With elections for Tamil Nadu assembly just eight months away, the DMK needed to fan the ‘Hindi imposition’ issue. The new National Education Policy and Kanimozhi’s purported exchange with a CISF officer provided an opportunity to do just that.
- Last Updated: August 11, 2020, 12:01 PM IST
Nobody is surprised that DMK MP Kanimozhi, daughter of the late M Karunanidhi, complained about the treatment she received at the hands of a Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) officer at the Chennai airport.
She tweeted that when she requested the officer to speak in English as she did not know Hindi, he taunted her with the question ‘are you Indian’. “I would like to know since when being Indian is equal to knowing Hindi,” she said.
The DMK leader received support from former Union minister P Chidambaram who said he too has faced such taunts from officials. This was really surprising because Chidambaram has held powerful portfolios in Congress-led governments for several years and had never complained about this before.
He is perhaps making the charge now since the Congress is a DMK ally, even though it has never supported the anti-Hindi stand of Dravidian parties in Tamil Nadu.
Kanimozhi, who has been an MP for nearly six years, is said to have exhibited her knowledge of Hindi in Parliament and even translated a poem by another north Indian politician in the House.
Though Tamil Nadu has been opposing the imposition of Hindi since 1937, even before the DMK was born, protests gained momentum only in 1965, resulting in violent riots. It is a known fact that the DMK, which spearheaded the anti-Hindi movement, came to power in 1967 fanning Tamil nationalism. Since then no national party could set foot in Tamil Nadu.
CN Annadurai, the first DMK chief minister, piloted the two-language policy in 1968 with Tamil and English, and no space for Hindi .Perhaps Tamil Nadu is the only southern state which has adopted the two-language formula more for political reasons.
With elections for the state assembly just eight months away, there is a need for the opposition DMK to fan its core principle of protesting against what it calls ‘Hindi imposition’. It has vehemently opposed the new National Education Policy recently approved by the central cabinet as an attempt to “impose Hindi and Sanskrit” in schools. The NEP has been opposed by almost all parties in the state with an eye on the vote bank.
Observers say that more and more people in Tamil Nadu have come forward to learn Hindi in the past two decades, and attempts to ignite anti-Hindi sentiment have failed. However, any attempt to introduce Hindi in any manner is resisted promptly by the Dravidian parties which always look at the BJP as a chauvinistic party waiting to impose Hindi and Sanskrit.
However, when need arose, DMK leaders were not averse to speaking in Hindi as seen in a video in which a senior leader’s son was seeking votes in Hindi during election campaign.
Even the late Karunanidhi once said that Dayanidhi Maran should be voted for Parliament because he was fluent in Hindi.
Kanimozhi’s stand is in accordance with her party’s principles, but it is surprising that party president MK Stalin came out with a statement much later than Chidambaram. This is seen by many as Stalin’s reluctance to allow his sister to grow in importance in the party.
Disclaimer:The author is a senior journalist and former head of BBC Tamil service. Views expressed are personal