37th meeting of the Parliamentary Official Language Committee, the Union Home Minister commented that nine tribal communities of the Northeast have converted their dialects’ scripts to Devanagari. Further, all eight states of the Northeast have agreed to make Hindi compulsory in schools up to Class 10.
The comments have led to protests in the several states of the region because Northeast states people speak different language ranging from Indo-Aryan to Tibeto-Burman to Austro-Asiatic families.
What have been the reactions from the North-East Region?
Background: Kokborok has been the official language of Tripura since 1979. It is the lingua franca for most tribes of the state. The language relies upon the Bengali and Roman scripts which were adopted based on studies of the Shyama Charan Tripura Commission and Pabitra Sarkar Commission.
Response: The Roman Script for Kokborok Choba (RSKC) a conglomerate of 56 tribal organisations in Tripura strongly opposed the forcible imposition of Hindi or Devanagari as the script for Kokborok.
It was argued that the imposition of Hindi script might disturb the linguistic balance in Tripura. The brotherhood and balance of Bengali- and Kokborok-speaking people in the states might be upset.
Background: The Mizo language belongs to the Sino-Tibetan family. It is based on the Roman script, introduced by the British a long ago in 1894.
Response: The imposition of the Hindi script has been opposed by the Mizo people.
Background: Manipuri is one of the 22 languages listed in the 8th Schedule of the Constitution. Therefore, Hindi and Manipuri have the same status. Further, Manipur’s Meitei Mayek or Manipuri script is recognised by the Government of Manipur. In fact, it is a 2,000 years old script.
Response: The Manipur student organization protested against the proposal of Hindi as a compulsory subject up to Class X in Manipur and of Hindi script. In fact, it would put extra pressure on students and hinder development of the local language. Therefore, they decried the imposition of Hindi as a majoritarian policy.
(D) Arunachal Pradesh
Background: Arunachal Pradesh is a multi-ethnic and multi-linguistic state. A UNESCO survey identified 33 languages as endangered and 4 as critically endangered.
Response: It is argued that Hindi can act as a bridge language in Arunachal Pradesh. However, Hindi cannot be imposed as it would further distort the language dynamics.
Background: First, Assamese and Bodo are spoken in Assam. Both are listed in the 8th Schedule. Second, While Assamese uses an ancient script of its own, Bodo is written in the Devanagari script. Third, Assam has dozens of other indigenous languages either having different script or without script.
Response: All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) opposed the proposal of compulsory Hindi up to 10th because the students are already studying Hindi till Class 8.
Further, the Devanagari script debate is not an issue for the Assamese language. However, apart from Hindi language and script, all other tribal and ethnic languages should also be developed in Assam.
Overall argument against the proposal
NE Students’ Union
The North East Students’ Organisation (NESO) opposed “imposition” of Hindi as a compulsory subject. It would be detrimental to the propagation of indigenous languages. It would add another subject to the curriculum.
In fact, the National Education Policy says education should be imparted in the mother language. Hindi is not the mother language of the people of the states in the North-East region.
Source: The post is based on an article “Distortion, imposition: Why North-East groups are against Centre’s Hindi push” published in the Indian Express on 04th May 2022.