Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa went into damage control mode by reiterating his government’s commitment to Kannada on Monday. This comes two days after Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s statement on Hindi being the only language that can unify the country sparking opposition.
“All official languages in our country are equal. However, as far as Karnataka is concerned, Kannada is the principal language. We will never compromise its importance and are committed to promote Kannada and our State’s culture,” the Chief Minister tweeted.
Kannada activists, however, continued to criticise the Chief Minister’s statement as amounting to too little and too late. “The Chief Minister has reiterated the State government’s commitment to Kannada, a stand historically consistent with all governments in the State irrespective of party. But he and his Cabinet colleagues have remained silent on the role of Hindi in the State,” said Arun Javagal, a Kannada activist with Banavasi Balaga.
This is not the first time the BJP has run into troubled waters over the role of Hindi in the State. Union Minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda had defended Hindi signboards in Namma Metro stations in the city in 2017.
Even as the Chief Minister went on a damage control mode, Minister for Kannada and Culture C.T. Ravi went on an offensive against Congress leader Siddaramaiah who led the attack on the BJP over the language issue.
Tweeting a 2010 speech where P. Chidambaram, the then Union Home Minister, is heard appealing for promotion of Hindi across the country, Mr. Ravi tried to put Mr. Siddaramaiah on the mat.
“Your party’s senior leader Chidambaram demanded Hindi to be used as national language in 2010,” he said, questioning Mr. Siddaramaiah’s “fake love for Kannada.”
Kannada activist and consumer rights activist Anand Guru said the issue of Hindi was a larger Constitutional one and not partisan. “Politicians seem to think that all languages are on an equal footing in our Constitution. Though they are, in the schedule of languages, other articles give special status to Hindi, which needs to be amended to make the Constitution really egalitarian with respect to languages of the country,” he said.