Language Issue: How Dravidian Parties Have Misled People In Tamil Nadu On Learning Hindi

M R Subramani

Jun 03, 2019, 04:47 PM | Updated 04:47 PM IST

People taking part in an anti-Hindi agitation in Madras.
People taking part in an anti-Hindi agitation in Madras.
  • The hullabaloo over alleged imposition of Hindi on Tamil Nadu is another tactic by the media and the Opposition to stymie the growth of the people.
  • With job and growth opportunities in the state already being minimal, certain voices have begun questioning the hypocrisy of the Dravidian parties on the language issue.
  • The anti-Narendra Modi brigade in Tamil Nadu is back in action within days of the Narendra Modi government being sworn in again at the Centre. The brigade, led by the mainstream media and Opposition parties, mainly the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), have latched on to the draft New Education Policy to mislead Tamil Nadu people by saying it was an ‘effort to impose Hindi’ on the State.

    Dealing with the “Continuation of three language formula in schools”, the draft education policy, submitted to the new Human Resources Development Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’, says the formula, followed since the adoption of the 1968 National Educational Policy as well as the 2005 policy should be continued, keeping in mind the constitutional provisions and aspirations of the people, regions and union.

    The draft goes on to add that since research has shown that children pick up languages extremely quickly between the ages of two and eight, and since multilingualism has greater cognitive benefits to students, “children will now be immersed in three languages early on, starting from foundational state onwards”.

    The Tamil MSM, which has been indulging in an anti-Modi campaign since 1996, picked this up and twisted it to say that the BJP government at the Centre plans to impose Hindi in Tamil Nadu. Lost in the din and bustle of this twist is the fact that the draft policy says that schools in Hindi-speaking states should offer and teach Indian languages from other parts of the country.

    In an interview to the Times of India, K Kasturirangan, head of the panel that submitted the draft NEP, said that the policy envisages every state also learn one language from another state. “That is the recommendation as it was the final view of the committee. The committee has been very sensitive about this particular issue,” Kasturirangan said, adding that he would set right any misreading of the manuscript.

    There are two things that the Tamil media and Opposition parties should have considered before raising their voice, needlessly. One, this is a draft policy and hence the policy will come into force only after feedback and suggestions are received from the people. Besides, the government can incorporate these suggestions.

    Second, the three-language formula, as the draft says, is a continuation of the 1968 and 2005 policies. The 1968 policy came on the heels of the anti-Hindi agitation in Tamil Nadu, which forced discontinuation of Hindi being taught in government schools. When media and political parties had no apprehension during both those times, how is it they suddenly find a problem with a draft policy now?

    The BJP didn’t come to power overnight. It has been in power since 2014. It didn’t try to impose Hindi in those five years. How come it will suddenly impose the language, particularly when it has allies like the All India Anna DMK (AIADMK) and Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) that are staunchly Tamil? Surely, the intentions of those who have raked up the language issue are something else.

    The Centre has been quick to dismiss the fears raised by the anti-Modi brigade, saying “there will be no imposition of any language in educational institutions nor any discrimination against any language”. There are a few amusing things as regards this episode as it has given an opportunity to call the bluff of the DMK in particular.

    Let’s start with an anecdote from the reporting class of this writer while he was studying journalism at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan during 1985-86. The lecturer for the class then was a senior journalist from the Indian Express, R K K Menon. He talked of an incident when he had to go to Don Bosco Matriculation Higher Secondary School in Egmore, a school for the elite in Chennai then where the some DMK stalwarts children went to study.

    Menon had gone there to report a function when an aide of the late K A Mathiazhagan, one of the founders of DMK and a minister in the late Karunanidhi’s first cabinet, approached him to say that the minister wanted to meet him. When he went to meet him, Mathiazhagan told Menon that he had come to the school since his son studied there and requested him to keep the information confidential. He was giving us this information only to explain that we shouldn’t be taking the anti-Hindi and pro-Tamil stance of the Dravidian parties seriously.

    A late Dravidian leader, who had served in both Karunanidhi and late M G Ramachandran cabinets, used to thunder anti-Hindi slogans on stage. A family friend of his found it puzzling since she knew everyone at his home studied Hindi. When she confronted him, he told her without batting an eyelid: “I forget the slogans once I get down from the stage!”

    It is not just a case with only that DMK leader. It is true with many Dravidian leaders. In fact, there are leaders and actors who swear Tamil as their breath but send their children and grandchildren to American and British schools.

    Getting back to the anti-Hindi stance of Dravidian parties, it would be pertinent to recall what the late Karunanidhi said while nominating Dayanidhi Maran, former union minister who also studied in Don Bosco School, from Central Chennai Lok Sabha constituency. The late chief minister said Maran was being nominated as he could speak in Hindi in Parliament. He repeated his argument when he was questioned why Maran, who was young, was being made a minister in the United Progressive Alliance Cabinet.

    In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the DMK put up posters in Hindi seeking votes for Maran in some parts of Chennai like Purasawalkam and Park Town where a significant number of people from North India live. In 2016, DMK candidate Sekhar Babu, contesting from the Harbour Assembly constituency, put up posters in Hindi in Mint, Sowcarpet and Park Town where north Indian population is significant. In the recent Lok Sabha elections, DMK candidate P Velusamy spoke in Hindu to a section of voters in Dindigul, saying he would attend to their problems within an hour and take up their issues in Parliament.

    While the DMK goes about saying it will oppose imposition of Hindi, it has promised that Urdu would be taught in schools in areas where Muslims were in a majority. Does DMK and its president M K Stalin know that there are many common words in Hindi and Urdu? No doubt, the DMK and its other alliances are politicising language.

    While the DMK’s anti-Hindi stance has got its own takers, there are many who have started to question it. Do DMK and its leaders whose family members learn or have learnt Hindi have any moral right to preach on Hindi? Will the party make public how many of its leaders’ family members know Hindi and to which schools their children and grandchildren go?

    Second, do DMK and other parties opposing Hindi mean to say that people of Tamil Nadu shouldn’t go outside the state for employment or other opportunities? These parties seem to be trying to make the people of Tamil Nadu, particularly Tamizh-speaking ones, prisoners of their emotions by provoking the language issue.

    Today in Tamil Nadu, it is hard to get plumbers, electricians, carpenters and construction workers besides employees in hospitality and large consumer outlets, thanks to the freebies doled out continuously since 2006.

    The state depends on workers from north-east, Bengal, Odisha, Bihar and Jharkhand. The situation is such that people in Tamil Nadu need to know Hindi to deal with these people, who are alienated from the public by their contractors. In such circumstances, what do DMK, its leaders and other Opposition parties want the people of Tamil Nadu to do? Keep their emergency household repairs pending indefinitely?

    Employment available in Tamil Nadu is limited, be it either in government departments or private companies. In such a situation, the people will have either go out to find employment or start their own business. How will these people, many of them in the IT sector who have studied in rural government schools in Tamil Nadu, survive without knowing at least Hindi, in other states?

    These people could argue that English is a better option. But there are parts of the country in the south where people can speak only Hindi after their mother tongue. This writer can vouch for having survived in Vizianagaram, 70 km from Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh, with Hindi and without knowing Telugu. Or, even managing to cover the 1999 election of Sonia Gandhi from Bellary (now Ballari) Lok Sabha constituency by talking to people only in Hindi.

    What is surprising is that people or political parties in neighbouring states like Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh do not seem to have any problem in learning another language, especially Hindi. They also seem to flourish in these states, some of them running successful businesses. Why then should Tamil Nadu people oppose and suffer from such a disadvantage?

    There are people who argue why aren’t people particularly in North India not learning South India languages? Unfortunately, former union minister Shashi Tharoor has joined the chorus that has come up with this question, little realising the reality.

    If a person in North India has to learn Tamil or Malayalam or Telugu, shouldn’t he or she be given an opportunity? Three decades ago, this writer ran into a person who came to Chennai from New Delhi. He was happy to see someone speak his language and then said: “I envy you people since you get the opportunity to learn Hindi. We don’t get any opportunity to learn your language.”

    One, people in North India have not been given an opportunity to learn another language. Political parties in Tamil Nadu should be happy that the draft education policy stresses on people in other states learning one language from another part of the country and thus their language could soon be picked up by citizens in North or West or East India. This offers an opportunity to take Tamil to those states.

    Second, has either the DMK or AIADMK, which has been in power since 1967 and never missed an opportunity to boast of their Tamil pride, made any effort to spread Tamil to other states? For that matter, has the Dravidar Kazhagam, the parent organisation of DMK and AIADMK, made any effort to promote Tamil outside the state? Wouldn’t half its efforts to run down Tamil heritage, culture and Hindu religion helped to spread the language?

    While Dravidian parties oppose Hindi tooth and nail publicly, they make no bones about their preference for English, a foreign language. Why? Is it because the missionaries want them to continue supporting English so that they can fill their coffers with money coming in from abroad?

    There are some noises on this from the Tamil movie industry too. Of late, the industry has begun to play up people’s emotions on the language and regional issues and thus joined forces that are out to break the country. The film industry should remember that it has people who work in various languages and it cannot afford to take such a stand. Second, it will only lead to people in other parts hate some of its leading artistes, be it actors or directors or musicians. Let them watch some reality shows and find how people from North are hooked to Tamil film songs.

    The draft NEP offers a good opportunity to people across the country to learn another language at a very early age. It is a move that should be welcomed as it will help in better integration of the country.

    Instead, some MSMs in Tamil Nadu, which don’t want the people to watch any other media channels other than Tamil ones, have misled the people by twisting facts. These channels are those that are aligned to one or the other section opposing the Modi government. Unable to digest the BJP’s victory in the Lok Sabha elections, these channels are continuing with their anti-Modi campaign.

    On the other hand, there are some welcome signs over this issue. One, people have begun to call the bluff of the DMK and its leaders. Two, people are questioning what rights the DMK or the media have in trying to deny them the knowledge of another language, particularly Hindi. There are voices that are questioning the opposition to other Indian languages when they still seem to be caught in the pre-Independence warp of English.

    The issue continues for a third day on Monday (3 June) despite clarifications from the Centre, State and Kasturirangan. The language issue is being probably raked up to divert the people from other issues. The Tamil media is still caught up with this issue rather than talking of how the Modi government has extended the farm income support or plans to provide pension to small traders.

    M.R. Subramani is Executive Editor, Swarajya. He tweets @mrsubramani

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