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Twitterati rises against 'Hindi hegemony' in Namma Metro

Chiranjeevi Kulkarni, Bengaluru, DH News Service, Jun 22 2017, 2:56 IST
Commuters exit from Namma Metro's Chickpet station. DH photo

Commuters exit from Namma Metro's Chickpet station. DH photo

A petition urging the state government to banish Hindi from Namma Metro took social media website Twitter by storm with thousands of netizens participating in the “campaign”.

The online campaign, which started at 6 pm on Tuesday, was trending on top in Karnataka till 9 pm while it gained the 7th place in the all-India trend list. It was the result of a sustained movement by Banavasi Balaga, an association of Kannada lovers who have been pushing for primacy of Kannada in various spheres of life, including the Metro.

The association finds no logical reason for signage carrying information in Hindi in Metro stations. “We are not against Hindi but we definitely won’t allow its imposition. The state government should stick to two-languages — Kannada and English — in Namma Metro,” said Arun Javagal of the association.

Javagal said that through several RTI replies from Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (BMRCL) over the past few years, the association has understood that the three-language policy in Namma Metro was not backed by either the state or the Centre.

Though BMRCL gives prominence to Kannada in all the signboards, the association fears that providing even the second or third position to Hindi will eventually threaten Kannada.

Former Advocate General Ravivarma Kumar, who represented Karnataka in the Supreme Court in the case over making Kannada medium of instruction compulsory in all schools, supported the two-language policy. “Whether it is train, bus or flights the languages used should benefit the passengers. This depends on demographic factors. In Karnataka, information should be provided Kannada and English, with the latter helping non-Kannadigas,” he said.

Noting that Bengaluru is a cosmopolitan city known for its inclusiveness, Kumar said English should be used to bridge the gap, not Hindi. “Hindi-speakers account for a very small part of the population, compared to Tamil and Telugu speakers. If the government is concerned about minority, then let them give information in all languages. The present practice shows Hindi chauvinism and this should be opposed,” he said.

Kumar said the campaign for removing Hindi was valid and it should evolve to include demanding information in Kannada in various sectors. “Flights operating from Tamil Nadu and Kerala give information in their local languages. We still get safety information in Hindi or English. How long should we tolerate this,” he asked.

The association, through then Kannada Development Authority chairman Mukhyamantri Chandru, had submitted proposals to the chief minister seeking removal of Hindi. “There are plans to merge BMTC with BMRCL in future. Slowly, Hindi will creep into BMTC as well. Metro seems to be an entry point for Hindi. We should not bow to this hegemony,” he said.

Vinay Srinivasa of the Alternative Law Forum noted that Hindi was a language of the migrants who built most of Namma Metro infrastructure. “Since Kannada already has its place, we should not seek a ban on Hindi. This seems like a class issue. A possible solution is providing information in prominent local languages like Tamil and Telugu as well,” he said.

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