Hindi Signboards on Bengaluru Metro Lead to Protest
Hindi signages at metro stations in Bengaluru have led to protests on social media by the citizens of the city.
Bengaluru: The use of Hindi in sign-boards of Bengaluru's Metro rail has sparked off strong protests by pro-Kannada campaigners, who have urged the State government to do away with the three-language policy and stick to two languages.
The protests – mostly an online/ social media campaign under the hashtag #NammaMetroHindiBeda – have begun after the inauguration last week of the full phase 1 of the Metro rail, with the north-south corridor being made operational last Saturday.
The social media activism soon drew over 10 lakh responses from across the city and the State, with many weighing in on what they felt was an imposition of Hindi in a local commuter transit system.
"For Kannadigas, there is Kannada signage. For others (migrants), it is in English. There are other community language people here too – like Telugu, Tamil and Malayalam speakers who are greater in number than Hindi-speakers. Why should Hindi be given special status? We are against that," said Arun Javagal, one of the campaigners.
Reiterating that this is not an anti-Hindi protest – in that, the campaigners are neither against the Hindi language nor against Hindi-speakers – the campaigners said they questioned the special treatment being meted by Metro officials to Hindi specifically.
An online campaign has been launched against the reported Hindi hegemony by Banavasi group. (Photo: CNN-News18 TV grab)
"When we go to north Indian cities, we make the effort to learn Hindi. If there are migrants from other States who come to Karnataka, a large number of them have tried to assimilate here by learning the language. We welcome that. But the small chance that there is, that new migrants will make any effort to learn Kannada, will diminish if the convenience of Hindi is there," said Vallish Kumar, another activist.
Metro officials refused to comment on the language debate, saying this is only an option offered to commuters – nowhere is Kannada neglected. Besides, if Hindi boards are to be shunned, should Hindi films also be banned, they asked, on condition of anonymity.
But Kumar argued that the campaigners have nothing against private initiatives or institutions – only state government institutions that seem to willingly include Hindi where it is not mandated.
"Many Central government services that were earlier in Hindi, English and local languages are not available in the local Kannada language now. This could be postal services, railway tickets, bank documents like cheque books. Why has this slowly crept in? In the case of the Metro, neither the State government nor the Centre has insisted on Hindi signages – but this was a policy adapted by the Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Board members many years back," Kumar said.
Karnataka is the second southern state seeing a backlash against what they see as forced Hindi imposition in services, after Tamil Nadu that saw protests by many, including political parties, against Hindi sign-boards along highways.
Asked whether this is not language chauvinism that hits at the cosmopolitan nature of a city like Bengaluru, the campaigners said their campaign is only about a local commuter service restricted to a city – not the railways or the airport which are Central government institutions.
"There is fear that, over a period of time, languages would be extinct because very few use them – we have seen this Hindi hegemony bring down the extent of usage of languages like Bhojpuri or Maithili or Santhali," said Javagal.
The campaign drew support from the State government and Opposition MLAs – with Congress spokesperson Dinesh Gundu Rao saying he is against the overuse of Hindi.
"I think Kannada should be given priority and Karnataka will give priority to Kannada. I think people should also learn Kannada. In that sense, I don't see why people need Hindi on signages. If people want to learn and read Hindi, that is up to them. But in signages and hoardings, it isn’t required, we need to look at this seriously," said Rao.
Transport Minister Ramalinga Reddy said he would hold consultations with Metro officials on what prompted this move.
"Bengaluru is a cosmopolitan city; Hindi, English and Kannada are used. Kannada is compulsory and English should be used, but the Centre cannot force Hindi on people. We will talk to the concerned officials about this," Reddy told News18.
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