Indian Government's Broken Promises to Tamil Nadu
(Indian Airlines, Official Languages Commission and Fishermen)

Thanjai Nalankilli

TAMIL TRIBUNE, April 2011 (ID. 2011-04-01)
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1. Official Languages Commission (Official Languages Committee)

2. Flight Announcements in Tamil

3. Attacks on Tamil Nadu Fishermen


BJP - Bharatiya Janata Party

DMK - Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam 

NDA - National Democratic Alliance

UPA - United Progressive Alliance

1. Official Languages Commission (Official Languages Committee)

Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee promised Tamil Nadu State Chief Minister Jayalalithaa Jeyaram in 1998 that the Indian government would form a commission to study the feasibility of making all languages in the Eight Schedule of the Indian Constitution as official languages of India. He never fulfilled that promise.

His Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lost the next election and the Congress Party came to power. It came to power in coalition with Tamilnadu's Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK). The coalition was called United Progressive Alliance (UPA). Prior to the election, on May 27, 2004, UPA released its Common Minimum Programme (actions the UPA would take if it came to power). At the behest of DMK, one of the items in the Common Minimum Program was that the Indian government would set up a committee to examine the question of declaring all languages in the Eight Schedule of the Constitution as official languages. Almost 7 years have passed and UPA is still in power; yet there is no move to set up the promised committee.

(For the record, I think that making 20 or so languages as official languages is impractical. Our position is that English should be the sole official language until all languages in the Eight Schedule of the Constitution could become official languages, if at all possible. What is happening is no action is taken in this direction but the Indian government is thrusting more and more into unwilling Tamil throats. Examples of recent Hindi imposition activities may be found in Reference 1.)

2. Flight Announcements in Tamil

Indian government promised Tamil Nadu's Minister for Tamil Development Tamilkudimagan in the late 1990s that Indian government owned Indian Airlines would make announcements in Tamil in flights originating in Tamil Nadu or coming to Tamil Nadu. Years passed by but the promise was never fulfilled. All that the Indian Airlines had to do is have at least one Tamil knowing attendant in every flight originating in Tamil Nadu or coming to Tamil Nadu. If some foreign airlines like Germany's Lufthansa can make Tamil announcements, why can't Indian Airlines?

Again, in 2005, Indian government promised members of parliament belonging to Tamil Nadu's Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) that Indian Airlines would make announcements in Tamil in flights originating in Tamil Nadu or coming to Tamil Nadu. It is now 2011. That promise was also not fulfilled. No Tamil announcements; only English and Hindi.

While the Indian government fails to make Tamil announcements in flights originating in Tamil Nadu or coming to Tamil Nadu, it marches ahead in pushing Hindi through more and more avenues. Here is one example. Indian government issued an order to pharmaceutical companies (drug industry) that all pharmaceutical labeling should include Hindi from April 1, 2006. That is, pharmaceutical products (drugs) sold in Tamilnadu would be labeled in English and Hindi but no Tamil. Tamil has no place in drug labels or flights in Tamil Nadu although most customers are Tamils.

3. Attacks on Tamil Nadu Fishermen

Sri Lankan Navy is attacking Tamil Nadu fishermen for over two decades; sometimes killing them, sometimes injuring them. According to the Indian government, 77 Tamilnadu fishermen were killed between 1999 and April 2007. Some newspapers in Tamil Nadu put the death toll much higher. For the purposes of this article we will use India's count of 77.

There is nothing that Tamil Nadu State chief minister can do to stop the Sri Lankan Navy except to ask the Indian prime minister and defense minister to act. That is what successive chief ministers were doing. Each time the prime minister or defense minister would promise the chief minister that the attacks would be stopped. Yet attacks continue. 

The earliest Indian government promise I could find was in 2000. Tamilnadu chief minister M. Karunanidhi sent a letter to the Indian prime minister on November 28, 2000 asking him to stop the killings of fishermen by the Sri Lankan navy. Prime Minister A. B. Vajpayee of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lead National Democratic Alliance (NDA) coalition government responded on December 22, saying that he would take steps to stop the killings. Just over a month later, on January 29, 2001, Sri Lankan navy again shot and killed two fishermen. Several letters went from Tamil Nadu chief ministers to Indian prime ministers in the ensuing years including pleas to the current prime minister Dr. Manmohan Singh of the Congress lead United Progressive Alliance (UPA) coalition government. Promises were made routinely and never fulfilled. Attacks continue. The latest attack at the time of this writing (January 2011) was on January 22, 2011 in which one fisherman was killed. (Just 10 days before, on January 12, another fisherman was killed.)

Does anyone think that India could not stop the killings? Surely it can, it it wants. We will not elaborate on this. Usha Ramanathan, in a series of articles [Reference 2], has discussed this matter extensively. Some of the issues she discussed include: what India could have and could do to stop the killings, how India reacted differently when Pakistan killed one north Indian fisherman and how India's foreign minister and top navy officer actually "justified" the killings.

In short, like many other unkept promises, promises on Tamil Nau fishermen's killings are also not fulfilled. This is at times like this we wish Tamil Nadu is a separate country with its own navy.

[Alternate spellings of names: Jayalalithaa Jeyaram - Jayalalitha Jayaram, Tamilkudimagan- Tamil Kudimagan]


1. India, Tamil Nadu and Hindi Imposition

2. India, Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu Fishermen

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Thanjai Nalangkilli

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