Selecting a Sanskrit religious song as invocation song at an event in IIT-Madras involving Union minister Nitin Gadkari Monday kicked up a row in Tamil Nadu, with several opposition parties and at least one students’ outfit accusing the Central government of ignoring Tamil language and culture and imposing Hindi, Hindu and Sanskritic ideas in the state.
Gadkari inaugurated the ceremony to lay foundation stone for the National Technology Centre for Ports, Waterways and Coasts on the IIT campus.
Union Minister of State Pon Radhakrishnan and IIT-M director Baskar Ramamurthy were among those present.
A group of students sang Maha Ganapathim at the beginning of the event. Traditionally, Tamil Thaai Vazhthu, considered the Tamil anthem, is sung as the invocation song at official functions.
Condemning the incident, DMK working president and Leader of Opposition M K Stalin said the Centre should stop its attempt to infringe upon the culture and identity of Tamils and Tamil Nadu. MDMK leader Vaiko accused the “Sangh Parivar-controlled Narendra Modi government” of “orchestrating” it and called it the Centre’s “arrogance”.
While CPI(M) state secretary K Balakrishnan alleged that it was another form of “imposing” Hindi and Sanskrit, PMK leader S Ramadoss said the state government should take steps to make singing of the Tamil anthem mandatory at all functions of IIT-Madras, PTI reports.
IIT-M director Ramamurthy said the institute has no role in selecting the invocation song. “If it was Tamil students who sung it, they would have had a Tamil song. It could be Marathi or Bengali, or any song. We do not ask students to sing a particular song — they sing the song they know and students voluntarily come…. We have not given any direction,” he said.
In a statement, Stalin said it appeared to be a “deliberate bid to sideline Tamil in the centrally-funded secular institute of higher learning”, as playing the Tamil anthem at the start and national anthem at the end of any event is the practice in Tamil Nadu.
Vaiko said, “They are trying to destroy all languages and cultures by using their bulldozers and imposing the ideas of Hindi, Hindu and Hindu Rashtra. This is their hidden agenda. This is what Prime Minister Modi is doing. When you can speak in English, why do you speak in Hindi in Puducherry and Tamil Nadu?” Vaiko was referring to Modi’s visits to Chennai on Saturday, and Puducherry the following day.
Vaiko said both Gadkari and Radhakrishnan should apologise for not singing the Tamil anthem. The Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle, a students’ group in IIT-M, issued a statement: “It is highly undemocratic and unconstitutional to recite a song praising a Hindu god at an institution which runs on taxpayer money, (and) which include followers of other religions and non-followers of any religion.”