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Anti-Hindi Agitation Escalates, 85-Year-Old Ends Life Before DMK Office

Before taking his life, Thangavel held a banner that said: 'Modi government, central government, we don’t want Hindi. Our mother tongue is Tamil and Hindi is a language for clowns. Imposing Hindi language will affect the lives of students. Get rid of Hindi, get rid of Hindi, get rid of Hindi.'

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An 85-year-old farmer Thangavel from Tamil Nadu’s Salem district set himself on fire outside DMK house in Thalaiyur, next to Mettur, protesting the Hindi language imposition. 

The former agriculture union organiser for DMK allegedly poured petrol over himself and set himself on fire and died on the spot at around 11am because he was distressed about the alleged Centre’s move to make Hindi the medium of education. This episode harks back to January 25, 1965, a year before the Official Languages Act was to come into force, when 27-year-old Keelapaloor Chinnasamy, the only son of his parents, self-immolated at the Tiruchi railway station, shouting pro-Tamil slogans. 

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Before taking his life, Thangavel had written a letter and a placard to the P.N. Patti town panchayat DMK secretary Kumar, in which he said: “Modi government, central government, we don’t want Hindi. Our mother tongue is Tamil and Hindi is a language for clowns. Imposing Hindi language will affect the lives of students. Get rid of Hindi, get rid of Hindi, get rid of Hindi.”

Tamil Nadu’s ruling party DMK youth wing secretary and CM MK Stalin’s son Udayanidhi Stalin had warned that the party would stage a protest if Hindi is thrust upon the state.

Latest attempt of Hindi Imposition 

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In October this year, the Committee of Parliament on Official Language headed by Home Minister Amit Shah recommended that the medium of instruction should mandatorily be Hindi, and local languages, in all technical or non-technical educational institutions including central universities. The technical institutions include Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), Indian Institutes of management (IIMs), and All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) under the Union government. Kendriya Vidyalayas (KVs), Navodaya Vidyalayas (NVs) and central universities fall under the category of non-technical institutes.

In its 11th volume of the report presented to President Droupadi Murmu last month, the committee said that English should be the medium of instruction only when absolutely necessary and must be gradually replaced with Hindi in those institutions.

The committee in total made 112 recommendations. It also recommended elimination of English-language question paper in the recruitment examinations and arrange for Hindi translation for all high court orders, with the option of high court proceedings in Hindi.

Further, government officials who do not work in Hindi in Hindi-speaking states should be warned and their non-compliance will be recorded in the Annual Performance Assessment Report (APAR). 

All communication at central government offices, ministries or departments, such as letters, faxes, and emails, should be in Hindi or local languages, simple and easy language should be used in official work and invitation letters, speeches, and moderation for any events organised by the central government should all be in Hindi or local languages.

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Shah had also suggested that people of different states should communicate with each other in Hindi, and not English.

BJP floor leader in the state assembly, Nainar Nagendran, pointed: “Even during the Congress’ period, India was categorised into A, B, C where C pertained to states which do not speak in Hindi. It has already been established that in these states, education can be in their mother tongue, whether it is Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada. There is no danger to Tamil.”

Tamil Nadu Fights Back

Tamil Nadu chief minister MK Stalin on October 19 tabled a resolution in the state assembly against any “imposition” of the language, that it will stick to its dual language policy of English and Tamil, and will seek inclusion of all state languages in the list of official languages of the country. At this, the opposition AIADMK, led by former chief minister Edapaddi K Palaniswami, and BJP MLAs staged a walkout ahead of assembly proceedings.

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Following the parliamentary report, Stalin had written to PM Narendra Modi twice alleging that such attempts were non-constitutional. He accused that the BJP was trying to divide India into Hindi speaking states, states where usage of Hindi is less, and states that don’t speak Hindi. Tamil Nadu comes under the third category. “As rightful owners of one of the oldest languages, Tamil, and its culture, there are efforts to make us third class citizens. We should raise our voice against this,” Stalin said.

The resolution recommended: The House urges the Union Government not to implement the recommendations of the Parliamentary committee’s report on Official Languages submitted to the President, which are against the State language, including Tamil, and also against the interest of the people who speak those languages.

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In June 2019, Tamil Nadu protested the draft National Education Policy (NEP) that advocated 3-language formula, which stated English has become the language of the elite, and large sections of the society were left out of higher-paying jobs. The TN government said it would continue with the two-language formula of Tamil and English. Meanwhile, #StopHindiImposition, #TNAgainstHindiImposition trended on Twitter.

In brief: Origin of Anti-Hindi Protests

During the first anti-Hindi agitation, many leaders were arrested and two leaders – Natarajan and Thalamuthu lost their lives in the protest. The protest lasted for about three years and finally, Lord Erskine withdrew the bill after the resignation of Congress in 1940. Again after Independence, when Prime Minister Nehru tried to introduce Hindi as the official language, the southerners protested again. Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru enacted the Official Languages Act in 1963 to continue the use of English beyond 1965. After elections, Hindi was imposed by the Chief of the State in 1965.

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The Committee of Parliament on Official Language was set up in 1976 under the Official Language Act, 1963, and comprises 30 members of Parliament – 20 from the Lok Sabha and 10 from the Rajya Sabha.
 
 

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