[lg policy] India: Fight for the mother tongue

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Tue Feb 9 14:24:13 UTC 2010

Fight for the mother tongue
Some lessons to be learnt
By Sudarshan Kumar Kapur

The NCERT claims to be a professional autonomous body to guide and
advise the Ministry of HRD in matters of school education,
particularly in the context of curriculum framing and renewal but it
is conducting itself most unprofessionally in these matters and
becoming a handy tool of the vested interests in the field of

FOLLOWING a proposal submitted by Bangladesh at UNESCO’s General
Conference in 1999, UNESCO proclaimed that “21st February will be
observed every year as International Mother Language Day” to celebrate
linguistic pluralism and cultural diversity and protect and preserve
the heritage of humanity.

February 21corresponds to and commemorates the Shaheed Day, the
Language Martyrs’ Day. It was on this day in 1952, that a number of
Bengalis of the then East Pakistan laid down their lives to protect
their mother tongue. It marks a red letter day in the history of
freedom struggle of Bangladesh. To recall the events briefly, Mr.
Nazeemudin, the then Prime Minister of Pakistan declared on January
26, 1952 that Urdu alone would be the state language of Pakistan. This
dictatorial dictate of Pakistan-rulers irreparably offended the
sentiments and sensibilities of Bengali speaking people of then East
Pakistan. It sparked off a language agitation in East Pakistan. They
set up a broad-based All Party Committee of Action which called a
general strike on February 21. Five people were killed in the police
firing. On February 22, four more people fell to police bullets during
mourning prayers that were being offered for the previous day’s
victims. Bowing to the public pressure, Chief Minister Noor-ul-Amin
moved a motion recommending to the Constituent Assembly that Bengali
should be one of the state Language of Pakistan. The motion was passed
unanimously but the seeds of disintegration of Pakistan had been sown
in then East Pakistan in 1952 itself by this single foolish act of
Pakistan rulers. Mother tongue or mother language of people proved a
stronger bond than the religion.

The lesson of the story is that whenever the establishment or those
who are at the helm of affairs curb the mother language of people of a
state and try to impose an alien language over the country in matters
of state or education, the results are bound to be disastrous for the
country because such an untenable and foolish policy has ingredients
in it to disintegrate the society and prove harmful to the country’s
ethos, values and culture. Unfortunately, this is the policy which is
being pursued by our rulers in India for last more than four decades
or so. This writer will come to this matter a bit later.

It is estimated that half of the world’s 6000 to 7000 languages are
facing the risk of dying out and may disappear in the next 20 years.
Take the case of Indian languages. The VIII schedule of the
Constitution specifies our regional or state languages viz. Assamese,
Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Malayalam,
Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Oriya, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Sindhi, Tamil,
Telugu, Urdu etc.

It is unfortunate that the elite of the country is imposing on the
country a language other than the child’s mother tongue in matters of
his education even at primary stage just to serve their vested
interests and fulfill their nefarious designs against all the tenets
of education. They are giving so much primacy to English at this level
that the Indian languages face a grave risk of decay and denigration.
Some chief ministers and bureaucrats at the helm of affairs in various
states have introduced English in addition to the mother tongue or
regional language at the primary stage against all principles of
education and are flouting the language policy of the Central
Government with impunity and the greatest tragedy in this context is
that the NCERT is abetting the vested interests in their evil designs
with inputs from its own side and turning schools into what can be
termed as “torture cells.”

Unprofessionalism of NCERT

The NCERT claims to be a professional autonomous body to guide and
advise the Ministry of HRD in matters of school education,
particularly in the context of curriculum framing and renewal but it
is conducting itself most unprofessionally in these matters and
becoming a handy tool of the vested interests in the field of
education. It is what the NCERT states in the “Guidelines and Syllabi
for Primary Stage”. “The National Curriculum Framework for School
Education reiterates that the medium of instruction at the Primary
stage should be the mother tongue/regional language. It also
prescribes the study of only one language i.e. the mother
tongue/regional language at the primary stage!” Does the NCERT believe
in it? And if so, how “English” and its teaching-learning fits in the
scheme of things i.e. in the curriculum at the primary stage. This
means acceptance of two languages in the curriculum transaction at
primary stage. Obviously, the sufferer will be the mother tongue/
regional language and hence the learning of the child. Why should a
professional body like NCERT be a party to the uneducational and
nefarious designs of the vested interests? The NCERT owes explanation
to the nation on this point. These machiavellian machinations in
framing or transaction of curriculum need to be stopped forthwith.

It is unfortunate and hypocritical that the instruction of the child
through his/her mother tongue at the elementary level of education
does not form an essential part of CMP professedly meant for the
welfare of common people and it is not for nothing that all TV
channels and electronic media are transmitting their programmes and
advertising in Hindi and Indian languages, despite the ill-conceived
essentials of Globalisation. Even Foreign Electronic Media like BBC,
Discovery, Animal Planet and other TV channels have started dubbing
their programmes in Hindi and other Indian regional languages.

No one can deny the fact that in almost in all developed, democratic
and independent countries in Europe (like Germany, France, Denmark,
Sweden, Switzerland etc.) and all over world, mother tongue of the
child is the medium of instruction. Do these countries and their
leaders have no sense of what our leaders and administrators mean by
Globalisation in context of education through a language other than
the child’s mother tongue?

What is emphasised here is that there is an urgent need to protect
mother tongue and other regional languages of India and promote and
develop each of them as meaningful and effective medium of instruction
and expression, if we have to preserve our cultural heritage and
protect our linguistic pluralism and cultural diversity against the
consistent assault of vested interests and forces inimical to our
languages and culture. And there is no better occasion than the
International Mother Language Day to pledge to work towards that end.


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