The chorus of voices against Hindi imposition in Karnataka has grown louder over the past few months, particularly since the ‘Namma Metro Hindi Beda’ campaign grew in protest of Hindi signs in Metro stations in Bengaluru.
While there has been a strong citizen reaction on the issue, the Karnataka government too has taken a pro-Kannada stance, with initiatives such as making Kannada compulsory in schools. The government agency leading this charge is the Kannada Development Authority.
Speaking to TNM, the KDA's Chairman, SG Siddaramaiah, says that it is necessary for people to respect the Kannada language and the culture of Karnataka, if they wish to live in the state and benefit from its resources. Here are excerpts from the interview:
The Kannada Development Authority began advocating the two-language policy after the Green Line of Namma Metro was inaugurated. In 2015, the KDA itself had sent a letter to BMRCL, stating that the three-language policy could be implemented. Why the change?
Just because an ignorant person did something a while ago, does not mean that the situation cannot be rectified. Efforts are being made to rectify the mistakes made by the ignorant people. After realizing the mistakes made, one has to ensure that we escape the danger of Hindi imposition. We cannot push our state into a dangerous situation of language slavery. Hindi is not our national language. We must not give in to unnecessary imposition. I will ignore the decisions taken by the authorities earlier because it was wrong. Now that the mistake has been identified, I am only concerned about rectifying it.
The KDA has advocated the removal of Hindi as a third language from state schools. Since learning Kannada in schools has now been made compulsory, why remove Hindi as a third language?
In Karnataka, after Kannadigas, Telugu, Tamil and Gujarati population is higher than the Hindi-speaking population. Why should Hindi be made the third language? Why can it not be Telugu or Tamil? Personally, I believe in the two-language policy of Kannada and English, but since there is a large population of people who speak other languages more than Hindi, shouldn’t those languages also be given preference?
On July 29, the KDA demanded that learning Kannada be made compulsory in higher educational institutes in the state. Should it not be the adult’s choice to learn a certain language? Why impose it?
It is not imposition. If students want to study in Karnataka, they must know the language of the land. So many students from Karnataka go to Germany to study. There, they are advised to learn German before enrolling. They have made it so to promote their language. Why should we not do the same? Germany is smaller in size than our state, so why should we not give importance to our language? Students must learn how to speak Kannada. For instance, those studying Medicine will have to deal with patients who do not know any other language but Kannada. How will they understand? If they are going to be working in our state, they have to learn the language which most people speak.
According to the RBI Master Circular on Customer Service, the three-language policy must be implemented in the applications and forms in banks. The CM’s yearly meetings with the State-level Bankers’ Committee have not borne fruit. Why has the KDA not successfully pushed for the implementation of this rule, especially when it affects people of rural Karnataka?
The three-language policy must be implemented in banks, railways, post offices and other Central government agencies. They are not using Kannada at all. Hence, the KDA has been encouraging people to communicate only in Kannada, so that the banks will be left with no choice but begin implementing the rule. If people speak only in Kannada, those who do not know the language will have to learn Kannada. This will make it easier for people living in rural areas. The KDA has been urging these agencies to implement the three-language policy but the officials are not doing it no matter how much effort we put in. If this had happened in Tamil Nadu, the people would not have taken it lightly. In Karnataka, our bureaucrats and leaders have no interest in promoting the language. They should have pressurised the Centre to do something about it. We keep writing to these agencies, but we will not give up until it is implemented.
The KDA has also said that preference must be given to Kannadigas in jobs and you had also demanded that non-Kannada speaking people be removed from the security and cleaning jobs in Namma Metro. Will this not affect the other people living in Karnataka?
The leaders of north Indian states are trying to bully those living in south Indian states. If people are not cautious and if we do not protect our language and people, the natives of Karnataka will be left with no job opportunities as others will take over what rightfully belongs to Kannadigas.
In Karnataka, especially in a city like Bengaluru, which is cosmopolitan in nature, isn’t it a form of imposition if you make it compulsory to learn Kannada, for people who speak other languages? Are you not resorting to imposition, the very cause you say you are trying to fight?
People want to live here, use our water and natural resources but how can they say they do not want our language and our people? Should we accept that?
Kannada is not the only language native to the state but there are others like Tulu, Konkani and Beary. Isn’t the adaptation of the two-language policy a sort of Kannada imposition on these languages as well?
We have not sidelined the languages native to Karnataka. There is a Tulu Academy, Beary Academy and Konkani Academy well. We have set up academies for all languages that are native to Karnataka. These languages do not have a script of their own but we have given them complete independence to adopt a script of their choice and develop the language. The state government has offered its full support for this. These are the languages of our land. The government is offering scholarships to people who want to conduct research about these languages. It is working towards the development of these languages.
Often, when the KDA has made headlines, the measures have had a negative undertone to them. As a developmental agency, what positive measures is the KDA taking to make people interested in the Kannada language and Karnataka culture?
Kannada learning centres have been set up in central government offices, certain corporate offices and even apartment complexes. These learning centres have been set up in places where non-Kannada speakers are staying. Kannada is being taught here. There are over 30 such centres alone in Bengaluru located in HAL, BEL and Malleshwaram, if I have to name a few. Some private agencies have come forward and expressed the desire to set up Kannada learning centres at their workplace, and we have provided them with funds.
Controversial issues are always in the forefront. The good initiatives always remain silent and in the background.
The BJP is accusing the Karnataka government of alienating our neighbours and dividing the people of India. How would you respond to this charge?
Karnataka is accepting of people from all states and welcomes everyone. But if our language is threatened or if they try to bully us, Kannadigas will not tolerate it. We love all languages and people who speak other languages. It is this quality which the people you refer to (BJP) need to understand. This is just one state in India and the basis of division of states was on the kind of language that is spoken. One cannot impose Hindi on all states. It is just one of the official languages. How can they impose it on us? Like I said, if people want to utilize the resources of the state, should they not respect our language and culture?