BJP Government in Assam discriminates against local languages

A statement by Biswajit K. Bora, Bonojit Hussain, Dishanka Gogoi, Mayur Chetia, Rupam Sindhu Kalita, Samudra Sankha Gogoi on behalf of Delhi Action Committee for Assam.

In an unconstitutional and discriminatory move, the Education Department of the Assam government has recently come up with a notification that bars candidates who have studied in the vernacular medium from appearing for the Special Teachers Eligibility Test (TET) for Graduate Teachers in the Adarsha Vidyalayas in Assam. The advertisement No. RMSA/Special TET/842/2017/2 dated 7 June 2017, issued by the Secondary Education Department of the state government states: “The candidates must be passed out from English Medium Schools as Adarsha Vidyalayas are CBSE affiliated English Medium School (sic).” To further clarify the matter, the Education Minister of the state, Himanta Biswa Sharma, said in a press conference that those who studied in Assamese or vernacular medium schools do not have the essential ability to teach in English medium schools. Mr. Sharma not only ridiculed and questioned the qualifications of those who studied in the vernacular medium but also invalidated the entire vernacular medium education system of the state.

This argument of the Education Minister does not hold ground as TET has a specific language component which examines and ensures the proficiency of the candidates in the English language. If the Education Department had the feeling that TET in its current form is incapable of or insufficient in evaluating the linguistic proficiency of the candidates, it could have just increased the proportion of the language component in the examination rather than summarily barring all vernacular medium-educated candidates from appearing in TET.

If the line of argument of the Education Minister is to be stretched further, vernacular medium-educated students would be automatically unsuitable for most of the jobs in today’s labour market as these jobs require some knowledge of the English language. Moreover, no student of a vernacular medium school, be it Assamese or Bodo or any other language of the state, would ever be suitable for teaching in Central Universities across the country as they require the knowledge of the English language, something that the students of vernacular medium schools supposedly do not have. No student of an Assamese or Bodo or other vernacular medium school could ever aspire to be an IAS or IPS officer either as these too require the knowledge of the English language. In short, no student of an Assamese or Bodo or other vernacular medium school would ever be recruited in a central government job as it requires the knowledge of English and/or Hindi.

These arguments may seem ludicrous but this is how the logic of the Education Minister’s reasoning works itself out. It makes a mockery of the three-language policy of the Union of India where regional/vernacular languages are used in the states and Hindi and English are used at the centre. It is not for nothing that a significant part of the education system comes under the duty of the state government. The idea was to promote the diverse languages of the country and end discriminations on the grounds of language. It is not for nothing that even in the very prestigious Civil Services Examination conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) of India, candidates may write their papers in their respective regional languages which are included in the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution of India. But the present notification of the Education Department of the Assam government neither understands nor appreciates these constitutional rights.

Protest in Guwahati against unconstitutional and discriminatory policy of the Assam govt. in teacher recruitment, organised by KMSS on 19 June 2017 (Photo courtesy: Amar Asom)

We have grounds to believe that behind such strange and egregious policies of the Assam government, something much more sinister is going on. Since the BJP came to the power in the state, there has been a systemic neglect of local vernacular medium schools. Huge sarkari grants have been made to RSS-affiliated schools on the ground that they produce good results, while the local vernacular medium government schools have been left to rot. The RSS-affiliated Vidya Bharati schools have mushroomed everywhere and unlike the local vernacular medium schools, they are neither founded in the local ethos of plurality nor respectful of the diversity and secular character of the country.

The present move of the BJP government in Assam should be seen as an attempt to make the local vernacular medium schools more unattractive to the people, robbing their students of the few job opportunities that the state government provides. Here it is important to note that the curricula of the local vernacular medium schools of the state are seen as a barrier by the RSS in propagating its Hindu supremacist ideology as the former are enmeshed in the regional politics of nationality assertion and at a distance from the Akhand Bharat and Hindu-first ideology of the Sangh Parivar. To do away with the nationality question of the region and recast it with the cow-land politics of mainland India is seen by the RSS as the prerequisite for a stable Hindutva politics in this periphery of the Indian state. By pushing out the vernacular languages, including Assamese, from qualifying to apply for teaching positions in certain schools, the government that came into power by sloganeering to become the self-appointed saviour of jati [nation], mati [land] and bheti [home] is now showing its true colours, blatantly revealing its pre-determined commitment to destroy the very foundation of its own chest thumping jingoism of jati, mati and bheti, thus exposing its hypocrisy. Destroying the local vernacular medium schools and local ethos are the first steps in this long march towards the homogenising Hindutva project of the current fascist regime.

We appeal to all the democratic forces of the country who believe in the ideals of plurality, diversity and secularism to oppose this undemocratic and discriminatory move of the BJP government in the state of Assam and stand in solidarity with the struggle for a just linguistic policy in education and job recruitment which respects and enhances the linguistic and national diversity of both Assam and the country.




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