New Delhi, Union Home Minister Amit Shahs thrust on use of Hindi threatened to snowball into a major controversy, before he clarified that he never wanted to impose the language on other regional languages, pacifying the critics, mainly in southern states like Tamil Nadu.
Political parties in states like Tamil Nadu and Karnataka were up in arms over Shah’s remarks made on ‘Hindi Diwas’ on September 14 that “it is very essential that the entire country has one language which becomes its identity in the world” and that only Hindi language could be such a uniting force.
This comment was seen by the southern parties, particularly in Tamil Nadu, as an attempt to impose Hindi on them and declared their intent to launch an agitation against it.
As more and more leaders spoke out against his remarks, Shah clarified on Wednesday that he never sought imposition of Hindi on other regional languages and had “only requested” that Hindi should be learnt as second language along with one’s mother tongue.
In a clear bid to pacify the regional parties, Shah said he himself comes from a non-Hindi state of Gujarat.
At the same time, he said, “If some people want to do politics on it, it is their choice”.
Hindi is one of the 22 scheduled languages of the country and Shah, as in-charge of the Department of Official Languages under the Union Home Ministry, was expressing his views on the occasion of ‘Hindi Diwas’ celebrated every year on September 14. It was on this day that the country’s Constituent Assembly had adopted Hindi as official language of India.
Shah had asked citizens to increase the use of Hindi in their everyday tasks to fulfill the dreams of Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.
He said if any language could keep the entire country united, it was the “largest spoken language of Hindi”.
Soon after his remarks on last Saturday, critical reactions had started pouring in.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan rubbished Shah’s contention that only Hindi could unite the country.
In Tamil Nadu, DMK leader M.K. Stalin saw Shah’s comment as an attempt to impose Hindi on states which do not speak the language and declared that his party would oppose any such move. Subsequently, other leaders like Kamal Hassan and Rajnikanth have also spoken strongly against the Union Home Minister’s comment.
The BJP has been traditionally laying thrust on greater use of Hindi, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi leading the pack by speaking in this language at all forums, including international ones.
The Modi government also made some moves to propagate Hindi language and courted controversies over those.
One of the moves was a proposal in the draft New Education Policy for compulsory teaching of Hindi in schools under three language formula. It was modified after some states like Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and West Bengal expressed opposition.
There was also a decision of the Railway Ministry to hold recruitment exams only in Hindi and English, but it too was withdrawn after protests.
Even earlier, Tamil Nadu has been at the forefront of opposing “imposition” of Hindi and has seen parties like DMK riding to power on this plank.
Tamil Nadu witnessed serious anti-Hindi agitations across the state in 1965, resulting in several deaths in police firing on the protesters.
The agitation spearheaded by the DMK was one of the major reasons for the Dravidian party coming to power in the state in 1967, displacing the Congress.
Even during the 1930s — prior to Indian independence in 1947 — the erstwhile Madras Presidency witnessed agitations when the then Congress government wanted Hindi to be introduced as a subject in schools.