The Congress in Meghalaya did not take well to Governor Ganga Prasad’s decision to open the state’s Budget Session in Hindi on Friday. The Opposition party held that the governor was trying to popularise the concept of “one nation, one culture, one language”, which the Bharatiya Janata Party has been accused of repeatedly, The Shillong Times reported.

“For the first time in the history of Meghalaya, a governor addressed the House in Hindi, and this is to popularise one nation, one culture, one language,” said Congress leader PT Sawkmie, who is the Opposition chief whip. “This infringes on the norms and will create a precedence as members will resort to the use of Khasi, Garo and Pnar languages in the days to come.

English is the official language of the Meghalaya Assembly. Copies of the governor’s speech were circulated among members, though some pointed out later that Prasad had skipped out a number of paragraphs while delivering his speech in Hindi.

Congress leader Ampareen Lyngdoh walked out of the House after the governor continued his speech in Hindi for nearly 10 minutes. A former urban affairs minister of Meghalaya, she claimed Prasad had disrespected the sentiments of the people of Meghalaya by speaking in Hindi, News18 reported.

“Democracy by its nature promotes mutual respect,” Lyngdoh said. “I had to put my foot down when the governor went on speaking in Hindi for seven to eight minutes, skipping paragraphs and even going to the extent of calling Garo Hills ‘Gora Hills’. We don’t have any such place in Meghalaya.”

Speaker Donkupar Roy defended the move, saying, “The official language here is English, but as per the rule, anyone can speak in their mother tongue, provided they give the translated version beforehand.”

Chief Minister Conrad Sangma also defended Governor Prasad, saying it was “not an issue” that the speech was in Hindi as it is not a foreign language and is one that is spoken countrywide.

The Congress won the most number of seats – 21 – in the 60-member Meghalaya Assembly. But the chief minister’s National People’s Party formed the government with 19 legislators and an alliance with six MLAs from the United Democratic Party, four from the People’s Democratic Front, two each from the Hill State People’s Democratic Party and the BJP, one from the Nationalist Congress Party and one Independent MLA.