Lakshmana Venkat Kuchi
What do you call Dahi? Simple, Dahi only. But when you ask people from down south that they must also call it dahi and use this name prominently to sell the milk products – as the milk cooperatives in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu were directed – it sure heats sentiments on the language issue on the boil for the past few years.
Now, the move by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India to direct cooperative milk federations in the two states to label curd that they market as ‘Dahi’ prominently and use the Kannada equivalents in brackets has kicked up a political storm in the state that is going for general elections to state assembly.
Similarly, in another direction to the Tamil Nadu Co-operative Milk Producers Federation, the FSSAI said that “Tair” or “Tayir” can be used in brackets.
But language activists and politicians are up in the arms over this directive that they said reeks of Hindi imposition, much against the wishes of the local populace that carries on with their business in local languages as they have done for centuries.
A strong reaction from the Tamil Nadu chief minister, in keeping with his consistent stand for decades, forced the national body to climb down and withdraw its directive. This is being seen in political circles as a placatory move especially since the ruling BJP at the centre wants to make inroads into the bastions of the Dravidian forces in Tamil Nadu which has been an impregnable fort so far.
More important, this FSSAI order has collectively annoyed South India and for the first time in recent memory even states like Kerala and Karnataka have come out against what the South Indian leaders perceive as ‘salami tactics’ (one small piece at a time kind of forcing Hindi) and begun to push back.
Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka milk federations are unhappy over the FSSAI directive to use Hindi names prominently as part of the complying sub-regulation relating to standards of fermented milk products. “Why not local language prominently and if need be in Hindi in brackets,” questioned a liberal and moderate language activist, but no they want to make Hindi seem to be the one language India has.
Among the politicians, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin was first off the blocs in decrying this move as yet another example of the unabashed imposition of Hindi. “The unabashed insistence of #HindiImposition has come to the extent of directing us to label even a curd packet in Hindi, relegating Tamil and Kannada in our states. Such brazen disregard for our mother tongues will make sure those responsible are banished from the South forever,” Stalin tweeted.
The Tamil Nadu Milk Federation owns the brand Aavin while the Karnataka Milk Federation, one of the largest milk unions in the country, owns the hugely popular brand Nandini.
An official of KMF was quoted in local media expressing lament over the directive saying “Local sentiments have to be taken into consideration, and KMF should also not lose its identity. Locally, the regional nomenclature should have been allowed to be used prominently instead of Hindi. It is also difficult to maintain uniformity in our country with such a huge diversity.”
But, despite the sentiments of the locals being expressed vocally, and even at times violently, the penchant to force Hindi, bit by bit continues unabated for the past several decades allege activists.
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