Amid a raging debate over Hindi as a common language for the country, Congress leader Jairam Ramesh on Sunday said it would never be a reality
The Rajya Sabha member also noted that former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was under attack daily by forces out to “denigrate and obliterate” his legacy and the very idea of India would “die” if his ideas were abandoned.
“We may have one nation-one tax, but one nation-one language will never be a reality... We are one nation, we are many languages,” he said.
Mr. Ramesh was delivering the Sir M. Visvesvaraya memorial lecture- A Prime Minister and an Engineer- at an event organised by the Federation of Karnataka Chamber of Commerce and Industry to commemorate the birth anniversary of its founder Visvesvaraya , who was also the Diwan of Mysore State.
Mr. Ramesh, who began his speech by addressing the dignitaries, including the Governor and Chief Minister, and the audience in English Kannada and Hindi, said “I have spoken in three languages in one minute, just to give you a message”.
“We may have one nation-one tax, one nation-one election, but under no circumstances can we have one nation-one culture, one nation-one language,” he added.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Saturday had pitched for Hindi as a common language for the country, reigniting the debate on the issue, as parties in the South said they would oppose any attempt to “impose” the language.
Congress, too, had cautioned against stirring up “emotive” issues “settled” by those who framed the Constitution, after Mr. Shah said that while diversity in languages is India’s strength, a national language is needed so that foreign languages and cultures do not overpower the country’s own.
Listing out various accounts related to Nehru and Visvesvaraya , Mr. Ramesh said he was a perfect model of intellectual integrity and financial probity, both values that are endangered today.
“Today we recall this remarkable man as an annual ritual. How much our country would gain if we were to follow his example the other 364 days as well,” he said.
Mr. Ramesh said Nehru, the architect of the modern Indian nation state, had anchored in an open, liberal, representative democracy, that was also a celebration of diversities amidst unity, scientific temper and planned economic development, all of which were now under “daily attack” by forces out to “denigrate and obliterate” his legacy.
“As an unabashed but not uncritical admirer of his, I must say that the very idea of India will die if we abandon the ideas of Nehru. Recognising his contributions and standing up for the causes he championed would be the best tribute we would be paying to Visvesvaraya himself,” he added.
Karnataka Governor Vajubhai Vala and Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa were present at the event, where Advaith Hundai director Dr. S.V.S. Subramanya Gupta was conferred with the Sir M. Visvesvaraya Memorial Award, 2019.
Referring to Dr. Gupta’s request to the Chief Minister for better infrastructure in Bengaluru, Mr. Ramesh mocked Deputy Chief Minister Govind Karjol’s recent comment that good roads were responsible for accidents, without taking his name.
“There are some people who think that good roads in Bengaluru lead to more deaths,” he said.
Amid calls that the government should first improve road infrastructure before imposing hefty fines for traffic violations, Mr. Karjol had recently said good roads were responsible for accidents.