B’luru Metro inauguration reignites language dispute

Published on Aug 30, 2021 12:13 AM IST

The controversy erupted as the chief minister was heard speaking in English during much of the event and most of the posters behind were written mostly in English.

Union minister Hardeep Singh Puri with CM Basavaraj Bommai inaugurate the 7.5 km segment of Bengaluru metro. (PTI)
Union minister Hardeep Singh Puri with CM Basavaraj Bommai inaugurate the 7.5 km segment of Bengaluru metro. (PTI)

Bengaluru The inauguration of the metro extended line on Sunday has once again reignited the language controversy with the organisers and chief minister Basavaraj Bommai accused of sidelining the Kannada language.

“It is a shame for Karnataka to ignore Kannada in our metro inauguration programme on the Kengeri purple Route. It is impossible to tolerate the sidelining of Kannada in a government programme. Our metro project is a Central and state partnership project. So why shouldn’t Kannada be a priority?” Dinesh Gundu Rao, the former Karnataka Congress president and in-charge of Tamil Nadu, Puducherry & Goa tweeted in Kannada on Sunday.

The controversy erupted as the chief minister was heard speaking in English during much of the event and most of the posters behind were written mostly in English.

Rao added that the Bengaluru Metro Rail Corporation Limited (BMRCL) has been working from the beginning to insult Kannada and the language of the state was ignored in Sunday’s inauguration. He added that even the chief minister failed to show love for the language and allowed the programme to be conducted in English to please the centre or union government.

“#BJP Regional languages are being suppressed in the BJP’s one-nation one-language concept. It is from this agenda that Kannada was insulted at the inauguration of today’s metro. But the Kannadigas do not tolerate any attempt to murder Kannada.

Kannada is not just language, it is the soul of Kannadiga,” Rao said.

Reacting to the series of tweets by Rao, (Retd) Capt. Ganesh Karnik, ex-MLC and chief spokesperson for the BJP in Karnataka told HT on Sunday, “The series of tweets in reaction to metro inaugural functions were not in good taste. The observation on the lapse in not having the stage banner in Kannada, which is a lapse on the part of metro authorities and they will be instructed to not make such mistakes in the

future.” He further added, “Our party has no second thoughts and will never compromise on any issue pertaining to our language, our water & our land.”

Karnik said that the issue was being blown out of proportion by the Congress legislator and that the chief minister had to make an appeal to the central minister Puri for further assistance, expansion and speedy completion of Namma Metro and chose to convince the central minister in English keeping the state’s interest in mind.

“It is very mean & unbecoming of a leader who was a cabinet minister earlier and was also the state president of Congress party to post a series of tweets, in an attempt to rake up an emotional issue for political gains which needs to be condemned,” he added.

The metro had become the face of this struggle in Karnataka in 2017 as the then Siddaramaiah-led Congress government had questioned the need for putting up signboards in Hindi and English on the trains, stations and other areas.

The spark from Siddaramaiah against the Centre including devolution of taxes and languages in 2017 had created a unity of sorts among the five southern states. The sentiment was such that factions that had been warring over Cauvery water in both Tamil Nadu and Karnataka came together on a single platform to take on the Centre’s imposition that was viral on social media with #StopHindiImposition.

Local groups in Karnataka, have even defaced billboards, stalled movie releases and opposed politicians and personalities who it considers anti-Kannada or anti-Karnataka in the past.

The state has witnessed several such bandhs and movements since the 1980’s Gokak movement, named after a committee headed by VK Gokak. The Gokak agitation, led by the late Dr Rajkumar, one of Kannada cinema’s biggest stars, was a language -rights agitation that took place in the 1980’s that fought for primacy to be given to Kannada in state schools over Sanskrit.

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