Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Sunday criticised Home Minister Amit Shah’s comment that Hindi was the only language that could unite the country. Vijayan said the claim was absurd as it was not the mother tongue of a majority of Indians.

“The move to inflict Hindi upon them amounts to enslaving them,” the chief minister tweeted. “Union minister’s statement is a war cry against the mother tongues of non-Hindi speaking people. No Indian should feel alienated because of language. India’s strength is its ability to embrace diversity. Sangh Parivar must relinquish divisive policies.”

The Left leader alleged Shah’s remark was a ploy of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Centre to divert attention from real problems.

Hours after Shah’s comment, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam chief MK Stalin had threatened “another language protest” if Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not clarify what the home minister meant. Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam chief Vaiko also said that India would be “Balkanised” if Hindi was imposed on everyone.

Karnataka Rakshana Vedike and other Kannada organisations held protests across the state. The activists observed a “black day” as #StopHindiImposition trended on social media.

Brush up your history knowledge: Congress

Congress leader Siddaramaiah said the “misinformation campaign” that Hindi was the national language must be stopped, and added that critics were not opposing the language but its imposition, The Hindu reported. “Let us all celebrate February 21, which is declared as the International Mother Language Day by UNESCO, instead of Hindi Diwas,” he said. Kannada enjoys the same status as Hindi in Constitution, the Congress leader pointed out.

The Congress in Karnataka, meanwhile, asked Shah to “brush up his history knowledge”. “India is country of unity in diversity and has never banked on one language for its existence,” tweeted the party’s official handle. “BJP agenda is implementation of sinister hidden agenda of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh to divide our country by inciting people on grounds of religion, language.”

Former Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy asked the Centre when it would celebrate Kannada Diwas across the nation. He too pointed out that Kannada had equal constitutional status as Hindi. “Remember that Kannadigas too are part of the federal structure,” he added.

S Ramadoss, the leader of Tamil party Paattali Makkal Katchi said that Shah could not impose Hindi on others. The BJP ally claimed that the language could “never be the identity of India” since it would deprive rights of other languages such as Tamil.

The Communist Party of India also lashed out at the home minister, and said his suggestion “smacks of attack on the very concept of diversity”, PTI reported. The party claimed that the diversity of the country should be respected, protected and nurtured.

“Home Minister’s statement is an attack on federalism extending the politics and ideology of RSS to every sphere of life,” the party said. “Communist Party of India strongly condemns these repeated attempts of [Narendra] Modi-Shah government to impose Hindi as part of Hindutva agenda of RSS. This will actually divide our nation.”

September 14 is celebrated as Hindi Diwas to mark the anniversary of Hindi being adopted as an official language by the Constituent Assembly. Hindi is the mother tongue of 43.6% of the population, or almost 53 crore Indians, according to the 2011 census. It is followed by Bengali, which is far behind at 8.03%. Globally, Hindi is the fourth most spoken language in the world.

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