Tamil Nadu Opposition leader and DMK heir-apparent M K Stalin may well be looking for an issue to polarise his state’s voters when he accused the Centre of trying to relegate people who don’t speak Hindi to second-class citizens and of pushing the country into becoming ‘Hindia’ but his diatribe cannot be dismissed lightly. His warning that efforts at imposing Hindi and Sanskrit in many forms have started to disturb peace and damage the unity of the country can be the precursor of an anti-Hindi agitation of the type that took place in the 1960s if lessons are not learnt by both sides. That such a movement if launched can escalate into animosity against people from north India in the south with its parallel effect in the north is hardly a comforting thought. Lumpen elements invariably step in to exploit any such fanning of flames.
In a video message released by his office, Stalin cited the example of a recent parliamentary committee proposal to make it mandatory for MPs and Union ministers to use Hindi as the official language both in speech and writing. He added that the Modi government has obtained the President’s permission to use Hindi in airport announcements, advertisements and going a step further has made Hindi a compulsory subject for CBSE schools across the country. Stalin said Prime Minister Modi’s promotional campaigns are exclusively in the Hindi script. He went on: “Instead of translating the names of programmes and schemes, the government has been insisting on transliteration which makes the names meaningless for many citizens of the country.” Stalin indeed has a point. Any conscious attempt at bringing in Hindi in the non-Hindi states must be avoided lest it leads to resentment which would defeat its very purpose. But it is also true that most states have come round to accepting Hindi as a link language and Tamil Nadu could well work towards greater acceptance of it in some spheres of activity. Imposition by the Centre must, however, be scrupulously eschewed. Stalin on his part must not play with fire for his political ends. Driving a wedge between the north and the south would be dangerous for both.