Actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan hit out against the "autocratic attitude" of the centre and Tamil Nadu government yesterday, after fellow actor Suriya Sivakumar was criticised by the ruling AIADMK and the BJP for his comments on the draft National Education Policy 2019.
"I agree with many of the points Suriya raises. I condemn the autocratic attitude of centre and state," the Makkal Needhi Maiam Chief tweeted, adding that he had every right to talk about education because his family "does a lot for educational development of the poor".
Suriya Sivakaumar, speaking at his Foundation's event in Chennai, claimed the policy tried to impose Hindi on non-Hindi speaking states by making it a mandatory third language for students. He also said that people were "angered and anguished" about the policy focusing on entrance exams and failing to provide "quality and equitable education for students".
"How will they attend classes? I myself find it challenging to teach third language to my kids," the actor said on Saturday.
Kadambur Raju, a Tamil Nadu minister, rejected the actor's remarks as "half baked". Dr Tamilisai Soundararajan , the state BJP chief, said, "Those who don't know anything about education comment on draft education policy". Her colleague H Raja added, "Suriya is attempting to disturb peace".
Released in June, the policy - seen by many as an attempt to make Hindi mandatory till Class 8 - generated a heated debate between the centre and political leaders from the southern states, with Tamil Nadu's education minister warning the BJP-led centre that the state would "follow only two-language policy".
The matter threatened to drive a wedge between the ruling AIADMK in Tamil Nadu and the BJP, its ally at the centre, with state rivals DMK joining the AIADMK to protest the claimed imposition.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government had to turn to Tamil-speaking ministers S Jaishankar and Nirmala Sitharaman to do some fire-fighting.
Kamal Haasan had also spoken out against the policy at the time.
"I've acted in Hindi movies... (but) no one should impose anything on anybody. After all, it's up to the individual to learn any language of their choice," he said.
The outcry forced the centre to make Hindi learning optional in a revised version of the draft.
Tamil Nadu has long opposed any move to thrust Hindi over Tamil and other languages spoken in states.
In pre-Independence era, the region saw anti-Hindi protests in 1937 that went on till 1940. In 1965, the issue flared once again, triggering riots that killed as many as 70 people. The incident led to an assurance by then prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru that Hindi would not be imposed on non-Hindi speaking states and English would continue as a link language.
Many also express concerns over rising intolerance to criticism of government schemes in the state.