Published: 16th August 2020
Welcome to Reason: Does one need to know Hindi to be called an Indian?
Language politics has always been a sensitive and emotive issue in Tamil Nadu where the National Education Policy (NEP) has been stirring up controversy
Asked if I was Indian for not knowing Hindi at Airport: DMK’s Kanimozhi. This is part of a tweet widely covered by the media on August 10, 2020. Kanimozhi ended her tweet asking, “I would like to know from when being Indian is equal to knowing Hindi.” She said she was asked if she ‘was an Indian’ by a Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) official for not knowing Hindi at the Chennai airport.
Incidentally, before we go further, the smoldering politics over language, fanned by the debate over the new National Education Policy found a new flashpoint Her tweet found support from many including Congress MPs Manickam Tagore, who called it ‘condemnable’, and Karti Chidambaram who wanted CISF to respond to what he called ‘outright ridiculous’. And CISF did respond soon after. It asked for the Tuticorin MP’s journey details — name of airport, location, date and time of the incident to take action against the official involved. They also apologized to her.
It may be noted that language politics has always been a sensitive and emotive issue in Tamil Nadu where the National Education Policy (NEP) has been stirring up a controversy. Calling it imposition of Hindi, the Tamil Nadu government has rejected the Centre’s proposed implementation of a three-language formula in schools — two of which should be native.
In the 1960s, there was a massive anti-Hindi agitation in the state when the then-Congress government attempted to make Hindi the official language. This had catapulted the DMK to power in Tamil Nadu. The present day is no different. The MK Stalin-led DMK and many opposition parties in Tamil Nadu have opposed the NEP and demanded a review of the sweeping reforms it has proposed.
Kanimozhi too has always been strictly against the imposition of Hindi or Sanskrit in her state where the two languages taught in schools are Tamil and English.