According to BMRCL Managing Director Pradeep Singh Kharola Hindi signboards have been used in the Metro based on the Centre’s direction.

Hindi imposition debate erupts again this time over signboards in Namma MetroYouTube
news Namma Metro Thursday, June 22, 2017 - 18:18

Just days after the Namma Metro’s Green Line was inaugurated, it has triggered a contentious debate over Hindi imposition online. Since Wednesday, thousands of Bengalureans have taken to Twitter to vehemently  support the ‘Namma Metro Hindi Beda’ campaign.

Angered by the usage of Hindi signs on both the Green and Purple lines of the Metro, Bengalureans have lashed out at officials, claiming that BMRCL is trying to impose Hindi on the residents of Karnataka.

The Green Line from Yelachenahalli to Nagasandra features multiple boards, some with names of destinations and warning labels in Hindi, English and Kannada. A few boards had Kannada and English, while others had Kannada and Hindi.

Celebrities and citizens alike took to Twitter to express their displeasure over Hindi finding its way on to Namma Metro’s sign boards.

Those opposed to the signboards insist that their campaign is not anti-Hindi or against Indians from Hindi-speaking parts of the country. Prakash Belawadi, a prominent Kannada actor and civic activist, for instance, says that the campaign is against the ‘unnecessary’ imposition of Hindi on Bengaluru residents.

“Kannada and English are the languages that are to be used in any mode of transport in Karnataka. The imposition of Hindi on south Indian states has been a historical debate and Bengalureans are just standing up and fighting against it. It is not an anti-Hindi campaign. If this rule applies to Karnataka, why then do all other metros have sign boards only in their respective local language and English?” Belawadi asks.

One of the chief counter-arguments to appear against these protests is that Hindi is not being imposed in the Namma Metro at the cost of Kannada, but in addition to it. However, those arguing against Hindi signs in the Namma Metro, allege that what begins as a three-language formula will soon lead to Kannada disappearing from the boards.

Blogger and Activist Rakshith Ponnathpur, for instance, argued on Facebook that when banks in Karnataka were nationalised, they initially provided services and forms in English, Kannada and Hindi, but Kannada forms disappeared over time. “Fast forward to today, finding a Kannada challan/form can make us cry tears of joy, for such a rare phenomenon it is.”

Rakshith argues that Hindi imposition has not led to the replacement of English in government services, but has only served to displace other regional languages.

"Even when it comes to road signs on highways, Kannada is disappearing. If you look at some of the road signs on the Bengaluru-Mysuru highway, some of the distance signs are only in Hindi. If this is not imposition, then what is it? We are not telling people to stop learning Hindi, neither are we saying don't watch Hindi movies or listen to Hindi songs. All we are asking is that Hindi language not be forced up on people who don't want to learn it," Vasanth Shetty, another activist, tells TNM.

Some have also questioned the campaign saying Hindi was necessary for tourists and migrant labourers using the Metro.

However, Vasanth questions the logic of this argument. "If they are claiming that it is for the tourists and the Hindi-speaking population, then what about the tourists from other parts of India. If Hindi sign boards are there, then so should all 22 official languages be included. Why did they not consider people who speak Telugu, Tamil or Malayalam?” he asks.

Not everyone agrees with these arguments of the “Hindi Beda” campaigners, however. Those opposed to the campaign argue that this is a non-issue being raised by voices that have not otherwise worked towards promoting the Kannada language.

Govt played no role

Karnataka Transport Minister, Ramalinga Reddy, told TNM that the government had no role in deciding the languages on signboards in metro stations.

“There is no problem in having English and Hindi signboards as long as Kannada signboards are also present. In the Bengaluru Metro, Kannada signboards are there as well. If the people find that Hindi is being imposed, then we will discuss the matter with BMRCL officials and find a solution to it,” Reddy added.

When TNM contacted BMRCL, Managing Director Pradeep Singh Kharola said that the decision to include Hindi sign boards was made based on directions from the Centre.

“The Bengaluru Metro is partially funded by the Union government and it was on its direction that Hindi signboards were introduced. We were just following orders,” Kharola added.

However, Vasanth refuted Kharola’s claims, and said that the response to an RTI request filed by him stated that the Centre had no role in the matter.

“The RTI reply we received states that neither the Centre, nor the state government had any role in the matter and it was the BMRCL, which had decided to impose Hindi on Bengalureans," Vasanth said.

This is not the first instance in the recent past when a debate over Hindi imposition has erupted in south India. In March, the DMK had threatened a stir in Tamil Nadu over milestones on National Highways in Krishnagiri and Vellore featuring Hindi signs.