Why TN is forbidden land! — 8: Embracing the enemy

The writer T.R.Jawahar is Group Editor of Chennai-based News Today, Maalai Sudar and Talk Media publications.

It is a numerical coincidence that the Three Language Formula failed for the third time recently. It was nixed by the Constituent Assembly in 1950; shelved by Nehru in 1963; and now shot down by verbal missiles from TN after Modi’s present regime made a draft proposal. It is doubtful if there will even be a fourth attempt. To put it simply, the formula seeks to make Hindi mandatory in schools as 2nd or 3rd language, depending on whether a State is a Hindi speaking one or not.

Rajaji who became CM in 1937 after the Congress defeated the Justice Party made Hindi teaching compulsory in Madras Presidency schools. The Congress had always pushed for a uniform language across India. While the British did the same for administrative convenience, the Congress’s alibi was that a single language would unite the people for the freedom movement. Both were guilty of over
simplification, misreading the intricacies and intensity of the lingo diversity of India.

Gandhi was the most vocal, visible face for Hindusthani Hindi. So it was not surprising that his close acolyte Rajaji, at the first opportunity, put Hindi on the pedestal. But it happened in the wrong State, an original error. The Justice Party which had completely lost steam at the time, suddenly sprung to life on this pretext under E.V.Ramasamy Naicker. Till then that party’s sole agenda was anti-Brahminism. Rajaji inadvertently revitalised it with fresh purpose, making Periyar a pioneer of protest politics, that haunts TN till date.

Anti-Hindi agitations spread all over the Presidency between 1937-40 with over 1000 being arrested in riots, fasts, picketing and all acts that invite action under all Acts. Two, Thaalamuthu and Natarajan, died and were promptly martyred, with a building standing in their name now in Chennai that was Madras. Rajaji’s regime resigned in 1940 and the Governor immediately withdrew the problematic compulsory Hindi proposal. The agitations too ended. But having tasted blood and tested its efficacy, Hindi hatao was retained as the most potent weapon in the Dravidian armoury.

As 1965 drew near, the Three Language Formula, by which Hindi would become compulsory, too loomed. This time Anna’s DMK kicked off the agitations in 1963 itself, forcing Nehru to pass the Official Languages Act that provided for use of English as associate official language beyond 1965. Anna read between the lines and suspected mandatory Hindi hiding on the sly in the shadows. It was agitations galore again as 26 Jan 1965, D-day, read, deadline day, was rising fast on the horizon. A minor scuffle between students and Congress workers sparked off violence in whole of Madurai and the agitation was soon singeing the entire Madras State. Para-military forces were drafted for the first time to quell the agitation and over 70 died along with thousands of arrests.

Eventually after PM Shastri’s assurance that English would continue as long as non-Hindi States wanted, things subsided, more or less, indefinitely. In 1967 Indira’s Congress regime amended the Official Languages Act by which Hindi and English would be used as official languages of the nation,‘indefinitely’. At the States’ level it would be English and mother/local tongue – a two language formula – indefinitely. And with that fatal, final seal ‘made in Madras’, the entire multi-lingual Indian Republic became sort of, if you get the drift, bi-lingual, indefinitely. And thanks primarily to the anti-Hindi agitation, the DMK came to power and Madras State became Tamilnadu – a snub at snobbish Hindi – indefinitely. Ever since, Dravidian parties have got entrenched, indefinitely. And all of them anti-Hindi, if only as a political posture, lest I forget, indefinitely. Three Language Formula? Cheerio! Indefinitely! Confusion and conflict? Indefinitely.

It takes two to, well, dangal. Hindi and TN have always had a jinxed hate-hate relationship. The disdain is mutual and one breeds and feeds the other. The common thinking is that it is this State that detests Hindi on purely parochial and political grounds. While this may be true, the Hindiwalas of the north too have no love lost for their southern compatriots, the lowly madarasis. This is wholly owing to a lingo superiority complex, perhaps inherited from parent Sanskrit, besides a north-centric cultural nationalism.

I have often found it amusing to hear Sangh office-bearers, born and brought up here with Tamil as mother tongue, addressing one another in all contrived reverence as ‘ji’, when the very local ‘annae’ or ‘aiyya’ or for that matter, even ‘sir’ would have been natural. Most Central schemes carry words like awaz, yojana, vikas, etc., that seem so foreign here. Even ‘swach’ is covered with dirt of chauvinism. These may seem minor, but is very revealing of a mindset. Ignoring Tamil translations is self-defeating politics and bad for the policy, as well, however good it may be. When Indira launched the 20-Point Programme in mid- 1970s, it became popular in TN as ‘irubadhu amsa thittam’, apart from the above English phrase. No one can recall a Hindi version. The Congress had learnt its lessons.

The only enemy to Hindi in TN is actually the BJP parivar and its over-enthusiasm. Just in the last couple of months, many avoidable Central proposals on Hindi have promptly been disposed off by this State, amidst thunderous chest-thumping by self-styled Tamil champions. BJP has become the new Nehruvian Congress, the cutting edge of Hindi fanaticism and has set itself up as easy target for anti-Centre propaganda. Also a paranoid Hindia academia has always been adamant that the language has to be pushed down the throats as a bitter pill in national interest. How presumptive!

For instance, Kendriya Vidyalaya schools in TN, early on, used Hindi as medium of instruction for even science and social studies. Sanskrit was third language, not Tamil. Now these schools normally had students whose parent was in some Government department and subject to postings anywhere in India. Tamil children who could have very well learnt the same in English were forced to imbibe Hindi. Ditto with transferees of PSUs who had to reckon with records, forms, files and formal and informal communication, all in Hindi and not in their familiar English, the other official language by law. Such movements and migrations of people from non-Hindi States led to the initial spread of the language. The next generations there naturally took to it.

TN politicos have savoured Hindi with a forked tongue. Their open distaste for it is a hyped up ploy to ignite inflammable masses for raw political gains. And their hidden taste for it is a hypocritic project for profit that has produced phenomenal personal prosperity. Even at the height of the anti-Hindi agitations, there were many DMK leaders who spoke Hindi fluently. Since then, Dravidian leaders and their progeny have made it a point to master Hindi, ensuring the infection did not spread beyond their kith, kin and skin, to their co-borns and people. After all, as Dravidian MPs and Ministers zoomed in the Centre since ‘weepy’ Singh’s regime in 1989, they all felt the need for Hindi for negotiating cabinet berths as well as for sundry other bargains. The neo-Dravidian invasion of the Aryan north that brought in its wake a slew of scams had Hindi as the ‘illegal tender’. Whither 2G unless the minister himself could lip the lingo of the Jis!

The DMK caused lasting damage to TN by enlisting impressionable students into a wholly political anti-Hindi agitation in 1963. These youth were the torch bearers and their fire only ended up burning their futures. The people of many States that opposed Hindi imposition also made a clear and mature distinction from learning it voluntarily. In fact, neighbouring AP offers it as second language. But TN, in its symbolic, stupid attempt to show itself as the last post of resistance, stands isolated as a withered tree in a lush pasture. The DMK on coming to power in 1967 scrapped all Hindi departments in schools and colleges, denying Hindi to those who wanted it or genuinely needed it, besides displacing thousands of Hindi teachers. I, for all my aversion to Hindi by force, deem this a violation of a Fundamental right and Human right.

Even today, thanks to these pervert social justice champions, the weaker sections studying in Government schools and Government- aided schools can’t learn Hindi to further their careers while their richer peers with access to tuition make it big. And the tragic irony is that many of the ritzy private schools and teaching centres that rake in fortunes with Hindi are owned by once rabid anti-Hindi ideologues and their families. One such institution run by a vocal anti-Hindi lineage openly orders its students to speak in English only and not … never Tamil! Hindi is both good business and good politics here. Such duplicity has made anti-Hindi protests comic cameos in public eye but they retain their damage potential as an official policy.

Small wonder, the TN people have wisened up to the truth that the State’s official opposition to Hindi is also a kind of imposition. The hangover of anti-Hindi agitations hit two generations, but they saw through the facade and futility and ensured their children learnt Hindi. The legendary aller’ji’ to Hindi is not just easing but is on the verge of ceasing, with the language spreading fast. TN has the highest share of pracharaks in the South. Also, the millennials and next gen have scant interest in TN’s anti-Hindi history. Hindi, in their pragmatic world view, is just like any other skill required to survive or thrive, not a life or death bone of contention.

Also celluloid Hindi has achieved what Sarkari Hindi could not – made Hindi popular and fashionable despite the distractions from dialogues caused by the hip-hip-hoorahs of sizzling starlets gyrating to peppy item numbers. Influx from North into the State for tourism, jobs, education or shopping has made Hindi knowledge prudent for commerce or service. Also, confident Tamils today do not see Hindi as a threat to their fertile and versatile mother tongue. Rather, they have ungrudgingly and in all grace, taken to Hindi, without expectation of reciprocity from the northern lingo zealots.

Opposition to Hindi in TN became a damp squib thanks to Dravidian double speak. But the embers are being kept alive with the BJP constantly kindling them. Arre, kya match he, both teams scoring self goals!

Tail Piece: Kamaraj was a freedom fighter, All India Congress President and also a CM of Madras State. He was a King maker and a Queen maker too, having installed PMs. Yet he did not know Hindi and spoke halting English. Just Tamil maalum!

Periyar, the supreme father of the Dravidian movement, however, described Tamil as the ‘language of barbarians’.

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Jawahar T R