Why is Tamil Nadu opposed to ‘imposition’ of Hindi?

The trend of dubbing Hindi television serials into Tamil has intensified in recent years.

Updated - May 07, 2017 01:06 pm IST

Published - May 06, 2017 08:34 pm IST

What provoked another agitation?

In March, when reports appeared that English signage on a couple of National Highways in the State was replaced with Hindi signage, parties like the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and the Pattali Makkal Katchi responded angrily, saying it was a mark of "imposition" of Hindi. The agitation received further impetus with the President’s orders on recommendations made by the parliamentary committee on official languages. The acceptance of recommendations such as making Hindi compulsory in all CBSE and Kendriya Vidyalaya schools, requesting dignitaries who know Hindi to give their speech or statement in Hindi and arrangements for dubbing or sub-titling in Hindi regional films produced by the National Film Development Corporation has ruffled feathers.

How old is the campaign?

In Tamil Nadu, the campaign against Hindi is over seven decades old. The genesis of the campaign can be traced to the opposition spearheaded by E.V. Ramasamy, also called Periyar, to the decision of the C Rajagopalachari Cabinet in August 1937 to make Hindi compulsory in secondary schools. At that time, Rajagopalachari, or Rajaji as he was known, was Premier of Madras Presidency.

According to Rajaji , a biography by Rajmohan Gandhi, this was done in 125 schools and the Premier described Hindi as "chutney on the leaf" and said “taste it or leave it alone.” Even though he had remained unmoved till he quit office in October 1939, the British government, in February 1940, made Hindi optional.

The second round of anti-Hindi protests erupted in 1965 in the light of reports that Hindi would replace English as the official language. This triggered strong reactions. The DMK, then an emerging party, used the crisis in a deft way and the 1965 agitation was one of the important factors that helped the party capture power two years later.

At different points of time, leaders, starting from Jawaharlal Nehru in the mid-1950s, have assured people of Tamil Nadu that there would be no "imposition" of Hindi. After the DMK government came to power in 1967, the State Assembly, in January 1968, adopted a resolution, repealing the three-language formula of the Central government and adopting the policy of teaching Tamil and English in schools. To this day, the two-language formula has been the policy of the State government, regardless of the party in power. In 2006, the then DMK government adopted the Tamil Learning Act, incorporating the two-language formula, and in September 2014, the AIADMK regime extended its reach to other boards such as the CBSE.

Is anti-Hindi struggle being revived?

Yes, for political reasons, even though not many are optimistic of the ability of the issue to catapult any political formation to capture power. But those who are raking up the issue of "Hindi imposition" do not view it merely as a language affair. Like before, the issue is being seen as the "hegemony" of the North; the "tussle between Aryans and Dravidians" and the "introduction of mono culture". As the language issue has always been used for political considerations, it can be utilised to unify all forces opposed to the BJP, which is being seen to be behind the "drive" in favour of Hindi.

Are Tamils averse to learning Hindi?

No. The growing number of Hindi learners for courses of the Dakshina Bharat Hindi Prachar Sabha, a 99-year-old institution headquartered in Chennai, is a strong indication. About 60% of its candidates are from Tamil Nadu. In 2012, for the courses covering up to "Rashtrabhasha Praveen," there were approximately 3.55 lakh students from the State. Four years later, the figure was around 6 lakh.

The trend of dubbing Hindi television serials into Tamil has intensified in recent years. A large number of construction workers, employed in Tamil Nadu, are from Hindi-speaking States and as a seasoned administrator puts it, the knowledge of Hindi helps employers to extract the best from workers.

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