Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s statement on Saturday, on the occasion of Hindi Divas (Day), that Hindi should be India’s common and unifying language came in for sharp criticism from Tamil Nadu political leaders and the BJP’s own allies.
DMK president M.K. Stalin said making Hindi as the national language would make non-Hindi speaking people the secondary citizen and undermine the unity.
“DMK founder Anna said if a language spoken by more people should be the national language, then the ubiquitous crow, and not the peacock, should be the national bird,” Mr. Stalin quipped. Urging Mr. Shah to withdraw his comments, he warned that the DMK would launch a war to protect Tamil and imposition of Hindi.
Tamil Nadu Congress Committee president K.S. Alagiri on Saturday said that the Congress governments, headed by Jawaharlal Nehru and Lal Bahadur Shastri made sure that English continued as one of the official languages just so that Hindi was not imposed on people who did not speak the language.
“Jawaharlal Nehru, Lal Bahadur Shastri and Indira Gandhi protected the rights of people who do not speak Hindi. The United Progressive Alliance gave ‘Semmozhi’ status to Tamil language,” he said. He warned Mr. Amit Shah saying that if he spoke with the arrogance since his party has 283 members of Parliament from Hindi-speaking regions, it would result in unrest. “Do not play with the sentiments of non-Hindi speaking population,” he warned. Mr. Alagiri said the BJP was trying to divide the country on linguistic lines so that it could divert people’s attention from the country’s economy that was in the doldrums.
PMK leader S. Ramadoss, an ally of the BJP, said while Mr. Shah had the right to extol the greatness of Hindi, he could not impose the language on others. “Hindi can never be the identity of India as it will lead to depriving the right of languages such as Tamil,” he said.
Dr. Ramadoss said just because more people were speaking Hindi, it could not be an unifying factor. “Imposing a language will result in disintegration of the country and there are many examples,” he said.
Dravidar Kazhagam president K. Veeramani said Mr. Amit Shah’s comments that Hindi should be the only official language could split the union of India.
“What will happen to unity in diversity? India is a union of states consisting of people speaking various languages. People speak languages that are much older than Hindi and have rich culture and literature. To state that Hindi should be the only official language in India goes against federalism and democracy,” he said.
Tamil Manila Congress leader G.K. Vasan said that it was unacceptable that Hindi should be the ‘one language’ for India. “The people can learn whatever language that they want – mother tongue, link language or language that they are interested in. The idea of ‘one language’ in India is not acceptable in a democracy,” said Mr Vasan.