By Shyamlal Yadav, Ritika Chopra

In the wide-ranging consultations over the new National Education Policy (NEP), a significant voice at the head table was that of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

A stream of RSS affiliates were involved through the drafting process. There were meetings between RSS functionaries, education ministers of some BJP-ruled states, representatives of the Government and NEP drafting committee chairman K Kasturirangan.

But the final policy approved by the Union Cabinet Wednesday shows the government has walked the political tightrope. Its biggest concession to the Sangh is more symbolic than substantive — renaming of the HRD Ministry to Ministry of Education.

On some of the RSS’s key demands, the Union Government has, as of now, kept a distance. Case in point: the new NEP’s stand on the three-language formula.

The government dropped the provision that stipulated Hindi as one of the languages that students should study in Grade 6 after protests from political parties, mainly in Tamil Nadu, who saw this as “imposition” of Hindi.

The earlier version of the draft NEP, submitted by the Kasturirangan committee, uploaded on the Ministry’s website on May 31 last year, read: “In keeping with the principle of flexibility, students who wish to change one of the three languages they are studying may do so in Grade 6, so long as the study of three languages by students in the Hindi-speaking states would continue to include Hindi and English and one of the modern Indian languages from other parts of India, while the study of languages by students in the non-Hindi-speaking states would include the regional language, Hindi and English.”

However, the final policy approved by the Cabinet Wednesday gives states greater flexibility and says that “no language will be imposed on any State”.

“The three languages learned by children will be the choices of States, regions, and of course the students themselves, so long as at least two of the three languages are native to India,” the policy says.

The provision on allowing foreign universities to set up campuses in India has been introduced despite strong opposition by RSS affiliate Swadeshi Jagran Manch.

While the RSS demand on emphasizing “ancient Indian knowledge” has been included in the policy, the document states “these elements will be incorporated in an accurate and scientific manner throughout the school curriculum wherever relevant”.

Speaking to The Indian Express, RSS affiliates said their demands were accepted and they are happy with the NEP.

Said Balmukund Pande, sangathan mantri of Akhil Bhartiya Itihas Sankalan Yojna: “Whatever suggestions I gave, more than 80 per cent of them have been accepted. I don’t want to tell you which of my suggestions were not accepted.”

Said Mahendra Kapoor, sangathan mantri of Akhil Bhartiya Rashtriya Shaikshik Mahasangh: “Many of our suggestions are accepted. Once, the full NEP document is out, only then I will be able to say which of my suggestions are not accepted.”

On the dropping of the Hindi reference in the three-language formula, RSS sources said it was done with their consent. The RSS is learned to have agreed, as a compromise, with the provision that teaching up to at least Grade 5 will be in the mother tongue/regional language and that no language will be imposed.

This story first appeared in the Indian Express here.