Language Alienation of the Children of Non-Hindi Soldiers in the Indian Army (Bengali, Kannada, Malayalam, Tamil,Telugu, ...)

Thanjai Nalankilli

TAMIL TRIBUNE, August 2016 (ID. 2016-08-01)
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1, The Problem

2. Indian Government's Attitude

3. A Solution

4. Action Plan

1. The Problem

I recently had a conversation with a non-Hindi soldier serving in the Indian Army in a northern state. He complained that his children are alienated from their mother tongue. They have ample opportunity to study Hindi but no opportunity to learn their mother tongue Tamil. I commended the soldier for his eagerness for his children to preserve their cultural and language identity.  I then suggested that there are some websites where his children may learn Tamil.

2. Indian Government's Attitude

Indian government has a total lack of concern for the cultural/language alienation of the children of non-Hindi soldiers serving in the Indian army. Of course the Indian government wants to Hindianize (or Hindify) these children by teaching them Hindi and Hindi only, and totally ignoring other languages. This is evident in other Indian government activities too. In CBSE schools, which come under the jurisdiction of the Indian government, Hindi is a compulsory subject and there is no requirement to teach the state language, and in fact, many CBSE schools do not teach the state language be it Bengali, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Tamil, Telugu or other (CBSE - Central Board of Secondary Education).

Indian government should offer language classes as part of the regular curriculum. If there are 15 or more students of a certain mother tongue, that language must be taught in schools catering to soldiers' children. Indian government owes it to the soldiers who are ready and willing to sacrifice their lives for India. Why should the right to learn their mother tongue be denied to their children? Are they children of a lesser language? Children of Hindi speaking soldiers are offered Hindi classes in whichever state their father or mother serve.

3. A Solution

Offering language classes for non-Hindi children is not a difficult task. If the army cannot find a language teacher (for example, Malayalam or Telugu or ...) in a northern state, they may ask a soldier or spouse of a soldier to teach the language. I know these people are not trained as teachers. We have to make adjustments. Indian government should pay the education department of each non-Hindi state to develop teaching materials for these untrained "teachers" in the form of print materials, books, videos, websites and software. This task should be left to the states (paid by the Indian government) because state governments are better suited to develop educational materials reflecting the culture, heritage and language of the state. Indian government does not have the impartiality or skills to develop unbiased class materials, as evidenced by history and social studies textbooks used in CBSE schools.

I want to emphasize that just distributing some videos and software to the children (students) is not enough. Language classes should be taught by an adult (a teacher, soldier or spouse) with the help of educational tools such as videos, software, etc. This provides for interaction between students and with an adult teacher. If videos and websites are enough, why is the Indian government offering live classes for Hindi? What is good for Hindi children is good for non-Hindi children too.

If there is will, there is a way. There is no need for children of non-Hindi soldiers to grow up alienated from their culture and language. We have presented a simple, inexpensive way to teach non-Hindi children their mother tongue wherever their soldier father/mother is serving. There may be other methods of achieving the same goal. If there is will, there is a way. Does the Indian government want to teach the non-Hindi children their mother language or does the Indian government want to "Hindify" them? That is the big question.

4. Action Plan

Soldiers may not be able to do much on this issue. So the general public like us should take up the issue. Tell others about the problem our soldiers are facing. We should write our Members of Parliament (MP) and our Chief Minister about this issue and ask them to take it up with the Indian government. Our soldiers deserve the best. Children of our soldiers deserve the best. They have the right to learn their mother tongue wherever their fathers/mothers are serving in the military protecting the country from foreign dangers.

[SUMMARY: Children of non-Hindi soldiers do not have the facilities to learn their mother tongue while Hindi is taught everywhere. Author offers a solution.]

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