Shops and establishments in several parts of Bengaluru city were vandalised and damaged after the Karnataka Rakshana Vedike (KRV) supporters ran amok pulling down signboards and damaging property while the police jumped into action after much of the damage had been done. The Bengaluru police were aware of KRV’s intention as they had met with Police Commissioner B Dayananda earlier this week to inform him of the protest. Even after the supporters ran riot at the first location, police could not stop them at other places, for hours. It has to be noted that the Bengaluru police have not allowed any protests in the city for months, including pro-Palestine protests and have detained even citizen activists. On the contrary, KRV president Narayana Gowda blamed the police for the protests turning violent.
KRV president Narayana Gowda claimed that the protests against English signage on commercial establishments and shops would not have turned violent if not for the police’s actions. KRV started a rally from Sadahalli, near Devanahalli on December 27 morning and the rally was supposed to go towards Cubbon Park and raise awareness about the rule that all signages should have 60% Kannada. The rally however turned violent and KRV activists gathered at various other parts of the city and vandalised shops and other establishments that either had no Kannada on their signage or had Kannada in a smaller font compared to English.
“We were protesting peacefully. The Bengaluru Police Commissioner had told us that they wouldn’t let us protest in Bengaluru and that they would detain us if we entered Bengaluru. I had agreed. But the police behaved badly with false pride. We requested them with decency and I had promised that the protest would be peaceful without any damage. We were protesting peacefully until the police started detaining us. In my fight for Kannada as Karnataka Rakshana Vedike President I have never let protests turn violent. The KRV protesters were angry after they detained us,” Narayana Gowda told TV9.
Established in 1999 by Narayana Gowda, KRV's mission is to 'protect' Kannada and the interests of Kannadigas. The organisation primarily focuses on linguistic nationalism, preservation of Kannada language and culture.
“We have given a clear message to those who looked down on Kannada and Kannadigas in Bengaluru. Today's protest is an example of what happens when Kannadigas' patience is tested. We are saddened by the minor inconveniences that were caused to the citizens of Bengaluru during today's movement. But I think they will understand that such a large-scale movement was necessary to save Kannada and Kannadigas in Bengaluru,” he said in a statement later. Responding to the incident, Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said, “We will punish whoever takes law into their hands.” KRV cadres vandalised shops on MG Road, Commercial Street, Lavelle Road, Airport Road, Whitefield, Yelahanka and Hebbal. Two shopping malls- Phoenix Marketcity in Whitefield and Phoenix Mall of Asia in Hebbal were forced to shut following protests.
Home Minister G Parameshwara said the pro-Kannada organisations were demanding that all signboards be in Kannada only. “In some instances, urban spaces or in cities, there are a lot of outsiders, both national and international, and a floating population who might find it difficult to understand if the signboards are in Kannada only. So we need them in both languages. But it is not a difficult thing to do. From an administrative view, Kannada is already being used. We are committed to the Kannada language,” he said.
It was only Congress leader BK Hariprasad who voiced caution about divisive lines being created in the name of caste and language. “It is a sensitive issue. We need to discuss this with the organisations and people and take their opinions. The Chief Minister has already made it clear that the Kannada language is of utmost importance in the state,” he said.
Meanwhile, Narayana Gowda said that they will intensify the protests if commercial establishments do not abide by the deadline set by the BBMP to install signages with 60% Kannada. The BBMP deadline ends on February 28. “If people don’t follow the rule, I will give out a call then. I agree that some damage was done to English name boards. This protest won’t be limited to Karnataka. Areas like Chickpete and Cottonpete were Kannadiga strongholds but now Gujaratis, Sindhis and Marwaris have forgotten that this is Karnataka and are showcasing their culture without learning Kannada. There was no action taken against BBMP officials who authorised these establishments to put up signs in English. BBMP chief has said that he will take action against them,” Gowda said.