Amid Protests, Southern Railway Withdraws ‘Hindi’ Order

A row erupted in Tamil Nadu on Friday, 14 June, over a circular of the Southern Railway making English and Hindi mandatory as the languages of communication between divisional control officers and station masters, reported news agency PTI.

The circular was withdrawn after the DMK took it up with officials, with the Opposition slamming it as another attempt at “imposing” Hindi.

As per The News Minute, a circular dated 12 June read, “communication between the Divisional Control Offices and the Station Masters should be either in English or in Hindi, and the use of regional language should be avoided to prevent either side not understanding what is being said.”

The circular had come days after a reported communication issue happened between two station masters in Madurai district, leading to two trains running on the same track. Three officials were suspended over the incident.

Opposition Leaders Slam the Move

Calling the move “arrogant,” DMK President MK Stalin alleged that the circular amounted to impose Hindi and destroying the local language.

“They are repeatedly playing with the sentiments of Tamils.... If such cheap orders are not stopped with immediately, we will put a full stop to them,” Stalin posted on Facebook in Tamil.

PMK founder S Ramadoss and MDMK chief Vaiko also slammed the move.

Ramadoss wondered if there was any "gag" on communicating in Tamil among the railway staff and urged that more Tamil-speaking people should be employed in the central department in the state. Even non-Tamil speaking people should be asked to learn the local language, the PMK leader said in a statement. "The circular is an attempt at imposing Hindi, which is condemnable."

Vaiko warned that attempts at “Hindi imposition” in the railway department would lead to an outrage in the state.

Dravidar Kazhagam leader K Veeramani also criticised the move. "The Centre is aggressively trying to impose Hindi by all means," he said and recalled the stiff resistance to the Centre's proposed three-language formula from states like Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Telangana and West Bengal.

On the DMK chief's instructions, party MP Dayanidhi Maran presented a memorandum to Southern Railway General Manager Rahul Jain and Chief Operations Manager S Anantharaman against the circular. The officials assured them of withdrawing the circular “immediate effect.”

Maran later told reporters that the DMK would “make any sacrifice” to prevent what he said was the imposition of Hindi in Tamil Nadu.

Also Read: Politics of Language: Hindi Imposition Claims, Furore and Tweak

“We had come with the intention of staging a protest if our demand was not heeded to, but they have assured (us of) cancelling the circular and Stalin has ensured a good solution to the matter,” Maran said.

The controversy comes close on the heels of the row over the alleged imposition of Hindi in the draft new education policy, which has been revised later. The DMK had said only the two-language formula should exist in the state.

‘Circular Was Purely Internal’: Southern Railway Officials

Officials in the Southern Railway clarified that the circular was "purely internal" and issued to avoid any communication problem.

Gajanan Mallya, General Manager, South Central Railway, told ANI, “That communication was given only for operating part of it, so that they understand and do not misinterpret railway signals.”

All India Station Masters Association President John Vincent said that he personally had no problems with the withdrawal of the circular. “This was done based on complaints from the control department, which is dominated by Hindi speaking employees. As Railways employees, we are more than willing to go learn the local language wherever we are posted. But when someone is posted in a state like Tamil Nadu, you can't force them to learn Hindi as well,” TNM quoted him as saying.

He further added that many station masters had already expressed their displeasure with the concerned authorities.

The TNM report further quoted the revised version of the circular:

“It felt that attention is required to ensure that communication between the Control and the Station is improved. While it goes without saying that it is the responsibility of the Control to ensure that every instruction passed by it to the Station Master is clear and fully comprehended, it is also essential that the SMs (Station Masters) do the same while requesting permissions or advising action that they are taking. Therefore, it may be ensured that communication between Control and Station Masters does not give room to any misunderstanding or ambiguity and is clearly understood by all concerned.”

Anti-Hindi sentiments had peaked in Tamil Nadu in the 1960s when the DMK then successfully led an anti-Hindi agitation against the imposition of the language, which found great resonance with the public.

(With inputs from PTI, ANI and The News Minute)

Also Read: What Did Tamilians Say to the Centre’s Hindi Imposition? Not Today

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