Karnataka seems to have turned into a political battleground over languages, with its Congress government having written to the Centre to do away with the Hindi language from Namma Metro in favour of Kannada while being accused by the BJP of trying to introduce Arabic in schools.
All this, even as the Kannada Development Authority (KDA) — which had earlier urged the state government to sack all non-Kannadiga chief engineers in the Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (BMRCL) — now wants Hindi gone from schools in Karnataka, so that only Kannada and English are taught to students.
The language wars can be seen as the result of the Central government's move to introduce Hindi in many of the southern states, which they perceived as an imposition of the language. As a result, of recent the #NammaMetroHindiBeda campaign has gathered quite a bit of steam on Twitter.
The new KDA diktat
KDA Chairman SG Siddaramaiah has been quoted by the Times of India as saying in a report: "Now that the Metro issue has taken a positive shape, we will take up the issue of language in schools."
He added: "Imposition of Hindi is being carried out in the guise of an optional third language, which need not exist. We believe the two-language policy is best suited for the state."
Even activists from the Campaign for Language Equality And Rights (CLEAR) and other organisations are supporting this move.
Clear member Anand G told the daily: "We are not opposed to Hindi-speaking people or learning the language, but we certainly believe that forcing students to learn Hindi as a third language is unnecessary imposition. The larger agitation is for equality of all languages and campaigns like Metro and schools are means to achieve that end."
Twitter spat over Arabic
Meanwhile, the BJP on Saturday, July 29, accused the Congress of trying to introduce Arabic in schools in the state even as the KDA proposal looks to do away with Hindi. Karnataka BJP secretary CT Ravi took to Twitter to level the allegation.
Karnataka Congress chief Dinesh Gundu Rao fired back on the social networking site, and accused Ravi of spreading falsehood.
Karnataka Education Minister Tanveer Sait, however, clarified the matter, explaining that around 55 students in Vijayapura — erstwhile Bijapur — were indeed studying Arabic.
However, he was quick to add that the language was optional and not mandatory to learn, as was the case with English, Kannada and Hindi.
CM's letter to Centre
The issue over the use of Hindi in the South Indian states has raged on for quite some time. Things came to a head when language activists objected to the use of Hindi in Namma Metro signage, and demanded that the Hindi signs be removed.
The matter took some time to be resolved, and the result went in favour of the activists: BMRCL decided that Hindi signs would be taken down from Namma Metro.
It was to this effect that Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah wrote to Minister of Urban Development Narendra Singh Tomar, saying that the Central government's stand on the three-language policy for metro signage was "not reasonable," and the BMRCL be allowed to redesign the signs so that only two languages are visible.