The new and catchy “Start Up India, Stand Up India” campaign that Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced in his Independence Day speech procured international headlines. But in South India, objections were flagged quickly, with the hashtag #stophindiimposition trending as the PM delivered his address from the stunning Red Fort.
A group of people comprising bloggers and techies and other professionals called PLE (Promote Linguistic Equality) Bengaluru claim responsibility for the hashtag and say they are against “the imposition of Hindi” on the country by the union government.
“Only 25 per cent of the country speaks in Hindi. Then why is it that the Prime Minister is speaking only for them?” said Vallish Kumar, a PLE member.
PLE’s note of dissent seemed to resonate quickly with tweets from states like Odisha and Maharashtra complaining that too often, crucial signage is posted in English or Hindi, but not the regional language.
Arun Javgal from Karnataka tweeted a picture of a ticket from Bangalore to Mysore that had information in English and Hindi, but not Kannada.
Eminent educationist Vibha Parthasarathy said opposing Hindi has to be measured – if the alternative is English, then even fewer people understand it, she said . “Don’t more people understand Bollywood films?” she said to NDTV, “So why did they only protest against the government’s language usage? There has to be an Indian language linking all, and the number of those understanding Hindi is now far greater (than in earlier times).”
But Apurvanand, a professor of Hindi at Delhi University, disagreed. “Even if a small number of people are opposing Hindi, it should be noted by authorities. Why shouldn’t the Prime Minister’s speech be translated into all languages simultaneously?”
However, standup comic from Bangalore Praveen Kumar says the whole issue is missing perspective. “Don’t we gain from learning a language? I just know that if I go to North India and crack a joke in Hindi, I’ll get more laughs,” he said.