Ever since the outbreak of Coronavirus, Indians have been busy looking up the meanings of several new terms that have become a part of the global vocabulary following the pandemic. A new word has been added to this list soon after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a 21-day-long nation-wide lockdown on Tuesday evening--Lakshman Rekha, an unusual term that many Indians can relate to.
While searches for Laxman/Lakshman/Lakshmana Rekha keep spiking time and again, the term has never been Googled as much as since March 24 when PM Modi first used it to explain social distancing. While informing Indians about the curfew and the utmost importance of observing it in order to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, Modi said that India is bound in a "Lakshman Rekha" for the next 21 days and that stepping out of it (meaning their homes) would mean setting their families as well as the country back by 21 years.
However, while the speech won applause on social media, the spike in Google search on the word told a different story. It appeared that many across India, especially in states like Mizoram and Tamil Nadu, both of which non-Hindi speaking states, did not understand the meaning of "Lakshman Rekha".
"Lakshman Rekha" is a reference to the Valmiki's epic Ramayana in which Ram's brother Lakshman draws a magical boundary outside the hut in which he stayed along with Ram and Sita to protect enemies from entering and kidnapping her. However, Ravana tricks Sita into voluntarily stepping out of the boundary, thus managing to abduct her while Ram and Lakshman were away.
Searches for Lakshman Rekha spiked the most on March 24 at 8.58 pm after the PM mentioned it in his speech. And the maximum number of searches came from Mizoram, followed by Tamil Nadu. Karnataka and Kerala followed, respectively.
Many took to Twitter to express their concerns about the PM's speech about such an essential issue being in Hindi.
Was PM @narendramodi’s yesterday’s speech translated to all Indian languages and telecast on Doordarshan and broadcast on AIR? Or was it only in Hindi? If not done it is the most irresponsible and insensitive act of GOI.— Ganesh Chetan (@ganeshchetan) March 20, 2020
There should be translation scrollers for the PM'S speech. Not everyone understands Hindi. Are we supposed to suggest basic communication protocol of such sort too? In a situation like this , even more important that everyone is taken into consideration.— Veeksha (@chestnutmatte) March 24, 2020
In this dire #coronavirus danger, Central Govt continues to play the language politics. Instead of transmitting the PM’s speech dubbed in local languages, it rams his Hindi speech down the bewildered & uncomprehending throat of the Nation.— L N Roychoudhury (@lokenrc) March 24, 2020
This is not the first time that the government has been criticised for using just Hindi and sometimes English in its public health announcements, both on media and social media. Previously, netizens have complained about several important government advisories on coronavirus on social media being given out in Hindi.