India: Man burns himself to death in language protest

India: Man burns himself to death in language protest
India: Man burns himself to death in language protest

An 80-year-old man burned himself to death in southern India in protest against the policy to impose a nationwide usage of Hindi which is a language mostly spoken in North India.

The octogenarian man burned himself to death in India, police said on Sunday.

MV Thangavel, a farmer in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, doused himself in petrol and kerosene and set himself ablaze.

Indian man burns himself to death in language protest - Daily Trust

He was holding a Tamil-language placard reading; “Modi government stop imposing Hindi. Why do we need to choose Hindi over our literature-rich Tamil. It will affect the future of our youth.”

Senthil, the police officer who declared that Thangavel had killed himself added “He wrote the banner against the central government.”

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According to a report, Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi has spoken of a “slave mentality” around the use of English, and promoted the use of Indian languages.

Opponents accuse his government of attempting to impose Hindi, causing particular anger in the south.

Last month a group of parliamentarians headed by interior minister Amit Shah reportedly recommended making Hindi the national official language.

What we know

Language is an emotive issue in India where hundreds of languages and dialects are spoken, but English serves as the main official medium while state governments use regional languages.

According to the most recent census in 2011, fewer than half of Indian citizens speak Hindi — just under 44 per cent.

But last month a group of parliamentarians headed by the powerful the Minister of Home Affairs Amit Shah reportedly recommended making Hindi the national official language, including for technical education such as medicine and engineering.

Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi has spoken of a “slave mentality” around the use of English and promoted the use of Indian languages.

But opponents accuse his government of attempting to impose Hindi, causing particular anger in the south.

Most southern Indian languages are Dravidian, a completely different language family to the Indo-European group which includes Hindi.

MV Thangavel, 85, a farmer in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, doused himself in petrol and kerosene and set himself alight, police said.

He was holding a Tamil-language placard reading: “Modi government stop imposing Hindi. Why do we need to choose Hindi over our literature-rich Tamil… it will affect the future of our youth.”

Senthil, a police officer who uses only one name, told reporters that Thangavel had killed himself.

“He wrote the banner against the central government,” he added.

Thangavel carried out his protest on Saturday outside an office in Salem of Tamil Nadu’s ruling DMK party, of which he was a member.

Party leader MK Stalin — who has criticised the Modi government’s language policies — offered condolences to Thangavel’s family but urged others to avoid such extreme protests.

“We must not lose another life,” reports quoted him as saying, condemning the central government’s “domineering attitude”.

“Let’s continue to fight against the imposition of Hindi politically, democratically,” he said. “Don’t let narrow-mindedness spoil a beautiful country of diversity.”

The subject is a long-running political issue — the then-ruling Congress party sought to make Hindi the official national language in the 1960s, causing enduring resentment in southern India.

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