Days after a controversy erupted over the alleged ‘imposition’ of Hindi to unify India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has lauded Tamil as one of the most ancient living languages.
The prime minister’s outreach came at an event in Tamil Nadu, a state that has electorally eluded the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Modi was in Chennai to attend an event at Indian Institute of Technology (Madras), where he also addressed his party leaders at the Chennai airport.
“Vannakam,” the prime minister greeted the crowd. In what seems to be an effort to reach out to the non-Hindi speaking population of the country, Modi cited his United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) address, where he once ‘spoke in Tamil’ and told everyone that it’s one of the ancient languages.
“When I was in America I spoke in Tamil once. Even today, Tamil echoes in the entire United States,” the prime minister said.
Taking a cue from Modi, Minister of State for the Human Resource Development Ministry Sanjay Dhotre also emphasizing the need to connect with the regional language speaking states.
“People of Tamil Nadu do not agree on the use of Hindi as a common language. For Hindi to be acceptable, we need to connect and exchange ideas with them. The more we engage with them, the more acceptability for Hindi will increase,” Minister of State for the Human Resource Development Ministry, Sanjay Dhotre told ANI.
At his UNGA address, Modi had quoted the popular Tamil philosopher Kaniyan Pungundranar. “Yaadhum Oore Yaavarum Kelir,” he had said communicating the sentiments that ‘we belong to all places and to everyone’.
During his United States visit, Modi had also used multilingual comments at one point, which seems to be an attempt to douse the controversy that erupted after Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s statement where he had said that Hindi is the only language which can unify India.
Shah had later clarified that he never talked about the imposition of Hindi anywhere in the country but had advocated for the use of Hindi as a second language instead.