Indian President Abdul Kalam bows to Hindi Chauvinists

Thanjai Nalankilli

TAMIL TRIBUNE, August 2002 (ID.2002-08-01)

Click here for MAIN INDEX to archived articles (main page)

Hindians: People whose mother tongue is Hindi (similar to Tamil speakers are sometimes referred as Tamilans or Tamilians).


BJP - Bharatiya Janata Party

President of India Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam comes from the state of Tamil Nadu. Like most Tamils, he does not know Hindi. Though he worked for the Indian Government for many years at various positions in the area of science and technology, he never learned Hindi. Fortunately for him, at the time he entered Indian Government service decades ago, Hindi imposition on Indian Government employees was not as strict as today. Presently all new employees are required to learn Hindi or would soon be taken to task. Their promotions and salary increments could be stalled. In fact he/she may lose the job itself for failure to learn Hindi within a year [Reference 1].

Now, coming back to President Dr. Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam, he was a brilliant manager of science and technology programs during his employment with the Indian Government. He was primarily responsible for Indian military's nuclear missile development program and did an excellent job at that. He retired after a long service. Then the presidential election came in 2002.

The two main political parties, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress Party, could not agree on a candidate. BJP's choice was not acceptable to Congress. Then BJP put forth Dr. Kalam's name, who by now has retired from his Indian Government job. It was a clever choice. As a non-political, non-controversial person, and as one closely associated with India's nuclear weapons program, he could not be easily rejected by Congress, and so Congress Party decided to support his candidacy. There was token opposition from a few minor political parties and they did not have the vote to defeat Dr. Kalam.

Dr. Abdul Kalam's election as President of India was all wrapped up unless, of course, a sizable section of politicians change their minds. Dr. Kalam was, naturally, elated. He started making courtesy calls to political leaders and firming up his support base. He called upon a powerful Hindian politician, Mr. Mulayam Singh Yadav, President of Samajwadi Party on June 17, 2002. Soon after this meeting Mr. Yadav told reporters that Presidential candidate Dr. Abdul Kalam had told him that he would learn Hindi within 3 to 6 months. Knowing Mulayam Singh Yadav's Hindi fanaticism, a few questions need to be asked. What happened at the meeting between Dr. Kalam and Mr. Yadav? Was Dr. Kalam pressured or even "black-mailed" (directly or subtly) into studying Hindi? We ask these questions because of Yadav's past history vis a vis Hindi.

Mulayam Singh Yadav is an outspoken Hindi chauvinist. Unlike many other Hindi politicians of his type who keep quiet in public but press for and vote for Hindi imposition at every opportunity, Yadav is vocal about his views. He wants every Indian to learn Hindi and become proficient in it. He wants all Indian Government business done in Hindi and Hindi alone. Here is an example. When the then American President Clinton visited India and addressed the Indian Parliament in 2000, some non-Hindi politicians belonging to the ruling coalition requested that Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee reply to Clinton's address in English (a language Vajpayee knows very well, in addition to his mother tongue Hindi). Immediately Yadav announced that if the Prime Minister did not reply in Hindi, he and his party would boycott the parliament. The Prime Minister replied in Hindi. Non-Hindi politicians like Tamil Nadu's Karunanidhi, a key partner of the ruling alliance, licked their chops; they know that the Prime Minister will have to bow to Hindian politicians or may lose the job.

So, knowing Mr. Yadav's views about Hindi use and his past behavior, did Yadav tell presidential candidate Abdul Kalam that he would like to see him learn Hindi quickly? Did Yadav put subtle or not so subtle pressure on Dr. Kalam to learn Hindi or else? Did Yadav indicate to Kalam directly of indirectly that his party might find it difficult to support Kalam for the Presidency if he does not commit himself to learning Hindi? Did Dr. Kalam, in his eagerness to become President, succumbed to the pressure and agreed to learn Hindi? Knowing Yadav's stance on Hindi use and his past actions in this regard, it is reasonable to conclude that presidential candidate Dr. Abdul Kalam agreed to learn Hindi on pressure from Mr. Yadav. Why else would he tell Yadav that he would learn Hindi on a priority basis (within 3 to 6 months)? What is the need for him to make such a commitment at this meeting with Yadav? He did not learn Hindi all these years and suddenly, upon his candidature for presidency, decides to learn Hindi. Did he, all of a sudden, have an urge to enjoy Hindi literature in Hindi? Did he, all of a sudden, find an urge to learn one more language, even that on a priority basis in 3 to 6 months? No, no. We don't think so. Dr. Abdul Kalam was eager to become president and he knew well that Yadav could sabotage that. If Yadav were to announce that Dr. Kalam refused to learn Hindi and that he and his party could not support someone who would not learn Hindi, there is a good possibility that a number of Hindi politicians from other parties, including the BJP and Congress, would also withdraw support. That would be the end of Dr. Kalam's dream to the presidency. (Remember what happened to former Prime Minister H. D. Deve Gowda? He wanted to change Indian Government controlled television network's Farmers' Reports from Hindi to the local languages that farmers of the area understand (very few farmers understand Hindi in the southern or eastern India). Hell has no fury like Hindian politicians scorned! A number of Hindian members of parliament from the Congress Party saw to it that Deve Gowda was replaced by I. K. Gujral as Prime Minister. Gujral was an outspoken supporter of the use of Hindi on television. A clear message to anyone who does not bow to Hindian politicians' dictates [Section 11 of Reference 2].)

Does the new President (Dr. Kalam) has more important and more urgent things to do than to take a crash course in Hindi (a commitment to learn Hindi within 3 to 6 months)? What is the need for the President to learn Hindi? He knows English well and with English he could fulfill all his responsibilities as President. There is no practical reason for him to learn Hindi.

But Hindians seem to think that India is Hindia and that anyone who does not know Hindi is not a  true Indian. So how can anyone who does not know Hindi assume the exalted position of President or Prime Minister of India? Hindian politicians form the largest linguistic group in the Indian parliament and thus control and dominate the Indian Government. They consider it an affront to Hindian pride if the President or Prime Minister does not know Hindi or do not speak in Hindi at major functions. Dr. Kalam is not the first one to bow to Hindi politicians to curry their favor to rise to the top of the political heap. Former Indian Prime Minister Deve Gowda and Prime Minister aspirant  Sonia Gandhi both succumbed to Hindian arrogance and learned Hindi after they set their eyes on the Prime Minister post. In fact, Deve Gowda and Sonia Gandhi had their aides prepare their speeches in Hindi, had them write the Hindi words in the alphabet of their respective mother tongue, and then they (Gowda and Sonia) read out the Hindi speeches without knowing what they were really saying (until they became sufficiently proficient to read in Hindi) [See Sections 10 and 12 of Reference 2].

A Hindian can become the President or Prime Minister of India without knowing a single word in any other language except his/her mother tongue Hindi. But I, a Tamil, who knows 3 languages in addition to my mother tongue cannot become the President or Prime Minister of India unless I promise Hindian politicians that I would learn Hindi. Is this India or Hindia?

BOOKS by Dr. Abdul Kalam

Book-52: India 2020; a Vision for the New Millennium (by Indian President A. P. J. Abdul Kalam and Y. S. Rajan)

Book-51: Wings of Fire: An Autobiography of APJ Abdul Kalam (by Indian President A. P. J. Abdul Kalam and Arun Tiwari)


1. Doctor, Learn Hindi or You are Fired! (by K. N. Nair), TAMIL TRIBUNE, August 2002.

2. Who Rules India? (Part I) (by Thanjai Nalankilli), TAMIL TRIBUNE, November 2000 (44 KB) (Specifically read Sections 10 to 13 for information relevant to this article.)

FI020725    2002-a1d

Your comments on this article or any other matter relating to Tamil are welcome

(e-mail to: tamiltribuneatasia.com Please replace "at" with the @ sign.)

Copyright 2002 by TAMIL TRIBUNE. All rights reserved.

This is a "Category B" article.  Free to publish as long as the entire article, author and Tamil Tribune name are included (no permission needed). Click here for more details.