Hindi and English in Karnataka

Narayan S. Raja raja at galileo.IFA.Hawaii.Edu
Tue Dec 3 23:19:57 UTC 1996

On Fri, 29 Nov 1996, Robert J. Zydenbos wrote:

> was dropped). Two years ago there were violent riots, mainly in
> Bangalore, when Urdu t.v. news was broadcast from the Bangalore

Robert...  are you unaware that it wasn't 
an anti-Hindi riot -- it was, to a great 
extent, an anti-Muslim riot?  The areas 
most affected (e.g., Shivajinagar) have a 
lot of Muslims.  So it wasn't a "good"
(anti-Hindi) riot, it was a "bad" (anti-Muslim)
riot.  Pardon the sarcasm -- but you sound
quite smug about anti-Hindi riots.

The major source of LANGUAGE-related 
agitations in Bangalore, in the many years
I have known it, has been due to anti-TAMIL,
not anti-Hindi, feelings.  Nicht wahr?  Too
many Tamil movie theaters -- oppose statue of
Tiruvalluvar -- oppose Kaveri water to TN -- 
etc., etc., etc.

There have been violent anti-Tamil riots in 
Bangalore.  There have never been violent 
anti-Hindi riots.  What (if anything) does 
it mean, other than that people like us 
shouldn't provide intellectual camouflage 
for rioters?  It especially pisses me off
to see a foreigner taking part enthusiastically
in perpetuating our problems.  Yes, wasting
our time fighting and rioting is a problem.
Learning Hindi (or English) is not a problem.

> I invite those who come to the World Sanskrit Conference in Bangalore
> next January to look around in Bangalore city and keep count of shop
> signs in English and in Hindi. You will find that every street with
> shops has English signs; in the 17 years that I have been visiting the
> city, I have not seen a shop with a Hindi sign. Come, all of you, and
> have a look. Anyone can verify this. Hindi is found on a few central
> government buildings. (Maybe there will be some advertising in Hindi for
> north Indians during the conference, as there was near Shravanabelagola
> during the mahaamastakaabhi.seka; that I cannot predict.) (And if any
> witty person on this list objects that for some reason Bangalore is not
> representative: this experiment can be repeated in Mysore, Nanjangud,
> Mercara, Sakleshpur, Shimoga, Tirthahalli, Mangalore, Udupi,
> Dharwad,...)

Quite true... but if I went and spoke
in English to the proprietor of the
"Manjunatha bidi shop" or "Ambika Tea Stall"
(even in spite of the English shop signs), I 
would be perceived as a Westernized misfit 
(no problem if I spoke Hindi).  (Robert may not be
aware of any such distinction because he's
a foreigner anyway.  In fact, he would seem
more weird if he spoke an Indian language
than if he spoke English).

In general, my experience is that "less educated people" 
in Bangalore (small shopkeepers, autorickshaw 
drivers, vegetable sellers, police constables) 
are likely to know more broken Hindi than 
broken English (not that they know either of 
them well).  "More educated people" tend to know
fluent English and broken Hindi. 

> While you are doing this, please also see the demand for
> and supply of English books in bookshops and compare this with the
> demand for and supply of Hindi books.

While you're about it, also check the demand
for, and supply of, Kannada books.  Pitiful.
And this is the capital of Karnataka State.

Looks like English is more of a threat than 
Hindi, nicht wahr?  Then why are there no
anti-English riots?  Simple.  There is no
identifiable group of people associated 
with English.  You can easily find scapegoats
when you want to pick on other languages:
Tamil language == those arrogant, clannish Tamilians
                    taking so many jobs in Bangalore!
Hindi language == those arrogant Bhaiyyas forcing us
                    to watch Hindi movies (yeah, right).
Urdu language  == those fanatical Muslim invaders
                    who broke up our country!
But English == ???  No one to blame easily.

Besides, these agitators are not really pro-Kannada 
(rioters never are pro-anything, really).  They haven't
contributed anything to Kannada literature or language.
Life in India is difficult.  They just need something 
on which to take out their anger.  We can understand
and sympathize with them.  But not encourage them with 
mutterings about some Hindi imperialist conspiracy which
is threatening Kannada.  Hindi is not threatening Kannada.
ENGLISH is threatening Kannada.  It doesn't matter.
Get on with it.

> Now what does this mean? Why do all these shopkeepers communicate with
> non-Kannada people in English? Are the collected shopkeepers of
> Karnataka such complete idiots that they would use English if Hindi were
> more widely understood and more useful? The answer is so glaringly
> obvious that it is silly to discuss this matter any further. And I will
> not discuss it further. Those who wish to play the fool can do so: the
> choice is entirely theirs.

Descend from your lofty heights, bright Athena, 
and have patience with this "ullu" (owl).  Have
you noticed that in many places, there are almost
no KANNADA shop signs either?  Is it because the
local people don't know Kannada?  Or are the
English signs simply seen as "more classy" --
an important consideration for a shopkeeper?



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