Hours after DMK leader Kanimozhi asked on Twitter if "being Indian is equal to knowing Hindi" as an experience that she shared along with the tweet triggered a huge row, Congress leader P Chidambaram this morning said: "The unpleasant experience of DMK MP Kanimozhi at Chennai airport is not unusual."
"I have experienced similar taunts from government officers and ordinary citizens who insisted that I speak in Hindi during telephone conversations and sometimes face to face," Mr Chidambarad shared.
On Sunday, Kanimozhi, daughter of former Tamil Nadu chief minister and veteran leader Karunanidhi, said she was asked at the Chennai airport by an officer of the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) "if 'I am an Indian' when I asked her to speak to me in tamil or English as I did not know Hindi."
"I would like to know from when being Indian is equal to knowing Hindi," the 53-year-old MP from Thoothukudi further wrote.
In a series of tweets, P Chidambaram today suggested that the government "must insist" that its employees are "bilingual in Hindi and English".
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
"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," the 74-year-old former Union Minister wrote.
"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 posted in another tweet.
Kanimozhi's tweet on Sunday afternoon sparked a fresh debate over politics over regional languages, days after Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami vowed not to implement the centre's new education policy as he called the three-language formula in the new National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 is "painful and saddening". The ruling party in Tamil Nadu- AIADMK - is an ally of the BJP.
Congress MP and P Chidambaram's son, Karti Chidambaram reacting to the DMK MP's post said the "lingustic test" was "outright ridiculous".
Former Karnataka chief minister HD Kumaraswamy today made critical remarks against politics over regional languages and said he too has been at receiving end.
Centre says Hindi is one of the languages. But it is spending crores of rupees in India and abroad organising programmes to popularise Hindi. This is one of the clandestine programmes. It is possible to fight this only with prompt love and respect for each one's language.— H D Kumaraswamy (@hd_kumaraswamy) August 10, 2020
I have also had similar experiences. I was a Lok Sabha member twice. The ruling class ignores the South with disdain. I have seen from close quarters on how Hindi politicians manoeuvre. Most of them don't respect non Hindi politicians.— H D Kumaraswamy (@hd_kumaraswamy) August 10, 2020
Hindi politics has prevented many South Indians from becoming PM- @H_D_Devegowda, Karunanidhi and Kamaraj are prominent. Though Deve Gowda was successful in breaking into this barrier, there were several incidents of him being criticised and ridiculed for reasons of language.— H D Kumaraswamy (@hd_kumaraswamy) August 10, 2020
Thank you for the immediate response and assurance to take action. https://t.co/DaYdeBZhFD— Kanimozhi (கனிமொழி) (@KanimozhiDMK) August 9, 2020
BJP leader BL Santosh, however, took a shot at the DMK over the tweet and linked it to the upcoming elections in Tamil Nadu. "Assembly elections are 8 months away ... Campaign starts," he tweeted.
Hours after Ms Kanimozhi's tweet, however, the CISF responded: "The CISF has ordered an Enquiry into the matter. It is not the policy of CISF to insist upon any particular language."