Tamil Nadu’s opposition to what its political leaders call the “imposition” of Hindi is well known. Just last week, the DMK led protests against the three-language formula proposed in the draft National Education Policy (NEP), forcing a revision.
But what is not so well known is the spike in number of students from the state who appear for Hindi language courses held by the Dakshina Bharat Hindi Prachar Sabha, a Chennai-based society established by Mahatma Gandhi in 1918 “with the sole aim of propagating Hindi in southern states”.
Over the last decade, latest data from the Sabha show, there has been a nearly six-fold increase in the number of students that appeared for exams conducted by the society in the Chennai city region alone.
The figures show that 1.6 lakh students in Chennai appeared for the Sabha’s exams in 2018, compared to 27,600 in 2009. For the Tamil Nadu region, excluding Chennai city, the number was 4.2 lakh in 2018, a nearly three-fold rise from 1.5 lakh in 2009.
With over 5 lakh students appearing for these exams from the state, Tamil Nadu (including Chennai city) topped the southern states on the Sabha’s 2018 chart by a huge margin. Andhra Pradesh and Telangana together totalled 2.38 lakh, followed by Karnataka (42,005) and Kerala (20,005).
“About 80 per cent of our students are school children enrolled by parents who hope they will have a better future by learning one more language. The remaining 20 per cent are professionals, job-seekers and those who learn the language out of personal interest,” says S Jeyaraj, general secretary, DBHP Sabha.
According to the Sabha’s website, its exam wing conducts tests for eight proficiency levels — “Parichaya, Prathamik, Madhyama, Rashtrabhasha,
Praveshika, Rashtrabhasha Visharad, Rashtrabhasha Praveen, and Nishnath”.
“This wing also conducts examination in Hindi Typewriting (Lower, Higher & High Speed) and Shorthand in Hindi. These examinations are recognized by the Central and State Governments. Examinations are conducted twice a year in February and August. Almost 4 lakh students write the examination in a year,” it says.
“When Hindi is not a mandatory subject in schools, and with nobody to teach the language in the state, it is obvious that we have the maximum number of students joining from the Tamil Nadu and Chennai city regions,” says Jeyaraj.
The Sabha official, however, says the society has no stake in the political controversies that have erupted in the state over Hindi.
“We have nothing to do with politics. We teach Hindi to those who voluntarily come to learn it. No language can influence or destroy Tamil culture. Did states like Kerala and Karnataka lose their language and culture due to the three-language policy?” says Jeyaraj.