Vice President Venkaiah Naidu on Friday referred to English as an illness left behind by the British, The Hindu reported. He was speaking at an event organised by the Union Home Ministry in New Delhi to observe “Hindi Divas”.

The vice president said it was not possible to progress in India without knowing Hindi. Naidu reiterated his stance on the importance of primary education being taught in a child’s mother tongue. “Jo bemari angrezi wala chhod kar gaya, is bimari se hamein mukt karna chahiye [We need to rid ourselves of the disease that the English have left behind],” Naidu said.

Naidu cited his own example to elaborate his opinion. “When I was young, I participated in anti-Hindi protests,” the vice president said. “Later, I realised it was not possible to progress without Hindi. I came to Delhi, spoke in broken Hindi but was accepted by all.”

He also described Hindi as the symbol of the country’s socio-political and linguistic unity and suggested that more literature in regional languages should be translated to Hindi. “If we desire that our democracy continues to be progressive and becomes stronger, then we will have to use Hindi in the functioning of the Union government and the regional languages in the functioning of the state governments,” the vice president said. “Every state has immense contribution in Hindi getting the present status.”