Protest against the imposition of Hindi/Modern Indian languages upon the students of the North-East

April 5, 2013

North-East Forum for International Solidarity (NEFIS) Press Statement :: April 5, 2013

Today a large number of students from different communities of the North-East and concerned individuals gheraoed the HRD ministry. This protest was organized by NEFIS (North-East Forum for International Solidarity) along with a number of other progressive organizations and individuals. We also submitted a memorandum (a copy of which is attached herewith) to the ministry of HRD Ministry, stating our concerns and demanding its immediate intervention to stop imposition of a compulsory Hindi language/Modern Indian Language (MIL) course by Delhi University (DU). This protest at the HRD Ministry has been preceded by three protests by north-east students at the University level. A delegation of 5 students met with Senior Secretary of Higher Education in the HRD Ministry, who received the memorandum saying that he had already been instructed by the HRD Minister to look into the issue “positively”.

In the coming academic year Delhi University administration is going to introduce a new syllabus according to which it would become compulsory for students of all courses to do a foundational course during the first year of their graduation. In this foundation course they would be required to opt for a language which would either be Hindi or one of the Modern Indian languages (MILs). It is our opinion that the compulsory imposition of Hindi and other MILs would cause immense hardships for the students who belong to communities that speak neither Hindi nor one of the MILs. There would be problems even for the communities that speak MILs like Manipuri, Assamese, etc. because the infrastructure and faculty strength for teaching these languages is inadequate to be able to cover the whole of university.

This imposition of a compulsory language course amounts to nothing less than cultural chauvinism on part of the University administration directed against the communities from the North-East. This is because most of the North-East students are not adept in any of the languages of the mainland India. The new DU syllabus, if it is allowed to come into force, would put the students of the North-East under serious disadvantage vis-à-vis students of rest of the country. This gross neglect of the special needs of the students of the North-East is not a new thing. It is our observation that in the framing of university polices the interests of the students from the North-East is always neglected. It is for this reason that we made this fresh instance of bias an occasion for us to rise above community lines and put forward a united protest to safeguard our common interests.

The protesting students and youth have resolved that if nothing positive comes out of its meeting with HRD officials, then it will spread its struggle to the different capital cities in the North-East states, and intensify the campaign amongst DU colleges.

Yours Sincerely

Chinglen Khumukcham
Thanglunmang Khongsai

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Memorandum submitted to MHRD

The issue of compulsory course in Hindi/MILs in the proposed new syllabus leading to linguistic discrimination on part of Delhi University toward students of the marginalized communities.

We are submitting this memorandum to register our deeply felt sense of resentment against the new course structure that is to be introduced by Delhi University next academic year onward. It has come to our notice that as per the requirements of the new course structure it would become compulsory for every student to learn either Hindi or one of the Modern Indian Languages (MIL) as part of the foundational course. [Please see Annexure I attached herewith has a copy of the new proposed syllabus displayed on Delhi University website.] Sir, we are certain that your good office is aware of the fact that MILs consist only of the languages recognized by the 8th schedule of the Constitution of India which consists of Assamese/Axomiya, Bengali, Bodo, Dogri, Gujarati, Hindi Kannada Kashmiri Konkani Maithili Malayalam Manipuri (also Meitei or Meithei), Marathi, Nepali, Oriya, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Santhali, Sindhi,Tamil, Telugu and Urdu. Even from this narrow list, the university has the infrastructure/faculty to offer only a very small number of languages. This means that the languages of a number of communities from all parts of India and particularly the North-East would not be offered to the students by the university. We consider this dismal situation a result, not of the inadequacy of our respective languages but a by-product of the long standing bias and neglect on part of the government of India and the respective state governments in ensuring that the distinct cultural identity and dignity of the marginal/minority groups and communities is preserved. The fact that the languages of so many communities/marginal groups is not given due recognition is not accidental but the unfortunate result of the insolent attitude of an arrogant state that chooses to impose its culture and language upon marginal groups/communities in the manner of a haughty conqueror.

Students from the North-East, if they are forced to opt for the compulsory language course, they would either fail the examination or would pass put with lower grades. If this is allowed to happen then the disadvantage of the youth from the North-East in seeking jobs in the labour market would become worse. It is to be noted that many amongst us have done neither Hindi nor one of the MILs at the secondary school level. In this context the response of the University administration to this grave concern reflects its complete apathy to our fears. The Dean in a statement to India Today (25th March) said that our concerns are baseless because in the new format we would be required to score just 40 per cent in aggregate to pass the semester and so we would pass even if we score just a zero in the compulsory language course ! We are very shocked that the concern of the University does not go beyond than merely ensuring that we pass our exams. Sir, we did not come all the way to Delhi from our respective states to merely pass the exam. Like students from the rest of the country, we too dream of scoring well in the exams and getting good jobs. Sir, it is high time that the government recognizes our right to equality of opportunity with the students from the rest of the country. The government and the institutions run by it cannot shirk from their responsibility to pay particular attention to the special needs of the vulnerable sections of the society, but so far the attitude of the University administration has been most disappointing. Despite three protests and the submission of a memorandum by us, the University administration did not deem it necessary to even reply to us and instead treated us like criminals. Gates to the dean’s office, which usually remain open for thoroughfare, were shut in our faces, tight security was clamped down, heavily armed police was called in and we were video recorded every time we tried to meet the Dean or the Vice-Chancellor to convey our message. The security guards hurled dirty abuses upon us and some of us were even manhandled. Apart from this the University administration has even been resorting to making individual telephone calls and intimidation of our organizers. This is hardly a record becoming of the premier institution of learning of a country that claims itself to be the world’s largest democracy. Sir it is not the sheer size that makes a country great, the spirit of inclusiveness and sensitivity toward the vulnerable sections are by far the much more important criteria. The repressive tactics used by the University administration has lead us to lose faith that the institutions run by the government of India are capable of living up to the highest standards of democratic spirit and inclusiveness that the oppressed minorities of this country expect of it.

The present bias on part of the University administration is by no means a new phenomenon. Over the years we have come across numerous instances of deliberate discrimination toward students from the North-East. We are much saddened that last year hundreds of students from the North-East have failed their examination because the University administration bypassed its own stipulation that exempts students from the North-East from the compulsory examination in Hindi. [Please see Annexure II attached herewith has a copy of the application given by the university students to the University, seeking exemption from the compulsory Hindi exam and a copy of the official reply by the University in which it has bypassed its own academic council resolutions.]

Universities should ideally be the centres of progressive ideas and take the lead in rooting out the biases rampant in the society but unfortunately Delhi University is failing to live up to this expectation. The name ‘university’ itself suggests that it cannot belong to a narrow clique or vested interest group. A university is a place where all kinds of ideas come together and are allowed to co-exist and vie with each other. Through our protest we wish to impress upon your office that it is against the very spirit of the ‘university’ that a small clique/council/office/bureaucrats be allowed to legislate upon its future. This is particularly so in the present case because the imposition of the languages of majority/dominant communities upon students would affect the fates of not just the present lot of students studying in the university. This in fact is a decision that would affect students to-be in future too and moreover students to-be not just from Delhi or the North-India but from all parts of the country. Given the wide scope of the ramifications of this decision, it is beyond our comprehension as to why it is being taken in such a peremptory, secretive and bureaucratic manner. The gravity of this issue demands that a decision be taken only after rigorous debates, in consultation with wide sections of the society and keeping in mind the particular needs of the marginalized groups/communities. We must declare any attempt to the contrary as a step emanating out of the overweening ambitions of a narrow clique too eager to earn laurels through the implementation of speedy ‘reforms’. Through this memorandum, we wish to convey our warning to your office that if immediate steps are not taken to remove this discrimination, we would be forced to further intensify our movement and resort to other democratic means to agitate.

We appeal to the good office of your office to kindly intervene into this matter and ensure the following:
– Make the compulsory Hindi/MIL course optional.
– Take immediate steps to develop the infrastructure, adequate faculty and syllabus for the MILs presently offered by the University.
– Immediately look into the matter of students who were illegally forced to take the compulsory Hindi exam in the older format resulting in their failure in the University examination and ensure that they are provided the best possible remedy
– Provide other kinds of remedies/reliefs that this ministry may deem fit, apt and just to ensure the welfare of the affected students.
Yours sincerely,

Chinglen Khumukcham
Thanglunmang Khongsai

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Protest against the imposition of Hindi/Modern Indian languages upon the students of the North-East

March 26, 2013

On 22nd March, NEFIS (North-East Forum for International Solidarity) organized a massive demonstration consisting of around 200 people to protest against the imposition of Hindi/Modern Indian languages upon the students of the North-East, to most of whom these languages are alien. This being an issue that concerns all the students from the North-East and other marginalized communities of our country NEFIS took the initiative to organize a joint protest of students from all the communities across the North-East. We gathered at 2pm at the Vivekanand Statue, Faculty of Arts, Delhi University and held a public meeting. Speakers from various different communities of the North-East spoke to the gathering and condemned the chauvinist tendency of the University administration. This was followed by the raising of slogans and a procession was taken out up to the front gate of Arts Faculty where it was stopped by a bus load of policemen. The dean and the proctor came and tried to disrupt the meeting. At this a scuffle broke out during the course of which the deputy dean passed a racist remark which enraged all present. The gathering then refused to submit a memorandum and send a delegation to the university administration until they apologized for the racist remark. After two hours of active sloganeering the deputy dean finally came and apologized to us. After this we sent a ten member delegation consisting of representative of many communities of the North-East including Assamese, Nagas, Meities, Kukis, Tangkhuls, Aos etc and even a Tamil delegate. The administration gave assurance to the delegates that they would look into the matter and asked them to come again on Monday. Subsequently the forum decided to give a call for protest on Monday again and continue the struggle till our demands are accepted. We finished our meeting with slogans like ‘People United Shall Always be Victorious.’

In the coming academic year Delhi University administration is going to introduce a new syllabus according to which it would become compulsory for students of all courses to do a foundational course during the first year of their graduation. In this foundation course they would be required to opt for a language which would either be Hindi or one of the Modern Indian languages (MILs). It is our opinion that the compulsory imposition of Hindi and other MILs would cause immense hardships for the students who belong to communities that speak neither Hindi nor one of the MILs. There would be problems even for the communities that speak MILs like Manipuri, Assamese etc because the infrastructure and faculty strength for these languages is too small to be able to cover the whole of university. This step amounts to nothing less than cultural chauvinism on part of the university administration directed against the communities from the North-East because most of them are not adept in any of the languages of the mainland India. The new syllabus, if it is allowed to come into force, would put the students of the North-East under serious disadvantage vis-à-vis students of rest of the country. This gross neglect of the special needs of the students of the North-East is not a new thing. It is our observation that in the framing of university polices the interests of the students from the North-East is always neglected. It is for this reason that we made this fresh instance of bias an occasion for us to rise above community lines and put forward a united protest to safeguard our common interests.

Thanglunmang Khongsai Sujit Kumar
NEFIS (North-East Forum for International Solidarity) KYS (Krantikari Yuva Sangathan)

For details, contact Chinglen-7838983871