Language has created a rift in India since time immemorial. Ahead of independence day it becomes a recurring question every Indian asks themselves. As much as language liberates it restricts. That's what seems to be happening in Karnataka at the moment.
Since the protest against Hindi imposition in Tamil Nadu, many in Karnataka feel Kannada hasn't got its due. However, the debate isn't that straightforward. The government is thinking and toying with the possibility of a Kannada language test for non-Kannadigas who wish to study and work in the state. This has added fuel to fire.
The debate on Hindi imposition
On Twitter, Kanimozhi had tweeted on Sunday on being asked if 'she is an Indian' by a CISF officer at the airport when she had requested them to speak to her in English or Tamil because she doesn't know Hindi. She had written, "I would like to know from when being Indian is equal to knowing Hindi." Bengaluru MLA Sowmya Reddy also came to her support.
In Karnataka, for a long time, the resistance to Hindi has been boiling underneath the surface. Every now and then, we may find new demands such as no signboards in Hindi or the controversial Sarojini Mahishi report that demanded a percentage of jobs in Karnataka be reserved for Kannadigas.
One may remember the 'Hindi beda' campaign in Namma Metro or the pro-Kannada protests from 2017. The 3-language formula adopted by the Indian government has once again brought these questions to the fore, why must Hindi be imposed on a diverse society such as India?
Interestingly, the Karnataka government is now considering a Kannada language test for non-Kannadigas who wish to work and study in Karnataka. This test will be similar to the TOEFL format.
While modules are still under development, Karnataka Development Authority Chairman TS Nagabharana told IANS, "We will not make it mandatory, we will make it discretionary. We will implement this within the Constitution and without disturbing any other language."
The test is meant to create opportunity he said so that students can conveniently be admitted to universities and colleges in Karnataka. It will be meant as a sort of proof of language, similar to English language exams that are compulsory to apply for work or study in the Western countries or in European countries.
Even as the state makes this a 'discretionary' option, the question is who decides? The person giving the exam or the person taking the exam. The Hindi imposition debate has become one rife with two sides to the debate. Many Kannadigas see the 3-language formula as undermining Kannada, while others feel diversity and connecting with the rest of the country through language is equally important.