When I first joined college I had a desire to study Sanskrit as second language. But in my college Sanskrit was not taught to beginners. It was being taught at a slightly advanced level to students who had already studied this language in school.
So studying Sanskrit was ruled out for me who had absolutely no knowledge of the language. But fortunately for me my college taught German from scratch and I readily opted for it. When I migrated to a different college after Pre University my new college had no provision for learning German. So my study of German language ended then and there. My desire to study Sanskrit, on the other hand, remained a dream for ever and I am now a senior citizen no more interested in studying new languages.
My college level experience naturally created in me a desire to write about the new controversy of Sanskrit vs German now raging in the country thanks to the HRD Ministry. It was wrong to force students enrolled for studying German mid way during the academic session and force them to study Sanskrit instead. I had a desire to study both German as well as Sanskrit.
There are reasons why a student should choose to study either. By studying Sanskrit one can get better understanding of India’s tradition and culture. Studying German opens up the possibility of undertaking higher studies in Germany or perhaps even taking up a job in that country. Studying more and more languages is a noble goal as long as the language to study is not dictated from above.
In a multi-lingual country like India language policy is a delicate issue and one that can become politically volatile. I am not an advocate of forcing young students to study three compulsory languages. Studying three compulsory languages is a heavy burden on the students. I had written on length on the issue in a three part series on Language Policy in the marketexpress recently.
For a young student in India today the most important language for study is English. English is the language of higher education in India. It is the link language of intellectuals, academicians and all educated people in the country. For the common man the link language is the regional language of the state where he resides – Hindi in Haryana, Tamil in Tamil Nadu, Malayalam in Kerala and so on.
For every young student in India it is desirable to acquire a mastery of the English language. If any politician differs from this he is trying to mislead the public for his selfish political motives. He will send his own children to English teaching schools and discourage study of English for the masses. In addition to English every Indian student should study a second language. This second language could be Hindi, Sanskrit, one of the so-called regional languages, or a foreign language. There should be no compulsion as to what the second language of the student should be. Schools should be encouraged to offer as many options as possible to the students in the matter of studying a second language.
In a country where universal literacy in even one language is yet to be achieved it is utopian to experiment with a three language policy. If three languages are compulsorily offered to the students for study in schools he will have to study a fourth language if he has an inherent desire to study any one of the Indian or foreign languages.
The idea of replacing German with Sanskrit was wrong. The right approach is not Sanskrit vs German but Sanskrit and German. German and Sanskrit should both be offered to the students and they should be at liberty to choose either. If the government is afraid that students will not exercise their choice in favour of Sanskrit they are going against the wishes of the public by imposing Sanskrit on the students.
In the present Central Government one of the worst performing ministries is MHRD. It is on this ministry that the influence of fringe elements of the BJP is maximum. The strength of a chain depends on its weakest link. If the HRD ministry provides a weak link to the central government apparatus the chain is bound to break down. The Prime Minister is requested to take heed.