Never asked for imposing Hindi over regional languages, says Amit Shah

Ranchi/Chennai: Amid a heated debate over his remark that Hindi should be a common language, Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Wednesday said he has never asked for imposition of Hindi over native languages in the country but advocated its use as the second language, following which DMK announced postponement of its September 20 protest.

Referring to his speech on the occasion of Hindi Divas on Saturday where he made a pitch for a common language for India, the home minister said to end the confusion, people should listen to his speech carefully but "if someone wants to do politics, it is their choice." Clarifying his comments, he said, "A child can perform, a child's proper mental growth is possible only when the child studies in mother tongue. Mother tongue does not mean Hindi. It is the language of a particular state, like Gujarati in my state. But there should be one language in the country, if someone wants to learn another language, it should be Hindi."

"I have just made the request. I have failed to understand what is wrong in that," he said at an event organised by Hindi daily 'Hindustan' in Ranchi. "I too come from a non-Hindi speaking state. I come from Gujarat where Gujarati is the language, not Hindi. One has to listen to my speech carefully...," Shah said. Following Shah's assertion, DMK president M K Stalin said the party's proposed protest on September 20 on the issue has been postponed. Talking to reporters in Chennai, the DMK chief said Shah has also opined that his view had been "wrongly understood".

"We consider his (Shah's) clarification as a big victory for the DMK," he said. However, the leader from the south said if Hindi was imposed, the DMK will oppose it at all times. Referring to his meeting with Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit at Raj Bhavan, Stalin said Purohit told him that Hindi will not be imposed. State Congress chief K S Alagiri claimed the Centre was "rattled" by the protest call by parties in Tamil Nadu and hence utilised the office of Governor to convey that Hindi will not be imposed.

"This is no doubt a victory for our alliance," he added. Ahead of Shah's clarification, veteran actor Rajinikanth said the concept of a common langauge in India was "unfortunately" not possible and asserted any attempts of Hindi "imposition" would be not only resisted by southern states, but even many in the north. The BJP's ally AIADMK, which governs Tamil Nadu, said it never misunderstood Shah's remarks and accused the DMK of wrongly interpreting it and using it for political mileage.

"A language is the identity of a race, culture and tradition. We will hence, never accept Hindi imposition or for that matter thrusting of any other language. We never misunderstood Home Minister Shah's views," AIADMK spokesperson R M Babu Murugavel told PTI. During the Wednesday event, Shah, also the BJP chief, said someday there has to be a movement in the country for strengthening local languages "or else India would be like New Zealand and Australia".

"I often ask people coming from New Zealand and Australia -- what is your language. They could not meet my eye. There should not be a day when we lose our own languages. Local languages should be strengthened and along with that people should also learn Hindi," he said. On Saturday, Shah pitched for a common language for the country and said as Hindi is spoken the most, it can unite the whole country. "India has many languages and every language has its importance. But it is absolutely necessary that the entire country should have one language that becomes India's identity globally," he had said.

"I want to appeal to people to promote their native languages but also use Hindi to make the dream of Bapu (Mahatma Gandhi) and Sardar (Vallabhbhai) Patel of one language come true," he said. The Congress, DMK, JD-S, Left and BJP ally AIADMK had criticised Shah's remarks. While the DMK had announced protests, actor and Makkal Needhi Maiam chief Kamal Haasan warned of a bigger stir in the state than the pro-Jallikattu agitation in 2017 against any attempts of Hindi "imposition".

"The unity in diversity is a promise that we made when we made India into a Republic. Now, no Shah, Sultan or Samrat must renege on that promise. We respect all languages, but our mother language will always be Tamil," Haasan said in a video. Tamil Nadu was witness to the anti-Hindi agitation taken forward by the DMK in the 1960s against the alleged imposition of the language.

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