The three-language formula debate is back to draw a wide wedge in the North-South socio-political discourse. Understandably, Southern states, particularly Tamil Nadu, have come down heavily against what they perceive to be an imposition of the Hindi language, especially in the absence of a two-way reciprocal arrangement of language study. The National Education Policy draft recommends Hindi as a third ‘link’ language in schools across the country. The consequent powerful backlash put the government in a sticky corner, forcing it to issue an expedient clarification that it was only a draft report and not the final policy. In its earlier draft, the panel had proposed making Hindi compulsory in non-Hindi-speaking states.
The genesis of the formula has its roots in 1968, when it was first mooted by the Centre and articulated in its education policy. In 1965, Tamil Nadu resisted vociferously the proposal to make Hindi the only official language. Going back further in time, it was Mahatma Gandhi who came up with the ‘Hindi movement’, with the establishment of the Dakshina Bharat Hindi Prachar Sabha in 1918 to improve Hindi literacy in the South. But the vision was greater than what may be peddled now — better integration of the two realms in the interest of the nation, as Hindi was spoken by the largest section of the populace. Gandhi involved local people in the movement of their own free will. Hundreds of such centres abound across the region.
The times have since changed. Dredging up the issue again and again makes little sense, more so when the experiment has met with failure across the country. There are not enough teachers and students lose interest since they find their regional language and English more useful for job prospects. The spirit of India inheres in its linguistic diversity, which must be celebrated. A push toward Hindi regency will be a red line. Languages are meant to build bridges of communication and empathy, not barriers. A cauterised South will run counter to the one-India principle. The formula has run a full circle. Now, for a full stop.