Bharatiya Janata Party leader and former Minister of External Affairs SM Krishna on Tuesday asked people not to equate Hindi with nationalism and asserted that not knowing the language does not make one “any less Indian”. His remark came days after a Central Industrial Security Force officer at the Chennai airport allegedly asked Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam MP Kanimozhi if she was Indian because she did not know Hindi.

Krishna said he was dismayed by the way Kanimozhi was treated at the airport. “Hindi is another Indian language and nothing more,” he tweeted. “Let’s not equate Hindi with nationalism.”

Following the incident, Kanimozhi on Sunday asserted she was “as much Indian as anybody else”. She also accused the ruling BJP of trying to impose Hindi in the country. Later in the day, the CISF ordered an inquiry into the incident.

Several politicians have criticised the treatment meted out to Kanimozhi. On Monday, DMK President MK Stalin asked if knowing Hindi was an important criterion for being an Indian. Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram said that he, too, has been taunted for not speaking the language. Former Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy supported Kanimozhi and alleged that late Congress leader Kamaraj and DMK leader Karunanidhi, were prevented from becoming prime ministers due to “Hindi politics”.

CISF to deploy personnel with knowledge of local languages: report

Meanwhile, the Central Industrial Security Force on Tuesday said it will deploy more personnel with “working knowledge of the local language” at airports for screening, frisking and other frontline duties, The Hindu reported. “Since the job involves technical and behavioural skills, it would not be possible to achieve 100% deployment on such duties,” an unidentified CISF official told the newspaper.

Anil Pandey, deputy inspector general and chief public relations officer of CISF, said the authorities take utmost care to respect the sentiments of passengers and extend due courtesy. “Be it VIPs, elected representatives or others, we deal [with] everybody with dignity while ensuring [adherence to] security norms,” he said.

However, he acknowledged the possibility of misunderstandings between individuals. “We have now taken steps to make sure that there is no such gap in communication, to the extent possible,” Pandey added.

Kanimozhi told The Hindu that she had spoken to a senior CISF official in Chennai and had requested him not to take any strict action against the CISF official. But she asked them to sensitise the officer to “the seriousness of the issue”.