“Everything is fine in India”.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed this sentiment not once, not twice but more than six times. And he did so in eight Indian languages. He was physically present in Houston before a crowd of 50000 Indian Americans, President Donald Trump and Senators but this part of his speech was meant for people back home in India.
“Bharat me sab accha hai … Sab changa si … saba maja mache … sab khoob bhalo … Anta baagundi … Ella chenaagide … Yellam Soukhyam … Sabu Bhala Achhi,” Modi said in Hindi, Punjabi, Telugu, Gujarati, Odia, Kannada, Tamil, Bengali.
The intention was not just to answer “Howdy Modi” or to showcase his familiarity with different languages but to send a strong message to his domestic constituency watching him bleary-eyed late on Sunday night. Particularly the language warriors. That for him, the mother tongue was important. By showcasing India’s regional and linguistic diversity on foreign soil, in a nutshell, he settled the national language debate.
A couple of weeks ago, Union Home minister Amit Shah’s comments on Hindi Diwas were misunderstood by many especially in Tamil Nadu who thought the Centre was planning to force Hindi as a compulsory language. Though Shah subsequently clarified that he only meant that Hindi should be given preference as a second language over English, the conspiracy theorists always felt the BJP believes in the One Nation, One Language dictum. Modi on Sunday demonstrated where he stood on the debate.
In fact, Modi in his tweets makes it a point to greet people in their mother tongue on special occasions. It may be dismissed as superficial but they also make a point in times of mistrust about his government’s intentions on the issue of language.