Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam President MK Stalin on Monday asked if knowing Hindi was an important criterion to being Indian. His remark came a day after a Central Industrial Security Force officer at the Chennai airport allegedly asked his sister and MP Kanimozhi if she was Indian because she did not know Hindi. Congress leader P Chidambaram and Janata Dal (Secular) leader HD Kumaraswamy also came out in support on Kanimozhi earlier in the day.

“Because Kanimozhi said she didn’t know Hindi, a CISF official asked her if she is an Indian,” Stalin wrote on Twitter. “Is Hindi the yardstick for being an Indian? Is this India or Hindia? People who are trying to bury pluralism will get buried.”

Earlier this month, Stalin had hit out at the Centre for allegedly trying to impose Hindi and Sanskrit on students across the country through the New Economic Policy. Stalin had said that he will oppose the educational changes by uniting with like-minded political parties.

Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram also said that he has experienced taunts for not speaking Hindi. “I have experienced similar taunts from government officers and ordinary citizens who insisted that I speak in Hindi during telephone conversations and sometimes face to face,” the senior politician, who is from Tamil Nadu, tweeted. “The unpleasant experience of DMK MP Ms Kanimozhi at Chennai airport is not unusual.”

Chidambaram asked why Hindi-speaking employees could not learn English, if non-Hindi speaking central government recruits could quickly learn functional, spoken Hindi. “If the central government is genuinely committed to both Hindi and English being the official languages of India, it must insist that all central government employees are bilingual in Hindi and English,” he said.

Former Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy also spoke out in support of Kanimozhi. “I raise my voice against the insult meted to sister Kanimozhi,” he wrote on Twitter. “Now, it is apt to debate how political leaders from the south were snatched of their opportunities by Hindi politics and discrimination.” He said many politicians, such as the late Congress leader Kamaraj and DMK leader Karunanidhi, were prevented from becoming prime ministers due to “Hindi politics”.

Kanimozhi, following the incident, said on Sunday that she was “as much Indian as anybody else”. She also accused the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party of trying to impose Hindi in the country. Later in the day, the CISF ordered a probe into the incident.

Under the New Education Policy, the Centre has proposed that education up to Class 5, and preferably until Class 8, be imparted in the mother tongue of students. Classical languages like Sanskrit have also been proposed at all levels, while foreign languages will be offered at the secondary level.