TOPIC – Crisis Defused: On Hindi Imposition

“Compulsory Learning Should Be Limited To The Child’s Mother Tongue”

The Centre has moved quickly to defuse a potentially volatile controversy over the charge of Hindi imposition. It is quite apparent that the Narendra Modi government did not want the language issue to acquire disproportionate importance at a time when it is embarking on its second innings with a huge mandate. Further, given the impression that the ruling party does not have much of a presence in South India, barring Karnataka, it did not want to be seen as being insensitive to the concerns of southern States, especially Tamil Nadu. The reference in the newly unveiled draft National Education Policy to mandatory teaching of Hindi in all States was withdrawn following an outcry from political leaders in Tamil Nadu, a State that is quite sensitive to any hint of ‘Hindi imposition’ by the Centre. The modified draft under the heading ‘Flexibility in the choice of languages’, has omitted references to the language that students may choose. However, the broader recommendation regarding the implementation of a three-language formula remains, something Tamil Nadu, which will not budge from its two-language formula, is averse to. The gist of the original sentence in the draft NEP was that students could change one of the three languages of study in Grade 6, provided that in Hindi-speaking States they continued to study Hindi, English and one other Indian language of their choice, and those in non-Hindi-speaking States would study their regional language, besides Hindi and English. The revised draft merely says students may change one or more of their three languages in Grade 6 or 7, “so long as they still demonstrate proficiency in three languages (one language at the literature level) in their modular Board examinations some time during secondary school”. It may not amount to a complete reversal , but is still important in terms of conciliatory messaging. However, there is  larger issue here. Ever since the Constitution adopted Hindi as the official language, with English also as an official language for 15 years initially, there has been considerable tension between those who favour the indefinite usage of English and those who want to phase it out and give Hindi primacy. In Tamil Nadu, it is seen as a creeping imposition of Hindi in subtle and not-so-subtle forms. The tension has been managed based on the statesmanship behind Jawaharlal Nehru’s assurance in 1959 that English would be an associate language as long as there are States that desire it. One would have thought that with the ascent of coalition politics the instinct to stoke differences based on language would die out. Unfortunately, it keeps coming up, especially in the form of imposing the three-language formula on States. Language is primarily a utilitarian tool. While acquisition of additional tools can indeed be beneficial, compulsory learning should be limited to one’s mother tongue and English as the language that provides access to global knowledge and as a link language within India. It is time attempts to force Indians proficient in their mother tongue and English to acquire proficiency in a third are given up.


  1. defuse

Meaning: remove the fuse from (an explosive device) in order to prevent it from exploding.

Synonym: Deactivate, disarm, disable, make safe

Antonym: Activate

Example Sentence: “explosives specialists tried to defuse the grenade”

  1. volatile

Meaning: liable to change rapidly and unpredictably, especially for the worse.

Synonym: Tense, strained, fraught, uneasy, uncomfortable

Antonym: stable, calm

Example Sentence: “the political situation was becoming more volatile”

  1. imposition

Meaning: the action or process of imposing something or of being imposed.

Synonym: imposing, foisting, forcing, inflicting, obtruding

Antonym: Frankness, Cheating, Con, Craftiness

Example Sentence: “the imposition of martial law”

  1. apparent

Meaning: clearly visible or understood; obvious.

Synonym: Evident, plain, obvious, clear, manifest, visible, discernible

Antonym: unclear, obscure

Example Sentence: “for no apparent reason she laughed”

  1. disproportionate

Meaning: too large or too small in comparison with something else.

Synonym: Out of proportion to, not in proportion to, not appropriate to

Antonym: proportional

Example Sentence: “people on lower incomes spend a disproportionate amount of their income on fuel”

  1. embarking on

Meaning: to start something new or important

Synonym: broach, Commence, Engage

Example Sentence: We’re embarking upon a new project later this year.

  1. barring

Meaning: except for; if not for.

Synonym: except for, with the exception of, excepting, if there is/are no, bar

Example Sentence: “barring accidents, we should win”

  1. insensitive

Meaning: showing or feeling no concern for others’ feelings.

Synonym: Heartless, unfeeling, inconsiderate, thoughtless, thick-skinned

Antonym: sensitive, compassionate

Example Sentence: “an insensitive remark”

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Meaning: remove a veil or covering from, in particular uncover (a new monument or work of art) as part of a public ceremony.

Synonym: reveal, present, disclose, divulge, make known, make public, air, communicate, publish, broadcast

Antonym: Conceal, Cover, Hide, Secrete

Example Sentence: “the Princess unveiled a plaque”

  1. outcry

Meaning: an exclamation or shout / a strong expression of public disapproval or anger.

Synonym: Shout, exclamation, cry, yell, howl, whoop, roar

Antonym: Indifference

Example Sentence: “an outcry of spontaneous passion”

  1. budge

Meaning: make or cause to make the slightest movement.

Synonym: move, shift, change position, stir, give way, go

Antonym: Discourage, Hinder, Hold, Keep

Example Sentence: “the queue in the bank hasn’t budged”

  1. averse

Meaning: having a strong dislike of or opposition to something.

Synonym: opposed to, against, antipathetic to, hostile to, antagonistic to

Antonym: keen

Example Sentence: “as a former CIA director, he is not averse to secrecy”

  1. gist

Meaning: the substance or general meaning of a speech or text.

Synonym: Essence, substance, quintessence, main idea/theme, central idea/theme

Antonym: Outside, Surface, Meaninglessness

Example Sentence: “it was hard to get the gist of Pedro’s talk”

  1. merely

Meaning: just; only.

Synonym: Only, purely, solely, simply, entirely, just

Antonym: Indefinitely

Example Sentence: “Gary, a silent boy, merely nodded”

  1. conciliatory

Meaning: intended or likely to placate or pacify.

Synonym: Propitiatory, placatory, appeasing, pacifying, pacific, mollifying

Antonym: antagonistic

Example Sentence: “a conciliatory approach”

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Meaning: to become a particular amount

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  1. phaseout

Meaning: a gradual stopping (as in operations or production) : a closing down by phases

Synonym: Cancel, Eliminate, Terminate

Example Sentence: The moves are leading some experts to step up estimates for the phaseout of coal power in the U.S.

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Meaning: the fact of being pre-eminent or most important.

Synonym: greater importance, priority, precedence, pre-eminence, preference, superiority

Example Sentence: “London’s primacy as a financial centre”

  1. creeping

Meaning: (of a negative characteristic or fact) occurring or developing gradually and almost imperceptibly.

Synonym: crawl, move on all fours, move on hands and knees

Example Sentence: “a creeping sense of dread”

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Meaning: (especially of a change or distinction) so delicate or precise as to be difficult to analyse or describe.

Synonym: Fine, fine-drawn, ultra-fine, nice, overnice

Antonym: Crude

Example Sentence: “his language expresses rich and subtle meanings”

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Meaning: skill in managing public affairs.

Example Sentence: “we need strong statesmanship and leadership”

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Meaning: an upward slope or path that one may walk or climb.

Synonym: upward) slope, incline, ramp, rise, bank, tilt, slant, upward gradient

Antonym: descent, drop

Example Sentence: “the ascent grew steeper”

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Meaning: an innate, typically fixed pattern of behaviour in animals in response to certain stimuli.

Synonym: Natural tendency, inborn tendency, inherent tendency, inclination, inner prompting

Antonym: Inability, lack, Incapacity

Example Sentence: “the homing instinct”

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Meaning: encourage or incite (a strong emotion or tendency).

Example Sentence: “his composure had the effect of stoking her anger”

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Meaning: to become less common and finally stop existing

Example Sentence: Dinosaurs died out millions of years ago.