Reading the tweet of DMK MP Kanimozhi Karunanidhi that she was asked if she was an Indian just for not knowing Hindi gave a sense of deja vu to many people in Tamil Nadu who had travelled up North.
Students from the state being subjected to such savage humiliation for not speaking in Hindi in colleges and universities in places like Delhi is old hat. But the insult to Kanimozhi was striking as it happened at the Chennai airport.
Whatever be the real reason for the officer of the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) refusing to communicate in a language that all air passengers could understand it could be her lack of fluency in English or her fondness for Hindi – her questioning a passenger’s nationality was uncalled for.
Even if she was oblivious to India being a multi-linguistic nation, she had no right, as a CISF officer or otherwise, to take upon herself the authority to pronounce who can be an Indian.
While these personal drawbacks can hamper the officer from discharging her duties impartially, the present political situation allows her and many others like her to go about displaying Hindi chauvinism at airports and other public spaces without worrying about their prejudice and bigotry alienating non-Hindi speakers from the Indian mainstream.
It is of course intriguing that the particular officer, who should be living in Chennai, did not acknowledge that Tamil is never thrust upon the people who come to the state from outside.
None of the lakhs of guest workers who walked their way back home from Tamil Nadu due to the sudden lockdown recently had to learn Tamil. For, the people of Tamil Nadu are not language chauvinists.
They only resent forceful imposition of another language, be it is through maltreatments at airports and universities or the implementation of a new National Education Policy.