Seeking to put to rest the controversy over his remarks on Hindi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Wednesday said he has never asked for imposition of Hindi anywhere in the country but advocated its use as the second language.
Shah said he has been repeatedly pitching for strengthening regional languages.
"I too come from a non-Hindi speaking state. I come from Gujarat where Gujarati is the language, not Hindi. One has to listen to my speech carefully. If someone wants to do politics, it is their choice," he said at an event organised by Hindi daily 'Hindustan' here.
He was referring to his speech on the occasion of Hindi Divas on Saturday where he made a pitch for a common language for India, drawing strong reaction from southern parties which vowed to oppose any attempt to "impose" Hindi.
The home minister said to end the confusion, people should listen to his speech carefully where he repeatedly said that Indian languages should be strengthened and people should realise their necessity.
"A child can perform, a child's proper mental growth is possible only when the child studies in mother tongue. Mother tongue does not mean Hindi. It is the language of a particular state, like Gujarati in my state. But there should be one language in the country, if someone wants to learn another language, it should be Hindi.
"I have just made the request. I have failed to understand what is wrong in that," he said.
Shah, who is the BJP chief, said someday there has to be a movement in the country for strengthening local languages "or else India would be like New Zealand and Australia".
"I often ask people coming from New Zealand and Australia -- what is your language. They could not meet my eye. There should not be a day when we lose our own languages. Local languages should be strengthened and along with that people should also learn Hindi," he said.
On Saturday, Shah pitched for a common language for the country and said as Hindi is spoken the most, it can unite the whole country.
"India has many languages and every language has its importance. But it is absolutely necessary that the entire country should have one language that becomes India's identity globally," he had said "I want to appeal to people to promote their native languages but also use Hindi to make the dream of Bapu (Mahatma Gandhi) and Sardar (Vallabhbhai) Patel of one language come true," he said.
The Congress, DMK, JD-S, Left and BJP ally AIADMK had criticised Shah's remarks.
The DMK announced protests in Tamil Nadu on September 20, while actor and Makkal Needhi Maiam chief Kamal Haasan warned of a bigger stir in the state than the pro-Jallikattu agitation in 2017 against any attempts of Hindi "imposition".
"The unity in diversity is a promise that we made when we made India into a Republic. Now, no Shah, Sultan or Samrat must renege on that promise. We respect all languages, but our mother language will always be Tamil," Haasan said in a video.
Veteran actor Rajinikanth on Wednesday said the concept of a common langauge in India was "unfortunately" not possible and asserted any attempts of Hindi "imposition" would be not only resisted by southern states, but even many in the north.
Tamil Nadu was witness to the famous anti-Hindi agitation taken forward by the DMK in the 1960s against the alleged imposition of the language.