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TN outcry at Sanskrit ‘diktat’

Chennai, July 17: A central Sanskrit “diktat” has riled Tamil Nadu leaders weeks after a row over Hindi.

A CBSE circular asking affiliated schools, many of them in the southern state, to celebrate “Sanskrit week” next month has sparked suspicion it is another conspiracy to impose a different language and culture on Tamil speakers.

The loudest protests have come from the MDMK and PMK, the southern partners of the BJP whose party leader Smriti Irani oversees the CBSE as Union HRD minister.

The controversy comes barely a month after the state’s parties, including the ruling AIADMK and the DMK, objected to a home ministry note advising greater use of Hindi by Union ministers on Twitter and in other social media.

This time, the MDMK’s Vaiko demanded a recall of the CBSE order. “The Centre should recall the circular. The CBSE director’s circular threatens pluralism. Tamil Nadu will never allow imposition of the language and culture of a particular section of people on Tamils. The state had struggled and won in resurrecting Tamil from the influence of Sanskrit,” MDMK’s Vaiko said.

PMK, the other BJP ally, questioned a part of the circular extolling Sanskrit “as the mother of all languages”. Party chief Ramadoss slammed the move and said the CBSE should instead celebrate the official languages of states.

“Sanskrit is used only by 14,000 people and Tamil Nadu can’t accept this indirect imposition. Moreover, it is not the mother of all languages since Tamil is far more ancient and has a greater following world-wide,” Ramadoss said.

Despite the indignation, the families of several of the leaders betray an apparent fascination for Sanskrit. Ramadoss’s three granddaughters — daughters of his son and former Union health minister Anbumani — have Sanskrit names: Sangamitra, Samyuktha and Sanchitra. Ramadoss is not alone. Many of DMK chief M. Karunanidhi’s relatives have such names, like Dayanidhi, Udayanidhi and Kalanidhi.

“While Tamil leaders preach to their followers to give Tamil names to their children, they are not averse to adopting Sanskrit names for their kith and kin,” Thuglak editor Cho Ramaswamy said.

The DMK too sniffed a rat in the CBSE move. “If they are celebrating classical languages, then Tamil is a truly classical language. But no, they are seemingly trying to impose another language on non-Hindi speaking sates,” spokesperson T.K.S. Elangovan told a television channel.

The Centre had declared Tamil a “classical language” in 2005 when the DMK was part of the Congress-led UPA-I government, after Sanskrit fetched the tag under the previous Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led NDA regime.