Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM) founder Kamal Haasan has joined a growing chorus of voices opposing attempts to make Hindi the nation’s common language.
The MNM chief on Monday opposed attempts to “impose” Hindi saying it was a promise made to the country decades back which “no Shah, Sultan or Samrat must renege on.”
Further, India was an “excellent feast” and that such imposition would lead to “nausea”, he said.
“The unity in diversity is a promise that we made when we made India into a Republic. Now, no Shah, Sultan or Samrat must renege on that promise. We respect all languages, but our mother language will always be Tamil,” he was seen saying in a video.
The “No Shah or Sultan or Samrat” remark was an obvious reference to Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s pitch for Hindi as the nation’s common language, which drew sharp responses from many opposition leaders including DMK President MK Stalin and former Karnataka chief minister and Congress leader Siddaramiah.
Haasan, referring to the 2017 pro-jallikattu protests here, said: “it was just a protest, the battle for our language will be exponentially bigger than that.”
India or Tamil Nadu “does not need or deserve such a battle.”
“India is an excellent feast. Let us consume it together. If one thinks of shoving (food–Hindi in this context), it would lead to nausea please don’t do that,” Kamal Haasan said in the Tamil version of the video.
Referring to the country’s National Anthem, Haasan said it was penned in a language (Bengali) that was not mother tongue to most citizens.
“Most of the nation happily sings its National Anthem in Bengali with pride, and will continue to do so.”
“The reason is the poet (Rabindranath Tagore) who wrote the National Anthem gave due respect to all languages and culture within the Anthem. And hence, it became our Anthem,” he said.
There should be no attempts to make an inclusive India into an exclusive one as “all will suffer because of such short-sighted folly,” he said.
The veteran actor signed off hailing Tamil language, Tamil people and the Indian nation.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah pitched for ‘one nation, one language’ on Saturday while greeting the nation on the occasion of ‘Hindi Diwas’.
Pitching for a common language for the country, he said since Hindi is spoken the most, it can unite the whole country. He also asked people to use their native languages as much as possible but said efforts will be made to expand Hindi’s reach to different parts of the country.
“India is a country of different languages and every language has its own importance but it is very important to have a language of the whole country which should become the identity of India in the world. Today, if one language can do the work of tying the country to the door of unity, then it is the most spoken Hindi language,” Shah said in a series of tweets in Hindi.
He also asked people to increase the use of mother tongue and also use the Hindi language as one language to realise the dreams of Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.
The Congress was quick to react and said the three-language formula should not be tinkered with and controversies must not be stirred up on “emotive” issues settled by Constitution-makers. The party also said no indication should be given of a rethink on the “three-language formula” as it will create strife and unrest in the country.
According to the Official Languages Act, 1963, Hindi and English are the official languages for the Union government and Parliament. A total of 22 languages of the country are recognised under the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution.
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.”
JD(S) leader HD Kumaraswamy sought to know from Prime Minister Narendra Modi when ‘Kannada Diwas’ would be organised across the country.
DMK leader, MK Stalin criticized Union Home Minister Amit Shah for asserting the need for ‘one nation, one language’ saying “this is India, not Hindia”.
“The Home Minister’s views threatening India’s integrity are painful and condemnable. The DMK will not hesitate to unite states which stand to lose rights due to Hindi dominance,” The Tamil Nadu Leader of Opposition said
Following Stalin, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said that “No Indian should feel alienated because of language” and that “this is an attempt to divert attention from the real problems”. He also said that “Union Minister’s statement is a war cry against the mother tongues of non-Hindi speaking people.”
In a series of tweets, Vijayan said, “India’s strength is its ability to embrace diversity. Sangh Parivar must relinquish divisive policies. They must realize that people can see through the ploy; that this is an attempt to divert attention from the real problems.”
In June the Centre had tried this emphasis on Hindi language through the Draft New Educational Policy 2019 which recommended mandatory Hindi teaching in all schools. It had created turmoil, especially in the southern states like Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Other states like West Bengal, Maharashtra and Karnataka also protested over the issue.
Leaders of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka and Congress lawmaker from Kerala Shashi Tharoor had issued warnings against the forced imposition of the Hindi language on South Indian states.
Days after widespread outcry over the draft version of the National Education Policy (NEP) 2019 for making Hindi compulsory in non-Hindi speaking states, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) released a revised draft removing any reference to ‘Hindi’.