India

No compulsory Hindi in India schools after Tamil Nadu anger

Indian schoolchildren are silhouetted against a national flag as they participate in Independence Day celebrations in Chennai on August 15, 2016. Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Tamils argue that imposing Hindi will jeopardise their language

The Indian government has revised a controversial draft bill to make Hindi a mandatory third language to be taught in schools across the country.

The draft bill had met particularly strong opposition in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, which has always resisted the "imposition" of Hindi.

In 1965, it saw violent protests against a proposal that Hindi would be India's only official language.

Tamil is one of the oldest languages and evokes a lot of pride in the state.

However the government decision has not calmed tensions in Tamil Nadu.

The two main political parties in the state, the DMK and AIADMK, have both said that simply revising the draft to say Hindi would not be mandatory is not enough.

The state teaches only two languages - Tamil and English - in the government school curriculum, and the parties do not want a third language introduced at all.

A DMK spokesman told the NDTV news channel that the third language clause would be used as a "back door" to introduce Hindi anyway.

Their rivals, the AIADMK, which allied with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the general elections but lost badly in the state, had a similar view.

"Our party has always been clear in our stand. We have always followed a two-language policy. Though mandatory Hindi has been revised in the draft now, we still cannot support this three-language system. Our government will talk to the union government for our rights," former state education minister and AIADMK spokesman Vaigaichelvan told BBC Tamil.

On Monday, #HindiIsNotTheNationalLanguage began trending on Twitter in India, which saw many from Tamil Nadu facing off against people from other parts of the country and asserting their right not to have the language "imposed" on them.

"There is no opposition to actually learning Hindi. In fact with the recent IT boom in the south, so many people from the north have migrated here that its use has become more widespread here. It is true that if you know Hindi you will find it easier to get work in other parts of India, so there are also many people here who willingly learn it. But that should be their choice. What people are opposing is the imposition of it," senior journalist and political analyst KN Arun told the BBC.

Mr Arun also warned that there was a chance that the issue could lead to further protests in the state, saying that a few hardline Tamil groups had been using the issue to whip up anger among the people.

It is also a particularly emotive issue. Politics in the state is still centred around the ideas and principles of the Dravidian movement, which among other things reveres the Tamil language and links it closely to regional identity.

"Tamil is very rich in literature and different to other languages like Hindi which branched out of Sanskrit. There is fear that the Indian government is trying to slowly introduce Hindi, which will threaten the status of Tamil," author and journalist Vaasanthi told the BBC.

More on this story