Language row erupts over Hindi letter sent by MoS home to Tamil Nadu MP

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Chennai: The Lok Sabha representative from Madurai in Tamil Nadu has written to the Minister of State (MoS) for Home Affairs, expressing shock at how the Union Minister replied to an Official letter in Hindi, without providing translation for it, as per the rules. 

According to the MP, S Venkatesan, he had written to MoS Home Nityanand Rai on 9th October demanding examination centers in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry for the recruitment of CRPF paramedical staff. He added that the reply he received from the MoS on 9th November was in Hindi, and it did not contain an enclosed English translation. 

“Since the letter was in Hindi I was not in a position to know the contents of it. It was shocking that legal and procedural aspects have been violated by replying in Hindi to my letter,” the MP’s communique to the MoS reads. 

The CPI(M) MP’s letter referred to the assurances by former Prime Ministers Jawaharlal Nehru, Lal Bahadur Shastri regarding how Hindi would not be imposed as Official language on non-Hindi speaking states including Tamil Nadu. The amendments to the Official languages Act in 1967 under Indira Gandhi’s tenure also was mentioned. 

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The letter stated that Official Languages (Use for Official Purposes of the Union) Rules 1976 had exempt Tamil Nadu while applying to the whole of India. “Wherever any letter from a Parliament is in English and the reply is required to be given in Hindi in terms of OL Act 1963 and the rules framed under, an English translation should also be sent along with the reply for the convenience of such members from Non-Hindi speaking areas” read a line from an official circular. 

Stating that he is disheartened to note that the government itself violates laws and procedures, he requested the minister to advise his Ministry officials to respond to the letters of the MPs from Tamil Nadu in English, in line with existing practice. 

A few months back, MPs from different parts of the country and predominantly from Tamil Nadu, had slammed the Culture Ministry for their panel, meant to study Indian Culture, did not include various sections of the Indian population.

Parliamentarians had written to the President seeking his immediate intervention in ensuring that the committee announced by the Minister for Culture to study the origin and evolution of Indian culture is disbanded. They pointed out that the 16-member group formed to study this subject did not itself reflect a pluralistic society and ignored various sections of India’s population. 

“There are no South Indians, Northeast Indians, minorities, Dalits, or women. Almost all the members of the said committee belong to certain specific social groups which are in top of the Caste hierarchy of Indian society” read the letter that was endorsed by 32 Members of Parliament, which predominantly featured opposition MPs from Tamil Nadu. They reasoned that India with its great legacy of pluralism requires inputs from diverse cultures of the nation. 

It was emphasized that the committee did not feature any experts in South Indian languages, including Tamil, which has been recognized as a classical language by even the Central government. Raising questions about the intentions, composition of the committee, the letter asked, “Isn’t India below Vindhya hill? Is there no civilization other than the Vedic Civilization ? Is there no ancient language here than Sanskrit?” 

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