'Don't Force Another Language War': Stalin Writes to Modi on Shah-Led Panel's Recommendations

The Tamil Nadu chief minister was reacting to recommendations made by the Amit Shah-led Parliamentary Panel on Official Language which sought for Hindi to be made the medium of instruction in institutions, among other similar things.

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New Delhi: Tamil Nadu chief minister M.K. Stalin on Sunday, October 16, wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to raise his objections against what he called the Union government’s attempts to “impose Hindi by all possible avenues” in the country.

Stalin was referring to the recent recommendations made by the Committee of Parliament on Official Language headed by Union home minister Amit Shah that the medium of instruction in all technical or non-technical educational institutions should mandatorily be Hindi and other local languages.

The Tamil Nadu chief minister posted his letter to the prime minister on Twitter, saying that the Union government’s “impractical, divisive” attempts would put people from non-Hindi speaking states at a disadvantage and “jeopardise the spirit” of Union-state relations.

The parliamentary committee’s report, presented by President Droupadi Murmu in September, recommended making the use of English as a medium of instruction option; using English only where necessary, to be gradually phased out and replaced with Hindi; the elimination of compulsory English-language question papers in recruitment examinations; giving warnings to government officials who do not work in Hindi in Hindi-speaking states, and more.

Following media reports of the recommendations, Opposition leaders, particularly from non-Hindi speaking states, were quick to challenge what they called attempts at Hindi imposition by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government at the centre; a long-standing bone of contention between the saffron party and Opposition leaders, particularly from the country’s southern states.

Also read: Hindi, Local Languages As Medium Of Instruction In All Institutions, Recommends Shah-Led Panel

The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) chief, in his letter, described the committee’s recommendations as being “against the federal principles of our Constitution” and that they would “only harm the multi-lingual fabric of our nation”.

“I would like to point out that the number of people speaking languages other than Hindi is numerically more than Hindi-speaking people in the Indian Union. I am sure that you would appreciate that every language has its own specialty with its uniqueness and linguistic culture. It is with the objective of protecting our rich and unique traditions from the imposition of Hindi that English has been made the link language and continues to be one of the official languages of the Union government,” Stalin wrote.

He then went on to highlight Tamil Nadu’s long opposition to Hindi imposition, recounting the protests in the state in 1965 in response to the Official Languages Bill, 1963, which was presented in Parliament by erstwhile prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru.

The Bill sought to replace English with Hindi as the country’s official language from January 26, 1965 onwards. However, amidst widespread opposition from DMK leaders from Tamil Nadu, numerous arrests, self-immolation by protesting students and threats of resignation from Tamil leaders in the Union cabinet, the Bill had to be withdrawn.

“Subsequently, the resolutions passed in 1968 and 1976 on official language, and according to the rules laid down thereunder, ensured the use of both English and Hindi in Union government services. This position must continue to remain as the cornerstone of all discussions on official language,” Stalin’s letter read.

Highlighting India as a “shining example of multi-linguistic and multicultural democracy”, Stalin recommended that all Indian languages be made ‘official’ languages of the country.

“I am afraid the continued efforts to promote Hindi in the name of ‘one nation’ will destroy the feeling of brotherhood of people of different languages and cultures and is detrimental to the integrity of India,” Stalin wrote.

Also read: Not All Things In Hindi Are Kosher To The Sangh: Hindi As Language And As Ideology

Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan, on October 11, had also written to the prime minister noting his exception to the Shah-led panel’s recommendations and raising many of the same points as Stalin regarding efforts to privilege one language over others in the country, damaging India’s ‘unity in diversity, and so on.

Moreover, on October 10, Stalin had made a statement to Modi to give up attempts to “make Hindi mandatory” and uphold the nation’s unity. 

“Do not force another language war by imposing Hindi,” Stalin had said, according to news agency PTI.

PTI also reported that even the ruling DMK’s youth wing secretary and Stalin’s son, Udayanidhi Stalin, warned the Union government that his party would stage a protest against it in Delhi if Hindi was thrust upon Tamil Nadu.

As the 1965 incident in Tamil Nadu shows, debates around the imposition of Hindi have raged in the country for a long time, however, they were given a renewed impetus since the saffron party came to power at the centre in 2014.

For instance, the panel on official languages generally submits one report in five years. However, this time within three years, the committee submitted two reports. In its latest report, it has made 112 recommendations.

The home ministry had also courted controversy in April this year when he suggested that people from different states should communicate with each other in Hindi and not English. Shah’s remarks then had also garnered criticism from Opposition politicians, Stalin included, who lamented the BJP’s attempts at ‘Hindi imperialism’ and the notion of ‘one nation, one language’.

While several debates over the imposition of the Hindi language in government institutions have emerged in recent times, many politicians and experts have criticised the idea of equating learning Hindi with a false sense of nationalism. Many have also questioned if there’s a culture of Hindi dominance in our country.

(With PTI inputs)