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Assam wish to don Hindi mantle
Published on 31 Aug. 2009 11:29 PM IST
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Assam’s secondary education board wants to make Hindi a compulsory subject in the Class X board exams so that students do not face a language barrier when they travel outside the state. The proposal, which comes despite traditional opposition to Hindi by a lobby that believes the language is an imposition by “mainland India”, will be placed before the state government soon. “Apart from Assamese and English (which too are compulsory), students will have to study Hindi at the high-school level under the three-language formula,” board secretary D. Mahanta said. “Although English is the global language, one must know Hindi thoroughly to deal with various kinds of situations in India…. We hope to introduce Hindi as a compulsory subject either from 2010-11 or 2011-12.” Under India’s language policy, states are encouraged to teach schoolchildren English, the state’s main language and another Indian language (Hindi in non-Hindi-speaking states) — with linguistic minorities free to study their mother tongue as a fourth language. These are merely guidelines and, in states like Bengal, Hindi is an optional subject. Mahanta said that though Hindi was now taught from Class V to VII, most Assam students learnt it superficially. “So they often face problems when they go outside.” Now they must study the language from Class V to X, and score at least 30 per cent in it in class and board exams. Pabitra Kumar Deka, principal of Cotton Collegiate Government Higher Secondary School, and Kamaleswar Bora, former vice-chancellor of Dibrugarh University, welcomed the move. Bora said that once the students were taught Hindi properly, “it can compensate for their relative ignorance of English when they venture outside the state”. Young Assamese, exposed to Hindi largely through TV and Bollywood, do speak the language but seldom read or write it. Youths from the region have done well in national Hindi music talent hunts on TV. Amrina R. Talukdar, Class IX student of Disneyland School, wished the board had moved earlier. “I could have learnt Hindi better then,” she said, echoing many other students. Mrinal Hazarika, Class VI student of Cotton, said: “I hope they introduce the subject quickly. I’m sure it will help me… I can even understand Hindi songs better.” An MLA from the ruling Congress, Abdul Khalique of Jonia, too, backed the board’s plan. Hindi was to have become India’s sole official language from January 26, 1965, with English losing its joint official status on that date. As the deadline approached, the DMK launched a violent agitation against “Hindi imposition” in Tamil Nadu. It was called off after then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru promised that English too would remain an official language as long as India’s non-Hindi speaking people wanted it.

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