Tamil Nadu’s Anna University has made it mandatory for engineering students to study philosophy, which include Bhagawad Gita and Upanishads. DMK president Stalin criticised the move and his party workers launched protests in Chennai. Earlier, Home Minister Amit Shah had said Hindi can be a unifying language.
ThePrint asks: After Hindi, row over Sanskrit in Anna University: Is Tamil Nadu’s language politics dated?
Imposing Sanskrit, Bhagavad Gita more dangerous to India’s secular future than imposition of Hindi
Spokesperson, DMK and advocate in Madras High Court
The curious imposition of Sanskrit, through the vehicle of Bhagavad Gita, is much more dangerous to the future of secular India than the imposition of Hindi. Sanskrit is a dead language. Even those who are currently formulating the policy to sneak Sanskrit in through the back door of universities do not speak the language themselves. This begs the question then: what is the purpose of offering students the opportunity to learn a language that is not spoken anymore?
The answer, simply, is to propagate the ideals and values of one element of one religion: Hinduism, as seen from the context of Mahabharata. It must be reiterated that the Mahabharata is a Hindu epic, which means that it is a myth and one that is only accepted by followers of Hinduism. Therefore, proponents of Gita learning are in a minority within Hinduism.
In any case, there is no justification for introducing Gita or any other religious text within our professional courses like engineering or medicine. Such efforts only dilute the excellence in academic institutions, and serve to deviate from technical training.
Ultimately, Tamil Nadu’s politics of language and its identity is what stands between the Bharatiya Janata Party and a secular country.
Not just millennials, even Gen Xers like me regret missing out on learning Hindi
Head of Media Relations, BJP Tamil Nadu
The politics over language has definitely become outdated in Tamil Nadu. It is the DMK led by M.K. Stalin that is pushing language politics to bring unrest in the state.
The DMK party leaders could not find any another way to arouse tensions in order to bring down the state government. During the 1960s anti-Hindi agitation, it was not just the DMK that took to the streets. People across party lines came together against the Congress government for imposing Hindi.
In today’s technological age, no common citizen will accept the DMK’s agenda. The party has taken politics as a business and sees language as a tool. Let them continue to do politics over language. The BJP will expose the DMK’s double standards.
M.K. Stalin wants Tamil made an official language in all central government offices. What did his party do when the UPA was in power for ten years? If it says the Congress was not cooperative, then why is it still an ally of the party?
Even states like Maharashtra and Karnataka that were at the forefront of the anti-Hindi agitation in the 1960s, have now given some space to Hindi. It’s not just the millennials, but also Gen Xers like me who regret missing out on learning Hindi.
The subject matter of language is very important and sensitive in nature. Nobody can impose Hindi and nobody should hate Tamil. This has been the policy of the BJP and the RSS.
People don’t accept an alien language claiming a superior status. They do when it comes without power
Former Vice-Chancellor of Tamil University, Thanjavur
Language as an element of politics can never become outdated. Many might believe that politics over language in Tamil Nadu started during the time of Dravidian politics. But this has existed for centuries since the Sangam era.
In the Tamil epic Silapathikaram, it is mentioned that Cheran Senguttuvan invades northern India reasoning ‘arum thamizh aartral arinthilar polum’ (not aware of the potency of Tamil). River Vaigai was called ‘Tamizh Vaiyai’. Pothigai hills were called ‘Tamizh pothigai’ and Rishi Agastya supposedly came to learn Tamil.
Even gods like Shiva were attributed to only the South — “thennadudaya sivane potri” (Hail Shiva who hails from the south). Even in Bhakti literature, author Sivaprakasam mentions Tamil over Vedas.
In the present context, be it either removing Tamil from bank-postal examinations or the initial inclusion of Hindi as a compulsory subject in the draft National Education Policy or the mandatory study of Bhagavad Gita in Anna University, Tamil Nadu has consistently stood up against language imposition.
I can only say that the state’s defence of Tamil is only getting more intense.
Language as a boundary can never be altered. When an alien language claims a superior status, people would never accept it. If the same language comes without power or authority, people would welcome it for knowledge.
The British learned our languages when they invaded us. Even today when the IAS, IPS officers are posted outside their domicile, they feel the need to learn the local.
Politics over language would never end until India truly attains the ideal federal structure.
People are learning Hindi but not at the cost of Tamil. DMK uses language as a tool to gain momentum
A language gets its prominence from its contribution to a society and its individuals. Tamil, a long-standing language, has contributed immensely to various fields like medicine, architecture, etc. So, no language can be imposed at the cost of Tamil. There is no doubt that the issue of language has been predominant in the state’s politics. But the misrepresentation of it will not take shape into any movement.
One cannot fabricate things for their benefits like the DMK has attempted to do in this case, and that’s why people haven’t come forward to protest. This is the actual reason behind them calling off the protests. It is the DMK that uses language as a tool to gain some momentum whenever it is running short of it.
Tamil Nadu has not neglected Hindi. It still holds relevance in many ways like when three to four lakh people graduate from the Dakshina Bharat Hindi Prachar Sabha every year. People are learning Hindi, but not at the cost of Tamil.
The AIADMK government has raised the grant for Tamil language development from Rs 5 crore to Rs 56 crore. It has also promised to take up Keezhadi excavations with or without the Centre’s support. The current language politics is nothing but cheap politics by the DMK. The party has not done anything for the development of Tamil language. Such language politics will continue as long as the DMK is there.
Politics over language a no-loss game for DMK, which will continue to milk it for political advantage
Language politics doesn’t have a big influence on the vote bank.
In the Dharmapuri bypoll in 1965 immediately after the anti-Hindi agitation, Congress’ D.N. Vadivelu Gounder still won. This shows that the anti-Hindi protest didn’t have any impact on the voting pattern.
Even for the Dravidian parties, the starting point to victory was one-to-one election i.e., placing only one opposition candidate against K. Kamaraj’s Congress by bringing together the Swatantra Party, Communist parties, S.P. Adithanar’s Naam Tamliar Katchi and the All-India Muslim League among others.
Later, it was because of the rise of M.G. Ramachandran, roll out of welfare schemes and people’s desire for change that made the Congress lose its popularity in the state. It was not the anti-Hindi agitation as everyone believes.
Language politics is used to project a particular group as an enemy of that language. The DMK has been very vocal about the language debate these days to divert attention from other issues at the district level.
Politics over language is a no-loss game for the DMK, which will continue to milk it for political advantage.
Politics and overreaction by DMK and Naam Tamilar Katchi will trivialise the language debate
Language politics had its time in the state. New opportunities came recently from the Centre’s National Education Policy draft, Home Minister Amit Shah’s Hindi Diwas speech, etc to resurrect language politics and the DMK rightly capitalised on it.
Yet the party’s disproportionate reactions on several language-related issues within a very short span of time is a bit too much.
The DMK and the Tamil nationalist party, Naam Tamilar Katchi, are the usual suspects in raising voice against the imposition of Hindi language. But their politics and overreaction may trivialise the issue.
People in the state have always taken pride in the Tamil language, which is the nodal point that holds everything together. But the language has already taken a back seat. Majority of the current generation does not even read and write Tamil after they finish their high school.
The 1960s anti-Hindi agitation was a different situation. The DMK back then engaged youth with debates on language by setting up libraries and discussion outlets at every corner of the street. However, now it will be very difficult for the political parties to attract young people to stand for something that they do not even engage in anymore.
By Aananth Daksnamurthy, ThePrint