Tamil Leaders Slam Centre on Prasar Bharati's Latest Order to 'Promote' Sanskrit

A number of Tamil MPs of late have alleged that the Centre has been making multiple attempts to impose Hindi, and now Sanskrit, on Tamil Nadu.

Chennai: In a fresh round of controversy, a directive from the Prasar Bharati to its regional channels stating that a 15-minute Sanskrit news bulletin be telecast every day has irked leaders in Tamil Nadu.

Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) president, M.K. Stalin; Viduthalai Chiruthaikal Katchi (VCK) MP, D. Ravikumar; Communist Party of India (Marxist) MP, S. Venkatesan; and Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) leader and Rajya Sabha MP, Vaiko, among others, have condemned the ‘imposition’ of Sanskrit and demanded that the order be withdrawn.

“It goes against the objectives of Prasar Bharati Act,” says Ravikumar. “According to the 2011 Census, 803 people speak Sanskrit in Tamil Nadu. If you are going to telecast a bulletin for them, why not telecast a bulletin for tens of thousands of Tamils living in Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, Gujarat, and elsewhere. Uttar Pradesh has the highest number of Sanskrit-speaking population. Even in that state, Tamil-speaking population is larger than that.”

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Ravi Kumar says that both in terms of population that speaks the language and classical status, Tamil is in a better position and should ideally be treated better.

“But in the last budget session, the Centre said it would set up three universities for Sanskrit. Tamil is a classical language; I think it is time we start vigorously demanding that a Central university be set up for Tamil. Also, we should demand that Sanskrit spoken by only a few thousand people be removed from Eighth Schedule of the constitution, and languages spoken by over one crore people be included,” he adds.

In a tongue-in-cheek tweet, Madurai MP S. Venkatesan asked, “Not even five persons to listen to it, why would you need a six-inch conch?” He further adds, “How fair it is to spend thousands of crores of Rupees on a language spoken by a few thousands? The Centre has been consistently spending huge money on Sanskrit, but clearly ignores Tamil which is older than Sanskrit.”

In August, DMK MP Kanimozhi had tweeted about how an airport security staff in Chennai had asked her if she was Indian when she revealed that she does not speak Hindi. In a month, T-shirts carrying anti-Hindi slogans became viral in Tamil Nadu.

More recently, S. Venkatesan had slammed the Union minister of state for home, Nityanand Rai, for responding to his letter in Hindi.  “It was shocking that legal and procedural aspects have been violated by replying in Hindi to my letter,” the MP wrote back. Venkatesan had written to the minister on October 9 demanding examination centres in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry for the recruitment of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) paramedical staff. “I had to assume that your response was to that demand only,” Venkatesan hit back.

Quoting from the Official Languages Rules, 1976, Venkatesan wrote that the response in Hindi is a clear violation of the said rules.

On November 23, he had filed public interest litigation (PIL) at the Madurai bench of Madras high court demanding that the responses from the Central government to Tamil Nadu government, its people and MPs should be in English. It also demanded appropriate action against government officials who violate the existing laws.

“For all practical purposes, Hindi is the official language in Parliament,” says Venkatesan.  “We had once raised an issue about the regular circulars sent only in Hindi during a session from at least four or five ministries. The speaker agreed and said it should be sent in both Hindi and English. But in the next session, we had got the circulars only in Hindi from the same ministries.”

Venkatesan also points out the DMK MP P. Wilson had also received a response in Hindi for his letter on Other Backward Classes (OBC) reservation in National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET), and he had to fight for a response in English.

“All ministries are directly or indirectly moving towards only Hindi position, for us, it is clearly imposition,” he adds.

Kavitha Muralidharan is an independent journalist.