“Hindi and English should be taught as languages but should not be forced as a medium of instruction,” actor turned politician Prakash Raj told TNM.

Chethan and Prakash Raj
news Controversy Monday, September 14, 2020 - 17:41

On September 14, which is celebrated as Hindi Day, a group of celebrities and actors sported T-shirts with messages that read ‘Hindi Gothilla’ (I don’t know Hindi) and ‘Nange Hindi Baralla, Hograppa’ (I don’t understand Hindi, go ahead) to voice their support against Hindi imposition. Actors Prakash Raj, Chethan and Dhananjaya were among those who took to social media with T-shirts that was reminiscent of a similar campaign in Tamil Nadu. 

The campaign in Tamil Nadu, which was kickstarted by Thoothukudi’s DMK MP Kanimozhi, received a wave of support on social media and the neighbouring state of Karnataka. T-shirts as part  of this campaign had slogans such as “Hindi theriyathu, poda!” (I don’t know Hindi, go man!), “I am a Tamizh Pesum Indian” (I am a Tamil speaking Indian) and “I am Indian, I don’t speak Hindi”.  

“Kanimozhi started it with the T-shirts and it was good. We are encouraging more people to come forward and use their platforms to voice this issue. It is good that more people are coming forward to highlight the issue this year,” actor Prakash Raj said in a conversation with TNM. 

Prakash Raj, an actor who speaks and acts in multiple languages, said that Hindi should not be enforced as a medium of instruction. “Hindi and English should be taught as languages but should not be forced as a medium of instruction. I know many languages but my learning and perception of the world is strongest in my mother tongue,” he said. 

The social media campaign not only coincides with Hindi Day but also comes at a time when the National Education Policy (NEP) mentioned the three-language formula and the translation of the draft Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) notification was done in Hindi but not other languages. 

Earlier, in September, the Union government told the Delhi High Court that it objected to publishing the draft EIA in languages other than Hindi and English, stating that doing so would lead to “translation and interpretation issues”, resulting in the “obfuscation” of the words used in the draft. The Ministry of Environment also contended that the law does not require notifications to be published in local languages. 

Other concerns highlighted by ‘anti-Hindi imposition’ activists include the use of only Hindi and English in services like banking and examinations for government jobs. Recently, a resident of Tarikere in Karnataka’s Chikkamagaluru district had highlighted how the local branch of the State Bank of India had stopped using Kannada. 

“Consider simple daily-life acts like going to a bank or getting a gas cylinder. What will someone in a rural part of Karnataka do if he has to deal with officials in English or Hindi? He or she might be someone who does not converse in either language in his hometown. Why should they learn it? This will lead to the demise of regional languages,” Prakash Raj said. 

He also highlighted the diversity of India’s languages and culture and questioned the need for a common language in all states. Comparing the language diversity to the diversity in Indian cuisines, Prakash Raj said, “Consider the cuisine in Karwar, Mangaluru and Thiruvananthapuram. They are towns on the same coastline of the Arabian sea but the dishes you find in each of these places are unique. Can these unique dishes all be cooked in the way they are by adding the same masala?”.  

Prakash Raj unsuccessfully contested in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections as an independent candidate from the Bengaluru (Central) constituency.

Pro-Kannada activists said there was a swell of support for the campaign this year compared to previous years. “The support has increased this year because there are more people voluntarily coming forward to voice their opinions about how regional languages are sidelined in favour of Hindi,” Arun Javagal, an activist from the Kannada Grahakara Koota, a pro-Kannada organisation, said. 

Activists shared a slew of social media posts with the hashtag #Serveinmylanguage to show their support for regional languages.

Last week, Chakravarthy Sulibele, a columnist and the founder of the ‘NamoBrigade’, a youth organisation that canvassed for Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Lok Sabha elections, also questioned why the translations of the draft EIA notification were not done in regional languages.

“If you have no problem translating it into Hindi, then definitely you shouldn’t have a problem translating in Kannada, too. We have more number of original words in Kannada than Hindi,” Chakravarthy Sulibele said in a tweet.

Politicians in Karnataka, including Congress leader Dinesh Gundu Rao and former Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy, have also spoken out against ‘Hindi imposition’. In a series of 10 tweets, Kumaraswamy said, “In India, which has a diverse culture, Hindi is being forced upon Kannadigas and speakers of other languages. Today’s Hindi Day is also such a misdemeanour. There is a strong opposition of from the self-respecting Kannadiga to Hindi Day.” 

Pro-Kannada activists from various organisations also held a protest over the issue in front of the Mahatma Gandhi statue in Bengaluru’s Anand Rao Circle. While this protest organised by the Karnataka Rakshana Vedike passed off without incident, another protest by members of 'Karunadu Sevakaru', another pro-Kannada group, vandalised a signboard at the KSR Railway station in Bengaluru.


Show us some love! Support our journalism by becoming a TNM Member - Click here.