Tamil Nadu

Kamal Haasan warns of a Jallikattu sequel if Hindi is imposed on Tamil Nadu

The reel Senapati in `Indian 2′ is in the making, away from the public glare. But the real `Senapati’ is preparing to be on the battlefield. Warning of a sequel to Jallikattu of January 2017, Kamal Haasan took the Hindi Imposition bull by its horns, saying “the battle for our language will be exponentially bigger than that. India or Thamizh Nadu does not need or deserve such a battle”.

Since Union Home minister Amit Shah said Hindi should be India’s common and unifying language at a Hindi Day event last week, many in the Peninsula have protested, fearing a repeat of the BJP’s Kashmir template on their languages. DMK chief MK Stalin said “India is not Hindi-a” reminding the BJP that his party that spearheaded the anti-Hindi agitation in the mid-1960s, will be ready for another language war. Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan, former Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah and Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi too have rejected attempts to force a one nation, one language narrative. 

Kamal Haasan’s video messaging was forceful and cinematic. Pointing out that when India was unified by merging the princely states, the kings gave up their kingdoms for India but did not agree to give up their language, culture and traditions. Taking a dig at Amit Shah, he says, “When India became a Constitutional Republic in 1950 the government promised the same to the people and no Shah or Sultan or Samrat can attempt to change it.”

“Do not make an inclusive India into an exclusive India,” says Kamal calling it a short-sighted folly.

Kamal is now also a politician and therefore the question whether there are political motives to his positioning, are bound to be asked. Is it an attempt to pitch his Makkal Needhi Maiam tent riding on an emotive issue? Are political parties in Tamil Nadu using the opportunity to whip up an anti-BJP and by extension, anti-NDA (which includes the ruling AIADMK) sentiment in Tamil Nadu? 

Arun Javagal, a Bengaluru-based linguist who fights for the cause of Kannada language, says the reaction from south India is because there is suspicion about the BJP’s agenda.  

“The BJP’s agenda has been Hindi, Hindutva, Hindustan. After the way they removed Article 370, the apprehension is that they could go ahead and do the same with languages. Hindi is our official language, it does not take much for the BJP to make it India’s national language,” says Arun Javagal.

But if the BJP indeed has its ear to the ground and cares for its political future in south India, especially Tamil Nadu, it will never impose Hindi. Its Tamil Nadu unit accuses the opposition of overreacting.

“We are not for imposing Hindi. We have only said instead of English, why not promote Hindi. In fact, BJP has always supported regional languages and said education till High school should be in the mother tongue,” says Narayanan Thirupathy, BJP spokesperson. 

As has always been the case, the pushback from Tamil Nadu has been misunderstood. It is seen as a reluctance on part of the south Indian to learn Hindi, which is certainly not the case. The opposition is to anyone who forces Hindi upon the people of a state, ignoring the rich history and texture of Tamil or any other regional language. 

A comment on social media from someone north of the Vindhyas sums up the north-south divide. 

“We felt so proud when AB Vajpayee spoke in Hindi at the United Nations,” it said. 

That is precisely the problem. How can you, while taking pride in your mother tongue, deride a Tamilian or a Malayalee or a Kannadiga’s right to feel equally proud of his language. 

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