CHENNAI: DMK Lok Sabha member Kanimozhi’s experience with the CISF at the Chennai airport has resonated with politicos hailing from other States as well. Kanimozhi, on Sunday, tweeted that a CISF personnel had asked her if she was Indian after she said she did not speak Hindi.
Former Karnataka chief minister HD Kumaraswamy on Monday tweeted in support of Kanimozhi. “Now, it is apt to debate how political leaders from the South were snatched of their opportunities by Hindi politics and discrimination,” he said, blaming ‘Hindi politics’ for preventing K Kamaraj and M Karunanidhi of Tamil Nadu from becoming prime minister. Although his own father HD Deve Gowda “broke the barrier, “there were several incidents of him being criticised and ridiculed for reasons of language,” he said.
He pointed out that public sector jobs too favoured those who knew Hindi or English over regional-language speakers.
Similarly, former Union finance minister P Chidambaram of the Congress also tweeted in support of Kanimozhi, noting that her experience was not unusual. “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. Non-Hindi speaking recruits to central government posts quickly learn functional, spoken Hindi. Why cannot Hindi speaking recruits to central government posts learn functional, spoken English?” he asked.
Congress leaders Jairam Ramesh, Karti P Chidambaram, Su Thirunavukkarasar, Manickam Tagore also backed Kanimozhi. TMC Lok Sabha MP Mahua Moitra, supporting Kanimozhi, charged that the “BJP treasury benches define Indianness by their own narrow parameters of homogeneity.”
“To see this @BJP myopia spread beyond Parliament & into the streets only tells me how important it is for us to continue to stand straight & fight this,” she said on Twitter.
DMK president MK Stalin, Kanimozhi’s brother, questioned why Hindi was made the yardstick for being Indian. “Is Hindi a yardstick for being Indian? Is this India? or Hindia? Those who dig the pit for pluralism will be buried in it,” he said on Twitter.
Responding to the comments on Monday, Kanimozhi, in a statement, thanked her supporters and said that “stealth imposition of Hindi is widespread”. Stating that this was a larger issue and that persons in positions of authority were unaware that Hindi and English were official languages of India, she said sensitisation to be inclusive and respect diversity was needed.
However, some BJP leaders, including H Raja in Tamil Nadu, accused Kanimozhi of lying about the incident and alleged she was merely resorting to language politics ahead of Assembly elections next year.