Last Sunday, people in Tamil Nadu woke up to a new hashtag #HindiTheriyadhuPoda. It meant "Don't know Hindi, get lost". It soon began trending on Twitter with more than 170,000 tweets in less than 24 hours.
The trend, started by actor Metro Shirish and music composer Yuvan Shankar Raja who wore T-shirts with slogans against Hindi imposition, has become all the rage across the state.
Other hashtags and T-shirts featuring poet Subramania Bharathi-style moustaches, anti-Hindi slogans and images of Thiruvalluvar, Periyar and Karunanidhi have since sprouted.
Ant-Hindi feelings intensified in Tamil Nadu after Dravid Munnetra Kazhagam leader Kanimozhi alleged last month that a paramilitary constable at Chennai airport questioned whether she was an Indian when she refused to respond to a query in Hindi.
Her tweet, "Officials have not been sensitised to be inclusive and respect diversity", received support from politicians across the country.
India's former finance minister P. Chidambaram shared his experiences at the airports, while former Karnataka chief minister Kumaraswamy spoke about the attitude of people from Hindi-speaking states.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Palaniswamy also positioned himself strongly against the Central government's three-language formula in the New Education Policy, calling it "sad" and "disappointing".
"Hindi is seen as a tool of domination by the North Indians," activist Aazhi Senthilnathan told The Week magazine. "There is a strong feeling among the youth in Tamil Nadu that that the Centre is imposing Hindi on them."
Tamil Nadu's resentment against Hindi dates to the pre-Independence era. The state's people see the imposition of Hindi as a threat to their culture and Tamil identity.
Dravidian Movement leaders such as Periyar E.V. Ramaswamy and C.N. Annadurai turned the animosity into an instrument for political mobilisation in the first half of the 20th century. The issue of Hindi imposition is raising its head again with assembly elections to be held in the state next year. Local political parties could gain from that as the national Bharatiya Janata Party is trying to get a foothold in the state.
On Sunday, after the anti-Hindi trend started, Kanimozhi tweeted: "A spark is enough to ignite a sentiment."
Indo-Asian News Service