Three-language formula reignites debate over Tamils learning Hindi

The discussion took centre stage after DMK MP Kanimozhi was asked by CISF personnel at Chennai airport 'if she was an Indian' because she had asked the personnel to speak in Tamil or English

Retired IAS officer MG Devasahayam says that there was not any advantage or disadvantage in knowing Hindi. Photo: iStock

The three-language formula, as envisaged in the new National Education Policy (NEP), has reignited the debate over the need for Tamil-speaking people to learn Hindi.

The discussion took centre stage after DMK MP Kanimozhi was recently asked by CISF personnel at Chennai airport “if she was an Indian” because she had asked the personnel to speak in Tamil or English as she did not understand Hindi.

Though support poured in for Kanimozhi from all quarters of the state, retired Supreme Court Judge Markandey Katju and several other academicians argued otherwise. Speaking to The Federal, Katju said he was not forcing anybody to learn Hindi, but simply suggested that people of Tamil Nadu should learn it as it would be helpful for them when they step outside the state.

“About 70 per cent of the people in India speak Hindi. If a person from Tamil Nadu goes to Delhi and he wants to take a taxi from the airport to someplace, he has to talk to the driver in Hindi. It is not just Delhi, if you go to any other state in the country, Hindi will be the linking language,” Katju said.

Katju recalled his days as Chief Justice of Madras High Court. “I had seen people of different states using Hindi as a language though they did not come from Hindi-speaking states,” he said.

Asked if he supports the three-language formula as mentioned in the National Education Policy, Katju said, “Let people learn, three or two or one language. Whatever it may be, it should be by choice and should not be imposed. Since Tamils used to learn Hindi earlier, I recommend they do it now as well.”

Katju recalled the proficiency of former Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa in spoken Hindi. “I asked Jayalalithaa why people from Tamil Nadu are hesitant to learn Hindi. She told me that until the 60s people used to learn Hindi. It is only after some politicians from the north tried to impose the language, that Tamils stopped learning Hindi. I condemn the act of such politicians, but that should not be used as an excuse to not to learn Hindi,” he said.

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Former Anna University Vice-Chancellor and Union Public Service Commission member E Balagurusamy wrote a letter to Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami expressing his anguish over the ruling party’s opposition to the three-language formula.

By favouring a two-language formula, Balagurusamy claimed that poor and rural students from government schools will be deprived of learning an additional language. Balagurusamy also took a dig at DMK when he said the Chief Minister was very well aware of the fact that children and grandchildren of the leaders who oppose the three-language formula are all studying Hindi happily.

Retired IAS officer MG Devasahayam, a native of Kanyakumari, said that there was not any advantage or disadvantage in knowing Hindi. “I studied in Tamil medium till SSLC and I started learning English only in Class VI. I did not take Hindi lessons seriously, but learned it anyway. But, when I moved out of Tamil Nadu for higher education and for IAS services, knowing Hindi did not offer any advantage or disadvantage for me,” he said.

“If 10 people clear IAS, five would be posted in states other than Tamil Nadu; within two years from the date of joining, the IAS officer has to learn the native language of the state and clear the exam in two more years to be eligible for promotion. So, even if I know Hindi and if I am posted in Gujarat, I have to learn Gujarati and clear the exam,” Devasagayam said.

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