Hindi and English in Karnataka

Robert J. Zydenbos zydenbos at giasbg01.vsnl.net.in
Fri Nov 29 21:00:15 UTC 1996

(In reply to S. Rao)

sr> Btw, who are these "language activists in the south"? The only
sr> opposition to Hindi in the South is in Tamil Nadu, and that too
sr> only from the DMK-type politicos who use that as a vote-generating
sr> issue. 

No. Among the better-known activists we have the ex-vice-chancellor of
Gulbarga University, H.M. Nayak, who is a highly popular newspaper
columnist; there is Patil Puttappa in northern Karnataka, of the Kannada
Watchdog Committee; Prof. M. Chidananda Murthy resigned from his
professor's post in Bangalore University to be a full-time activist for
the Kannada Sakti Kendra. A few years ago there was a public outcry when
the central government wanted to start model schools in each district of
Karnataka with Hindi as the medium of instruction (of course the plan
was dropped). Two years ago there were violent riots, mainly in
Bangalore, when Urdu t.v. news was broadcast from the Bangalore
Doordarshan centre (this is for those people on this list who speak
about Urdu as a "register" or "form" of Hindi). So there is language
activism also outside Tamilnadu, even if it is less violent and
spectacular. There is a good deal of opposition to the Rashtrabhasha
which is forced upon schools etc. (As I mentioned earlier, Deve Gowda is
learning Hindi now; and he has been ridiculed in newspaper editorials
for giving in to the north.)

sr> in fact Hindi/Urdu are better understood
sr> in other places in the South like Karnataka, than English.

How odd it is that I have not noticed this during the 13 years I have
been here and have been observing these things with a professional

This too has already been discussed: levels and criteria of linguistic
competence, registers of language, quality of communication etc. etc.,
even though it did not address my initial point.

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,...) 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.

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.

Robert Zydenbos

More information about the INDOLOGY mailing list