Hypocrisy of Hindi Chauvinist Politicians Visiting Tamil Nadu

Inia Pandian

TAMIL TRIBUNE, August 1999 (ID. 1999-08-e)
An update added in September 2005, Second update added in June 2011 Third update added in October 2015.
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[Note: This article was first published in August 1999 under the title "Say a Word in Tamil and Listen to the Thunderous Applause from the Crowd". It was changed to "Hypocrisy of Hindi Chauvinist Politicians Visiting Tamil Nadu" in October 2015 to reflect the broader scope of the updates made during this period.]

North-Indian politicians, especially chauvinist Hindi politicians, coming to Tamil Nadu and addressing election rallies or public meetings have learned a little trick. They start their speech by saying "Vanakkam" (means "greetings" in Tamil). Their party volunteers and supporters in the crowd would immediately applaud loudly as if they have done something great for Tamil, Tamil Nadu and the Tamil people! The speaker would pause for the applause to fade out and then continue the speech in English (we have nothing against them speaking in English or their mother tongue, after all they do not know Tamil). Then they go back to New Delhi and continue to fund millions and millions of Rupees to develop Hindi (but, may be, dole out a small fraction for Tamil and other languages if they are in a "generous mood"). From New Delhi they also continue to impose Hindi through radio, television, central government approved schools, central government employment and whatever other means, in total disregard to all the opposition from Tamil people.

This little, hypocritical drama is going on for years, whether it is the late Rajiv Gandhi, or Sonia Gandhi, or Advani, or Vajpayee! I am fed up with it! What about you? (Please read below the UPDATES added in September 2005, June 2011 and October 2015.)

UPDATE (Added in September 2005)

Indian Railways Minister Laloo Prasad Yadav Says Three Words in Tamil!

On November 29, 2004, Indian Minister for Railways Mr. Laloo Prasad Yadav (Lalu Prasad Yadav) was opening a Railway Call Center in Patna, and Road Transport, Highways and Shipping Minister Mr. T. R. Baalu was opening a Railway Call Centre in Bangalore. (The former is from the Hindi-belt region and belonged to the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJL); latter is from Tamilnadu and belonged to the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK). RJL and DMK were partners in the ruling coalition at the Indian Central Government at that time.) 

Mr. Laloo Prasad placed a telephone call from Patna to Baalu and the conversation was put on public address system in Bangalore so the crowd there could hear it. Baalu greeted the Railways Minister in English saying, "Hello, Sir". Laloo Prasad Yadav replied in Tamil saying, "Vankkam, nallaa irukkeengkalaa?" (Greetings, how are you? (or, more precisely,. are you well?)). Balu answered in Tamil, "Naan nallaa irukkiraen. Neengal eppadi irukkireerkal?" (I am well. How are you?) The rest of their brief conversation continued in English because Mr. Laloo Prasad had used up the few words he memorized for this conversation, which he knew was going to be played to the public. The Tamil daily Thinathanthi reported that everyone was pleasantly surprised at Mr. Laloo Prasad Yadav's eagerness to speak in Tamil. Memorizing three words in Tamil means nothing; nothing but a little drama to entertain, may be even hoodwink, people. Let us see who this Yadav is and what his background is with respect to the official language issue.

Laloo Prasad Yadav is a Hindi chauvinist who, like most Hindi-belt politicians, wants Hindi to be the sole official language of India (in other words, everyone should learn Hindi; not a mere three words but a good working knowledge). If he is so eager about Tamil, would he end the discrimination of Tamils and other non-Hindi employees in Railways by forcing them to pass Hindi examinations? If all that takes is memorizing three words in a language, would the Railways Minister issue an order that anyone who could say three words in Hindi is deemed to be knowledgeable in Hindi and need not have to pass the required Hindi examinations. (At present those who do not pass Hindi examinations are threatened with loss of job; their annual pay increments are also withheld.) [Reference 1]. Will the Railways Minister rescind the order to use more Hindi at Southern Railways offices (which serves the non-Hindi speaking southern states)? [Reference 2]. What we need is tangible actions that eliminate Indian Government's discriminatory practices against non-Hindi peoples, not a Hindi minister saying three memorized Tamil words. That is nothing more than a stunt. What we want is real actions not stunts.

UPDATE (Added in June 2011)

Indian President Pratibha Patil Praises Tamil!

At the invitation of the State Government of Tamil Nadu, India's President Pratibha Patil inaugurated the World Classical Tamil Conference in Coimbatore on June 23, 2010. She praised Tamil language, literature and grammar in her inaugural address and we do appreciate it. She said, "The history of the Tamils is our nation's pride.”  Thank you again. She further said, "The next generation of Tamils must anchor as well as equip themselves with knowledge of Tamil culture, literature and values". Very good advice, indeed. 

While we appreciate Indian government ministers and even the president of India praising Tamil and say good thing during their visits to Tamilnadu, their actions go counter to their lip service.

At the very same time India's President Pratibha Patil is saying, "the history of the Tamils is our nation's pride”, very few people outside Tamil Nadu, especially in north Indian states, know the history of Tamil Nadu. Indian history books prepared by Indian government agencies are centered on north Indian history with very few pages allotted to eastern or southern India. Even the Twenty Nineth All-India Conference of Dravidian Linguistics held in Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum), Kerala State passed a resolution in 2002 urging the Government of India to give South India its rightful and legitimate share in history books and to withdraw the new school syllabus prepared and published by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT). Indian government celebrated the 150th anniversary of the north-Indian Sepoy Mutiny of 1857 calling it India's First War of Independence, although south-India's Vellore Mutiny of 1806 precedes the Sepoy Mutiny by over half a century. Every student in the south had heard about north-India's Sepoy Mutiny but very few in the north have heard about Vellore Mutiny because it is not in history books prepared under Indian government agencies. In September 2010, Indian Government Ministry of Culture announced grants of Rupees 2 crore (20 million) each for research on 12 freedom fighters from north-Indian Sepoy Mutiny but no money to do research on south-Indian Vellore Mutiny or Tamil Nadu's Maruthu Pandiyars who rose against British rule. So Indian President Pratiba Patil saying, "the history of the Tamils is our nation's pride” is well and good but put your money where your mouth is. [See Reference 3 for more details on how Tamil Nadu history is ignored by the Indian Government.]

"The next generation of Tamils must anchor as well as equip themselves with knowledge of Tamil culture, literature and values", said President Pratibha Patil. Again, the Indian government is not doing anything to encourage it. Indian Government's Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) is opening schools in Tamilnadu where you can graduate without studying Tamil Nadu history or culture. Indian government would not allow Tamil as court language in Tamil Nadu's High Court (Madras High Court) in spite of repeated requests. Indian Government owned Air India refuses to make in-flight announcements in Tamil for flight starting or ending in Tamil Nadu or even for flights within Tamil Nadu. Drug companies (pharmaceutical companies) are ordered to include Hindi in drug labels but no Tamil. Indian government is making Tamil more and more useless in Tamilnadu. While we greatly appreciate President Pratibha Patil's advice to the next generation of Tamils to learn Tamil culture, literature and values, Indian government's actions are counterproductive in this regard.

UPDATE (Added in October 2015)

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi Says Couple of Sentences in Tamil!

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who belongs to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), visited Tamil Nadu State in August 2015. He started his speech at the launch of the National Handloom Day in Tamil Nadu in August 2015 with a couple of sentences in Tamil (written by someone else). The crowd applauded (The Hindu; August 8, 2015) as if he did something great for Tamil language. This friendly face towards Tamil disappeared just the next month during the Teachers Day Celebration; his true colours as a Hindi chauvinist showed.

Prime Minister Modi spoke to students during the Teachers Day Celebration in September 2015. This telecast speech was made available to schools all over India. He spoke in Hindi with no translation to state languages or even English. Most students and teachers in Tamil Nadu did not understand the Hindi speech (Times of India; September 5, 2015). Why not provide translations in all non-Hindi languages listed in the Indian Constitution? The necessary technology exists. At least English translation would have helped a little; many teachers and at least some students would have understood.

Mr. Modi also had a televised question and answer session with a few pre-selected students on that day. This was also telecast to all schools. K. Visalini from Tamilnadu asked him a question in English and he answered her in Hindi (although he can and had talked in English many times) with no English or other non-Hindi translation (Deccan Chronicle; September 6. 2015). Again his two faces and his true colour as a Hindi chauvinist showed.

There are other way's in which Tamil is ignored and Hindi is thrust into everyday life of the people of Tamil Nadu. After he became prime minister, Indian government controlled State Bank of India removed Tamil from deposit slips and replaced it with Hindi (in addition to English as before). His government also continues with the previous government's policy of Hindi-English only (no Tamil) in most automatic teller machines (ATMs), computerized rail tickets, warnings in cooking gas cylinders, train reservation lists, etc. We are not interested in a few sentences in Tamil when he is here, we want Tamil in the day-to-day operations of Indian government offices in Tamilnadu.

Closure (October 1, 2015)

Tamil and India politics: North-Indian politicians’ this little, hypocritical drama is going on for years, be it the Indian president, prime minister, minister or a powerful politician (Rajiv Gandhi or Sonia Gandhi, Advani or Vajpayee, Pratibha Patil or Lalu Prasad Yadav). We will no longer add updates to this article. We have provided enough examples covering well over a decade and senior Hindi politicians from different political parties. 


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

2. Hindi in Southern Railways (by AT), TAMIL TRIBUNE, October 2004 (8 KB)

3. Health of the Tamil language: A French Perspective (by Nathalie Dedella), TAMIL TRIBUNE, May 2004 (17 KB)


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