While Tamil Nadu reiterates its position of opposing any form of Hindi imposition, it seems to have found an unlikely supporter for the cause -- Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu. At an event in Tamil Nadu's Chennai today, he subtly indicated his position on the language imposition debate which might run afoul of his former party BJP. "No imposition of any language, no opposition to any language...Learn as many languages as possible," he said.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah recently drew scathing criticism from opposition parties who accused the Centre and the BJP of trying to establish a linguistic hegemony and "Hindi imperialism". Mr Shah had emphasised the need to accept Hindi as an alternative to English and not to local languages, embarrassing his own party's state chief who publicly said his party won't allow Hindi imposition in the state.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin, whose DMK has been at the forefront of anti-Hindi agitations which turned violent in the late sixties, had said Mr Shah's thrust on Hindi went against India's 'integrity and pluralism'. Reacting to Mr Shah's April 7 statement, Mr Stalin had said it will wreck the nation's integrity.
Mr Naidu today unveiled a life-size statue of the late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, who had headed the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) for 50 years, installed by the Tamil Nadu government at Chennai's Omandurar Government Estate along Anna Salai. This comes ahead of Mr Karunanidhi's 98th birth anniversary on June 3.
The Vice President called the iconic former Chief Minister the "best orator" who worked for the downtrodden and for social justice. "Karunanidhi was an able Chief Minister who left a lasting legacy of development. He comes in the list of iconic leaders who put people at the centre," he added.
Mr Naidu also tacitly emphasised the importance of a federal structure.
"Only if states develop, the country will develop...The country can't prosper without the development of states," he said.
Chief Minister MK Stalin, Mr Karunanidhi's son, said it was a mark of gratitude for his father. "I am happy his statue is between the statues of Periyar and CN. Annadurai on the same road. This statue stands majestically at the complex he established for the assembly, though it's now a hospital," he said.
The key opposition AIADMK was conspicuous by its absence. The Vice President observed, "There should be respect for leaders. All should work together agreeing to disagree. In politics, there are only political rivals, no enemies".
The 16-foot-high bronze statue on a 14-foot pedestal has come in the same secretariat cum Tamil Nadu assembly complex that the five-time Chief Minister passionately built during his last tenure. His political arch-rival J Jayalalithaa, who became Chief Minister of the state later, had converted it into a super multi-speciality hospital and medical college.
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The statue has five messages of Mr Karunanidhi engraved, including opposition to Hindi imposition and the creation of an oppression free society.
Interestingly, on the same road which was earlier called Mount Road, a statue for Mr Karunanidhi was installed in 1975 when he was alive. It was his mentor -- rationalist leader and social reformer Periyar -- who gave him that idea.
However, it was vandalised and removed in the year 1987 during the violence that erupted after the passing of his friend and political rival Chief Minister MG Ramachandran.
At the site of the statue were present Mr Karunanidhi's second wife Rajathi Ammal, his MP daughter MK Kanimozhi, and other close family members.