Tamizh, Hindi and the Boogeyman

Boogeyman. Every child knows of Boogeyman. In one form or the other. Whenever they are mischievous, difficult to handle, wilful or recalcitrant, the Boogeyman is whipped out. He could be the blowing wind, or the murmur hiding under your bed or even a mask one noticed hanging behind the door before. But there is a reason Boogeyman is associated with childhood. One is supposed to grow wiser with age. The ability to see through the facade is expected to come with wisdom. The irony of our nation is that we haven’t grown up enough to see through the pretense yet.

The charade and the politics

They say, politics once upon a time wasn’t such a dirty word. I think that was before the beginning of time. We choose some people, mere mortals like us, and bestow them with the power. We expect them to be the keepers of our interests. They are supposed to be our voice. We entrust them to take decisions on our behalf. We trust them to be our leaders. Unfortunately, these representatives rather than being the aforementioned, choose to become politicians. They care about their interests and their well being, even if it is on the cost of us. As long as we are docile, subservient and treat them as our rulers, they are happy. But the moment we are not docile enough for them or when we ask questions, they whip out the Boogeyman.

Our nation has seen its fair share of Boogeymen. Be it in the form of Hindu-Muslim divide, or the divide between Upper and Lower caste. The age old adage of divide and rule culminated in the form of division of our amazing country into three parts. But the funniest thing is, we have learnt nothing. We still let the politicians manipulate us using the Boogeymen. One such Boogeyman is imposition of Hindi over certain states.

The Boogeyman that is Hindi

Tamil Nadu has had its fair share of history with opposition of Hindi. As a state with strong cultural heritage with deep-rooted love for their language, it is understandable too. The notion that one could be treated as a second grade citizen in their own country is scary. This issue was done and dusted back in 1967 after the Official Languages(Amendment) Acts. But it is commonplace in Tamil Nadu for a politician to evoke anti-Hindi sentiments every now and then.

What happened

Apparently on some of the milestones between certain cities in Tamil Nadu, the writings in English were changed into Hindi by the authorities. I agree that is in defiance to the Official Language Act of 1967. If the NHAI was so worried about the people who could only read Hindi, they should have placed bigger milestones to have place for the third language. But I do not think this issue is as big as it is being made out to be. Some political parties are challenging to start a state-wide agitation against this, which mind you, will only lead to destruction of property in the state. There is a judicial system in this country, which follows the law. There is a process via which such discrepancy can be eliminated. You have a grievance? Well, just knock the door.

The politics

The cultural impact of the anti-Hindi sentiments has been covered in immaculate detail and nothing new could be said about it. Let’s look at it from the political perspective though. The major impact of the anti-Hindi movement in Tamil Nadu was that Congress was rooted and was never able to come back to power, giving the control in hands of regional parties. And today, people have only two options to choose from, which isn’t much of choice if you see ideologically.

Nothing much has changed in all these years though. Every now and then, one can see a politician crying hoarse about alleged imposition of Hindi. And trust me when I tell you, these politicians couldn’t care any lesser about the people. It is just another tool for them to evoke passion among masses and scare them from the Boogeyman. Once people are scared enough, these politicians swoop in and sell themselves as the protectors of the realm and slayers of the dragon. People believe them once again, trust them and that loyalty translates into obedience and next poll-term victory for them. ‘Them’ here is the politicians, not the people. The people always lose.

Why is it beneficial

By maintaining a divide between the state and the center and by constantly nurturing the notion that the center doesn’t care about you, these regional parties have made sure that they always have a 50% chance in coming to power. Also by keeping the anti-Hindi sentiments alive, they are always confident of having at least one poll promise to fall back to, one topic to speak at public podiums, one sure shot way of inciting passion among masses, one guaranteed way of making the child subservient. Take this away and they have to talk about policies and their work and their vision, which is a good way to gain popularity among people. But damn, the anti-Hindi rhetoric is easy.

Does North India really want to impose Hindi ?

This is 2016, and trust me, they only care as much as you care about them. Of course as Tamil Nadu takes pride in Tamizh, some of them take pride in Hindi. That doesn’t mean they want Hindi to be implemented in Tamil Nadu. Tamizhians have their own language, North Indians have their own. But when one sees others belittling a language and an entire culture just because some idiot in some office decided to erase English and write Hindi over it, it feels bad. Nobody touched the Tamizh board. If they did, it’s incorrect. But in all likelihood it could’ve been an honest mistake. Maybe there is no hidden Boogeyman behind the curtains, maybe it’s just the wind blowing.

My 2 cents

I spent 7 years in Tamil Nadu and I can understand Tamizh and speak a bit too. But not because somebody forced me to, or because the situation was such. I learnt it because I wanted to laugh at the jokes my Tamizh friends made, I wanted to be a part of that conversation without causing the extra inconvenience of speaking in English just because of my presence, because I wanted to catch the first day first show of a Ilayathalapathy(Vijay) movie. I made amazing friends in this state and I didn’t shove my language down their throat, EVER. I spent hours trying to correctly pronounce Vazhaipazham (Banana) not because I had to, but because it was an amusing and interesting experience.

The right to respect, speak and protect Tamizh is as much yours, as it is mine and no one can take that from us. Tamizh as a language is as much a part of my cultural heritage as it is yours. I am as proud, if not more, of the language as you are. We all are. The uniqueness of this country is built upon the fact that we have many diverse cultures with diverse flavors. The problem is that the moment we all realize that the strength of this diversity is in correctly understanding it and staying strong, we start becoming a threat in the eyes of The Chosen Ones . And they retaliate by whipping out another Boogeyman out of thin air. The decision though, lies with us, do we keep getting scared of it, or do we call out their bluff.

Read the original post here.