Assam govt makes Sanskrit compulsory in schools: Amid protests, literary groups threaten statewide agitation

Assam minister Pramila Rani Brahma has come out in support of banned outfit Ulfa (I) chief Paresh Barua’s demand of not making Sanskrit compulsory in schools

Kangkan Acharyya March 07, 2017 12:13:23 IST
Assam govt makes Sanskrit compulsory in schools: Amid protests, literary groups threaten statewide agitation

Assam minister Pramila Rani Brahma has come out in support of banned outfit Ulfa (I) chief Paresh Barua’s demand of not making Sanskrit compulsory in schools, according to Pratidin Time.

Asomiya Pratidin, a regional newspaper, quoted the minister as saying, “I welcome Paresh Barua’s opinion. Various languages are spoken by different smaller ethnic groups. Those languages are our resources. It would be better if we could conserve those languages.”

Earlier, Barua in a press statement had said that instead of Sanskrit, Bodo language should be made compulsory, as after Assamese, Bodo is the language that is spoken by the largest number of people in the state.

Assam govt makes Sanskrit compulsory in schools Amid protests literary groups threaten statewide agitation

Assam CM Sarbananda Sonowal. Image courtesy: Twitter

Assam has seen a series of massive protests after the BJP-led state government decided to make Sanskrit compulsory in schools till Std 8 on 1 March. Along with Sanskrit, computer education was also made compulsory, reported NDTV. The Sarbananda Sonowal government's decision did not go down well with the public with the literary body Assam Sahitya Sabha, along with other ethnic and tribal sahitya sabhas opposing the move.

The indigenous literary bodies held a joint press conference on Sunday in Guwahati and alleged that the move is a conspiracy to wipe out local languages and the group threatened to launch a statewide agitation if the state government does not roll back it’s decision.

Indigenous Tribal Sahitya Sabha's Assam president Govinda Taid said that at a time when ethnic literary bodies are demanding the government to allow students from different ethnic groups to pursue their school education in their mother tongues, the present BJP-led government has suddenly imposed Sanskrit on students due to reasons best known to it, reported The Sentinel.

The newspaper further reported Taid as saying that Sanskrit is an ancient dead language and learning it would have no positive impact on the students’ academic careers. It will be an additional burden on the students pursuing their school education under the Board of Secondary Education, Assam. The Assam Sahitya Sabha appealed to the state government to make Sanskrit an optional subject.

Meanwhile, in a press communique issued by the state’s apex literary body, mentioned, “The sabha believes that learning Sanskrit helps a person to know India and its civilisation.” It further added that if the language is imposed as a compulsory subject, it will be a burden on the students. “So the sabha feels that Sanskrit should be introduced as an optional subject,” reported The North East Today.

All Assam Students Union, the students' organisation, has also opposed the move. Lurinjyoti Gogoi, general secretary of the organistion told Firstpost, “ Introduction of Sanskrit as a compulsory subject in schools will increase the pressure on students.” He also pointed out that though Sanskrit is a very rich language and has contributed to the growth of the Indian society, it is not in use anymore and will not help students in their careers.

Moreover, the language is not a compulsory subject in any other Indian states, then why is it being imposed on Assam. He added that the state government and the BJP has been saying that Sanskrit is the mother of all languages, but there are many languages in the North East which have no connection with Sanskrit.

Professor Apurba Kumar Boruah, a Left-wing intellectual, sees this move as an extension of the Hindu nationalism that has gained much impetus throughout India, but says it will not work in Assam. “Assamese identity is formed by languages and not by religion. Many kinds of religions are included in this identity. Apart from Hinduism, Christianity, Islam and Buddhism, there are a number of indigenous tribal religions which are practiced in Assam for ages. So imposing Sanskrit will not be accepted by all,” he said.

But Bisheswar Hazarika, an expert on language, shares a different opinion. He says that Sanskrit can be read without reading any of the Hindu scriptures, even if it is made a compulsory subject. “There are many books in Sanskrit literature apart from the Hindu scriptures. Students can be provided with the option to choose from non-religious Sanskrit books, even if the subject is made compulsory,” he said.

When asked whether the government will roll back it’s decision, Ramesh Kumar Jain, commissioner and secretary to the Education Department of Assam told Firstpost, “We have not received any circular till now in this regard from the government.”

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