Tamil Nadu may see revival of anti-Hindi protests as Centre replaces English signages on highways

A fresh round of anti-Hindi protests are threatening to flare up in Tamil Nadu after the Centre's reported move to replace English signanges on national highways across the southern Indian state. A number of Dravidian parties, who have traditionally banked on and sustained an anti-Hindi sentiment in the state, have voiced severe criticism of the Central government's move alleging it was a clandestine move for "bringing Hindi hegemony through the backdoor in Tamil Nadu."

The issue picked up steam after The New Indian Express reported that the National Highway Authority of India has been quietly erasing English signboards on highways and replacing them with the Hindi script, which is squarely against the organisation's three-language-policy practiced till date.

 Tamil Nadu may see revival of anti-Hindi protests as Centre replaces English signages on highways

MK Stalin. PTI

While the addition of Hindi on those milestones which were earlier written only in English and Tamil is a welcome move, replacing English all together can be inconvenient for non-Hindi speaking non-Tamil Indians and foreigners trying to navigate their way in the southern Indian state. However, some of the political lingo dished out around the issue is arguably problematic as it may fuel the anti-Hindi sentiment further amid the locals.

Meanwhile, the regional political parties have reacted strongly to it with some of them threatening to launch an agitation against the move. "This shows bringing Hindi hegemony through the backdoor in Tamil Nadu," DMK working president MK Stalin said in a statement, adding, it showed the BJP-led Centre did not respect the sentiments of Tamils.

Sample this, "the BJP has been devoting great attention in thrusting Sanskrit and Hindi on Tamil people." This was a quote by MK Stalin as reported by The News Minute

He accused the BJP regime of devoting "great attention," in "thrusting" Sanskrit and Hindi ever since it assumed power at the Centre.

Recalling the assurance of former prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru that English will continue to be in use till such time non-Hindi speaking people wanted it, he said the Centre should give up "imposing Hindi" and halt replacing English signage with Hindi.

He said the Centre should treat equally all the languages listed in the Eight Schedule to the Constitution.

If the Centre chose to favour only Hindi at the expense of other languages, particularly Tamil, he said, "I would like to warn the Centre that it will have to face a new anti-Hindi agitation."

MDMK chief Vaiko too had opposed the move. According to The Hindu, the MDMK chief has warned Centre against repeating the 'mistake of the past', recalling that the government had promised Tamilians that Hindi will never be imposed upon them.

The Centre's move should also be analysed in the backdrop of the history of Tamil Nadu that had traditionally been sensitive towards maintaining and reasserting its separate linguistic identity. The state had also witnessed massive protests against "Hindi imposition", during the 1960s that lead to the birth of Dravidian politics, uprooting Congress completely for the first time after independence in any state.

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Updated Date: Mar 31, 2017 16:23:22 IST