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#StopHindiChauvinism: Uniformity is not a prerequisite for unity

The hastag #StopHindiChauvinism has been trending on Twitter ever since the milestones on highways in Tamil Nadu were rewritten in Hindi. But this is not just a South India problem.

opinion Updated: Apr 04, 2017 17:34 IST
Vidya Subramanian
Vidya Subramanian
Hindustan Times
StopHindiChauvinism,MK Stalin,Tamil Nadu
The hastag #StopHindiChauvinism has been trending ever since MK Stalin protested the idea of milestones on highways in Tamil Nadu being rewritten in Hindi. But this is not just a South India problem. (PTI)

On Friday, the working president of the DMK, MK Stalin, noticed that the milestones on the Chittoor-Vellore Highway and National Highway 77 in Tamil Nadu were marked in Hindi and Tamil, and the English names had suddenly vanished. He accused the BJP of disrespecting the Tamils and of trying to bring in a “Hindi hegemony through the backdoor” into Tamil Nadu. Other Tamil parties such as the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) and Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) even threatened an agitation if such changes on signposts continued. Since then, on Twitter at least, the question of language has become important again.

While it began with Tamil Nadu, many people, not just from the south of India, seemed to agree with this accusation of Hindi chauvinism. Languages with a rich tradition of poetry and literature such as Bhojpuri, Maithili, Magadhi, and Awadhi have all been subsumed under the umbrella of Hindi. Twitter users across the country have been vocal in pointing this out, using the hashtag #StopHindiChauvinism.

The spectre of Hindi chauvinism had also raised its head when the new Rs. 500 and 2,000 currency notes were introduced. These notes have the number written in the normal Hindu-Arabic numerals as well as in Devnagari. It has been pointed out in the media that this was a departure from the Munshi-Ayyangar formula, devised during the Constituent Assembly debates in which it was decided that India would have no national language and that states in which Hindi was not spoken could maintain international numerals.

In a country as diverse as India, where many people who are not from the Hindi-speaking belt have had to face discrimination in cities like Delhi, the alarm over Hindi hegemony is not entirely unfounded. People from the northeast being asked if they are Chinese; people from all states in the south being labelled ‘Madrasi’ are very real problems that non-Hindi-speakers face every day.

With the rise of the right wing all over the country, whose rallying cry in the past has included the chauvinism of language along with that of religion, the fear of Hindi hegemony has also been resurrected. While the immediate impetus for the social media outcry may have been markers on Tamil Nadu milestones, voices from around the country are joining in. Perhaps it’s time to renew the idea of syncretism that India has always stood for, where uniformity is not a prerequisite for unity.


First Published: Apr 04, 2017 16:27 IST

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