An event at IIT-Madras attended by two Union Ministers has kicked up a fresh controversy. Going against the convention for all public events in the state, the event, attended by Nitin Gadkari and Pon Radhakrishnan, did not start with the Tamil Thai Vazhthu – the invocation of the Tamil mother. Instead, the programme started with a Sanskrit hymn about Ganapathi, with opposition parties in the state questioning the move.
Nitin Gadkari, who is the Minister for Road Transport and Highways, and Pon Radhakrishnan, who is the Minister of State in the Ministry of Shipping, were attending an event held for the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Ministry of Shipping and IIT Madras for the development of the National Technology Centre for Ports, Waterways and Coasts.
Many on social media questioned why Tamil Nadu’s state song Tamil Thai Vazhthu, the invocation of the Tamil mother, was not sung or played. Many others have asked why a religious song was picked in the first place.
It is compulsory to play the Tamil Thai Vazhthu at the beginning of every state function. The custom in Tamil Nadu is that people present must stand for the invocation, whether they are on or off stage. However, in this case, it remains unclear if this constitutes a state function since union ministers were present in a centrally funded educational institution.
Slamming the move on social media, DMK spokesperson Saravanan Annadurai wrote, “One person is saying Tamil is a beautiful language and he regrets not being able to speak it, another one is saying he loves Sanskrit. This is like pinching the baby and rocking the cradle all by oneself. It is their design.”
ஒருத்தர் என்னடான்னா தமிழ் தொன்மையான மொழி, படிக்கலையேன்னு வருத்தப்பட்றார், இன்னொருத்தர் வந்து சமஸ்கிருத பாட்டு தான் எனக்கு பிடிக்கும் என்கிறார். இதுக்கு பேர் தான் குழந்தையும் கிள்ளி விட்டு தொட்டிலையும் ஆட்றது! அவங்க டிசைன் அப்படி!! pic.twitter.com/VN0gXSBo5h— Saravanan Annadurai (@asaravanan21) February 26, 2018
In an interaction with school students recently, Prime Minister Modi had praised the beauty of Tamil and said that he regrets not being able to speak the language.
Speaking to TNM, Saravanan Annadurai said, “Sanskrit is not even an official language. What happened in IIT is not acceptable. In a government function, a Sanskrit song is being played. It raises the question of whether they are trying to impose Sanskrit through the backdoor.”
MDMK leader Vaiko has asked the ministers who attended the event to apologise for singing a Sanskrit song instead of playing the Tamil Thai Vazhthu.
Some others questioned why a religious song needed to be sung.
Speaking to TNM, TKS Elangovan of the DMK asked, “Is there any government order that a religious song must be sung? We are not against Sanskrit but by forcing it upon people, they are creating a hatred for the language.”
According to one TV news channel, IIT Madras had issued a clarification stating that this was not a planned item for the day’s events and it was a matter of a few students volunteering to sing.
A few on social media have come to the defence of the institution and stated that it was all too natural at an educational institution that has students from all over India.
Uproar over starting of a Union Ministers function with a Sanskrit hymn is ridiculous.This was not a State Govt. Function. IIT Director clearly says that students are encouraged to sing songs at such events & they do so in many languages. No rule was violated. 1/2— Sumanth Raman (@sumanthraman) February 26, 2018
Last month, controversy broke out over Vijayendra Saraswati, the junior Sankaracharya of Kanchi Mutt, not standing up for the Tamil Thai Vaazhthu. The godman was reportedly meditating during the time but stood up, however, when the national anthem was played.