Amid strong reactions from Tamil political parties to Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s statement that people of different states should communicate with each other in Hindi and not English, Oscar-winning musician A R Rahman Friday posted about “Beloved Tamil” on social media.
Rahman shared an illustration of “Thamizhanangu” of “Goddess Tamil”, a word from Tamil Thai Vaazhthu or the Tamil national anthem, penned by Manonmaniam Sundaram Pillai and composed by M S Viswanathan.
He included a line written by modern Tamil poet of the 20th century Bharathidasan from his ‘Thamiliyakkam’, a book of Tamil poems, which read: “Beloved Tamil is the root of our existence.”
Rahman shared the post on his Twitter, Facebook and Instagram social media handles.
— A.R.Rahman (@arrahman) April 8, 2022
At the 37th meeting of the Parliamentary Official Language Committee on Thursday, Shah said Prime Minister Narendra Modi has decided that the medium of running the government is the Official Language, and that this would increase the importance of Hindi. “Now the time has come to make the Official Language an important part of the unity of the country. When citizens of States who speak other languages communicate with each other, it should be in the language of India,” Shah was quoted by the Ministry of Home Affairs as having said.
Reacting to his statement, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin claimed the BJP government was constantly trying to destroy India’s pluralistic identity, and that Shah’s statement was destroying India’s unity. Stalin warned that Shah was repeatedly making the same mistake, but reminded him that he could not win.
This isn’t the first time Rahman has commented on the language debate. In June 2019, when there were plans to make a three-language policy mandatory for all states, Rahman had tweeted: “AUTONOMOUS | meaning in the Cambridge English Dictionary,” with web link of the word’s meaning in the dictionary. His tweet triggered a popular hashtag, ‘#autonomousTamilNadu’ by his fans worldwide.
Similarly, when the Centre decided to drop the provision of compulsory teaching of Hindi in non-Hindi speaking states, Rahman had tweeted in praise of Tamil Nadu’s two language policy: “Good decision. Hindi is not compulsory in Tamil Nadu. The draft has been corrected.”
The two-language policy that is being followed in Tamil Nadu was born out of a peculiar pride in the Mother Tongue, Tamil, which is based on an assertion that Tamil is the oldest language and cannot be placed lesser than Hindi or any other language in India. For majoritarian reasons and a perception that a single native language will make the governance easier, Delhi had been consistently pushing for Hindi on various levels for several decades. But most Tamil parties and almost all Tamil politicians continue to resist efforts to impose or bring in a single national language in the country, Hindi.
The aggressive stand against Hindi imposition also evolved into a firm policy in the state from the 1960s; state schools consider Tamil and English as primary languages, while it is not mandatory to teach Hindi.