BENGALURU: Hindi words on signboards of the Bengaluru Metro were masked by tape today at two major stations, in the middle of an intense social media-fueled row over the use of the language in non-Hindi speaking states like Karnataka.
The Hindi bits on signs at the Chickpete and Majestic metro stations were mysteriously covered up this morning, but it is not clear by whom.
It is not known so far if the signs were defaced by pro-Kannada groups or by metro authorities in anticipation of trouble. There have been reports that protesters intend to blacken the signboards, but the police denied instructing the Bengaluru metro corporation to cover up signboards. “Based on our assessment we have provided extra security to a few stations, we haven’t asked the metro corporation to cover any signboard,” said police officer Anucheth.
Protests against the three-language formula and the use of Hindi by the Bengaluru Metro gained traction on social media with a popular Twitter campaign, #NammaMetroHindiBeda – “Our Metro, We don’t want Hindi”.
Many on social media objected to what they called the imposition of Hindi in Karnataka, not just in the metro but in other government departments too. The campaigners called for Hindi words to be taken off metro signs and for Hindi announcements to be stopped.
The Bengaluru Metro, which is jointly funded by the state and the centre, was obliged to follow a central government order to enforce the three-language rule. Those who opposed the move, said it was an imposition and an attempt to promote Hindi at the cost of the regional languages.
The debate took a political turn with some leaders of the state’s ruling Congress supporting the popular campaign against the use of Hindi.
As the subject was widely debated, Union minister Ananth Kumar said last week that priority should be given to Kannada, followed by Hindi and English for those who do not speak the language. However, groups like the Karnataka Rakshana Vedike argue that Hindi isn’t used so much in neighbouring Kerala and Maharashtra.