A video of Dayanathi Maran, former Union Minister and current Member of Parliament from Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), has been the rage in social media and in politics lately. In the video, Dayanathi Maran said, “If you see today, our children are well educated and since they have good English knowledge, they are earning well in the IT industry. They said Hindi, Hindi. You all know. Who is working in construction jobs? Those who learn only Hindi in UP and Bihar come here for jobs and learn Tamil. They are working in constructions, laying roads, cleaning roads and clean toilets. This is what happens if you learn only Hindi.”
This speech was given way back in 2019 when Dayanidhi Maran was talking about the imposition of Hindi in the initial draft of the New National Educational Policy and the proposed three-language formula. Tamil Nadu has historically opposed Hindi imposition and had drafted its own two-language formula i.e. Tamil and English. The move has not handicapped Tamil Nadu’s development or advancement of Tamils in anyway. The state has leapfrogged many states to be an economic, industrial powerhouse while significantly outperforming many states in major key health and social indicators. Dayanidhi Maran’s comments though being crass, offensive, unparliamentary in general and insulting to a Hindi speaker, one has to understand the frustration behind such words which are not limited to Dayanidhi Maran or even the DMK. There is a discontent among the general public regarding Hindi imposition and it is often misunderstood and portrayed as hatred for Hindi or even migrant workers. But unfortunately, the anger against Hindi imposition and the distaste for it by Tamils would never be fully comprehended by fellow citizens from the north due to the political climate created by the imposers.
Why bring a 2019 video now?
As mentioned earlier, the video is from June 2019. It is interesting that a 5-year-old video is suddenly made into a political sensation by the mainstream media and politicized by the right wing after being latent for so long. The Union Government has been under tremendous pressure lately due to the Wrestlers’ Protest, suspension of MPs from the Parliament, unanswered questions of suspended MPs, passing of new laws without any discussion or debate. From the Tamil Nadu front, the Union Government was criticized for not releasing any relief fund over and above the usual amount given every year recommended by the Fifteenth Finance Commission which is given to all states irrespective of a disaster or a calamity taking place in a given year.
Despite repeated requests by the state, the Union Government and Nirmala Sitharaman, Union Finance Minister, had shown a defiant stance. The recent press conference by the Union Finance Minister had become counterproductive for the BJP in Tamil Nadu as it has angered people of Tamil Nadu who had perceived her response as insulting the people of the state.
At this juncture, conveniently a video from 2019 is propped up by some right-wing accounts on social media which is soon picked up an official spokesperson for the BJP. ANI had run an extensive coverage followed by many other news outlets which portrayed the statements as though they are recent and had pushed the opposition leaders from the INDIA alliance to respond. Remarkably, almost all these news outlets had conspicuously left out that the video is from 2019 in their coverage. All the political drama unfolding out of this issue has shifted the focus from the present issues plaguing the Union Government.
What has this done?
Digging up old video to create a political narrative for the present has led to retaliation using similar tactics by the DMK. They have taken out a video of Tarun Vijay, a former BJP MP, in which he said, “If we were racist, why would the entire South — you know the Tamils, you know Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra — why do we live with them? We have blacks, black people around us.” Tarun Vijay said this in 2017 in an interview to the Al Jazeera following an attack on African students in Greater Noida. Apart from this, several old videos of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Nirmala Sitharaman among other BJP leaders.
The Double Standards:
As conceded earlier, Dayanidhi Maran’s comment from 2019 is objectionable and unwarranted. But there seems to be no condemnation or even a concerned comment in allegations of Hindi Imposition. Recently, a woman from Tamil Nadu alleged discrimination and Hindi Imposition in Goa. Instead of supporting her and questioning the intent behind the alleged incident, a misinformation campaign was run against her. Then came the INDIA alliance meet up where JD(U) leader Nitish Kumar allegedly remarked, “We call our country Hindustan and Hindi is our national language. We should know the language.” Rather than clarifying that Hindi is not the National language of India and ensuring that no language would be imposed on anyone in the country, a narrative is created to trigger the sentiments of Hindi speaking citizens of the country using an almost 5-year-old video.
There is no doubt that the words by Dayanidhi Maran should have been avoided or at the very least phrased better. But crying foul to that while staying mute to comments that attack non-Hindi speakers and that impose Hindi is just hypocrisy and double standards. Sanjay Nishad, a BJP Minister from Uttar Pradesh commented that non-Hindi speakers should leave the country and this country is only for those who love and know Hindi. There are many others who force Hindi on non-Hindi speakers, but Amit Shah is quite notable in that regard. He had been batting for Hindi for quite some time now and imposing the language on other languages is something that he hasn’t even began wrap his head around. But none of these attempts warrant any similar sympathies or concerns which is quite depressing. ‘Insult to Hindi speakers’ is just. Similarly, insult to non-Hindi speakers is just too. However, the latter is never considered as one.