Several Kannada organisations have planned Statewide protests, including picketing in front of all banks, to protest the imposition of Hindi on the occasion of Hindi Divas on Tuesday. While protests on Hindi Divas were organised earlier too, this may be the first time Statewide protests have been organised, which can be attributed to “a growing uneasiness over centralisation tendency by the incumbent regime”, said senior Kannada activist Arum Javagal.
Organisations have decided to observe it as a ‘Black Day’ and have organised protests in Belagavi and Bengaluru. The Karnataka Rakshana Vedike has decided to picket banks across the State and organise a protest on Twitter. “This year, we have selected to oppose Hindi imposition at banks, an issue we have been fighting against for many years now,” said T.A. Narayana Gowda, president, KRV.
Activists from the organisation plan to picket thousands of nationalised and rural banks all across the State and petition branch managers to provide services in Kannada.
They said they would also petition all MLAs and MPs demanding that they raise the issue in Assembly and Parliament.
The Union government had called off banking recruitment exams to nationalised banks after several language activists including Kannadigas opposed the fact that the exams were to be held only in Hindi and English. A committee formed to look into the issue is yet to submit a report. After the issue was raised in Parliament, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced in 2019 that rural bank recruitment exams can be written in all 22 languages including Kannada, and not just in Hindi and English. However, Kannada activists are not happy with this reform
“Rural banking recruitment was done at the State level in local languages earlier. The UPA government centralised recruitment in 2012, holding exams only in Hindi and English. After years of protests Ms. Sitharaman while continuing with centralised recruitment said exams can be written in any of the 22 languages. But prelims continue to be only in Hindi and English. The system still filters out people who are proficient only in their languages. Moreover, it doesn’t make sense for someone who has given his exam in Punjabi to be posted in a rural bank in Karnataka or vice-versa,” explained Arun Javagal, organising secretary, KRV.
This has had a big impact on banking services in the State. “Not a week goes by in Mandya without an incident of farmers and businessmen fighting with bank employees over the language issue. Many bank employees haven’t made an effort to learn Kannada and worse even insist that customers speak in Hindi or English,” alleged Rajendra Prasad, businessman and Kannada poet from Mandya.
The situation seems to have deteriorated after the recent merger of nationalised banks. “Unlike earlier, all printed materials in banks are now centralised and are in Hindi and English. As banks need to submit quarterly reports on Hindi implementation and top posts are occupied by Hindi speakers, services in Kannada has taken a hit,” said