Bollywood star Ajay Devgn's comment on Hindi being India's national language snowballed into a major debate on Thursday with leaders across the political spectrum, including BJP's Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai and NC's Omar Abdullah, among those backing linguistic diversity.
What started off as a Twitter exchange between Devgn and Kannada actor Kichcha Sudeep on Wednesday took a political turn as Bommai joined his predecessors and political rivals, Congress' Siddaramaiah and JD-S' H D Kumaraswamy in stressing that Hindi is like any other language in India and not the national language.
“Whatever Sudeep has said is correct. After the formation of states on linguistic basis, languages got importance there (in those regions). That is supreme. The same has been said by Sudeep, which is right. Everyone should accept and respect it," Bommai told reporters in Hubballi.
As the hashtag ‘HindiIsNotNationalLanguage' trended on Twitter and several film personalities spoke up too on the volatile issue, former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Abdullah said in Srinagar that India is too diverse a country to have one national language and everybody must get their space.
“The idea of India is that it gives space to everybody. When you pick up an Indian currency note, how many languages do you find on it? "The currency note gives space to all the languages and if the Indian currency note gives space to all the languages, then obviously it is understood that we are more than just one language, more than just one culture, more than just one religion," he told reporters in response to a question.
Sudeep had said last week that “Hindi is no more our national language”. To this, Devgn responded with a tweet in Hindi on Wednesday: "My brother, according to you if Hindi is not our national language then why do you release your mother tongue movies by dubbing them in Hindi? Hindi was, is and always will be our mother tongue and national language. Jan Gan Man." Taking objection to the post by Devgn, who usually stays away from controversy and too many social media posts, Siddaramaiah said "Hindi was never and will never be our National Language”.
“It is the duty of every Indian to respect linguistic diversity of our country. Each language has its own rich history for its people to be proud of. I am proud to be a Kannadiga!!" Kumaraswamy followed up on the theme to term Devgn a "mouthpiece of BJP's Hindi Nationalism" and “hyper in nature”.
In a series of tweets on Thursday, Kumaraswamy said Sudeep was "correct" in saying Hindi was not a national language and there is "nothing to find fault in his statement".
“Like Kannada, Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam & Marathi, Hindi is also one of the languages. India is a garden of several languages. Land of multi cultures. Let there be no attempts to disrupt this.
"Just because a large population speaks Hindi, it doesn't become a National Language. Less than 9 States, Kashmir-Kanyakumari, have Hindi as 2nd, 3rd language or not even that. This being situation, what is the truth in Ajay Devgan's statement? What do you mean by not to dub?" the politician said. He also slammed the Congress and the BJP for destroying regional languages by trying to impose Hindi.
"…An addiction for primacy is dividing the country. A seed sown by the BJP has become contagious dividing the nation. This is a threat to India's unity. #stopHindiImposition," Kumaraswamy tweeted and added that Devgn must realise that Kannada cinema is outgrowing Hindi film industry.
Joining the debate, filmmaker Ram Gopal Varma said north Indian stars are simply "insecure" of their colleagues from South.
"The base undeniable ground truth @KicchaSudeep sir is that the north stars are insecure and jealous of the south stars because a Kannada dubbing film #KGF2 had a 50 crore opening day and we all are going to see the coming opening days of Hindi films," he wrote on Twitter referring to the Kannada blockbuster. Its Hindi dubbed version has so far collected Rs 343 crore at the box office, beating the figures earned by 'Tiger Zinda Hai', "PK" and "Sanju".
Varma, who worked with Devgn on films like "Company" and "Bhoot", voiced his support for Sudeep and said whether the star intended or not, he was glad he made the statement at a time when “there seems to be a war like situation between Bolly(north)wood and Sandal(South) wood".
South star and politician Ramya was equally emphatic in her post.
"No- Hindi is not our national language. @ajaydevgn Your ignorance is baffling. And it's great that films like KGF Pushpa and RRR have done so well in the Hindi belt- art has no language barrier. Please enjoy our films as much as we enjoy yours- #stopHindiImposition," she said, tagging Devgn's tweet.
Actor Gulshan Devaiah highlighted the linguistic diversity in his life.
"I tweet in English I work in Hindi I was born in Karnataka I live in Maharashtra My native tongue is Kodava Takk I can speak 5 languages I am from Bharat aka Hindustan aka India. Don't know about you all but I feel awesome about this diversity in my life (sic)," the "Badhaai Do" actor wrote.
Lyricist Puneet Sharma tweeted that "Hindi can flourish only when people who speak Hindi give the same respect to all languages, as they want for their own language".
Devgn's tweet on Wednesday had prompted Sudeep to post a reply, explaining that his statement was perhaps taken out of context and was not meant to “hurt, provoke or to start any debate”. Devgn seemed to end the argument by thanking Sudeep for "clearing up the misunderstanding".
"Hi @KicchaSudeep, You are a friend. thanks for clearing up the misunderstanding. I've always thought of the film industry as one. We respect all languages and we expect everyone to respect our language as well. Perhaps, something was lost in translation (sic)" he added.
Sudeep followed up on his earlier tweet by saying that he could understand what Devgn wrote in Hindi but wondered what his fellow actor would do if his response was in Kannada.
"Don't we too belong to India sir," Sudeep asked Devgn. Translation and interpretations are "perspectives", Sudeep said in his final response to Devgn.
India doesn't have a national language, and Hindi and Kannada are among the 22 languages listed in the eighth schedule of the Constitution.
Earlier this month, Union Home Minister Amit Shah had said Hindi should be accepted as an alternative to English and not to local languages.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)