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Why the Anti-Hindi Sentiment in Karnataka Comes as a Surprise

Language wars in Karnataka are result of vested interests that intend to take political mileage from the issue.

Published
Opinion
5 min read


Language wars in Karnataka are result of vested interests that intend to take political mileage from the issue.
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Amid protests in Bengaluru over the usage of Hindi signs at metro stations, Chandrasekhar, who heads Bengaluru-based Mysore Hindi Prachar Parishad, is surprised that an anti-Hindi movement is gathering pace.

The only consolation for Chandrasekhar is that the movement has not spread across Karnataka, a state that had not witnessed anti-Hindi movement along with Tamil Nadu and Kerala a couple of decades ago.

Angered over Hindi signs being prominently used across metro stations in the IT capital of India, the anti-Hindi zealots have managed to get support from certain quarters.

Protest Against Imposition of Hindi

What is surprising is that state Chief Minister Siddaramaiah is openly and solidly supporting the movement.

Signage in Hindi will be dropped from the newly built metro railway network in Karnataka
Siddaramaiah, CM, Karnataka

Signboards at Bengaluru metro stations that use three languages – Kannada, English and Hindi – are being viewed as another instance of the central government trying to foist their language on the southern state.

The protest against ‘imposition of Hindi’ witnessed activists of the Karnataka Rakshana Vedike blackening the Hindi signs at various metro stations. Anti-Hindi zealots want that the metro should have boards only in English and Kannada.

Also Read: Name Plates on Roads, Shopping Malls in Bengaluru to Be in Kannada

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Why The Animosity?

Should Hindi signboards be seen as an attempt to impose Hindi on Kannada-speaking people? This is an outrageous thought. On Delhi roads, you can see signboards in four languages – English, Hindi, Urdu and Punjabi. Arguably, those who can read Urdu and Punjabi are few and far, yet this four-language formula is accepted in the national capital.

According to a recent report, many airports in Canada have started the practice of making public announcements in Punjabi. In Singapore, one can see signboards in Tamil. Respecting the rights of minorities should not be viewed as an attempt to impose Hindi on Kannada-speaking people.

Bengaluru is country’s IT hub and professionals from various parts of India work there. The composition of Bengaluru population has also undergone massive change over the last couple of decades. It is no longer a city of gardens or city of only Kannada people. Therefore, if in the backdrop of a changed scenario, Hindi signboards are present at metro stations, it doesn’t amount to sacrilege.

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Teaching Hindi in a Non-Hindi State

Further, the circulation of Bengaluru edition of noted Hindi paper Rajasthan Patrika is going up steadily. It is surprising that Karnataka is witnessing anti-Hindi movement when several organisations are tirelessly teaching Hindi to non-Hindi speaking people.

In Bengaluru alone, Mysore Hindi Prachar Parishad, Karnataka Mahila Hindi Sewa Samiti and Guru Hindi Shikshan Mandir are doing noble work by teaching Hindi to non-Hindi speaking people.

Thousands of people across all age groups enrol at these institutes in order to learn Hindi. Interestingly, teachers are all local, with the mother tongue for most of them being Kannada.

While any attempt to impose a language on any state should be curbed with iron hand, there are subtle moves to create an illusion that Hindi has/is not getting fair deal in India. This is preposterous to say the least.

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“Hindi, the Language of Maitri & Prem”

Recently, NDA’s vice president nominee Venkaiah Naidu called Hindi the ‘national language’ at a function in Ahmedabad. “Hindi is our national language, our identity and we should be proud of it,” Naidu said, adding that “it’s very unfortunate that we are obsessed with English” which, according to him, was detrimental to the nation’s progress.

Why was Naidu championing the cause of Hindi? Is Hindi facing any threat from any language? Not at all.

The Indian Constitution does not identify any language as ‘national’. But, its Article 343 says that Hindi and English enjoy the status of official languages.

Agreed, Hindi is not our national language, yet it is India’s most widely-spoken language and as Shashi Tharoor tweeted “useful to know. But it cannot and should not be imposed on anyone.”

Last April, Venkaiah Naidu had said that the central government was only ‘promoting’ and not ‘imposing’ Hindi on anyone. It goes without saying that such moves create an impression that Hindi is getting special treatment at the expense of other languages.

Parimala Ambedkar, a Kannadiga who teaches Hindi at Gulbarga University, is devastated that Karnataka is becoming a battle ground in the name of language wars.

Hindi is a language of ‘prem’ and ‘maitri’ and those who are at the forefront of the anti-Hindi movement should ensure that their fellow Kannada-speaking Deepika Padukone stop acting in Bollywood films!
Parimala Ambedkar
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The Language Hatchet is Long Buried

The issue about languages has been settled already, thanks to the founding fathers of our Constitution. The Constitution had declared Hindi in Devanagari script to be the official language of the Union. Unless Parliament decided otherwise, the use of English for official purposes was to cease 15 years after the Constitution came into effect, i.e., on 26 January 1965.

The prospect of the changeover, however, led to much alarm in the non Hindi-speaking areas of India, especially Dravidian-speaking states whose languages were not related to Hindi at all. As a result, the Parliament enacted the Official Languages Act, 1963, which provided for the continued use of English for official purposes along with Hindi, even after 1965.

In late 1964, an attempt was made to expressly provide for an end to the use of English, but it was met with protests from states such as Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, West Bengal, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Union Territory of Puducherry.

As a result, the proposal was dropped, and the Act itself was amended in 1967 to provide that the use of English won’t be discontinued until a resolution to that effect was passed by the legislature of every state that had not adopted Hindi as its official language, and by each house of the Indian Parliament.

The position was, thus, that the Union government continues to use English in addition to Hindi for its official purposes as a ‘subsidiary official language’.

Also Read: How Hindi Got Caught in Karnataka’s Linguistic Crossfire

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As we know, the language question was debated the most by the Constituent Assembly of India. Twenty-two major (including only two tribal ones) languages were recognised as state official languages in regions where they are spoken by a majority of the population.

It speaks volumes about the sagacity and far-sightedness of the authors of our Constitution for giving an official status to Sindhi language even though there is no state where Sindhi speakers are in majority. The Sindhis had migrated from Pakistan after partition. That shows our commitment in terms of giving space to all the major languages. The creation of Bangladesh and the neglect of Punjabi in Pakistan are an eye-opener for us as well.

What is going on in Karnataka, proves beyond any debate, that with language being a very emotive issue, some forces use it to further their interests.

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(The writer is former Editor, Somaiya Publications. He can be reached @VivekShukla108. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

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