Bengaluru: Political parties and pro-Kannada activists in Karnataka welcomed Union Home Minister Amit Shah clarifying his remarks on Hindi and expressed relief that it (Hindi) would not be imposed on them or anyone.
“We appreciate Shah for clarifying his remarks on Hindi. He should have done (clarified) it on the same day (September 14) or next day when we protested and threatened to launch an agitation if Hindi is imposed on us,” told Kannada Rakshana Vedike (protection forum) president Narayana Gowda.
In what seemed to be a damage control exercise following protests against his tweet, favouring Hindi as a common or one language across the country, Shah on Wednesday said at an event in Jharkhand’s Ranchi that a child’s growth could be best achieved if he studied in his mother tongue, and mother tongue did not mean Hindi.
“But there should be one language in the country – should you choose to learn a second language – then learn Hindi. This is the appeal I made on Hindi Divas. What is wrong in it, I fail to understand,” Shah asserted.
Hoping that Shah’s clarification would allay fears of Hindi imposition in the state, senior Congress leader V.S. Ugrappa said better sense prevailed over the BJP’s national president, as he (Shah) assuaged the feelings of Kannadigas by giving importance to every one’s mother tongue.
“If Shah says we misunderstood his remarks on Hindi, his office or party should have clarified instead of him today (Wednesday). Media reports on that day did not have the words he used in his clarification like mother tongue and second language,” pointed out Ugrappa.
Accusing the opposition parties of playing politics over the language issue, Shah also asked their leaders to listen carefully to the speech he made in New Delhi on the Hindi day (September 14) and read his tweet in which he appealed to all citizens … to increase the use of their mother tongue but also use Hindi to make the dream of Bapu (Mahatma Gandhi) and Sardar (Vallabhai Patel) of one language come true.
“India has many languages and every language has its importance. But it is necessary that the country should have one language that becomes India’s identity globally,” said Shah at a function in New Delhi to celebrate Hindi Divas on last Saturday.
Terming Shah’s clarification as better late than never, Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) leader Ramesh Babu said with so many languages and dialects, it would be difficult to have a common or one language across the country for practical reasons.
“Though Hindi is spoken by more people and in more states, especially in the country’s heartland and across the Gangetic plains, regional and local languages are dominant in other states. Many states like Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka were formed when states were reorganised on linguistic basis in 1956, respecting their cultural identity and language and accepting them as diversity in unity. All our languages have co-existed and evolved for over centuries. We should nurture them to flourish,” told Babu.
Reiterating what Shah said, BJP’s state unit spokesman A. Vamanacharya said as Hindi was spoken the most, it could unite the whole country.
“Shah did not seek to impose Hindi on non-Hindi speaking people or replace their language. All he said was as Hindi is spoken by the majority of the people (45 per cent), learn it as a second or third language to communicate with others. Though Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Shah are from Gujarat where Gujarati is the mother tongue, they both speak and converse fluently in Hindi with others than even in English for convenience and comfort,” told Vamanacharya.
Hundreds of pro-Kannada activists and opposition Congress and JD-S made the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in the southern state give primacy to Kannada after Shah stoked fears of imposing Hindi on them as one or common language across the country.
“All official languages, including Kannada and Hindi are equal. In Karnataka, as Kannada is the principle language, we will never compromise on its importance. We are committed to promoting it (Kannada),” said state Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa in a series of tweets in Kannada and English, clarifying the party’s and government’s views on the language row.
Protesting against Shah’s call for Hindi as the national language linking the people across the country, leaders and cadres of the Congress and the JD-S staged demonstrations, held rallies in cities and towns on Monday and vowed not to allow Hindi replace Kannada as the common or link language in the state.
“We are not against Hindi but certainly against its imposition on our people, majority of whose mother tongue is Kannada, followed by Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam and Marathi across the state,” Congress leader and former chief minister Siddaramaiah told reporters at Mysuru, about 150km south west of Bengaluru, on Sunday.
Echoing the Congress, JD-S leader and former chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy said Kannada had the same status in the Constitution as Hindi or 20 other scheduled languages, which have their origins in Sanskrit, as the mother of all Indian languages.
“Imposing Hindi as a national language in the state will be against the spirit of federalism and arbitrary in place of Kannada, which the central government has declared as a classical language over a decade ago,” tweeted Kumaraswamy in Kannada.
Defending Shah, Union Minister of Chemicals and Fertilisers D.V. Sadananda Gowda, who hails from the state and represents Bangalore North Lok Sabha constituency, said there was need for one Indian language that connects the people across the country for communication just as English has been over the last century.
“Though constitutionally, each and every language has its own identity, place, value, respect and a rich tradition or culture, we as Indians do not have one language as the people in many other coutries. As unity in diversity, we are all Indians first with a common citizenship. There can be a one language, which is common and in addition to a local or native language,” told Gowda.
“Though English is pre-dominantly used as a link language between Hindi-speaking and non-Hindi speaking people across the country as a legacy of the British raj even 74 years after the Independence, a country of 130 crore people has no common language of their own to communicate as Sanskrit was once upon a time,” a linguistic expert told IANS on the condition of anonymity, as he did not want to be a party of controversy over the language row.