New Delhi:: Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s appeal to unify India with the country's most widely-spoken language, Hindi, was met with sharp criticism from the southern states on Saturday.
Veteran leaders such as Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) president MK Stalin and former Karnataka chief ministers Siddaramaiah and HD Kumaraswamy came down heavily on Shah for pitching for his "one nation, one language" pitch on the occasion of Hindi Diwas.
Several pro-Kannada organisations, including Karnataka Ranadheera Pade, also held protest marches in Bengaluru against Hindi Diwas.
“Prime Minister Narendra Modi should issue a clarification on Amit shah's statement. Else, the DMK will prepare itself for another language protest. Is it India or Hindi-a? India stands for unity in diversity. The BJP-led government is trying to destroy this and go against it. The home minister should withdraw his statement,” said Stalin.
Earlier in June, responding to the suggestion of a three-language formula for schools in Tamil Nadu, the DMK chief had said that “Hindi is not in the blood of the people of Tamil Nadu”.
“We have always stood against the imposition of Hindi and have raised our voices against the same in cases of exams like the railways and postal departments. We strongly condemn the home minister's statement,” Stalin said on Saturday.
The DMK would take a decision on the ways and means to oppose Shah's stand at a high-level party meet to be held on September 16, Stalin said. Pluralism is India's biggest strength and unity in diversity is the nation's cultural identity, Stalin said, claiming that the BJP government is taking steps to 'erase' such an identity since assuming office at the Centre.
Shah's Hindi pitch appeared to be an attempt to make non-Hindi speaking people "second class citizens," he added. While all languages in the Constitution's Eighth Schedule should be nurtured, picking only Hindi for promotion will impinge national integrity and it is both anguishing and condemnable, the DMK chief alleged.
All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) leader and Tamil Nadu Culture Minister K Pandiarajan said, "If the Centre imposes Hindi unilaterally, there will only be (adverse) reaction and no support, not only in Tamil Nadu but also in states like Bengal, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh."
"Only about 45% of the people speak Hindi and even today it is not spoken by a majority of the people," he said, adding the Tamil Nadu government has never toed the line that Hindi could be the link language.
Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) chief Vaiko said if India has to be a country of Hindi alone, then only Hindi-speaking states would be part of it and not several other regions like Tamil Nadu and the northeast.
Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) founder-leader S Ramadoss dubbed Shah's remark as flawed and said Hindi must not be "imposed."
The PMK and the BJP were part of the AIADMK alliance in Tamil Nadu for the recent Lok Sabha polls.
"Never can Hindi be India's identity globally....is it not condemnable to try to usurp the identities of other languages to make Hindi India's global identity," Ramadoss said in a tweet.
because Hindi was spoken by a large number of people, it could not bring about integrity. "If Hindi is imposed on people speaking other languages, it will divide the country...there are several examples worldwide," he said.
Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK) leader TTV Dhinakaran said Shah's views were not acceptable. Urging him to retract his comments, Dhinakaran said efforts to "thrust Hindi" would only sow the seeds of hatred among people.
Dravidar Kazhagam, the ideological fountainhead of Dravidian parties, said Shah's views went against the pluralistic tenets of the Constitution. DK chief K Veeramani said the suspicion grew stronger that such views were being aired only to divert attention from the economic slowdown.
School Education Minister and veteran AIADMK leader KA Sengottaiyan said Chief Minister K Palaniswami had categorically stated only the two-language formula of Tamil and English would be followed in the state. It does not have central government-run Navodaya Vidyalaya schools to avoid 'imposition' of Hindi, he said.
Senior AIADMK leader and Fisheries Minister D Jayakumar said sticking to the two-language norm was the unanimous stand of his party and it would be continued. "This is our view. No language not liked by the people will be accepted," he said, recalling the anti-Hindi agitations of 1965.
The Congress-led government, which "thrust Hindi," was dislodged from power in 1967 state assembly elections and could not return to power in Tamil Nadu since then, he said.
The Karnataka Congress also slammed Shah, accusing the RSS of trying to push its “sinister hidden agenda” to divide people.
.@AmitShah should brush up his history knowledgeIndia is country of unity in diversity & has never banked on one language for its existenceBJP agenda is implimentation of sinister hidden agenda of RSS to divide our country by inciting people on grounds of religion, language..— Karnataka Congress (@INCKarnataka) September 14, 2019
Tweeting in Kannada, former chief minister Siddaramaiah said, "The lie that Hindi is a national language should stop. Let it be known to all that it is just like Kannada, one among the 22 official languages of India. You cannot promote a language by spreading lies and fake information. Languages flourish by affection and respect for each other."
However, the Congress leader added that he was not opposed to Hindi but the attempt to impose a language.
"Languages are the window of knowledge. It should be nurtured by love and not by force. I, too, oppose the Hindi Diwas celebrations," he tweeted.
JD(S) leader HD Kumaraswamy sought to know from Prime Minister Narendra Modi when 'Kannada Diwas' would be organised across the country.
"The central government is celebrating 'Hindi Diwas'. When will you celebrate Kannada Diwas Narendra Modi, which is also an official language like Hindi? Remember that the people of Karnataka are part of the federal system," Kumaraswamy tweeted, with the hashtag 'Stop Hindi Imposition'.
On the other hand, Primary and Secondary Education Minister S Suresh Kumar pitched for learning Hindi. "We learnt Hindi watching former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's lecture in chaste Hindi. He was the first leader from India who gave his lecture in Hindi," said Kumar speaking at the Hindi Diwas organised by the district administration at Chamarajnagar. He added that Hindi should be given equal place, just like Kannada, assuring Hindi teachers of addressing their grievances.
Siddaramaiah had on Friday cried foul over not holding the bank clerk recruitment exam, conducted by the Institute of Banking Personnel Selection, in Kannada.
Meanwhile, a pro-Kannada outfit has warned of agitations from October 1, if the Centre 'imposes' Hindi in the state.
The Communist Party of India (CPI) also lashed out at Shah, saying his comments were an "attack" on India's federal structure and diversity.
"The statement of Amit Shah on Hindi Diwas saying if there is any single language that can ensure unity of our nation that is only Hindi smacks of attack on the very concept of diversity. The need today is to respect, protect and nurture diversity of our nation so that unity is ensured," the Left party said in a statement.
"The Home Minister's statement is an attack on federalism extending the politics and ideology of RSS to every sphere of life. The Communist Party of India strongly condemns these repeated attempts of Modi-Shah government to impose Hindi as part of Hindutva agenda of RSS. This will actually divide our Nation," it added. Warning the government to desist from such "nefarious attempts" the CPI demanded that Shah withdraw his statement.
Emphasising on Hindi's ability to bring together the country, Shah said that it is extremely important for a country to have a common language that becomes the mark of its identity in the world. Later, at an event in New Delhi, the home ministry further said that every child will be taught Hindi in north eastern part of India.
In June, the Draft New Educational Policy 2019 had created an uproar, especially in the southern states, after a clause recommended mandatory Hindi teaching in all schools.
After the release of Union government's original draft, all Opposition parties in Tamil Nadu blasted the recommendations, and even the BJP's ally AIADMK refused to dilute the state's two language formula.
Protests were also seen over in West Bengal, Maharashtra and Karnataka. The Centre went into damage control mode later, with senior cabinet ministers tweeting reassurances that Hindi would not be imposed without further consultations. Finally, the revised draft was uploaded by the Human Resource Development Ministry.
(With inputs from PTI)