Never asked to impose Hindi over regional languages: Shah

Amid controversy over his call to culturally unify India with Hindi as its national language, Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Wednesday issued a clarification stating he had only requested people to learn it as their second language and not to impose it over any regional one.

"I never asked for imposing Hindi over other regional languages and had only requested for learning Hindi as the second language after one's mother tongue. I myself come from a non-Hindi state of Gujarat. If some people want to do politics, it is their choice," Shah told reporters here.

Earlier, Shah's call to culturally unify India with Hindi as it's national language on Saturday triggered a row with several opposition leaders training their guns at him asking him to reconsider his appeal as it "poses a danger to national unity".

Speaking as chief guest at a function to grace Hindi Divas, Shah said that while unity in diversity is India's defining trait, a common language is needed as a culturally unifying factor.

"While diversity in languages is the strength of our nation, a national language is needed so that foreign languages and cultures do not overpower our own," he said proclaiming that next year, the Hindi Divas event would be a public programme, as Hindi belongs to the people.

He said that the government would take Hindi Divas outside Delhi, and would celebrate a Hindi Saptah across the country. He called Hindi the heart and soul of the freedom struggle.

Shah's comments drew sharp reactions from DMK, CPI (Marxist) and other opposition parties, especially from the southern region. Congress leader Siddaramaiah and MNM chief and actor-turned-politician Kamal Hasan too had criticised the Union Home Minister for his comments.