There used to be a perception in the eighties and early nineties as to how the anti-Hindi movement in Tamilnadu had spoiled the prospective growth of young Tamils. This was largely based on the assumption that ‘growth’ meant getting a government job; success meant becoming an IAS officer, all of which demanded knowledge of Hindi. Those were the monopoly days of Akashavani and Doordarshan, when even decent entertainment(if you could call it so) was denied if you don’t know Hindi. Little did we realise then that Hindi will lose its relevance so abruptly and so completely.
Today, the much maligned and ridiculed Madarasis (South Indians in general and Tamils in particular) have made real significant progress in many fields with Software industry leading the way. Though parts of North India, have kept pace, South has largely steamed ahead. The reasons are clear:
- We did not waste time learning one more language (Hindi). Instead we could focus on Maths and Science.
- We became fairly proficient in English, which has helped us in our global aspirations and business dealings. What if we could not sell our Tiruppur made hosieries in North India; we could sell them overseas. Our IT programers could speak and code in English.
- Because of lack of opportunities in India, many Tamils migrated abroad and some indirect benefits have been ploughed back to India
- A strong network of colleges cropped up to cater to a large population who did not want to move to other parts of India; this has helped build a strong pipeline of engineers and other graduates, feeding the IT and BPO industries now.
- Strong entertainment, media and literature came up in Tamil, to counter the dependence on the dominant Hindi counterparts. We learnt to make movies with superior technology; music blending the international and local flavours; writers like Sujatha wrote in popular media about computers, much before any other region in India even heard about those. Scientists like Abdul Kalam were revered. A generation grew up knowing possibilites of science, computers, graphics, satellites et al.
Thanks to all of these and more, Hindi has quietly slipped out of the collective conscience and memory of Tamils. Sun network has wiped off Doordarshan and AIR, and Hindi along with it. Now Tamils learn Hindi, purely on a need-basis, whenever required, like any other language, and not out of compulsion.
Anti-Hindi movement, which was termed as anti-India at that time, has on the contrary, in spite of its political exploitation, helped preserve the Indian identity, by ensuring that the Tamil identity is not challenged. Being a Tamil or Kannadiga or Maratha is the core identity; being an Indian is a derived identity. As long as the core identity is retained, the derived identity is safe. While, a Bangalore and Mumbai call for expulsion of Tamils or Biharis from their soil, Chennai is now not confronted with regional hatred unless seriously provoked. Bangalore has failed to preserve its Kannada identity and therefore feels threatened. Mumbai has lost its Maratha identity and therefore feels threatened. Chennai has a thriving Tamil identity and therefore its Indianness remains intact.