BENGALURU: Amid protests and anger in some quarters against observing 'Hindi Diwas', Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai said on Wednesday his government is bringing in a legislation to make Kannada "mandatory" in the State.
Kannada activists have been demanding for many years now for full implementation of Kannada as the administrative language.
Though Chief Minister, did not specify if it's in the context of administrative language or its scope is beyond it, according to sources, he seemed to be referring to the proposed 'Kannada Language Comprehensive Development Bill', aimed at further strengthening the efforts to give primacy to Kannada.
Bommai told the Legislative Assembly that the legislation would be tabled during the ongoing session to make Kannada mandatory and asserted that Kannada is supreme in the State.
He said that for the first time a legal statute is being given in the state, making Kannada mandatory, aimed at protecting the language and its users, and also to grow it further.
The CM was responding to the issue raised by JD(S) legislators and its leader H D Kumaraswamy in the Assembly, opposing celebration of 'Hindi Diwas,' calling it forceful imposition of Hindi on Kannadigas.
"India is a union of states with different languages, cultures. There is no scope here to impose any specific language. Our Prime Minister has said very clearly that all mother tongues and regional languages are national languages," Bommai noted.
The government, the state and its people are committed to protect and grow Kannada, there is no compromise on this, and there is no need to worry, he said, adding that "On the issue of the state's land, waters, people and language, we have always taken decisions beyond politics."
Highlighting that Kannada is supreme in the state, Bommai said this is for the first time a legislation is being made to make Kannada compulsory in the state, with a legal backing.
"Till now there had been only slogans- Kannada is compulsory. There were several committees and authorities for it, but there was no legal framework. For the first time, we are bringing in a law which will protect Kannada language, Kannada people," he said, adding that to increase the usage of Kannada, it will be emphasised that people of other languages living in the state, learn Kannada.
Noting that for the first time under the new education policy, a professional course like Engineering had an option with Kannada as the language of instruction and to write the exam, Bommai said one semester under this has been completed.
"We are committed to protecting and growing Kannada, and if there is anything against the language we will react to it swiftly and everything will be done to safeguard the language and its respect," he added.
Like last year, there has been social media outrage, also protests by pro-Kannada organisations against Hindi Diwas today, calling it "imposition of Hindi".
Soon after the question hour, JD(S) legislators wearing a shawl with hues of red and yellow, symbolising the unofficial Kannada flag, led by K Annadani, raised the issue of Hindi Diwas celebration, and alleged that the central government was trying to impose Hindi on the state forcefully.
"We oppose it. We oppose the imposition of Hindi on Kannadigas, injustice is being done to Kannadigas," Annadani and others shouted.
Speaker Vishweshwar Hegde Kageri said he has not received any notice on the issue being raised and "no one knows as to what was the issue" and asked JD(S) legislature party leader Kumaraswamy to assist him and calm down his party MLAs, and inform the House as to what was the matter.
Intervening, Kumaraswamy said his party legislators had staged a protest outside House against the Centre celebrating Hindi Diwas and want to raise the issue within the House too, with an intention that such celebration or extolling of one language in a multilingual country like India, should in no way affect Kannada.
Observing that India is a country with numerous languages and each state has several languages within, he said, in the recent days an atmosphere is being created to have "one nation-one language with Hindi."
He further stated that regional languages have emotional and historical connect with the people of the region.
"No attempt should be made to scuttle these languages. This is the appeal of our legislators in this House through the chair."
Kumaraswamy on Monday wrote to Bommai urging his government not to celebrate 'Hindi Diwas' by utilising the taxpayers' money, and said that forcefully celebrating it, would amount to "injustice" to the people of Karnataka.