Eating Humble Curd?
The FSSAI now revises order imposing Hindi word 'dahi' on packets
Following heavy criticism, backlash and allegations of Hindi imposition from Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, food safety regulator FSSAI was forced to revise its earlier order pertaining to the nomenclature used on packets.
Withdrawing its earlier order that made the use of the Hindi word 'dahi' mandatory, the FSSAI on Thursday, put out a statement allowing the use of regional names on printed labels of curd packets. The statement read, “It has been decided that the Food Business Operators (FBOs) can used the term 'curd' along with any other prevalent regional common name in brackets on the label. Accordingly, curd can also be labelled as per the following examples - 'Curd (Dahi)' in Hindi or 'Curd (Mosaru) in Kannada, 'Curd (Thayir)' in Tamil, 'Curd (Perugu)' in Telugu.”
Earlier on March 10, the FSSAI had reportedly asked three milk cooperatives and a private company in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka to use the Hindi word 'dahi' on curd packets prominently, while allowing the use of regional names in brackets. Over time, the controversy escalated. Various organisations in both states spoke out against it, calling this yet another attempt to impose Hindi on southern states.
Political parties from both states also cried foul, including the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) wing of Tamil Nadu. In a tweet, Tamil Nadu BJP Chief Annamalai said, "The notification released by FSSAI for the use of (the word) Dhahi in curd sachets produced by state-run cooperative societies is not in tandem with the policy of our Hon PM Thiru @narendramodi avl to promote regional languages. We want an immediate rollback of the notification."
Chief Minister M.K. Stalin said in a tweet, "The unabashed insistences of #HindiImposition have come to the extent of directing us to label even a curd packet in Hindi, relegating Tamil & Kannada in our own states. Such brazen disregard to our mother tongues will make sure those responsible are banished from South forever."
Former Karnataka CM HD Kumarasamy said, "The Hindi imposition has not taken place from backdoors. The imposition has come directly. The double engine government and its subsidiary KMF have agreed to it silently. This is an anti-Kannada act. The publication of the Hindi word 'dahi' should be stopped immediately."
He added, "The role of invisible hands is clear. This is not possible without the knowledge of the ruling BJP government in the state. The publication of the Hindi word 'dahi' against the feelings of six and half crore Kannada people is a blunder."
Meanwhile, Aavin, the state-run cooperative in Tamil Nadu, outrightly rejected the order and said it would not use the word 'dahi' in its printed sachets, as directed by the FSSAI and that it would instead stick to the Tamil word 'tayir' to denote the product.
The controversy is being seen as the latest attempt to impose Hindi on Southern states. Language has, for decades, been a sensitive issue in both these Southern states.
Dinesh Kumar, Social media convenor of the Karnataka Rakshana Vedike said, "The problem is with the Constitution itself. After independence, in our constitution, through article 343 to 351, Hindi was given a lot of importance. The problem started there. We talk about equality among people of India, but Article 343 to 351 contradicts that. We are not really equal now. We don't feel equal."
He added, "In 1956, states were formed based on linguistic lines, based on what language the people of the state were speaking. Karnataka was formed in 1956. As per the policy, Kannada must be the primary language. But the central government has been imposing Hindi from the beginning. By introducing the three language policy in education, we are forced to learn Hindi in southern states. It is a foreign language to us.
“But Hindi speaking states are not forced to learn any southern language. If a Kannadiga learns Hindi in Karnataka, why can't northern states learn our language? According to the three language policy, Hindi speaking states have to learn one language from South India as well, but that is not being implemented. We learn English because it is a global language and is inevitable. But why Hindi?"
Speaking about the FSSAI order, Balaganesh, a local shop owner in Tamil Nadu said, "This might look like a small issue, but this is how they have been slowly trying to impose Hindi everywhere. When people walk into my shop, they ask for thayir, not dahi. Why should we have the word 'dahi'? Of course, now it's revoked, but the fact that they even thought of issuing such an order is unfair."
Prasad, a milk distributor from Tamil Nadu said, "This is not about curd packets. Nobody really needs to read the label to know it's curd. The bigger picture is the attempt to take away our identity, to minimise it. The initial order said 'dahi' should be printed prominently and regional names could be printed in brackets. That just shows the value they give regional languages."
Paul Stanley, a professor from Tamil Nadu said, "This is not fair. Nobody in rural Tamil Nadu would know what the word dahi means. This imposition is atrocious. What is even the intention of having this rule? It is clearly to do with the ruling party's agenda. It is only because of the firm stand of the Tamil Nadu government that the order was revoked. But the fact that they even came out with such an order is atrocious."
Balaganesh added, "Even in banks here, all forms are in English and Hindi. In some places, they have changed it back to Tamil, Hindi and English now."
Dinesh Kumar also said, "In every central government office in Karnataka, they are imposing Hindi, be it railways, banking sector, etc. Nowadays, they are promoting only Hindi. Last year, Amit Shah attended an event here and the backdrop was entirely in Hindi. We protested against it.
“They have started printing railway tickets also only in Hindi and English. In banks, the challans have information only in Hindi and English. How can a person from rural Karnataka understand anything?
“Not only bank challans, even banking exams are being conducted only in English and Hindi. So many north Indians are coming here and getting employed in banks here.
“How can they communicate with the locals? That's why there is a rift between locals and bank employees almost everywhere in Karnataka. Banks are a necessary part of life. They need to go to the bank for loans and many other important needs. But how can they effectively communicate and get things done."
He added, "We are not against Hindi, but we are against its imposition. This is dangerous to our democracy. It is destroying the federal structure. India is a beautiful mix of different linguistic states. It should be like that.
“We cannot impose one language on everyone. In our textbooks also, we are told that Hindi is our national language. But we tell people that is not true. There is no national language. We try to promote this idea in all our forums.
“Our main demand is to amend Article 343 to 351. All languages should be given equal respect and opportunity. In the Bengaluru metro, they imposed Hindi on sign boards and other things. We protested against it in all the stations and the government was forced to remove Hindi.
“When Lalu Prasad was the railway minister, only people from Bihar were given employment in Group B. We protested against that. Then the government was forced to stop the notifications.
“Then when Mamata Banerjee became the minister, she announced that in each state, the exams would be held in regional language as well, then our people got employment.
“So to a large extent, problems need to be solved at the Constitutional level, otherwise these conflicts will go on and on. We have been fighting for it for decades. Both the BJP and Congress are responsible for this. The only difference is that the BJP is doing it at a much greater speed”.
Controversies like this, however minor they seem, continue to irk locals who hold their language dear. Despite tremendous resistance over the decades, attempts to impose Hindi haven't died down. If anything, it has only increased. Locals fear losing their identity.