Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Monday Tamil is now echoing across America as he extolled its rich antiquity at the convocation ceremony of IIT Madras in Chennai, days after praising it as the most ancient language of the world in the United Nations. The Prime Minister's praise for Tamil is seen as an attempt to reach out to the people of Tamil Nadu after a row broke out with Home Minister Amit Shah's pitching for Hindi as a common language which was condemned as "Hindi imposition," by parties in the State.
Modi was on his first visit to Tamil Nadu after his address to the UN General Assembly and his party's big win in the Lok Sabha elections months ago. Addressing a reception here hosted by the BJP, Modi referred to his usage of an ancient Tamil saying in the world forum and he then went on to mention its positive implication in the US.
"...so even today Tamil is echoing in the whole of US," he said to rounds of applause from BJP supporters. He said it was always a delight for him to be back in the state capital of Tamil Nadu.
"Chennai makkalai santhithil magilchi," he said in Tamil which meant "happy to meet the people of Chennai."
Later, addressing the 56th convocation of the IIT Madras, Modi said "We are in the state of Tamil Nadu, which has a special distinction. It is home to the oldest language in the world, Tamil."
The Prime Minister's praise was received with applause from the students and other participants. Addressing the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly on September 27, Prime Minister Modi quoted Tamil poet Kaniyan Poongundranar's famous phrase, "Yaadhum Oore Yaavarum Kelir."
"3000 years ago, a great poet of India, Kaniyan Poongundranar wrote in Tamil, the most ancient language of the world "Yaadhum Oore..."
It meant 'we belong to all places, and to everyone', Modi said, adding this sense of belonging beyond borders was unique to India.
Asked about Prime Minister Modi's back to back praise for Tamil within days, political commentator Sumanth C Raman told PTI: "The Prime Minister might be trying to reach out to the people of Tamil Nadu in the wake of the controversy that surrounded the draft New Education Policy and Home Minsiter Amit Shah's speech on the Hindi Diwas Day."
The draft policy was opposed for allegedly advocating a three language formula and Tamil Nadu parties had said it was "thrusting," Hindi. After Amit Shah batted for Hindi as a common language on Hindi Diwas Day (September 14), it trigerred a political row with Tamil Nadu parties condemning it saying it amounted to imposition of Hindi.
Congress leader P Chidambaram, lodged in Tihar Jail, had said the idea that Hindi alone can unite the people of the country was a dangerous trend. The Left parties, CPI and CPI(M) too had opposed it. Putting an end to the controversy, Shah subsequently said he never asked for imposition of Hindi over native languages in the country but advocated its use as the second language.
Claiming victory after Shah's clarification, DMK had put off its proposed protest over the issue. DMK chief M K Stalin also said Governor Banwarilal Purohit made it clear that Shah's views had been misunderstood. "The governor was categorical that Hindi will not be imposed in Tamil Nadu," Stalin had said.