A recent public meeting in Tamil Nadu, attended by Minister PTR Palanivel Rajan and other dignitaries, was marred by controversy when an elderly man was asked to leave after posing a question about the potential inclusion of Hindi in state board schools, mirroring the CBSE curriculum.
The incident sheds light on the persisting resistance to Hindi within the DMK, highlighting a strong aversion to North Indian culture and language.
The incident draws attention to the ongoing debate surrounding language politics, notably triggered by the I.N.D.I. Alliance meeting in Delhi. During that gathering, Bihar CM Nitish Kumar directly addressed Tamil Nadu CM MK Stalin and Lok Sabha MP TR Baalu, urging them to embrace Hindi as the national language and move away from reliance on English.
The elderly man’s query, which led to his ouster, underscores the tenacity of the DMK’s stance on the lingua franca issue. The party has long been associated with an aversion to Hindi, which is perceived as deeply embedded in its DNA.
A dynamic two-day event titled “Tamil Vellum” (Tamil will win) took place at the Chennai Trade Centre Nandambakkam on January 11-12, 2024, organised by the Commissionerate of Rehabilitation and Welfare of Non-Resident Tamils. The gathering attracted active participation from the Tamil diaspora, representing approximately 58 countries. The event, inaugurated by Youth Welfare and Sports Development Minister Udhayanidhi Stalin, saw Minister for Home Affairs and Law Singapore K Shanmugam as the chief guest. Chief Minister MK Stalin seized the occasion to launch the ‘Enathu Gramam’ (My Village) scheme, encouraging diaspora members to contribute to the development of their native villages through investments.
One of the highlights of the event was a panel discussion titled “Olirum Edhir Kalamum Vaipugalum Savalgalum” (A bright future with opportunities and challenges). Information Technology Minister PTR Palanivel Thiagarajan was a key participant in the discussion.
During the panel, an elderly gentleman posed a question regarding the Tamil Nadu Government’s language policy and drew a comparison between the state’s education system and the CBSE school system, known for its three-language policy. The gentleman expressed a viewpoint aligned with the idea of teaching Tamilians various languages, including German, Japanese, and Spanish, to empower them for global interactions. He advocated for an approach that encourages Tamilians to embrace diverse languages rather than merely complaining about language impositions.
The question sparked a thoughtful discussion on language policies and educational strategies. The gentleman’s suggestion to implement a curriculum similar to CBSE, fostering the learning of multiple languages, resonated with the audience. His emphasis on embracing linguistic diversity and preparing Tamil youth for global engagement received positive acknowledgment from those in attendance.
PTR said “I don’t understand, what is your question?”
The old man replied “What prevents you from enticing our students to learn many other languages?”
PTR asked “Who prevents right now?”
The old man replied “Its our government”
PTR said “No no listen”
The old man asserted strongly “I’m listening to you”
In response to the elderly man’s inquiry about the Tamil Nadu government’s language policy and a suggestion to implement the CBSE syllabus for multilingual learning, PTR responded assertively. He stated, “CBSE syllabus is implemented by the Central Board. The government of Tamil Nadu, irrespective of the party in power, has an educational system that implements its own board. There is no way in any country… What country do you live in?”
The elderly man, asserting himself as a global citizen, faced an abrupt cutoff as the microphone was taken away. He voiced his discontent, claiming undemocratic treatment and identifying himself as a Dravidian with the name Karunanidhi. PTR, taking a personal dig, disclosed the man’s residence in Chicago and questioned his choice of living in a place where the city sets the school syllabus, implying a contradiction in advocating for CBSE education.
The situation escalated as PTR gestured to the man as a lunatic, using finger-to-head signals, and later referred to him as a “crazy man.” PTR defended Tamil Nadu’s education system, emphasising that individuals in the state can learn any language they desire, pointing out his own experiences of learning French and his children studying Spanish and French in Chennai.
The aftermath saw a social media backlash against PTR, with netizens criticising his handling of the situation. Many highlighted the apparent discrepancy between his defence of Tamil Nadu’s education system and his own children being enrolled in an international syllabus. Critics also pointed out his alleged struggles with speaking Tamil fluently and fumbling during budget speeches.
"சிபிஎஸ்இ போன்ற நல்ல பாடத்திட்டத்தை ஏன் இந்த விடியாத அரசால் கொண்டு வர முடியவில்லை" என்று ஒரு பார்வையாளர் கேட்டவுடன் ,
" ஏய் நீ எந்த நாட்டை சார்ந்தவன் என்று முதல்ல சொல்லு" என்று ஒரு கேவலமான தோரணையில் மறு கேள்வி கேட்ட டக்ளஸை,
" நான் ஒரு Global Citizen" என்று அவர் சட்டென பதில்… pic.twitter.com/MKdwTVZG4r
— ArunmozhiVarman 🕉🚩🇮🇳🛕🎻 (@Arunmozhi_Raaja) January 13, 2024
Tamil Nadu BJP chief K. Annamalai lashed out at the arrogance exhibited by DMK Minister PTR Palanivel Thiagarajan. In his X handle, he wrote, “Instead of answering, he was bullied by the DMK Minister & was pushed out of the hall for exposing the flawed policies of the TN Government that have deprived children studying in government schools of learning a third language.”
During Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent visit to Bharathidasan University in Trichy, a heartwarming incident unfolded when a young girl, Dwargha Mathivadhani, approached his cavalcade with a placard. In her message, the second-grade student expressed her desire to learn Hindi but lamented the absence of Hindi language education in state government-run schools.
Dwargha Mathivadhani, from Nagapattinam, pledged to ask her father to donate land for a new school, emphasising that if the Prime Minister built a school, students like her could learn Hindi. Her appeal highlighted the current lack of provision for Hindi education in Tamil Nadu’s state-run schools.
The young girl’s plea also shed light on the disparity in language education, pointing out that DMK-affiliated individuals own more than 44 CBSE schools where Hindi is a compulsory subject. The state government has been resistant to the introduction of Navodaya schools, which offer more affordable fees, as their presence could potentially impact the revenue of CBSE schools owned by politicians associated with both the DMK and AIADMK.
This incident has added fuel to the ongoing debate over language policies in Tamil Nadu’s educational institutions, with critics questioning the opposition to the New Education Policy and the three-language formula by parties like DMK. The girl’s heartfelt request has resonated on social media, reigniting discussions about the importance of inclusive language education in the state.
While specific details regarding the meeting’s agenda and the context of the question remain unclear, the man’s ejection fueled allegations of suppressing dissent and disrespecting freedom of expression.