Tamil Nadu minister’s ‘pani puri sellers’ swipe at Hindi speakers stirs a row

‘We were told that learning Hindi could land us with jobs. Is that so? You go and see in our state and in Coimbatore. Who are those people who sell pani puris?’ said the minister.
Addressing the 37th convocation at Bharathiar University, Tamil Nadu higher education minister K Ponmudi asked what is the need for other languages when people are learning an international language, English. (Twitter/Dr.K.Ponmudy)
Addressing the 37th convocation at Bharathiar University, Tamil Nadu higher education minister K Ponmudi asked what is the need for other languages when people are learning an international language, English. (Twitter/Dr.K.Ponmudy)
Updated on May 13, 2022 09:23 PM IST
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CHENNAI: Tamil Nadu higher education minister K Ponmudi on Friday stirred up a controversy after he said that those who are engaged “selling pani puri” are Hindi speaking people,

Addressing the 37th convocation the state-run Bharathiar University in Coimbatore, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) minister reiterated that the government is determined to follow the dual language policy of English and Tamil in the state.

“While English is an international language, Tamil is a local language. We were told that learning Hindi could land us with jobs. Is that so? You go and see in our state and in Coimbatore. Who are those people who sell pani puris?” Ponmudi said at the event which was also attended by governor R N Ravi.

“(C N) Annadurai (DMK founder and former chief minister) strongly batted for English and Tamil. He used to tell a story about a person making two separate entrances for cats and rats. That person was told that the rat can also enter through the entrance made for cats. We are learning an international language, English. What is the need for other languages?” he added.

The higher education minister made the remark while speaking on the implementation of “good” aspects of the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 but reiterated that the state government will continue with the two-language policy. The NEP is based on a three-language formula.

Governor Ravi said “there is no question of imposition of Hindi or any other language on anyone”.

In his Republic Day speech this year, the governor had extended his support to the NEP and insisted that Tamil Nadu students be exposed to learning other Indian languages.

Reacting to Ponmudi’s remarks, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) national spokesperson Shehzad Poonawala took to Twitter and said the minister has insulted the Hindi language speakers.

“We respect all Indian languages - Tamil, Hindi, Marathi,Gujarati, etc - but when a DMK minister insults Hindi language & people who sell pani puri (ordinary, poor honest bread winners) does Congress- ally of DMK support this insult of poor & Hindi language speakers?” he said.

The minister’s remark has come amidst soaring debate over the alleged Hindi-imposition.

While the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders have advocated for Hindi to be the country’s unifying language with slogans of one nation-one language, the party’s Tamil Nadu unit has maintained that that they will never allow imposition of Hindi in the state.

The politics over Hindi revived in Tamil Nadu after union home minister Amit Shah in April batted for Hindi to be the common link language of India. It was met with criticism across the country and chief minister M K Stalin had warned the union government not to forget the 1960s anti-Hindi agitations in the state.

Earlier this week, in neighbouring union territory of Puducherry, DMK and its allies protested against a new circular at the Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education & Research (JIPMER) which said that the entries in service books must be in Hindi and English. However, Puducherry lieutenant governor Tamilisai Sounderarajan had clarified that the specification from the union government is for the entries to be in Tamil first followed by English and Hindi to aid those employees whose mother tongue is Hindi.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2022