A directive from India's food safety authority to rename curd packets as "Dahi" in Hindi was changed on Thursday after it sparked a backlash from Tamil Nadu's Chief Minister and milk producers, who see it as an attempt to impose Hindi on non-Hindi speaking states.
The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) had issued the directive to the federation of milk producers in Tamil Nadu, asking them to change the labels of their curd packets from "Curd" in English and "Thayir" in Tamil to "Dahi" in Hindi. The directive also applied to other dairy products such as butter and cheese. As the controversy peaked on Friday, the FSSAI announced it was changing the directive.
March 30, PRESS RELEASE@MoHFW_INDIApic.twitter.com/iWjwUbzCt3— FSSAI (@fssaiindia) March 30, 2023
The original move had been met with resistance from milk producers in Tamil Nadu and neighbouring Karnataka, who had written to FSSAI to let them continue using their regional languages. They argued that curd is a generic term that can be used in any language, and that "Dahi" is a specific product that differs from curd in taste and texture.
Tamil Nadu's Chief Minister, MK Stalin, slammed the directive as a case of "Hindi imposition" and warned that it would alienate the people of South India. In a tweet, he said: "The unabashed insistences of #HindiImposition have come to the extent of directing us to label even a curd packet in Hindi, relegating Tamil & Kannada in our own states. Such brazen disregard to our mother tongues will make sure those responsible are banished from South forever."
Mr Stalin's criticism was echoed by an unlikely ally: the Tamil Nadu chief of the BJP, K Annamalai, who belongs to the ruling party at the centre. Mr Annamalai said he had demanded a rollback of the directive, saying it was not in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's policy of promoting regional languages.
This is not the first time that Tamil Nadu has opposed what it calls "Hindi imposition" by the central government. The state has a long history of anti-Hindi agitation dating back to the 1930s. The massive protests against Hindi imposition in the 1960s had catapulted Mr Stalin's party, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), to power. The then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had assured continuing English as a link language as long as non Hindi-speaking states accept Hindi.
The state has also been vehemently opposing the three-language formula as part of the new education policy, which would require students to learn Hindi as a third language.