Upping the ante, the DMK on Monday announced demonstrations across Tamil Nadu on September 20 against Home Minister Amit Shah's pitch for Hindi as a common language, while Makkal Needhi Maiam leader Kamal Haasan warned of an "exponentially bigger battle" than the 2017 pro-Jallikattu protests against "imposition" of the language. Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb, however, hit out at those opposing Hindi as the 'national language', saying "they have no love for the country".
"I am supporting Hindi as the national language as most of the people of our country speak Hindi," the BJP leader said, endorsing Shah's remarks made on the occasion of Hindi Divas on Saturday that have riled the southern parties, including the BJP's ally AIADMK, and the Left.
In BJP-ruled Karnataka, where Congress veteran Siddaramaiah and the JD(S) have come out strongly against Shah's statements, Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa asserted that Kannada is the principal language in the state and its importance would never be compromised. "All official languages in our country are equal. However, as far as Karnataka is concerned, #Kannada is the principal language," he tweeted.
DMK chief MK Stalin said his party's agitation was the first phase of protest on Hindi issue and the further course of action will be decided on the basis of central government's response and consultations with like-minded parties. The agitation was to nip in the bud the "adverse effects of Hindi imposition on mother Tamil and the mother tongue of people of other (non-Hindi speaking) states", a resolution adopted at a party meet said.
Opposing any attempt to "impose" Hindi, Haasan said that unity in diversity was the promise made to the people when India became a republic. "Now, no Shah, Sultan or Samrat must renege on that promise. We respect all languages, but our mother language will always be Tamil," he said in a video. Haasan, referring to the 2017 pro-jallikattu protests here, said "it was just a protest, the battle for our language will be exponentially bigger than that." India or Tamil Nadu "does not need or deserve such a battle."
In January 2017, massive protests were held in Tamil Nadu seeking nod to hold bull taming sport 'Jallikattu' after it was banned by the Supreme Court, following which a law was passed by the Tamil Nadu Assembly to allow it. Referring to the country's National Anthem, Haasan said, "Most of the nation happily sings its National Anthem in Bengali with pride, and will continue to do so".
"The reason is the poet (Rabindranath Tagore) who wrote the National Anthem gave due respect to all languages and culture within the Anthem," he said. Tamil Nadu was witness to the anti-Hindi agitation in the 1960s taken forward by the DMK.
Shah remarks have evoked mix reactions across the country with over 50 eminent Bengali personalities from different walks of life calling upon the people to give "due respect to all languages" and "resist attempt to impose just one".
Taking to Facebook, they issued a statement on Monday, urging people to register a strong protest against any bid to edge out Bengali language from their lives. Among the signatories are poet Subodh Sarkar, poet- columnist Binayak Bandyopadhyay, elocutionists Urmimala Basu and Jagannath Basu and independent filmmaker Pradipta Bhattacharya.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had said that people should respect all languages and cultures but not at the cost of their mother tongue. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Monday tweeted that India's many languages are not its weakness.
"Hindi continues to grow, this is what we all want, but by putting pressure, by doing something, it is not appropriate to use that issue only for votes," party leader Rajiv Shukla said at a media briefing on Monday.
The Congress had on Saturday said the three-language formula should not be tinkered with and controversies must not be stirred up on "emotive" issues settled by Constitution-makers. Meanwhile, CPI leader and Rajya Sabha MP Binoy Viswam wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi criticising Shah's statement.
"People justifiably believe that the Home Minister was advancing the idea of 'One Nation, One Language', which is unacceptable to a multi-linguistic country like India," he said.