The newly-inaugurated hand-washing kiosk at the KSR Bengaluru railway station only had Hindi and English signage.

Hands-free wash kiosk installed at KSR Bengaluru railway station
news Controversy Wednesday, August 12, 2020 - 08:17

The official in charge of the foremost railway station in Bengaluru city, the Krantiveera Sangolli Rayanna station (KSR), found himself in the middle of a language row shortly after a new facility was announced at the railway station. A new kiosk for washing hands via a foot-operated switch was introduced at the station. However, the equipment only had English and Hindi stickers on it.

The South Western Railways’ Twitter handle introduced the ‘hands-free’ wash kiosk intended towards “enhancing passenger convenience and safety” with a video.

However, social media users were quick to notice that the kiosk, located in a public place in Bengaluru and accessed by all people, did not have any Kannada signage, but found space for Hindi.

“Why Hindi in South India?” one user asked in response to the video. To this, the Twitter handle of the Divisional Railway Manager, Bengaluru, promptly replied, “Because it is India.”

One user then replied, “You know what we are asking. But you are linking hindi with national identity. We are Indians but Hindi is not my language and I have right to ask information in my mother tongue.”

In response, the official account defended its view by calling the user ‘anti Hindi’.

“All efforts are made to provide important info in local language as well. Making issue of language every time even if it is a small sticker on the item donated by an outsider agency is not correct. Instead of appreciating the effort you bring anti-Hindi views every time,” the tweet read.

The tweet triggered pushback from social media users as nearly 300 responses to the officer’s tweet showed. Many of the responses pointed out that the official language in Karnataka is Kannada.

The person running the DRM Bengaluru handle is described in the account’s Twitter bio as railway officer Ashok Kumar Verma. Many used this information to target the official directly, with some posting abusive responses.

The row comes close on the heels of the renewed debate on Hindi imposition in non-Hindi speaking states. On Sunday, DMK MP Kanimozhi from Tamil Nadu tweeted that she had been asked by an airport security officer whether she was Indian when she said that she did not speak Hindi. 

In recent weeks, the newly-released New Education Policy (NEP) of the central government has been flayed for giving more importance to learning in local languages, rather than using a medium of instruction like English and Hindi.  

Read: ‘Are you Indian?’: MP Kanimozhi says CISF officer asked her for not knowing Hindi

The Railways row subsided when Congress party spokesperson Lavanya Bhallal tweeted asking for Kannada stickers in addition to the ones in Hindi.

“So if it is donated by outside agency is it for the consumption of Kannadigas or non Kannada speakers? If it’s not such a big issue then why the resistance to put small stickers in Kannada? Have Kannada stickers along with Hindi stickers, why so much of resistance for that?” she tweeted.

The DRM finally accepted that he would do so.

Also read: Can you be Indian if you don't speak Hindi? All FAQs answered

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