NDA government’s proposal to give prominence to Hindi in official accounts in social media has met with stiff opposition in Tamil Nadu with Chief Minister Jayalalithaa and even BJP allies joining DMK chief Karunanidhi in slamming the move, voicing fears of “imposition” of the language on non-Hindi speaking sections.
Firing off a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Ms. Jayalalithaa described the Home Ministry’s proposal as “against the letter and spirit” of the Official Languages Act, 1963,” while pointing out that the “highly sensitive issue” caused “disquiet” to the people of Tamil Nadu “who are very proud of and passionate about their linguistic heritage”.
Social media by their very nature were not only accessible to all persons on the internet, but were meant to be a means of communication to persons living in all parts of India, including those in ‘Region C’, she said.
“People located in ‘Region C’ with whom the Government of India’s communication needs to be in English, will not have access to such public information if it is not in English. This move would therefore be against the letter and spirit of the Official Languages Act, 1963,” she said.
DMK president M. Karunanidhi, whose party had successfully led the anti-Hindi agitation in 1960s, had dubbed the move as a beginning of “imposition of Hindi”.
The issue is credited as one of the reasons for DMK forming the state’s first non-Congress government in independent India.
The 90-year-old leader had questioned why Hindi should be given priority over other languages listed in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution.
“Giving priority to Hindi will be construed as a first step towards an attempt at creating differences among non-Hindi speaking people and making them second class citizens,” he said.
The BJP government’s move found no favour with two of its Tamil Nadu allies also, with both PMK and MDMK opposing it.
PMK founder S. Ramadoss said the BJP in its election 2014 manifesto, had promised to develop all languages with rich history and culture. He also called for declaring all 22 languages in the VIII schedule of the Constitution, including Tamil, as official language and “thus put an end to the Hindi imposition controversy.”
Vaiko demanded that all Indian languages be made official languages in the interest of the country’s “unity and integrity” and till such time English should continue as the official language.
Attempts to ‘impose’ Hindi in the past have been successfully resisted with, though attempts were later made to do the same, he said while terming the latest move as a “softer version” of the imposition of Hindi.
MDMK chief Vaiko cited Mr. Modi’s preference of the social media platform and said that the Centre’s advisory on Hindi was a “matter of concern.”
He demanded that all Indian languages be made official languages in the interest of the country’s “unity and integrity” and till such time English should continue as the official language.
He recalled that the Atal Behari Vajpayee-led NDA government had set up a panel to look into making all languages in the VIII schedule of the Constitution as official languages.
“Tamil Nadu will never accept imposition of Hindi,” he said in a statement, while recalling the earlier anti—Hindi agitation.
The state unit of CPI also opposed the move. The controversy was sparked by two Home Ministry circulars.
The official language department had issued a circular on May 27 asking all Ministries and Departments, public sector undertakings and banks to give prominence to Hindi on official accounts in social media.
“...all officers and employees who operate official accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, Google, YouTube should use Hindi and English languages. Prominence should be given to Hindi,” Director, official language, Avadesh Kumar Mishra wrote in the directive.
Another circular announced prize money of Rs 2,000 to two employees who do their official work mostly in Hindi. Rs 1,200 and Rs 600 will be given to the second and third position holders respectively.
Union Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju had said he will promote use of Hindi in all official work and public life while his senior Rajnath Singh sought to down play the controversy by saying the Centre will promote all languages of the country.