Houston: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday emphasised that diversity is the foundation of India’s democracy and the country’s various languages are an important identity of its liberal and democratic society, days after Home Minister Amit Shah stoked a row by pitching for Hindi as the national language.
Addressing the audience at the ‘Howdy, Modi’ event in Houston, PM Modi said India has progressed for centuries with dozens of languages and hundreds of dialects. "Our various languages are an important identity of our liberal and democratic society. For centuries, our nation has been moving forward with dozens of languages and hundreds of dialects. Diversity is the foundation of our vibrant democracy," he said.
To highlight the linguistic diversity of India, PM Modi said "all is fine in India" in several Indian languages from Punjabi to Bengali to Tamil among others. "When you ask me Howdy, Modi? the only answer is 'everything is fine'," he said and then kept on repeating it in several Indian languages.
The Prime Minister’s assertion comes at a time when the Opposition — especially in the southern states — has attacked the government for trying to impose Hindi on them.
Shah had courted controversy on Hindi Diwas when he emphasised on the ability of Hindi to bring the entire country together, saying it is extremely important for a country to have a common language that becomes the mark of its identity in the world.
“India is a country of different languages and every language has its own importance but it is necessary to have a common language that becomes the mark of identity of the country. Today, if a language can keep the country united, it is the widely-spoken Hindi language,” he said.
He further appealed to people to use Hindi more often, and contribute towards fulfilling the dream of Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Patel of 'one nation, one language'.
The appeal, however, was met with stiff opposition, with Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan calling it a move that would amount to enslaving people. Vijayan called Shah’s statement “a war cry” against the mother tongues of non-Hindi speakers. “The claim that Hindi unifies our country is absurd. That language is not the mother tongue of a majority of Indians. The move to inflict Hindi upon them amounts to enslaving them. Union Minister's statement is a war cry against the mother tongues of non-Hindi speaking people,” the Kerala CM said.
Veteran leaders such as Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) president MK Stalin and former Karnataka chief ministers Siddaramaiah and HD Kumaraswamy also came down heavily on Shah for pitching for his "one nation, one language" pitch.