An order issued to officials of the Southern Railway to communicate only in English or Hindi was struck down on Friday following a new controversy in Tamil Nadu less than two weeks after a widespread uproar over allegations of Hindi being imposed on South Indian states.
In a circular dated June 12, the Chennai Division of the Southern Railway asked Divisional Control Offices and Station Masters to communicate either in English or Hindi, and avoid the use of regional languages, to prevent confusion.
Sources said the order was sent out after a collision between two trains was narrowly averted following a misunderstanding among officials speaking different languages.
Opposition parties, however, objected to the order. DMK and PMK called it another instance of Hindi being imposed on the state where the subject of linguistic identity is very sensitive.
DMK leader MK Stalin called it, "Hindi domination and destruction of a language" and warned Southern Railway that "We will stop you if you don't stop this." "They are playing with sentiments of Tamil people and provoking us," he added. DMK MP Dayanidhi Maran also met the General Manager of Southern Railway.
Saying that a large number of North Indians were employed by the railways across Tamil Nadu, PMK Chief Dr Ramadoss said, "Non-Tamil-speaking railway employees ought to be instructed to learn Tamil. That's the solution."
Facing criticism, Southern Railways hastily scrapped the order, issuing a new one on Friday that asked officials to communicate without ambiguity.
Earlier this month, the central government made a big change in its draft education policy after a huge outcry over a three-language plan that required children in southern states to compulsorily learn Hindi. In the new draft National Education Policy (NEP) 2019, the reference to Hindi was removed in the controversial clause.
Last month, a panel led by Krishnaswamy Kasturirangan, a former chief of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), had put forward the draft that said Hindi and English would continue to be among the three languages students would study in schools, be it in Hindi or non-Hindi speaking states.
Thousands, especially in the southern states, had protested what was seen as an effort to make Hindi mandatory till Class 8.
The subject of Hindi being taught in schools in South India has been an emotive one, particularly in Tamil Nadu. In pre-Independence era, the region saw anti-Hindi protests in 1937 that went on till 1940. In 1965, the issue flared once again, triggering riots that killed as many as 70 people. The incident led to an assurance by the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru that Hindi will not be imposed on non-Hindi speaking states till they want and English would continue as a link language.
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