Hindi Imposition (Hindi Use) at Joint State-Central Government Projects in India

(Metros in Kolkata, Kochi, Bengaluru, Chennai,...)

Thanjai Nalankilli

TAMIL TRIBUNE, August 2017 (ID. 2017-08-01)
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1. Background

2. Whose Money is Funding Metros and Other Joint State-Centre Projects?

3. Is Hindi Use a Form of Hindi Imposition or Hindi Imperialism?

4. Who Benefits from Hindi Signs in Metros?

5. What We Want is Language Equality

6. Why Should Hindis Receive Special Treatment Over and Above Telugus in Bengaluru?

7. Victory at Bengaluru Metro (Namma Metro)

8. Keep Hindi out of Metros in all non-Hindi States Permanently

9. Can Hindi Imposition-Imperialism be Stopped in India? A Test


AIADMK - All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam

BJP - Bharatiya Janata Party

BMRCL - Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited

CLEAR - Campaign for Language Equality And Rights

DMK - Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam

KRV - Karnataka Rakshana Vedike

1. Background

There are three types of government projects in India:

(1) Indian Central Government Projects,

(2) Joint Central-State Government Projects, and

(3) State Government Projects.

Indian Central government projects are funded and managed by the central government, although state governments do contribute some funds to some of these projects. These projects are in matters that come under the "central list (union list)" in the Indian constitution. Joint Central-State government projects are usually in matters that come under the "state list" or "concurrent list". Joint Central-State government projects are funded by both. State government projects are in matters that come under the "state list". They are wholly funded by state governments occasionally with some central government grant.

Hindi imposition at Indian Central Government Projects, like Indian Railways, is well known. Not only Hindi is in all sign boards and communications but employees are forced to pass tests in Hindi and prodded to do more and more work in Hindi. This article is about Hindi imposition or Hindi use in Joint Central-State Government Projects.

2. Whose Money is Funding Metros and Other Joint State-Centre Projects?

One reason given for putting Hindi signboards on metros and other joint state-center projects is that part of the money for these projects come from Indian government (central government). Does Indian government money mean "Hindi people's money" and thus Hindi people have the right to have their language on metros? Indian government gets the money from taxes paid by all the people of India (Hindi and non-Hindi peoples). In fact most non-Hindi states pay more in taxes and get back less in benefits from the Indian government.

Here is some hard data from year 2016 [Reference 1]. Let us compare the 3 Hindi-belt states that give less and get more from Indian government with 3 Southern states that give more and get less. For every Rs. 100 that Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Madya Pradesh pays in taxes to India, they get back from India (in the form of central projects, joint state-centre projects, grants, etc.) Rs. 179, Rs. 96 and Rs. 75. In contrast, for every Rs. 100 that Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka pays in taxes to India, they get back from India Rs. 25, Rs. 40 and Rs. 47, respectively. It is clear from the data that these non-Hindi states are not getting any money from Hindi-belt states but are giving money to them. So if money is the criteria Hindi-belt Uttar Pradesh should have Malayalam (Kerala), Tamil (Tamil Nadu), Kannada (Karnataka) signs and not the other way.

So the argument that any project in non-Hindi states receiving funds from Indian government should have Hindi signboards has no merit.

3. Is Hindi Use a Form of Hindi Imposition or Hindi Imperialism?

The most visible central-state projects are the rapid transit systems (metros) in major cities (for example, Kolkata (Calcutta), Kochi (Cochin), Bengaluru (Bangalore), Chennai (Madras),...). Hindi has been used in name boards (along with English and state language) in most Joint Central-State government projects in the past few years. India's Union Ministry of Urban Development issued an order in December 2016 that all metros in non-Hindi states should have signs in Hindi (NDTV Website; June 24, 2017). This made Hindi signs in Joint Central-State government projects mandatory. In the opinion of this writer, when non-Hindi states are forced to use Hindi in their cities, that is Hindi imposition; if not Hindi imposition then definitely Hindi Imperialism.

4. Who Benefits from Hindi Signs in Metros?

The only people who benefit from Hindi signs in metros, be it Bengaluru (Bangalore), Chennai (Madras), Kochi (Cochin) or Kolkata (Calcutta), are the Hindi people who visit these cities or Hindi migrants who come to these cities to make a living. By forcing non-Hindi area metros to use Hindi name boards, Indian government makes it easy for Hindi migrants to live, work and make a living in non-Hindi cities without learning the local language. Only Hindi people are given this privilege to go anywhere in India and get along with only their mother tongue. No other people in India, be it Telugus, Kannadigas, Bengalis, Marathis, Gujaratis, Tamils, Malayalis, ... can do that.

This makes Hindi people superior over and above all others. This makes non-Hindi peoples second class citizens in their own home-states. We oppose that. We say, "If you come to our state to make a living, you should learn our language".

There is no need for Hindi in metros in non-Hindi states. There is no need to pamper Hindi people all over India. There is no need to give them an elevated position, elevated status in India. They are equal to us. Let them learn our languages when they come to work in our states, in the same way we learn Hindi when we go looking for jobs in their states.

5. What We Want is Language Equality

There are those who say that there is nothing wrong in putting Hindi on Metro signboards as long as Kannada is also there. I say to them, "I will put Hindi on Bengaluru Metro when they put Kannada in Delhi Metro". Reciprocity. You use our language in your Hindi lands, we will use your language in our lands. Reciprocity. Equality. If my people have to learn English or your language to come to your land, then you should also learn English or my language to visit my land. That is equality. Are we not all citizens of India? Are we not all equal? Or, do you think Hindi people have some superior status over all others?

They may say, "If we include Kannada in Delhi Metro, then we will have to include Bengali, Tamil, Malayalam,... It is not practical to do so." Agreed. That applies to Bengaluru Metro too. If we put Hindi in Bengaluru Metro, should we not put Bengali, Tamil, Telugu also? Why a special privilege to Hindi? State language and English is enough.

6. Why Should Hindis Receive Special Treatment Over and Above Telugus in Bengaluru?

There are more Telugus in Bengaluru than Hindis. There are more Tamils in Bengaluru than Hindis. If a third language is to be included in Bengaluru Metro, it should be Telugu, not Hindi.

Why a special privilege for Hindi? Is Hindi superior to all other Indian languages? Hindi politicians who control the Indian government because of their large numbers in parliament say that everyone should learn Hindi and Hindi should be everywhere. Are we in agreement that Hindi is superior to Telugu and bow to Hindi? I am not ready to do so.

7. Victory at Bengaluru Metro (Namma Metro)

Namma Metro (Our Metreo) is the local commuter system in Kannada speaking Karnataka's largest city Bengaluru. It is a Joint State-Centre Project receiving funds from both governments. It is operated by Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited (BMRCL). It adopted a three-language formula-Kannada, English and Hindi in signboards and announcements.

A pro-Kannada organization, Banavasi Balaga Prakashana, started an Internet campaign (twitter campaign) with the hashtag #NammaMetroHindiBeda (loosely translated "Our Metro, We don't want Hindi") in June 2017. Their twitter message got support from large numbers of people from Karnataka and other non-Hindi states.

Protests moved from the Internet to the "real world", with demonstrations organized by pro-Kannada organizations such as Karnataka Rakshana Vedike (KRV). Maharashtra Navanirman Sena, Kerala Sangam, Bengaluru Tamil Sangha, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam's (DMK) Karnataka unit, language equality group "Campaign for Language Equality And Rights" (CLEAR), and a few Kannada writers and politicians declared support for the protests.

Initially BMRCL said that including Hindi was its decision. Then, as protests intensified, BMRCL Managing Director Pradeep Singh Kharola said that he was following orders from the Indian Government.

As protests continued with no immediate end in site, BMRCL Managing Director told Kannada Development Authority (KDA) Chairman in late July 2017 that Hindi would be dropped from Bengaluru Namma Metro (Deccan Herald; July 26, 2017); all Hindi signs would removed and no more Hindi announcements. [Kannada Development Authority (KDA) is an autonomous body set up by Karnataka state government to protect the interest of Kannada language.]

Karnataka Chief Minister wrote to India's Urban Development Minister that using the three-language formula (Kannada, English and Hindi) in Bengaluru Metro is not reasonable.

We want to point out that state government acted only after protests mounted on the Internet and in the real world. Lesson is that it is up to the general population to take the initiative on protecting language and cultural rights; do not expect the state government to act without public protests and pressure, especially if the ruling party is one of the All-India Parties (Congress Party, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)).

We congratulate the people of Karnataka, in general, and all the organizations and individuals who participated in the protests in particular for their hard earned victory.

9. Keep Hindi out of Metros in all non-Hindi States Permanently

While we celebrate our victory, rightly so, we shall not forget that what one Metro Managing Director gives another Metro Managing Director can take away. That is, a year from now or five years from now, another Metro Director can order that Hindi be put back in metro signs and announcements.

Indian government's devious act of stepping back when protests against Hindi imposition intensifies, and reverting back to Hindi imposition after a few years is not new. Around 2004, National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) started writing Hindi on national highways kilometre stones in Tamil Nadu. Public protests started. Chief Minister Jayalalithaa of All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) wrote to the prime minister and also issued some caustic statements. Under mounting criticism in Tamil Nadu, India's Minister for Shipping and Surface Transport T.R.Baalu issued a statement. Here is an excerpt from The Hindu newspaper, "Mr. Baalu, denying the Chief Minister's charge that Hindi words are being inscribed on milestones on national highways in Tamil Nadu, said that in November he had instructed the National Highways officials to write the names of towns and distance in kilometres in Tamil and English." (Hindu; December 22, 2004).

In spite of the Indian government minister Baalu's clear statement that names of towns on highway stones would be in Tamil and English, twelve years later in early 2017, English was removed and town names were written in Tamil and Hindi only (Hindustan Times; March 31, 2017). Protests arose in Tamil Nadu and some protesters painted black over Hindi names. "Sensing the simmering tension over the issue, National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) authorities issued instructions to erase the newly-included Hindi scripts. It was evident in Vellore city. The new Hindi markings on several milestones along the 533 km stretch, NH 75, between Bantval in Karnataka and Vellore in Tamil Nadu, have been erased and replaced with names of places in English" (Times of India; April 10, 2017).

As sure as sun will rise again tomorrow morning, Hindi signs will come again on national highways in a few years. The same is true with Hindi signs in Bengaluru Namma Metro also.

Only way to stop is for a law passed in parliament that language policy in joint state-centre projects would be made solely by the state government irrespective of how much central government fund was received. Is it possible to get such a law passed in the Indian parliament? I do not think so. So any minister or official can put back Hindi in metros and other joint state-centre projects.

We shall not stop the pressure on politicians until a suitable law is enacted in parliament.

8. Can Hindi Imposition-Imperialism be Stopped in India? A Test

I am of the opinion that Indian Constitution cannot be amended to give all languages equal status because it is numerically impossible to get the necessary two-thirds votes in parliament. There are enough Hindi members of parliament to block any amendment.

Yet some of my well meaning friends say that we can amend the Indian constitution and end Hindi imposition. Let us make passing a law on state-centre projects our litmus test. Let us mobilize all our efforts to get such a law passed within three years. If we cannot pass such a language-equality law that requires only 50% votes in parliament, how can we expect to amend the constitution that requires two-thirds majority in parliament?

If a relatively simple law giving states the power to make decisions on language use in joint state-central government projects cannot be passed with 50% majority in parliament in 3 years, it is time for non-Hindi states that are opposed to Hindi imposition to seriously consider leaving the Indian Union and form their own union or federation and independent country. It is not an easy task but it has to be done.

Summary: Opposition to Hindi use metros in non-Hindi states in Bengaluru, Chennai, Kochi,  Kolkata. Why?

Thanjai Nalangkilli


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