A day after returning from his week-long trip to the US, Prime Minister Narendra Modi flew to Chennai on Monday to attend the convocation ceremony at IIT Madras and address the students.
The location had its own significance, in terms of messaging, which was not just symbolic but to also define the value the prime minister attaches to the Tamil language and the Tamil people, which should now become part of the value system of his party, the BJP, and internalised by its leaders and vast mass of party workers and ought to be the government policy.
This comes at a time when an unwarranted controversy had erupted on comments made by Home Minister Amit Shah on Hindi Diwas.
“Tamil is the oldest language in the world," Modi said on Monday. By saying so, he was attaching it the same importance that Sanskrit has in the Indian cultural value system. By saying so, the prime minister was also correcting the misconception and disinformation (albeit without referring to it), which BJP rivals and critics had been trying to spread against the ruling party – the BJP was a party for “Hindi, Hindu, Hindustan”, a party which favoured Hindi heartland in north and negated south India.
It should be noted that IIT Madras draws the best talent from across the country, and only a section of students are from Tamil Nadu, but while speaking from Chennai, Modi was addressing to a larger audience outside of the auditorium of the prestigious institution. By asserting that Tamil was the most ancient language, Modi was conveying that he, his party and the government, nor could anybody else, undermine its importance, relevance and value. The language has to live and grow.
Remember, in his short and crisp statesmanlike speech at the UNGA in New York on Friday, Modi had referred to great Tamilian poet Kaniyan Pungundranar who lived 3,000 years ago. On this global forum, he had said that the poet “wrote in Tamil the most ancient language of the world: "ya-dum, oo-ray, yaav-rum ke-rir (we belong to all places, and to everyone)". This sense of belonging beyond borders is unique to India".
At Howdy, Modi! event in Houston, Modi responded in multiple Indian languages to the question Howdy Modi (How are you Modi) to say “everything was fine in India".
Again, as he explained to US president Donald Trump and a host of lawmakers of the beauty of diverse Indian culture and multiplicity of languages and ethnic traditions, he was addressing to a larger audience in India that because of its rich civilisational tradition all languages and ethnic value system co-existed and flourished. He was correcting a narrative for the good of his own party and others, that his government, in no way, was rooting for one language, Hindi, even as it remains Rajbhasha.
Modi's reference of Sister MariamThresia in his Mann ki Baat on Sunday was noteworthy too. It didn’t make a headline but its significance couldn’t be lost. "Our Mother India, our country is a bountiful land! Many gems of human beings took birth here. India has not only been the birthplace of such extraordinary people, but also the land of their karma. And these are the people who have spent themselves in service of others. One such illustrious Indian is being honoured in Vatican City on 13 October. It is a matter of pride for every Indian that, on the coming 13 October, His Holiness Pope Francis will declare Sister Mariam Thresia a saint. Sister Mariam Thresia, in her short lifespan of 50 years, worked for the good of humanity becoming a noble example for the entire world,” Modi said.
This again was a counter to his rivals' and critics' accusation against his party and the government.
This is not the first time that Modi had been directly addressing the Christian community, in particular. In February 2015, speaking at a Christian community conclave at Vigyan Bhawan in New Delhi to celebrate the elevation to sainthood of two saints of Kerala, Saint Kuriakose Elias Chavara and Saint Euphresia, Modi had said: “The whole country is proud of their recognition. My government will ensure that there is complete freedom of faith and that everyone has the undeniable right to retain or adopt the religion of his or her choice without coercion or undue influence. My government will not allow any religious group, belonging to the majority or the minority, to incite hatred against others, overtly or covertly. Mine will be a government that gives equal respect to all religions. India is the land of Buddha and Gandhi. Equal respect for all religions must be in the DNA of every Indian. We cannot accept violence against any religion on any pretext, and I strongly condemn such violence. My government will act strongly in this regard.”
His statement had come when there were reports of some attacks on churches and it was alleged that some Hindutava groups were behind it. Again, he was defining BJP’s party line as also his government's thought process.
It should be noted that BJP and its allies rule in Christian-dominant states like Goa and those in the North East region.
Shortly after his return to power with a thumping majority in May this year, Modi added "Sabka Vishwas" to his slogan "Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas". He was essentially talking about the Muslim community which felt alienated and a feeling of victimhood for the community was being spread by his political rivals. He was again setting a right narrative for some hotheads in his party and the Sangh Parivar. His message was debated at length, mostly informally by the Muslim community. The message was received well by the community, more so because Modi was speaking of integrating the Muslim community after winning the election. It was not a pre-poll message for vote but as the Prime Minister of India, he was making this assertion for action by his party and the government.
It should be noted that earlier this month, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat met Maulana Arshad Madni, the patron of Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, one of the largest body of Muslim clerics, something which was unimaginable till recently.
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Updated Date: Oct 01, 2019 10:12:24 IST