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‘I don’t understand Hindi’: BJD MP replies in Odia to Union minister’s letter

Biju Janata Dal leader Tathagata Satpathy re-ignited the “Hindi imposition” debate on Saturday by replying in Odia to Tomar’s letter, written in Hindi.

india Updated: Aug 20, 2017 23:50 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Tathagata Satpathy,Hindi,'Hindi imposition'
Lok Sabha MP and Biju Janata Dal leader Tathagata Satpathy.

Lost in translation – one could use this famous movie title to describe a letter exchange between Lok Sabha MP Tathagata Satpathy and Union minister Narendra Singh Tomar.

The Biju Janata Dal leader re-ignited the “Hindi imposition” debate on Saturday by replying in Odia to Tomar’s letter, written in Hindi.

On Friday, the Lok Sabha MP tweeted the Union minister’s letter, adding: “Why are Union Ministers forcing Hindi on non Hindi speaking Indians? Is this an attack on other languages?”

Tomar had written to Satpathy on August 11, inviting him to attend a district-level event on the ‘India 2022’ vision.

A day after tweeting Tomar’s Hindi letter, Satpathy posted a photo of his response. He tweeted: “Replied in Oriya to Hon’ble Union Minister Sri Narendra S Tomar expressing inability to comprehend his Hindi letter.”

Later, Satpathy told HT, “I respect all languages. But they should remember that Odia, Bangla and other languages are also beautiful.”

The country has seen several anti-Hindi protests -- at least three of them in Tamil Nadu, when the Centre tried to make the use of Hindi mandatory. The protests in 1965 were the most violent, with more than 70 people being killed in clashes.

The Narendara Modi-led government recently said there was no drive to impose Hindi on anyone, replying to MK Stalin’s accusation that it was violating the Constitutional rights of non-Hindi speaking citizens.

On Friday, Satpathy wrote to Tomar that he couldn’t “understand anything written in this letter as I don’t understand your Hindi language.”

“I would also like to state that our state Odisha falls in the C category so kindly send us letter in English or Odia,” he added.

According to the Official Languages Rules, “communications from a Central Government office to State or Union Territory in Region “C” or to any office (not being a Central Government office) or person in such State shall be in English.”

Satpathy admitted that he knew Hindi well and had received letters from the Prime Minister in English. “But I don’t accept this forcible imposition of any language.”

As President, Pranab Mukherjee had recently accepted a recommendation that dignitaries, especially those who can read and speak Hindi, may be requested to give their speech/statement in Hindi, according to PTI. The President had accepted several other recommendations, including making announcements on board aircraft in Hindi followed by English, it said.

First Published: Aug 20, 2017 13:28 IST