CHENNAI: BJP secretary H Raja has stirred a row alleging a political motive behind DMK MP Kanimozhi's recent complaint against security personnel at the Chennai airport.
On his Twitter handle, Raja claimed that Kanimozhi who could converse in Hindi was lying with a political motive. To prove his claims, Raja said Kanimozhi translated the speech of former Deputy Prime Minister Chaudhary Devi Lal from Hindi to Tamil in 1989.
Speaking to reporters at the Chennai Airport on Wednesday, Kanimozhi denied she had translated the speech of any leader from Hindi to Tamil. "I only learned Tamil and English. Regardless of whether I know Hindi or not, equating the ability to speak Hindi with one's national identity is a great insult," she said.
Meanwhile, the issue took a new turn with a retired IAS officer joining the fray. M G Devasagayam, a retired IAS officer of the Haryana cadre, denied Raja's claim and said it was he who translated the former Deputy Prime Minister's remarks.
Devasagayam, a native of Nagercoil, held various positions in the Haryana government when Devi Lal was the Chief Minister of the state.
Devasagam said Devi Lal took over as Deputy Prime Minister in the first week of December 1989 and came to Tamil Nadu in the third week of the month.
"He came to participate in a farmer's rally near Coimbatore to commemorate the death anniversary of farmer leader Narayanasami Naidu and discuss with then Chief Minister Karunanidhi the matter of additional allotment of foodgrains to the state on an urgent basis. Since I was living in Chennai at that time after taking voluntary retirement, Devi Lal requested me to accompany him to his meetings and functions. I translated his Hindi speeches heavily tinged with Urdu into Tamil," recalled the retired officer.
After attending the rally followed by a public meeting at Coimbatore, Devi Lal came to Chennai and participated in a press conference.
However, when The New Indian Express contacted H Raja, he reiterated that Kanimozhi indeed translated the speech of Devi Lal in a press conference held in Chennai. "My allegation does not pertain to any public meeting or rally that happened at that time. I'm referring to a press conference that took place in a hall in Chennai in which Kanimozhi translated the answers of the former Deputy Prime Minister," he said.
In response, Devasagayam said Kanimozhi had not entered politics when this incident took place and in no way could she be linked to this. "I sat next to Devi Lal in a press meet and translated his responses," said Devasagayam.
The recent row over alleged Hindi imposition started on Monday when Thoothukudi MP Kanimozhi said a CISF officer at Chennai airport asked if she was an Indian after she said she didn't know Hindi and asked the officer to speak in Tamil or English. This attracted widespread criticism from various quarters including political leaders from the state and outside.
Linguistic activist Aazhi Senthil Nathan said it’s immaterial whether Kanimozhi can converse in Hindi or not and she has every right to speak in the language she wishes. “Can anyone lose his or her citizenship status for not speaking a language?" he asked.