Hindi has lowered debate standards in Parliament: Vaiko

Updated - July 15, 2019 11:28 am IST

Published - July 14, 2019 09:29 pm IST

Vaiko, General Secretary MDMK in this file photo.

Vaiko, General Secretary MDMK in this file photo.

As scores of party cadres thronged Thayagam, the headquarters of the MDMK, to greet its general secretary Vaiko on his recent election to Rajya Sabha after a gap of 23 years, he converted the occasion to make a political discourse. “Today is the French National Day, a turning point in the French Revolution,” Mr. Vaiko, who has a fascination for history, was heard telling the cadres on July 14. In an interview with The Hindu , he charged that speeches in Hindi in Parliament had brought down the standard of debates once witnessed in the House. “It is like a difference between a mountain and molehill,” he said. Excerpts:

How do you feel about your election to the Rajya Sabha after a long gap?

Though I am filled with happiness, there is a sense of unhappiness in the corner of my mind. I have raised my voice not only for Tamils, but spoke up for the helpless people all over the world, who made a heart-rending plea for support. I had read Edmund Burke and the great speeches made in the US Parliament and all the great speeches in the world. They nurtured a passion and love to be in Parliament. On my release from jail after Emergency, I expressed my desire to Kalaignar (DMK leader M Karunanidhi) to be in Parliament and he nominated me to the Rajya Sabha. Murasoli Maran remained a guide and moulded me as a Parliamentarian. There were towering personalities in Parliament. Bhupesh Gupta roared like a lion and Piloo Mody could make Indira Gandhi roll with laughter with his speech. Former Chief Justice of India Hidayatullah functioned as the Chairman of the House. It was a golden period. Professor N.G. Ranga was there. A. B. Vajpayee and L.K. Advani were present. I learnt dedication and commitment from them. I used to attend the Business Advisory Committee (BAC) even though I was not a member. Once when I told that the views of the DMK should be heard, Justice Hidayatullah wondered whether there was a DMK member. I lost my sleep and started spending time in the library to prepare supplementary questions. He allowed me to speak and after a month he appreciated me for supplementing the questions with most appropriate points.

How did you persuade senior Parliamentarians to support the private member's bill moved by Murasoli Maran against Hindi?

The first person who agreed to support was CPI (M) leader P. Ramamurthi. Bhupesh Gupta also agreed. We wanted Piloo Mody to speak on the bill. But the bulky man would not attend the session as he reserved the afternoon for his naps. I told him that there was a feeling among South Indians that all the North Indian MPs were Hindi fanatics and if he could make a speech it could give a message to the South since he advocated the idea that only English could unite the country. On spotting him in the House, the Deputy Chairman wanted to know what made him to attend the session in the afternoon. He said, “I am here for the sake of my friend Gopalasamy [Vaiko’s maiden name].” Maran also introduced me to Jyotirmoy Basu, whose homework was unmatched. I used to take his advice. I stayed with him in Jaipur when he was the Chairman of the Railway Convention Committee. “Don’t separate me from my friend,” he told those who made the arrangements for our stay. After the meeting he said, “There ends the story” and it was 9 a.m. He was sweating profusely at 10 a.m. and I called the doctor. He had a severe heart attack and died at 11.30 a.m. I informed CPI (M) Jyoti Basu about his death and accompanied his body to Delhi. Both George Fernandes and Vajpayee personified friendship. Vajpayee was very fond of me and he declared me as his adopted son in a meeting in Bihar. When I step into Rajya Sabha this time there may not be many familiar faces. It is not my intention to find fault with the members. But there is a huge qualitative gap between the debates of the past and present day. Though Anna [DMK founder Annadurai] was a lone DMK member, he mesmerised the House. This time I will be placed in the category of “others.” I may not get adequate time. My performance in the past has created an expectation. However, I am not sure whether I will live up to their expectation.

What in your opinion is the reason for the fall in the standards of debates in Parliament?

People with in-depth knowledge in various subjects were sent to Parliament earlier. Today the standard of debates has come down because of Hindi. They just shout in Hindi. Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi is addressing Parliament in Hindi. Vajpayee spoke in English. Morarji Desai spoke in English and you could not say he was not fond of Hindi. Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, P.V. Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh addressed the Houses in English. Only Modi emits his fanatic love for Hindi. He is particular about establishing, “Hindi, Hindu and Hindu Rashtra.” Jawaharlal Nehru was a great democrat who never missed the session of Parliament. But Modi hardly attends the session. If Nehru is a mountain, Mr Modi is just a molehill. English neutralised the disadvantages faced by every Indian. Now they are imposing Hindi. That was why Anna said all the Indian languages in the 8th schedule should be made official languages. Rajaji said if all languages could be made as official languages, English should be given the place. I share the view. Let English be common to all if you are not able to give official language statues to other Indian languages.

What are your important agendas now?

There is an imminent, diabolical threat to the welfare of Tamil Nadu. In 2015, The Hindu had exposed a secret meeting held in the house of a Union Minister from Karnataka on the Mekedatu dam issue. The message was, “We will not give the green signal from the Ministry of Environment for the Mekedatu Dam, but go ahead with the construction.” I had then organised padayatra without using party flags. Projects for methane, hydrocarbon and shale gas will make Tamil Nadu a desert. Twenty million litres of water with 634 chemicals would be forced into the wells with a depth of 10,000 feet to get the gas. The gas along with the poisonous water will spread all over the fields and make them unfit for cultivation. In five years of time, the farmers would be forced to sell their lands to corporate houses on their terms.

The government would earn billions while Tamil Nadu would become another Ethiopia. We have to stop these projects. Tamil Nadu is being used as guinea pig for their experiments. Neutrino project would affect Idukki and Mullaperiyar Dam as it would blast the rocks underground.

They have plans to dump nuclear waste. The government’s programme includes the decommissioning of nuclear weapons. Tamil Nadu will become vulnerable to enemy attack. They also have similar plans to dump nuclear wastes in Kudankulam. These plans will make us question the need for sticking to India. Even my grandson will think on similar lines.

You once said Indira Gandhi had a plan to create separate Eelam through the Indian Army…

While raising the Sri Lankan Tamil issue I made a reference to Vajpayee’s speech in Parliament, in which he had described her as Goddess Durga, who created Bangladesh. I said if she could create Tamil Eelam, Tamils would worship her as Parasakthi for 1000 years. She turned emotional and said that the Tamils of the North and East were the original inhabitants of the land. I rushed to her in the lobby after the session and requested her to create Eelam. She said the plantation Tamils in the central area would be caught in the crossfire if military intervention was made. I told her to evolve a strategy to bring all Tamils one side. Then she asked me to cooperate with the government without being excited over the issue. We had to stop the conversation after her cabinet colleagues arrived. I went to The Hindu office and told G.K. Reddy, who was supporting the LTTE and the Sri Lankan Tamil cause. “She has got a plan. Go and meet her,” I told him. By the time the session was over. Subsequently, she was assassinated. She had a blueprint for Tamil Eelam.

I also approached [then Prime Minister] V.P. Singh with a list of weapons required by the LTTE. It was sent to me by LTTE leader Prabhakaran though [his ideologue] Anton Balasingham and I still have the list. Singh was fond of me since I spoke up for him after he was expelled from the Congress. He expressed his helplessness as he was heading a coalition government. But he agreed to send medicines and asked me to meet the External Affairs Minister I.K. Gujral. A senior official of the RAW met and got the details about the first consignment. I presented a list of medicines for Rs 47 lakh. But due to some reasons, it did not materialise which I do not like to disclose now. I will reveal it in my autobiography.

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