Language Debate
The first-of-its kind meeting discussed how ‘Hindi hegemony’ was a threat to other regional languages.

Hindi on highway milestones, Hindi in exams, Hindi on metro signs... The age-old debate on Hindi imposition has been reignited across various states in India lately, and been gathering momentum owing to many controversies. In Karnataka especially, the issue is coming to a boil, and in order to discuss a joint response to the Centre's imposition of the north Indian language, regional parties and linguistic groups from various states came together in Bengaluru on Saturday.

The Karnataka Rakshana Vedike, a pro-Kannada outfit, also known for its ‘Kannada chauvinism’, organised a round table conference in Bengaluru on Saturday, where representatives of different organisations from non-Hindi speaking regions gathered.

The meeting was attended by MNS General Secretary Sandeep Deshpande, Na Damodaran of the Bengaluru Tamil Sangha, Ramaswamy - President of DMK’s Karnataka unit, Manohar Kurup of the Kerala Sangam, Kannada writers Chandrashekar Patil and Ranjan Dargha, Kannada activist, Ganesh Chetan. and Kannada actor Chetan.

President of the Vedike, TA Narayanagowda said that he will write to Chief Ministers of Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Odisha, Punjab, Telangana and Tami Nadu, asking them to unite against “Hindi imposition by the Centre”.

“All languages are equal and this is the cornerstone of our democracy. However, this changed when our leaders bought into a myth that India needs a common language – Hindi – to unify people. Due to this imposition, other Indian languages are getting sidelined,” said Vasanth Shetty, member of the Vedike.

Actor Chetan speaking at the conference.

Agreeing with Shetty’s position, Baraguru Ramachandrappa, Chairman of the Karnataka Textbook Review Committee said Articles 343 and 351 of the Indian Constitution need to be amended and an inclusive language police should be adopted by the country.

“These two Articles of the Indian Constitution made both Hindi and English the official languages of the Union government in 1966. They also encourage the Centre to push and spread Hindi across the country. This shows a clear discrimination. Some national leaders don’t even realise what they are saying and believe that Hindi is our national language. Of course, these are the leaders who find it difficult to obtain their provisional certificates,” Ramachandrappa ridiculed.

Recently, BJP leader Venkaiah Naidu had called Hindi, India’s national language, and was criticized heavily for being factually incorrect.

Article 343 of the Constitution says that ‘the official language of the Union is Hindi in the Devanagari script. English language shall be continued to be used along with Hindi for all official purposes.’

“First, they (Central government) wanted to centralise NEET, then they moved on to taxes and next they will steal our identities from us if we allow the imposition to continue. Majoritarianism is stupid and it will only destroy our states’ languages, culture and identity,” he added.

Stating that Hindi is being imposed not only in the southern and north eastern states of India, Senthil Nathan, member of Campaign for Language Equality And Rights (CLEAR), said that Hindi is being imposed on most of the states in the “so called Hindi-speaking belt”.

“Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan and states which come under the so-called Hindi belt are also not free from Hindi imposition. Languages like Bhojpuri, Maithili, Kinnauri, Odiya too are suffering. In 1985, Odisha rose against Hindi imposition and that was the root for the separatist movement there,” Senthil Nathan said.

He said that the Union government had compiled a list of 117 recommendations to promote Hindi as an official language and the President had granted his seal of approval for the same just a couple of months ago.

“This was promulgated by the President of India. One of the most ridiculous recommendations in that is that job postings for central government vacancies will be published only in Hindi newspapers. In non-Hindi speaking states, this will pose a huge problem. The national parties lapped up the religion card for their gain. Now that religion is becoming an old topic, they are harping about language. The constitution must be amended and Hindi imposition must stop,” Senthil added.

Echoing the call for non-Hindi speaking states to unite against language imposition, Sandeep Deshpande, General Secretary of the Maharashtra Navanirman Sena said that what begins as “language imposition, will lead to cultural imposition”. The MNS leader said that “Maharashtra is the entry point to South India and we will be the watchdogs against Hindi imposition”.

“The Hindi-Hindu Rashtra ideology is what the national parties are aiming to achieve. In Hindi-speaking states, the governments have not developed the areas there. Hence people migrate from UP and other such states to more developed states in the south and settle down here. Instead of trying to learn the local language, they demand that the locals speak Hindi. The Centre is also enabling them and creating comfort zones for these people,” Deshpande said.

Ramaswamy - President of DMK’s Karnataka unit.

“Go to a bank, the challans are in English and Hindi. There are Hindi sign boards everywhere. In Mumbai, everyone is expected to speak Hindi but no one wants to learn Marathi. This is how the comfort zones are created for Hindi speakers. They are in turn used as vote banks by the national parties. It is nothing but a political game,” he added.

President of the Vedike, Narayanagowda, said that since the Vedike, now had the support from other organisations, it would start a campaign to push for amendment of Articles 343 and 351.

“We will meet Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and ask him to take up this issue with the Central government. This is going to be a long struggle but we have the backing of many states that are also tired of Hindi imposition. The centre cannot ignore such a strong force. The first step will be to ensure that Hindi signs are removed from Namma Metro,” he added.

The Karnataka Rakshana Vedike is also known for unleashing violence and vandalizing property during various protests and questions were raised to other organisations on why they chose to legitimise the Vedike.

"The Karnataka Rakshana Vedike's cause is important. MNS has been fighting against Hindi imposition since 2007. If someone is leading the way to stop the imposition, why not support it?" said MNS General Secretary, Sandeep Deshpande.