Karnataka isn’t the only state demanding a larger slice of the official discourse for their local vernacular.
In addition to English and Hindi, railway tickets are going to be printed in Kannada. This move by officials from the South Western Railways will placate Kannada language activists, who have sought this move for quite some time.
It is important to note that this measure comes after the Indian Railways passenger amenities committee had passed a proposal to print tickets in the local language, besides English and Hindi from the start of this year.
Despite this development, the Times of India reported that tickets printed in Kannada will be up for sale only at station counters, while online provisions for the same are yet to be made. Meanwhile, unreserved tickets with information in Kannada will be available in computerized reservation counters in the city of Bengaluru, reported the publication.
Suffice it to say, Karnataka isn’t the only southern state demanding a larger slice of the official discourse for their local vernacular. Even the likes of Tamil Nadu are pushing for the availability of official forms in Tamil, and are gunning for a two-language policy that includes English and their local vernacular over Hindi.
The weight of history on this demand is very heavy. There is discontent in the South over the preference given to Hindi in official discourse over other local languages. In fact, a reading of the mass anti-Hindi agitations in Tamil Nadu is a good place to start.
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Last year, reactionary groups in Karnataka, like the Karnataka Rakshana Vedike, defaced Hindi slogans in metro stations across Bangalore. These Kannada activists, in fact, sought the removal of the three-language policy (English, Hindi and Kannada) and suggested that only two languages be retained (Hindi would be dropped, of course).
The Karnataka government paid attention to their demands, and Chief Minister Siddaramaiah shot off a letter to the Centre, demanding that it order the Bengaluru Metro Rail Corporation Limited to take down signboards with Hindi text. Despite their demands, the metro authority has refused to take down signboards in Hindi.
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The entire discourse on the primacy of Kannada over Hindi in Karnataka has embedded itself into the very fabric of local politics. In the last one year or so, the chief minister has given such importance to Kannada that it has turned into an issue of Kannada pride or ‘asmita.’