School buildings are often used as voter registration and polling booths
School buildings are often used as voter registration and polling boothsUNICEF

The contentious three-language clause in the draft of the National Education Policy (NEP) has been removed after public backlash in several non-Hindi speaking southern states of India, particularly Tamil Nadu. The revised draft of the policy that is up on the Ministry of Human Resources and Development (MHRD) website does not mention Hindi as compulsory along with English and other recognised Indian national language.

The BJP-led government is trying to strengthen its foothold in the southern states especially Tamil Nadu and Kerala where it did not do well in the recently concluded Lok Sabha elections. The removal of Hindi language as a compulsory one in the schools from standard VI onwards is seen as a step in the same direction.

Senior Officials in the MHRD told the Deccan Herald that the paragraph mentioning the inclusion of Hindi language as a compulsory one in the draft had crept into it and now stands removed. However, the officials declined to state why it was removed.  

How language debate stirred controversy in South India

The non-Hindi speaking states in India, especially down south, have always preferred their regional languages over Hindi which is the official language of the country. In the recent past, the controversy surrounding making Kannada mandatory in all the schools of Karnataka also drew criticism especially from the north Indian communities settled there.

The idea of the inclusion of Hindi in the language curriculum across all the schools of the country revolved around inclusivity and nationalism which certainly hold ground in North India. But in South India, it has arguably stirred a controversy with the various groups criticising the Narendra Modi-led government for imposing language supremacy on them.

The earlier draft of the Education policy read: "In keeping with the principle of flexibility, students who wish to change one of the three languages they are studying may do so in grade 6, so long as the study of three languages by students in the Hindi-speaking states would continue to include Hindi and English and one of the modern Indian languages from other parts of India, while the study of languages by students in the non-Hindi speaking states would include the regional language, Hindi and English."

The paragraph now stands missing and there is a reference to the three languages as a promotor of multilingual communicative abilities in India. The policy also suggests that the efforts should be made by the teachers in schools across the Hindi-speaking areas to teach regional dialects as well to develop unity in a multicultural and multilingual society.