Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Wednesday claimed that he never asked for the imposition of Hindi over other regional languages. “I had only requested for learning Hindi as the second language after one’s mother tongue,” Shah said, according to ANI.

Shah’s remarks came days after his “Hindi as unifier” comment triggered a backlash in the southern states.

“People should hear my speech properly, if they want to do politics, it is their choice, but my speech should be reheard to clear the confusion,” Shah at Hindustan Purvodaya 2019 in Jharkhand’s capital Ranchi. The home minister pointed out that he was from the non-Hindi speaking state of Gujarat.

Shah added that Hindi should be one’s choice for second language. “There should be one language in the country, if you want to learn a second language then let it be Hindi, this was my request,” Hindustan Times quoted him as saying. “I don’t understand why it was found offensive.”

The Bharatiya Janata Party president said he had always advocated developing regional languages to retain cultural identities. “I have repeatedly said that the Indian languages should be strengthened and their necessity must be understood,” he added. “A child will only do well if taught in its mother tongue, which is not necessarily Hindi. It can also be the regional language like Gujarati.”

Several politicians across India have opposed Shah’s initial remarks.

Tamil actor-turned-politician Rajinikanth on Wednesday said no language can be imposed on people. The actor said it would be good to have a common language as it would help the country’s development and its unity. Unfortunately, it was not possible in India, he added.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had criticised Shah’s remarks on Sunday. “The move to inflict Hindi upon them amounts to enslaving them,” he tweeted. “Union minister’s statement is a war cry against the mother tongues of non-Hindi speaking people.”

The following day, actor-politician Kamal Haasan made a reference to the home minister, saying “no shah, sultan or samrat” could renege on the promise of unity in diversity that was made when India became a republic. The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam has called for protests across Tamil Nadu on September 20. Leader of Tamil party Paattali Makkal Katchi S Ramadoss has claimed that Hindi can “never be the identity of India” as it would deprive rights of other languages.

On Monday, Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa also said official languages in the country had equal status, and asserted that Kannada was the “principal language” in the state. Karnataka Rakshana Vedike and other Kannada organisations had held protests across the state and observed a “black day” on Saturday.

Congress leader Siddaramaiah has called for an end to the “misinformation campaign” that Hindi is the national language, and pointed out that critics were not opposing the language but its imposition. Former Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy has also said Kannada enjoys equal constitutional status as Hindi.

Many other politicians, including West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen MP Asaduddin Owaisi have also condemned Shah’s initial comments.

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