Congress leader P Chidambaram tweeted on the occasion of Hindi Diwas today and said he “rejoice(d) with Hindi-speaking people” celebrating the language. He also included a mention of Tamil, which he called “one of the oldest languages of India”.
“The Tamil-speaking people are legitimately proud” of their language, the Rajya Sabha MP from Tamil Nadu said in the first of two tweets.
Each of Mr Chidambaram’s tweets were posted thrice – in Tamil, English and Hindi – in a subtle swipe at central policies seen by many in the south as looking to impose Hindi over regional languages.
“We rejoice with the Hindi-speaking people who are celebrating Hindi Diwas today. The Tamil-speaking people are legitimately proud that the Tamil language is among the oldest languages of India,” he said in his first tweet.
We also celebrate that the archaeological excavations being done in Keeladi and nearby areas have brought to the knowledge of the world the roots of a 2600 year old Tamil civilisation
— P. Chidambaram (@PChidambaram_IN) September 14, 2020
Mr Chidambaram’s second tweet pointed out that archaeological excavations in the Keeladi region of the state had unearthed evidence of a 2,600-year-old Tamil civilisation.
The tweets come amid a simmering row between centre and state over the perceived imposition of Hindi – a row that exploded in June last year after the centre released a draft of the National Education Policy.
Southern states, led by Tamil Nadu, lashed out, particularly after Union Home Minister Amit Shah, on Hindi Diwas last year, said that since Hindi was “the most widely-spoken and understood language” in India, it was the only one that could unite the nation.
DMK chief MK Stalin declared “this is India, not Hindia” and warned the centre of a “language war”.
Last month DMK MP Kanimozhi reignited that fire; she said a CISF officer at Chennai airport had asked “if ‘I am an Indian’ when I asked her to speak to me in Tamil or English as I did not know Hindi”.
Mr Chidambaram said he had experienced similar taunts and tweeted: “If the centre is genuinely committed to both Hindi and English being official languages of India, it must insist that all central government employees are bilingual in Hindi and English,” the 74-year-old former Union Minister wrote.
If the Central government is genuinely committed to both Hindi and English being the official languages of India, it must insist that all central government employees are bilingual in Hindi and English.
— P. Chidambaram (@PChidambaram_IN) August 10, 2020
In September last year Mr Chidambaram, who was at that time lodged in Delhi’s Tihar Jail in connection with the INX Media case, said that if the Tamil people spoke in one voice, their language and culture would be acknowledged.
Ms Kanimozhi’s tweet in August also returned the spotlight to the education policy. The final version – National Education Policy (NEP 2020) released in July – said that either one of the mother tongue or the local/regional language would be the medium of instruction up to Class 5 in all schools.
Tamil Nadu has long opposed any moves to give Hindi more prominence than other Indian languages. The region saw anti-Hindi protests between 1937 and 1940. In 1965, the issue flared up once again and around 70 people died in the violence that followed.