The BJP-led central government is attempting “Hindi hegemony” in Tamil Nadu, the DMK alleged on Friday following reports that highway milestones written in English in Krishnagiri and Vellore have been replaced.
M K Stalin, the party’s working president, said changes in signages on the Chittoor-Vellore Highway and National Highway 77, which connects Krishnagiri to Tindivanam, showed the BJP doesn’t respect Tamil Nadu.
“It showed the BJP’s disrespect to the sentiments of Tamils. This is bringing Hindi hegemony through the backdoor in Tamil Nadu,” Stalin said in a statement, adding that the Centre must treat all languages with respect. He accused the Narendra Modi government of “thrusting” Sanskrit and Hindi upon states which do not speak either language.
He warned that the DMK would launch a statewide protest if more Hindi signs appear in the state.
The Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) and Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) this week threatened to launch an agitation if the Centre “continues erasing town names in English and replacing them with Hindi translations” on signboards installed on highways in Tamil Nadu.
The state saw widespread anti-Hindi agitations and riots in the 1930s and in the 1960s. In the 1930s, the protests were largely led by the Dravidar Kazhagam (DK) and Dravidian ideologue Periyar, who demanded that all languages in the South be given the same legal footing as Hindi, and fought against the imposition of one uniform language in the country.
By the 1965, it was the DMK--formed after Periyar’s disciple Annadurai split from the DK to form a political organisation--which allegedly led anti-Hindu riots. The protests were also the first time Stalin, as a youth leader of the newly formed DMK, made a name for himself.
The agitations had significant consequences for both Tamil Nadu and the country as a whole.
For the state, the political equations had been irreversibly redrawn, with the DMK winning the 1967 Assembly elections and ending the Congress party’s influence in Tamil Nadu.
The agitations led to the Indira Gandhi government amending the 1967 Amendment to The Official Languages Act, guaranteeing the “indefinite use” of English and Hindi as official languages of the union.