Hindi Imposition: Propaganda or Reality?

Of late, a lot has been discussed about a phenomenon called “Hindi imposition” in social media. There have been extensive debates, opinions, blogs, arguments over this in some of the popular news channels & portals as well.

I also wanted to write about it long ago itself, but chose to wait till the dust settled, and until I could get more evidences, because looking at it with a neutral & fresh perspective would be the only way to understand if there are problems, if any, so that the root of the problem can be addressed to rectify all the issues related to this. As a student of psychology, I wanted to analyze this from different perspectives, especially from that of the common man, law abiding citizens & taxpayers, so that the severity of the issue can be gauged accordingly.


Before I proceed, let me first offer the usual disclaimers. I am a proud Marathi speaking Indian citizen who loves & respects every language, now settled in Karnataka. I speak Marathi at home, and I studied Hindi as one of the languages in school, along with Kannada language & English language. Not to forget, Marathi is very similar to Hindi & uses the same script (Devanagari) and hence any form of Hindi imposition hardly affects me personally.

I have been reviewing & recommending Hindi movies, serials & books over the years.
Here is a review & recommendation of Hindi movie “Kissa Kursi Ka”:
http://guruprasad.net/posts/kissa-kursi-ka-a-humorous-take-on-indira-gandhi-the-emergency/

Review & recommendation of Hindi serial “Flop Show”:
http://guruprasad.net/posts/flop-show-tv-series-by-jaspal-bhatti/

Review & recommendation of Hindi serial “Samvidhaan”:
http://guruprasad.net/posts/tv-series-samvidhaan-making-constitution-india/

Promotion of the Hindi book “Dar Dar Gange”:
https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10203859604119764&set=a.1770961003064.221799.1510418566&type=3&theater

The reason I am putting up all these disclaimers is because I want the reader to know that if I have been slightly biased towards Hindi, it is because of the above reasons (it is related to my mother tongue). Having said that, I have kept all my inhibitions & biases aside & tried to be as neutral as possible in this analysis.

Now, coming to some data & facts.

Karnataka is a state which was formed purely based on linguistic lines, as per the 1956 States Reorganization Act.


As some of you might remember, I had explained about the events leading to the formation of states on linguistic lines in some of my earlier articles.

Potti Sriramulu’s fast demanding Andhra State:
http://guruprasad.net/posts/a-fast-that-changed-the-map-of-india/

Formation of Gujarat & Maharashtra on linguistic lines:


This way, Karnataka was also formed by grouping all the Kannada speaking districts within a state boundary, and Kannada was declared as the official language of the state. In simple words, it means, anybody within this boundary of the state called Karnataka, would be able to run any business, carry out any transaction, communicate with Govt & authorities, even if Kannada is the only language he knows. Hence, out of the 6.5 crore people in Karnataka, more than 5 crore know only Kannada and no other language, more so in the rural areas.That’s the ground reality. More than 5 crore people in Karnataka know only Kannada and no other language. It should not come as a surprise to anybody, because, just like how a typical villager in UP knows only Hindi, similarly, a typical villager in Karnataka knows only Kannada. Hence, it is the responsibility of the authorities to ensure (or assure) that the common man who is living within this boundary called Karnataka, should be able to avail all services without being discriminated or denied because he knows only Kannada.

But is that assurance really upheld?
Well, I was under the impression that it was, until I came across some interesting evidences which shows otherwise.

Let me begin with an organization called “India Post”, which runs on taxpayers money of all Indians living in every state of India.

A friend of mine from Karnataka, who had sent a letter in Kannada, had not got any response even after 20 days. When the tweeted the concern to the Official Twitter handle of India Post, the reply he received was not only that of denial of service, but the Officer asked him to “Use google translate” to translate it to Hindi/English.


Reference:
https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10210166246861891&set=a.1770961003064.221799.1510418566&type=3&theater

But, I very well remember that during my childhood in 1990s, it was very common to see letters sent in Kannada, with address written in Kannada, especially to Kannada competitions held on Doordarshan, etc, which was perfectly fine & acceptable, because Kannada has been one of the official languages of India. Now, this denial of service to someone who has written the letter & address in Kannada, and expecting him to use Google translator to translate into Hindi/English, reeks of an imperialistic attitude on part of the authorities concerned.

Now, let me take up the example of State Bank of India (SBI), which is a PSU Bank under the control of Govt of India, which runs on taxpayers money of Indians from all states across India.

When a SBI customer of Karnataka expressed his grievance with the bank, in Kannada, he was asked to write his concern only in Hindi or English to be able to serve him.


Reference:

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10210681205055524&set=a.1770961003064.221799.1510418566&type=3&theater

It comes not just as a surprise, but also as a reply which reeks of arrogance and imperialism. despite all the push for Digital India, Cashless Economy, Banking Facilities, etc, if 5 crore people living in Karnataka who know only Kannada cannot avail proper banking facilities because they don’t know Hindi/English, one cannot help but wonder if British imperialism is now being replaced with Hindi/English imperialism, with the common man still being discriminated & denied service.

At around the same time, there was another controversy, but from Tamil Nadu. Apparently, an RTI request filed by an Indian citizen from the state, was rejected because it was in Tamil language.


Reference:

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10212612993949039&set=a.1770961003064.221799.1510418566&type=3&theater

This comes as shocker because while all other countries are becoming more inclusive, opening up to more languages, apart from their own languages, here in India, where we seek pride in our diversity, and we have 22 official languages, we must still witness such injustice where a law abiding, prompt taxpayer who lives in Tamil Nadu, and knows only Tamil (which is not just one of the 22 official languages of India, but declared as classical language as well), finds his RTI request rejected because he did not know Hindi/English.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. There have been innumerable instances where a Kannadiga in Karnataka, has been denied service just because he knows Kannada but not Hindi. It has been alleged by several customers that Banks have stopped providing deposit/withdrawal slips in Kannada, and have slowly introduced Hindi slips, thereby expecting every customer to know only Hindi/English to be able to deal with the Bank.

Here is one such instance from a recent news report which alleges that villagers from a district in Karnataka were not only denied service but even rudely behaved by the bank employee, just because they knew only Kannada but not Hindi.

What really is the purpose of an advertisement (ad) ?

Answer: To create awareness about something (product, service, policy, scheme, etc) among the intended audience.
Next question: Who reads Kannada newspapers? Kannadigas? Correct.

So, in a Kannada newspaper, if one has to advertise something to create awareness, which language should they use so that it really reaches out to the intended audience? Kannada? Correct.

But, when we look at the ads published by Indian Railways in Kannada, it looks odd, because they are actually published in Hindi. Crores of rupees of taxpayers money are being used to publish advertisements, but the fact that they are printed in Hindi, shows that either the Govt is really not bothered about the real purpose of the ads (i.e to create awareness). It also reeks of an imperialistic attitude which alienates Kannadigas from their own nation because they don’t have an idea of what the Govt is really trying to say through such ads.

Here is an example of such a Hindi ad in a Kannada newspaper:


Reference:

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10212250927937615&set=a.1693754712955.215173.1510418566&type=3&theater

Here is another ad in a Kannada newspaper where the Govt is trying to explain the introduction & usage of cashless facility in railways, but more than 99% of the target audience would not even understand it because the entire ad is in Hindi, published in a Kannada local newspaper.

Here is an ad related to income tax, on Karnataka buses, but ignored by more than 95% of the intended audience because it is completely in Hindi. Looking at the pictures used in the ad, most of the Kannadigas would have mistaken it for some Govt initiative on promotion of Honey, or protection of Honey bees from becoming extinct.


Here is an ad about a Govt scheme, on Karnataka buses, but again ignored by more than 95% because it is completely in Hindi

Here is an ad about Swachch Bharat, printed on swanky billboards in Karnataka, but completely in Hindi, therefore not really serving its purpose & hence wasteful expenditure, and upon the common man, it might have given an impression of Hindi imperialism, thereby alienating the local people, because do they don’t know what their own Govt is trying to tell them. (Notice the Kannada signboards on shops at the lower end of the image, which confirms that the place is in Karnataka itself)

There are numerous such examples where Govt has been spending crores of rupees of taxpayers money to publish advertisements in Karnataka, but are not really serving the purpose because they are in Hindi. Also, as I was saying earlier, such prolonged attitude usually gives rise to alienation and an impression that the Govt is being imperial.
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Now, let’s turn our attention to the recent but hottest controversy: The highway milestone controversy.
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Few months ago, all of a sudden, Govt started adding Hindi on highway milestones in South India which usually have Kannada or Kannada+English convention. Adding Hindi, by itself, would not have been a problem, but in several places, Hindi was added at the cost of removing Kannada text. Initially, I was a bit skeptical about this, because I thought they might just be rumors. But later, when I saw even BJP MPs raising this concern against their own BJP Union Minister (Nitin Gadkari), I realized that it was indeed true & a serious issue.Here is the concern raised by Pratap Simha, a popular young BJP MP from Karnataka, questioning the need to replace Kannada with Hindi on in Karnataka.
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Such issues were raised not only from Karnataka, but from Odia as well. Here is a report of Odia Chief Minister expressing anguish against BJP Union Minister over the addition of Hindi at the cost of removing Odia from highway milestones in Odisha.
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These attempts to introduce Hindi at the cost of removing Kannada (or the regional language), were not limited to the highway milestones alone but even in PSU Banks as well.

Here is an example of how SBI had removed Kannada & introduced Hindi in ATMs situated across Karnataka, and were forced to add Kannada again due to pressure from social media campaigns.

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While all these attempts to push Hindi into Karnataka at the cost of removing Kannada had been going on, and people were getting furious about it, running campaigns with hashtags like #StopHindiImposition, #StopHindiImperialism, etc, at the same time, in parallel, some of the policies, actions & statements by the Central Govt were actually adding fuel to the fire.
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For example, when asked about the language policy of Govt initiatives, Union Minister Venkiah Naidu stated that Govt projects like Digital India & Make in India will be successful only when more Hindi is used in implementing it, thereby probably implying that the farmers in Karnataka must first learn Hindi, and then use that knowledge of Hindi to get into the Digital India revolution because it would be mainly implemented in Hindi. And on the other hand, BJP spokesperson & lawyer was filing a PIL at Supreme Court to make Hindi compulsory in all the South Indian schools.
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Kannada newspapers & magazines had upped the ante against the alleged Hindi Imposition and published cartoons like the following, depicting that the language policy of the Centre has been unnecessarily burdening the common man, by “shoving Hindi down their throats”.


Despite all these social conflicts & campaigns, even the recent statements by the Union Ministers have not been comforting either, because they seem to be intentionally spreading false information that Hindi is a national language (the fact is that India does not have a national language), associating Hindi with nationalism (implying that those who don’t know Hindi are probably less patriotic), and claiming that only Hindi can lead to prosperity of India, while the fact is that States without Hindi have actually been ahead and progressing rapidly compared to other states.

To be fair, it is not the entire BJP which is making such statements & alienating Kannadigas like this. Because as I showed one of the above tweets, there have been MPs within BJP, like Pratap Simha who are questioning their own BJP leadership at the Centre over these issues.

Here is another example of how BJP MP Pratap Simha raised to the occasion, to question certain policies.

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10212374676831260&set=a.1770961003064.221799.1510418566&type=3&theater

High profile BJP supporters like Mohandas Pai have also been indirectly questioning the Govt the need of such “language imposition”.

Another BJP leader who has been raising his voice against this, is CT Ravi, a very popular BJP MLA from Karnataka.
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Here is an example of how BJP MLA CT Ravi participated in a certain campaign to voice against what he calls as “Hindi Imperialism”
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Now, lets summarize the entire analysis:
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=> As we saw from examples of Govt entities like India Post, PSU Banks like SBI, the bank staff at Mandya, and the Govt run RTI project, it is very clear that there are some or several cases where people living in Karnataka are denied service, just because they know only Kannada but not Hindi/English.
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=> As we saw from examples of Govt advertisements of Indian Railways in Kannada newspapers, Govt ads of Income Tax depts, Welfare scheme depts, Swatchch Bharat dept, etc, people living in Karnataka might be feeling alienated because they do not understand what their own elected Govt is trying to tell them through those ads, which not only reeks of imperialistic attitude, but also is waste of public funds because the ads are not really serving their purposes.
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=> As we saw from confirmed examples of Hindi replacing Kannada on highway milestones and on SBI ATMs, there seems to be a feeling among Kannadigas that the Govt is trying to push Hindi, even at the cost of eliminating the regional language, thereby further alienating the people.
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=> As we saw from policies of the Govt & controversial statements of the Union Ministers, there seems to be a feeling that the Govt is desperately trying to push Hindi at the cost of peddling lies (that it is the national language, whereas the fact is that we don’t have a national language), at the cost of making misleading claims that only Hindi can lead to progress, linking Hindi to nationalism/patriotism, and thereby adding more fuel to the fire when there are already conflicts & tension in the air due to the above mentioned issues in earlier points.
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=> Finally, the fact that there has been conflict within BJP itself over these issues, with some BJP leaders from Karnataka, publicly questioning the Central BJP, it shows that these are not some random issues created by some opposition parties, but genuine issues, which are affecting the people of Karnataka and hence local BJP leaders are also raising their voices.

Now that we have analyzed the whole situation with the help of several examples & from different perspectives, the big question that remains in front of us:

Is this “Hindi Imposition” or “Hindi Imperialism” just a mere propaganda created by opposition parties and a false concern by Kannadigas?
Or is it a reality which is getting serious by the day, and staring at the Govt which quickly needs some quick actions & rectifications, so that 5 crore Kannadigas do not feel alienated in their own state?

To put the questions in simple words:

Is it Hindi-Imposition or Hindi-Imperialism?

Is it a Propaganda? Or is it a Reality?

I leave it to the reader to decide.

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