Language Tussle In India
There seems to be lot of confusion & misunderstanding in social media over the “Karnataka protests”. Some are thinking that Kannadigas hate Hindi. That’s a misconception. I request everyone to please read this calmly, with an open mind, so that we can understand what really is the root of the problem here. Before that, let me describe the uploaded pics. Two pictures on the left hand side, are from the recently inaugurated Bengaluru metro. There are some boards which have “Hindi only” text and in some signboards, English has been removed. On the right hand side, the image is a screenshot of popular BJP MP Pratap Simha questioning Central BJP Minister (Gadkari) over the highway milestone controversy in which Kannada was replaced with “Hindi-only” on the milestones.
Now, coming to the explanation.
As most of us would already be aware, there are always multiple layers in any movement or protest. You have activists. You have moderates, you have common man, you have concerned citizens etc. at different layers working towards similar causes. For example, in the Kannada cause, activists are usually the most active. Even if they feel there is a slight threat to their cause, they question it, and protest.
Karnataka Rakshana Vedike, which is now leading the movement, has been one such activist organization working towards the Kannada cause for decades. Way back in 2011, when 2-language was the norm everywhere in Bengaluru, Hindi was introduced as part of the 3 language formula, when metro phase 1 was launched. KRV felt that an additional language was not necessary and they protested against it in 2011:
Whether they were right or not, is debatable. That’s their cause. They protest against everything which is not Kananda. They protest against English also, when it is pushed at the cost of suppressing Kannada. But when they protested against Hindi in 2011, people did not bother. Even I was active in social media back in 2011 (most of my friends remember), but I didn’t post anything about it. Because it was not really a problem for the moderates like me. Moreover, they had not eliminated Kannada or English. They merely added Hindi as a 3rd language. Only KRV protested against it for 1 hour and there was hardly any news in media channels, except for some local newspapers. The masses didn’t see it as a problem. That’s why the masses didn’t participate and hence no special coverage.
But by 2017, a lot had changed. Ever since BJP came to power at centre, there has been aggressive push for Hindi, at the cost of even suppressing the local language. To be fair, it is not just BJP, but such Hindi hegemony has been going on gradually over the decades by successive Govts, but after BJP came to power, it has been aggressive. Issuing orders to Ministers to use only Hindi in social media, was attempted by BJP. Trying to introduce Hindi as a compulsory language throughout South India, was attempted by BJP spokesperson, which backfired because Supreme Court dismissed the PIL.
SBI (A PSU Bank which runs on taxpayers money) refusing service in Kannada in Karnataka. India Post denying service in Kannada in Karnataka, and having the audacity of asking customer to use Google translate. RTI application of a Tamil Nadu villager rejected because it was in Tamil language. BJP Govt & the ministers raking up unnecessary controversies through false statements like Hindi is our national language (but the fact is that Hindi is not our national language), only Hindi can unite India, India can prosper only with Hindi, only Hindi can instill patriotism etc, thereby trying to imply that South Indians who do not know Hindi are less patriotic. All these are actually highly provocative, unnecessary & controversial statements (because language is a very sensitive issue).
And the biggest of all: Highway milestones where Hindi has actually replaced Kannada itself!!
(That highway milestone controversy is what Pratap Simha of BJP, is now fighting against, as shown in the tweet screenshot)
We must look at it in that context. That’s how, over the last few years, there has been a feeling of insecurity among Kannadigas and also moderates like me, who were fine with the status quo earlier, but are now concerned because that status quo is being disturbed, and sometimes at the cost of killing the local language & culture.
And as we can see, BJP’s stand on this issue & their statements are not very comforting either.
The same people in Karnataka who were fine with Hindi as 3rd language in 2011 (hence didn’t support KRV that time), now feel it would be better to remove Hindi altogether because it is becoming like a Trojan horse, or rather the proverbial Camel in the “Arab & the Camel” story. They now feel that they made a mistake by allowing Hindi as 3rd language, due to which, the status quo (of the normal Kannada-English) itself is being disturbed (English being removed in some cases), and in some cases, as we can see, Kannada itself replaced with Hindi. They think that if they had not allowed Hindi at all in the first place, then these problems would never arise at all. (Just like how the Arab thinks that if he had not allowed the Camel to place its nose into his tent in the first place, then it would not have been able to squeeze itself, encourage and throw the Arab out of his own tent)
That’s why, the situation is like this now. On the topmost layer, the organizations like KRV have not changed. They are doing the same. They did it in 2011 and doing the same now also. But now, in 2017, softer sections like moderates, Kannada natives, local population, etc are also now speaking out, due to all the above reasons. Hence, there is more noise in social media, news media, etc. Because it has reached a stage where the common man (the local population) also feels he must now enter the “movement”. Please note, there is not even a bit of hatred against Hindi or Hindi speaking people. Nobody is asking for banning Bollywood. Nobody is asking for banning Hindi movies or Hindi serials or Hindi newspapers or Hindi magazines.
The concern is only about Central Govt’s aggressive & unnecessary Hindi push, at the cost of disturbing status quo and even suppressing local language, which has intensified, especially after BJP came to power 3 years ago. And what’s more worrying is that the Govt has been trying to associate nationalism with a certain language, which is provoking millions of innocent people in South India, and setting a dangerous precedent.
As I have always been telling all my friends, BJP is playing a very dangerous game of language politics. It is unnecessary and uncalled for. History is a testimony to the fact that language politics does more harm than good.