PM Modi steps in to settle language controversy

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Lakshmana Venkat Kuchi, Senior Journalist

 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s sagacious articulation on the ongoing heated language debate – that sparked off emotions for and against Hindi – it is hoped will be laid to rest. 

Referring to the re-kindled debate on the language issue that evokes sharp reaction in few non-Hindi speaking states like Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, the Prime Minister also cautioned the nation against such controversies and said all Indian languages were worth worshipping. In his virtual address to BJP office bearers congregated at Jaipur on Monday, Modi said, “The BJP considers all Indian languages as the linguistic soul of Bharatiyata (Indianness) and a link to the better future of the nation.” 

Language diversity is the pride of the country, but attempts are being made to spark controversies over it, Prime Minister Modi said.

“In the past few days, we have seen that attempts are being made to spark controversies on the basis of languages. The BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) sees a reflection of Indian culture in every regional language and considers them worth worshipping… It is a link to the country’s better future,” the Prime Minister reiterated. 

Prime Minister’s stand on the language issue was welcomed by Kannada film actor Kichcha Sudeep, whose reaction to Ajay Devgn’s declaration that Hindi was national language, sparked off a heated debate on social media and on the ground. And later another actor, Mahesh Babu, touched a raw nerve when he declared that Bollywood, the Hindi film industry, could not afford him and that he considered doing films in Hindi a waste of time. 

“It is a warm welcome towards all languages. I am not just representing only Kannada, I’m talking about… everybody’s mother tongue has been respected today with those few statements from the Prime Minister and that is where I was coming from that day. We don’t look at Narendra Modi as just a politician, we look at him as a leader as well,” Kichcha said welcoming the Prime Minister’s stand on the issue.

In Karnataka, no sooner did the controversy broke out, the Congress leaders had pounced on the slight to Kichcha and “attempts at forcing Hindi”. Karnataka is going for local body polls in a few weeks and will be going for general elections to Assembly next year. Tamil Nadu has always been aggressively fighting what it claims “attempts to impose Hindi” and forcefully articulates its position on the language issue. However, leaders like DMK president and Chief Minister MK Stalin, make it clear that neither he nor his party was anti-Hindi but was very concerned over efforts to force Hindi, directly or indirectly. 

It may be recalled that it was in Tamil Nadu that the Congress tried to forcefully impose Hindi in the 60s and was ousted in 1967 by the Dravidian party and since then has not been able to make it in the state electorally, Even today, it has to depend and piggy ride on either the DMK or AIADMK. For the present the Congress has been in an alliance with the DMK for assembly and Lok Sabha elections. 

In neighbouring Tamil Nadu, state education minister came out with a distasteful but stinging barb that likened Hindi speakers to panipuri sellers, which sparked outroar on the social media. The minister, had in a speech at an educational institution listed out advantages of learning English that gave the learners an edge in India and also abroad. 

The Prime Minister’s assertions on the language issue take me back to the early 90s, when VP Singh as the Prime Minister had promised that English will continue to be the link language as long as the non-Hindi speaking states wanted it. 

 In August 1990, the then Prime Minister was reacting on the strong sentiments expressed by Tamil Nadu leaders on a campaign to oust English, Angreji Hatao Sammelan, that was at the time being carried out in few states in North India, spearheaded by the then Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav. 

That campaign was interpreted by the then Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi as a ploy to impose Hindi and opposed it tooth and nail. 

And now with Prime Minister Modi coming out in strong support of all Indian languages it is hoped that the controversy will be laid to rest,  and energies are focused on economic growth and development.

(Lakshmana Venkat Kuchi is a senior journalist tracking social, economic, and political issues and takes a keen interest in sports as well. He has worked with prominent news organisations.) 

first published:May 21, 2022, 3:29 p.m.

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