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Forum to combat imposition of Hindi wants constitutional amendment

LiveMint logoLiveMint 15-07-2017 Sharan Poovanna

Bengaluru: It was possibly the first time that members of the Karnataka Rakshana Vedike (KRV)—a pro-Kannada group—applauded a speech made in Marathi by its foe-turned partner Maharashtra Navanirman Sena’s (MNS) general secretary in Bengaluru on Saturday.

Traditionally having been involved in many decade-old violent tactics such as burning buses, flags and books to assert their claim over the border district of Belagavi (earlier known as Belgaum)—about 500km from Bengaluru—the two parties had set aside historical differences to unite against any potential imposition of Hindi.

At a roundtable conference for language equality that brought together regional political parties, regional language promotion (and protection) bodies, noted literary personalities, linguistic protection and promotion activists on the same platform, a course of action against any imminent imposition of Hindi on non-Hindi speaking states was discussed.

The meeting was triggered by the recent controversy over signboards in Bengaluru’s Namma Metro (in three languages, English, Hindi and Kannada) and the replacement of English with Hindi on milestones and signboards in Tamil Nadu.

The hashtag #NammaMetroHindiBeda in Bengaluru resonated, with similar such movements in neighbouring Maharashtra (#AapliMetroHindiNako) and Tamil Nadu, among other states, igniting a bonhomie on social media with mutual support for each others’ language struggles.

Speakers from Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka spoke at the forum in their respective languages, followed by a summary in English, with all of them categorical in stating that their struggle was not against Hindi-speaking people but the language being made into a symbol of majoritarianism that threatens India’s federal structure.

India does not have a national language.Hindi is one of two official languages (English is the other).

“Language struggle cannot be done in isolation,” Chandrashekar Patil, or Champa—a noted Kannada writer—said at the forum, urging all non-Hindi speaking groups to come together to put a concerted effort to oppose the imposition of Hindi.

The forum passed 14 resolutions which included the need for an amendment of the Constitution to provide all languages with the same status as Hindi.

Sandip Deshpande, general secretary of the MNS, said that Maharashtra will play the role of a “watchman” to ensure Hindi does not creep its way down south. Deshpande, whose party has long fought the KRV on the Belagavi district issue, spoke in a mix of Marathi, Kannada and English and said that the groups will set aside their differences to put up a united front to oppose any potential imposition of Hindi.

“We will sit together and solve our issues,” he said, raising hopes for a peaceful resolution of traditionally-contended issues like Cauvery river water-sharing and Belagavi.

Many Kannada literary personalities suggested that the movement continue in other places like Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Mumbai to ensure more awareness on the subject.

Nathan, from the campaign for language equality and rights (CLEAR), said that there were language groups and communities from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Rajasthan, among others, who fear their respective native languages like Bhojpuri, Mythili and Awadhi will be “killed by Hindi”.

However, the consolidation of regional struggles into a united front is unlikely to yield desired results as the subject arouses passions but does not command political currency yet. Historically, Tamil Nadu’s two main Dravidian parties are the only ones to have successfully parlayed anti-Hindi sentiment into political capital. The late Bal Thackeray of the Maharashtra-based Shiv Sena also succeeded to a certain extent.

Nathan said that though Tamil Nadu led the anti-Hindi agitations in 1965, the nature of the struggle has since changed.

“Today, the times have changed and our agitation will focus more on all languages needing to be treated the same way. From advertisements for jobs in central government organizations being given out only in Hindi to the way banks, universities and other institutions operate, there is a need for immediate intervention,” he said.

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