- PM Modi was in Chennai to attend convocation ceremony of IIT Madras
- Prime Minister praised Tamil as "ancient language", referred to UN speech
- PM's praise comes after Amit Shah's call for Hindi as "common language"
Tamil echoes across the United States, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in Chennai today, adding to references to the language that he made while speaking while about the nation's linguistic diversity during his speeches in the past week. The comments by PM Modi, who made his first visit to Tamil Nadu since his BJP returned to power for a second term in May, comes after Home Minister Amit Shah's controversial remark about Hindi becoming a common language.
"When I was staying in America, I spoke in the Tamil language once and told everyone that this is one of the ancient languages. Even today, the Tamil language echoes in entire America," PM Modi, who began his brief speech at Chennai airport with the Tamil greeting "Vanakkam (Hello)", said to loud cheers.
The Prime Minister, who is in Chennai to attend the convocation ceremony of the Indian Institute of Technology (Madras), has just returned from a week-long visit to the US where he made at least three public references to the diversity of languages in India.
On Friday, while addressing the United Nations, the Prime Minster stressed on the need for a universal brotherhood and quoted Kaniyan Pungundranar, a Tamil poet who lived more than three thousand years ago. "We belong to all places, and to everyone," he said.
Two days earlier, making a strong pitch for India as a destination for foreign investors, he reminded those assembled at the Bloomberg Global Business Forum that the nation was comfortable conducting business in English. PM Modi said such linguistic flexibility gave potential investors confidence.
And only days before that, while addressing more than 50,000 people at the lavish 'Howdy, Modi!' event in Houston, Texas, the Prime Minister said "... for centuries our nation has progressed with the co-existence of several languages..."
PM Modi's repeated references to India's linguistic diversity and his presence in South India today, where the imposition of non-regional languages has long been an emotive issue, are being seen by many as attempts to reduce tensions between South Indian states and the centre, following a furious reaction to Home Minister Amit Shah's tweet on September 14.
Only days before the PM was to leave for the US, Mr Shah's appeal to unify India, made on the occasion of Hindi Diwas, with Hindi drew sharp reactions from regional leaders who saw it as an attempt to impose the language on non-Hindi speaking states.
Tamil Nadu led the charge against Mr Shah's appeal with Leader of Opposition and DMK chief MK Stalin asserting "This is India, not Hindia" and actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan warning the centre not to start a language war that "India or Tamil Nadu doesn't need or deserve".
Warning notes were also sounded by Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa, a senior BJP leader.
Amit Shah later clarified he never asked for the imposition of Hindi over regional languages.