GUWAHATI: Assam government’s decision to make Sanskrit compulsory in all school till Class VIII has drawn flak from different sections, including students’ bodies and scholars for trying to bring in Hindutva into the education system.

The state cabinet decided to make the language compulsory till class VIII. Chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal tweeted that the ‘cabinet has decided that all the schools will teach Sanskrit as a compulsory language up to 8th Standard’.

Students’ bodies, individuals and other organizations have opposed the decision.

“It’s a burden for the students. There has been a three language policy. The government has failed to implement Assamese language in all the schools. We strongly oppose the cabinet’s decision,” said Lurinjyoti Gogoi, general secretary of All Assam Students’ Union (AASU).

Sunil Pawan Baruah, a known history teacher, termed the decision as ‘immature’. “We know that Sanskrit is one oldest languages in the world. But the decision to impose Sanskrit in schools is not just a mistake but also very immature. Let Sanskrit be as an optional subject,” said Baruah.

Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuba Chatra Parishad (AJYCP), another students’ body of the state has also joined the chorus against the move to impose Sanskrit as compulsory subject, alleging a well orchestrated conspiracy being micro managed and monitored from Nagpur.

In a statement issued in Guwahati, AJYCP president Biraj Kumar Talukdar charged the government with preparing to recruit Sanskrit teachers from outside since the state as of now lacks the required strength. “But we won't allow the outside teachers to be recruited in our schools,” said Talukdar.

He said AJYCP is not opposed to Sanskrit in the schools since it is an ancient language which needs to be promoted and preserved in schools and colleges. “But we do express grave concern over the way the government is imposing the subject in haste. The decision is too premature in view of the shortage of teaching staffs in hundreds of schools and many of these schools have been running with one teacher,” he said.

AJYCP has demanded adequate teaching staff in all schools apart from free textbooks to the students, and recruitment if all TET (Teachers Eligibility Test) qualified candidates before making Sanskrit a compulsory in the schools.

Many argued that instead of Sanskrit the state government should work to promote local languages like Bodo, Karbi and local indigenous languages for the students to study in school level.

“I have no problem Sanskrit being taught in schools in Assam. It is good to know as many languages as we can. But making it compulsory learning is pissing me off because this doesn't fit in well in a state like Assam. How about our own languages? Well, do they care for our protest? Will they reverse their decision just because we are voicing out against the decision? Very unlikely! I am not surprised though. We have been witnessing the pattern of Sarbananda Sonwal's government -- if they do two good things then the other three would be something that go totally against the language, culture and way of living of the indigenous people. If this pattern is carried forward then our people will suffer from identify crisis in just next few years. Sad state of affairs!” wrote Rajni Basumatary, a filmmaker, on her Facebook page.

There are still a huge shortage of teachers and other infrastructure in government run schools acrossAssam. According to the Lower Primary School Teachers’ Association (LPSTA) there are around 4000 schools in Assam where there is just one teacher each. And 500 schools have no teachers at all. The student teacher ration should be 38:1 whereas in Dhubri district there is just one teacher against 74 students. At the same time in Jorhat district there are 20 students against one teacher.

“These are some harsh realities of the state. So under such circumstances, imposing Sanskrit in government schools is ridiculous. It seems that the government wants to hire teachers for Sanskrit from a particular organization. First of all the government should have focused on development of the schools. And it will be imposed only in government schools. So, it does not make any sense,” Hafiz Ahmed, president of Char Chapori Sahitya Parishad (CCSP), a literary body.

According to the reports, it will be implemented in over 42,300 state-run schools.