'Don't try to impose anything on us.'
On Saturday, September 14, which is celebrated as Hindi Diwas Day, Bharatiya Janata Party President Amit A Shah set the cat among the linguistic pigeons when he suggested a common language for the country, and pitched the 'most widely spoken' Hindi for the honour.
'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,' Shah said, adding that efforts would be made to expand Hindi's reach to different parts of the country.
Shah's remarks were quick to draw protests from many states, but nowhere has the opposition been more strident and more vocal than in Tamil Nadu, the scene of violent anti-Hindi agitation in the 1960s and 1980s.
The Opposition Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam has announced protest demonstrations across the state on September 20, to counter the 'adverse effects' of "Hindi imposition on 'mother Tamil' and the mother tongues of people of other (non-Hindi speaking) states,' a resolution adopted at a DMK meet on Monday said.
Makkal Needhi Mayyam chief and movie legend Kamal Haasan released a video, in English, that soon went viral, in which he warned that the state's Jallikattu protest 'was just a protest, the battle for our language will be exponentially bigger than that'.
Will an anti-Hindi wave sweep through Tamil Nadu once again? "Compulsion is what we are fighting against," DMK Spokesperson Thanga Tamil Selvan, below, tells Rediff.com's A Ganesh Nadar.
Is opposition to Hindi relevant anymore?
You are asking whether life is important or food is important. Life is definitely more important.
Tamil is our life. We are following Arignar Anna's (Tamil Nadu's first non-Congress chief minister C N Annadurai's) stand that Tamil is our language and English will be the link language.
Our leader M K Stalin has announced that we will protest across the state on September 20. It will show the central government that the entire state is against their plans of Hindi imposition.
Isn't the protest just a political stunt?
No, it is not a political stunt. We have to protect our ancient language, it is part of our cultural heritage.
If we follow the three language formula, Tamil will lose its importance.
But when you alight from a train at Chennai's Central station and come out, the auto, cab drivers all speak Hindi, the restaurant waiters in Chennai speak Hindi, everybody seems to already know Hindi and yet here you are, opposing it. Does it make sense?
That's a very good question. When our people go to north India to work, they learn Hindi within a month because of their enthusiasm. We are not against that.
Compulsion is what we are fighting against.
But your party leaders own CBSE schools where they teach Hindi.
I know that Hindi is compulsory in those schools. That will not affect Tamil. Students who want to learn Hindi join those schools. If they don't want to learn Hindi, they will not join those schools.
They have an option. You don't have to study in a CBSE school.
If you ask any college student he will tell you that to get a job in north India or even in the Middle East, Hindi definitely helps.
This is similar to your previous question. The student has an option to want to study Hindi. I reiterate that we have nothing against anyone wanting to learn Hindi, we are only fighting against making it compulsory.
The DMK grew in the 1960s with the anti-Hindi agitation, are you still living in those times?
We are living in the 21st century. Much has changed since then. We are aware of the new realities. It is not us, but the BJP that is going back to the sixties.
The central government tried it then and failed, and these people are trying again.
The government is planning spoken English classes in government schools, so why not Hindi too?
They have just announced it, they have not implemented it. We support English since Anna's time.
Critics say Amit Shah came out with this statement about Hindi to divert attention from the failing economy, aren't you falling into his trap by making it an issue?
Our leader Thalapathy M K Stalin has been criticising the government for the economy since the last few months. Just because we are planning an anti-Hindi agitation doesn't mean we have forgotten the economy.
We will continue to point out the government's shortcomings in how it is dealing with the economy, the slow own.
Making Hindi compulsory is wrong, but not learning it as an option is also detrimental to citizens.
I totally agree with you, people who want to learn Hindi or any other language of their choice is fine with us.
Don't try to impose anything on us.