The row over Centre’s move to promote Hindi in social media and official work snowballed on Friday with Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalitha and two of BJP’s allies opposing it strongly while a Union minister said a “wrong propaganda” was being made on the issue.
At the national level, CPM leader Brinda Karat also opposed any move to impose Hindi while in Odisha Assembly a member’s attempt to put a question in Hindi was disallowed by the chair.
Shooting off a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Jayalalithaa described the home ministry’s proposal as “against the letter and spirit” of the Official Languages Act, 1963, and said the “highly sensitive issue” caused “disquiet” to the people of Tamil Nadu “who are very proud of and passionate about their linguistic heritage”.
Social media by their very nature were not only accessible to all persons on the internet, but were meant to be a means of communication to persons living in all parts of India, including those in ‘Region C’, she said.
“People located in ‘Region C’ with whom the Government of India’s communication needs to be in English, will not have access to such public information if it is not in English. This move would therefore be against the letter and spirit of the Official Languages Act, 1963,” she said.
DMK president M Karunanidhi, whose party had successfully led the anti-Hindi agitation in 1960s, had yesterday dubbed the move as a beginning of “imposition of Hindi” that would make non-Hindi speaking people second class citizens.
The Centre’s move also found no favour with two of its Tamil Nadu allies also, with both PMK and MDMK opposing it.
PMK founder S Ramadoss said the BJP in its election 2014 manifesto, had promised to develop all languages with rich history and culture. He also called for declaring all 22 languages in the VIII schedule of the Constitution, including Tamil, as official language and “thus put an end to the Hindi imposition controversy.”
Attempts to “impose” Hindi in the past have been successfully resisted with, though attempts were later made to do the same, he said while terming the latest move as a “softer version” of the imposition of Hindi. MDMK chief Vaiko cited Modi’s preference of the social media platform and said that the Centre’s advisory on Hindi was a “matter of concern.”
He demanded that all Indian languages be made official languages in the interest of the country’s “unity and integrity” and till such time English should continue as the official language.
“Tamil Nadu will never accept imposition of Hindi,” he said in a statement, while recalling the earlier anti-Hindi agitation. The state unit of CPI also opposed the move.
The controversy was sparked by two home ministry circulars. The official language department had issued a circular on May 27 asking all ministries and departments, public sector undertakings and banks to give prominence to Hindi on official accounts in social media.
“… all officers and employees who operate official accounts on Twitter, Facebook, blogs, Google, YouTube should use Hindi and English languages. Prominence should be given to Hindi,” director, official language, Avadesh Kumar Mishra wrote in the directive.
Another circular announced prize money of Rs 2,000 to two employees who do their official work mostly in Hindi. Rs 1,200 and Rs 600 will be given to the second and third position holders respectively.
Union minister of state for home Kiren Rijiju had said on Thursday he will promote use of Hindi in all official work and public life while his senior Rajnath Singh sought to down play the controversy by saying the Centre will promote all languages of the country.
As the controversy raged, Union urban development minister M Venkaiah Naidu said in Bangalore Hindi was not being forced on anyone and a “wrong propaganda” was on that it was being imposed.
“This is again a wrong propaganda going on; nobody is forcing Hindi on anybody,” Naidu, also the parliamentary affairs minister, told reporters in Chennai.
“I’m for popularizing more and more regional languages, giving them importance- that is the policy of this government. There is no question of forcing any language. Let there be no apprehensions in this regard,” he added. Party spokesman Shahnawaz Hussain the government was not imposing Hindi as it respects all the languages.
Reacting to the development, CPM leader Brinda Karat said the problem is the government order saying “only Hindi” will be used in social media communication. The problem is with the world “only Hindi” which is dangerous to national unity and against linguistic equality.
Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav said his Samajwadi Party has always favoured Hindi and Urdu.
However, his counterpart in Jammu & Kashmir Omar Abdullah said in a big country like India any attempt to impose one religion, one language will not work.
Shiv Sena found there was nothing wrong in promoting Hindi. Sena spokesman Sanjay Raut there will be state languages but Hindi should be promoted as social language.
In the Odisha assembly, four days ago Kengam Surya Rao, MLA from Parlakhemundi, where Telugu is widely spoken, raised a question in Hindi.
Speaker Niranjan Pujari disallowed him saying the member can ask a question either in Odiya or English. But today he allowed the Congress MLA to speak in Hindi.
Shiv Sena on Friday jumped into the controversy ignited by the Union home ministry issuing directives on use of Hindi language, saying reports of Hindi being “banned” in Odisha assembly are “shocking”.
“In Odisha legislature, the speaker instructed that Hindi not be used. He told a legislator not to speak in Hindi. English is accepted as a substitute for Oriya language but not Hindi,” an editorial in Sena mouthpiece “Saamana” said.
“PM Narendra Modi has given Hindi a place of pride. He also addressed the Bhutanese parliament in Hindi. At a time when Hindi is being given such importance, reports that there is a ban in Odisha assembly on speaking in Hindi and asking questions in Hindi are shocking,” it said.
“If Narendra Modi as the PM does not promote Hindi then who else will,” it said.
“Agreed that English is a global language. But is it justified to give a secondary status to national language Hindi,” the editorial asked.
“In Mumbai, even if a Hindi speaker were to slip on a banana peel, the Hindi devotees in North say injustice is being done to them,” it said.
“Now, injustice has been done to Hindi in Odisha assembly. They should train their guns there,” it added.