- Nirmala Sitharaman, S Jaishankar tweet on National Education Policy Draft
- Promise that government will seek feedback before implementing
- Draft, accused of trying to push Hindi in schools, provoked outrage
Hindi will not be thrust upon any state, the government said on Sunday, stepping up its damage control amid a controversy over the draft version of the National Education Policy 2019, which is seen by many in the southern states as an attempt to impose Hindi on school students.
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Foreign Minister S Jaishankar posted identical messages on Twitter, assuring that the draft will be reviewed before implementation. Both the ministers are from Tamil Nadu - the state which has been loudest in its objections - and their tweets were in Tamil.
Vice President Venkaiah Naidu also defended the government, asking people to study, analyse and debate the draft policy and not draw hasty conclusions.
The chorus against the policy refused to die down on Sunday, with Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy and Congress lawmaker from Kerala Shashi Tharoor issuing warnings against the forced imposition of the Hindi language on South Indian states, a sentiment previously expressed by former Finance Minister P Chidambaram and DMK leader MK Stalin among others.
"Only after hearing public opinion the draft policy will be implemented. Only to nurture all Indian languages PM launched EkBharatSreshthaBharat. The Centre would support to honour and develop the ancient Tamil language," tweeted Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, not ruling out implementation of the controversial draft note.
The assurances followed explanations from the Union Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal and his predecessor Prakash Javadekar a day ago that did not appear to quell the concerns.
Its not clear if the public opinion/feedback they talk about would be made state-wise for specific state-wise decisions or will it be across the country in general.
"Most of us in the South learn Hindi as a second language but nobody in the North is learning Malayalam or Tamil," Mr Tharoor was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.
His comment appeared to be a rebuttal to defenders of the draft NEP like Karnataka BJP leader Tejasvi Surya who said the policy also encourages students in Hindi-speaking states to learn languages from other states.
In a series of tweets, Mr Surya had also said: "The NEP doesn't impose, rather encourages, learning Hindi as a language in school."
Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy also spoke out on the language debate. "One language should not be imposed on others for any reason in the name of three-language policy," he wrote in Kannada on Twitter.
On Friday a panel led by Krishnaswamy Kasturirangan, a former chief of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), had put forward a report that said while the "three language formula" followed in a section of schools since 1968 should be continued and that "children will now be immersed in three languages early on, starting from the Foundational Stage onwards."
It sparked a popular campaign on social media on Saturday, with thousands of people protesting what was seen by many as an effort to make Hindi mandatory till Class 8.
The issue of Hindi becoming a mandatory subject across schools in South India is an emotive one, particularly in Tamil Nadu; the region saw anti-Hindi protests from 1937 to 1940 and again in 1965.
The incident led to an assurance by the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru that Hindi will not be imposed on non-Hindi speaking states till they want and English would continue as a link language.