Yediyurappa wades into Hindi row, says he will promote Kannada

BS Yeddyurappa, CM, Karnataka, Congress-JD(S), BJP, RSS, rebel MLAs, Supreme Court, Governor, Vajubhai Vala, Assembly polls, majority, HD Kumaraswamy, The Federal, English news website

Two days after Union home minister Amit Shah’s tweet on the occasion of Hindi Diwas, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and Karnataka chief minister BS Yediyurappa said on Monday that all official languages in India are equal.

The Karnataka chief minister said in a tweet, “As far as Karnataka was concerned, Kannada was the principal language. We will never compromise its importance and are committed to promoting Kannada and our state’s culture.”

On Saturday, Shah said India should have a common language to mark its identity globally.

Also read: Amit Shah’s Hindi push sparks outrage among state leaders

Yediyurappa’s tweet came after opposition leaders kept up their attacks on the BJP-led national coalition over Amit Shah’s description of Hindi as a language that holds the potential to unify the country. Leaders from some non-Hindi speaking states had interpreted Amit Shah’s statement to be a precursor to the Centre imposing Hindi on them.

Yediyurappa is the latest leader from South India to join the chorus against a Hindi pitch by the Union Home minister. On Sunday, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan derided the move, calling it “a new battlefield in the name of language.”

“Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s Hindi agenda push despite nationwide protest needs to be seen as Sangh Parivar’s signs to launch a new battlefield in the name of language. The perception that only Hindi can unite the country is completely wrong. People in the south and the north-east don’t speak Hindi,” Vijayan wrote in a Facebook post.

On Saturday (September 14), Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) president MK Stalin criticised Shah’s remarks. “Home Minister Amit Shah should withdraw his comment declaring one language (Hindi) marking identity globally. This is India, not ‘Hindia’ and the DMK will not hesitate to face the democratic battlefield, uniting other states which will lose their rights due to Hindi dominance,” Stalin said.

Also read: No Shah, Sultan or Samrat must renege on unity in diversity promise: Kamal

Former Union minister and lawmaker from Thiruvananthapuram, Shashi Tharoor refused to accept Shah’s views and said that Hindi is a compulsory second language for all studying in South India whereas no one in North learns southern regional languages. “Most of us in the South learn Hindi as a second language but nobody in the North is learning Malayalam or Tamil,” Tharoor told ANI.

Meanwhile, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee opposed the move and tweeted, “My best wishes to all on #HindiDiwas. We should respect all languages and cultures equally. We may learn many languages but we should never forget our mother-language.”

Former Karnataka CM and JD(S) chief HD Kumaraswamy also joined the attack against Shah over ‘imposition of Hindi’. “Across the country, Hindi Diwas is being celebrated. When will PM Modi celebrate Kannada Diwas, which is also an official language according to the Constitution?” asked Kumaraswamy.

Data reveals a different story

Earlier, the report on the Draft National Education Policy 2019, prepared by an expert panel led by Krishnaswamy Kasturirangan, former chief of the Indian Space Research Organisation, too saw hesitation from non-Hindi speaking states thinking of it as an attempt to force them to learn Hindi, under the recommended “three-language rule” till Class 8.

However, after opposition the government decided to drop this part from the draft. According to 2001 Census figures, just 45 per cent Indians speak or know Hindi and just 25 per cent people have declared Hindi as their mother tongue.

Also read: Amit Shah pitches for Hindi as language to unite country

A little over 25 crore actually speak Hindi, the Census report. The remaining people speak variants of Hindi like Bhojpuri, Magadhi, Maithili, Garhwali, Dogri, Rajasthani, Marwari and Haryanvi. All put together, the speakers of Hindi and its dialects are about 45 per cent.

The remaining 55 per cent speak non-Hindi languages and the majority people in India don’t even know Hindi. According to the 2001 Census, 42 crore people speak or understand Hindi all over India. But, only 25 crore declared Hindi as their mother tongue. Almost 8.5 crore people speak Bengali, 7.5 crore people speak Telugu, 7 crore speak Marathi and 6 crore speak Tamil. People in the north eastern states speak more than 50 different dialects.

Tribals in non-Hindi speaking and non-north eastern states also speak different dialects. These dialects have nothing to do with Hindi or its variants. The languages like Konkani, Tulu, Kodava and Beary, which are spoken in Karnataka also have nothing to do with Hindi.