~Dr. Imtisangba Longchar
Pastor, Chumukedima Ao Baptist Church
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is growing rapidly in NE through education. Initially, RSS attempted to build local relationships through Bengali settlers and Bihari and Marwari traders, sensing an opportunity in the friction between the local ethnic population and the migrants. But by the 1970s, the RSS had realized it would not be enough to engage the “outsiders”; it needed to establish links with the local populace. They found that educating the locals with ideology alone could penetrate the region. This is the reason why we have many RSS-run schools.
Several Vivekananda Kendras are operating in the region for “cultural expansion”. Today we have Shakhas, Vivekananda schools, Balwadis, Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalayas, tuition centres, study circles, vocational training centres, and hospitals. In addition, the Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram (VKA), which worked among tribal people, ran hostels, nursery schools, and coaching centres, held medical camps and sent tribal teams to out-of-State sports events.
In recent years, RSS has claimed that it has played a significant role in powering the BJP’s electoral successes in many states of North East region. Most states in NE are under BJP Government or BJP coalition Governments. It has grown steadily in the Northeast, demonstrating persistence, adaptability, and pragmatism.
The RSS is “reworking” the region’s religious lines and targeting Bangladeshi Muslims. According to Ram Puniyani, RSS-BJP-Modi Government wants to bring in a Hindu nation trampling upon the values of the Indian Constitution. For example, they are working very hard to abolish article 370, Uniform Civil Codes.
The recent announcement by Union Home Minister Amit Shah on April 10, 2022 while chairing the 37th meeting of the Parliamentary Official Language Committee to make Hindi a compulsory subject in all Northeastern states up to Class 10 has elicited mixed reactions. Over 200 dialects have been carefully preserved in the region’s unique linguistic mosaic. Various political and non-governmental organizations have emphasized the importance of developing and maintaining indigenous and regional languages for overall integration.
While the political parties in the Northeastern region are divided on the Hindi learning issue, linguistic experts and political commentators said that while teaching in English and Hindi, local and indigenous languages must be given equal priority for their promotion and practical use. At a time when ethnic communities have been striving for the promotion of their language, including as a medium of instruction, making Hindi a compulsory subject up to Class 10 is seen as a move contrary to their linguistic aspirations.
CPI-M Central Committee member, veteran tribal leader, and former Tripura tribal welfare and forest minister Jitendra Chaudhury told IANS that the BJP government, at the behest of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is trying to impose Hindi on all communities. “If the BJP government at the Center continues to insist on imposition of Hindi on all communities, it would affect the national integration of the country. Moreover, such an attempt is against the unity in diversity and the philosophy of India’s freedom struggle”.
Trinamool Congress Rajya Sabha Member Sushmita Dev, who hails from Bengali-dominated southern Assam, told IANS that the imposition of Hindi is an RSS agenda. “Instead of protecting and promoting the local languages of the Northeast, the BJP with a motive is trying to impose Hindi”, she said. Thus we see from the above that Hindutva ideology has already penetrated deeply into the regions through various means and forms, mainly through mediums of education. India should stand together to protect unity and diversity.