Pro-Kannada groups on Wednesday made their way into Bengaluru city from the Sadahalli toll plaza, organising a massive rally to advocate for the inclusion of sixty percent Kannada content on signboards and logos.
Footage from the scene depicted both men and women dismantling individual English letter signs from a well-known hotel chain McDonald’s at the Sadahalli toll plaza, all the while vociferously chanting slogans.
Several days following the issuance of notices by the city's civic body mandating prominent Kannada signage for commercial establishments, members of Karnataka Rakshana Vedika took action on Tuesday by removing certain English signboards in various areas of Bengaluru. According to news agency PTI, the pro-Kannada activists additionally cautioned shops to promptly display billboards in the local language.
What is '60% Kannada' rule?
In an effort to boost the prominence of the local language, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) issued a directive to businesses throughout Bengaluru, asking them to prominently display a minimum of 60% Kannada on their signboards. Failure to comply by February 28 may lead to the revocation of trade licenses and potential legal consequences for businesses that do not adhere to the directive. This development reignited the longstanding debate over language preferences in the Karnataka capital.
Tushar Giri Nath, the Chief Commissioner of BBMP, announced that the administration is poised to identify businesses that do not conform to the new language requirement. Speaking during a meeting with Karnataka Rakshana Vedike (KRV), an organization advocating for the use of Kannada, Nath conveyed, "There are 1400 km of arterial and sub-arterial roads in the city, and all the commercial shops on these roads will be surveyed zone-wise."
Bengaluru, as a central hub for IT-related employment attracting individuals from across the country, has grappled with the delicate matter of language preference for an extended period. The city's diverse linguistic landscape has occasionally led to tensions, with the utilization of Kannada being a central point of discussion.
In addition to individual shops, shopping complexes, and malls falling under BBMP's jurisdiction have been granted a grace period of 15-20 days to adhere to the new regulation. This extension aims to provide larger establishments with the necessary time to implement the required changes.
In October, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah underscored the importance of using Kannada, once again placing the language issue in the spotlight. He stated, "Everyone living in this state should learn to speak Kannada. We are all Kannadigas. People speaking different languages have settled in this Kannada land since the unification of Karnataka."
Why are pro-Kannada groups going on rampage?
Demonstrations advocating for the inclusion of 60 percent Kannada in all signboards across Bengaluru escalated into acts of vandalism in various areas of the city on Wednesday. Numerous boards were marred during a procession led by Karnataka Rakshna Vedike (KRV) from Sadahalli toll gate towards the city.
The march was organised following the pro-Kannada group's imposition of a deadline on December 27 for all establishments in Bengaluru to adhere to the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) directive, which requires 60 percent Kannada in signage throughout the city.
Karnataka Rakshna Vedike president T A Narayana Gowda, who's at the helm of these protests, warned of "unforeseen incidents in Bengaluru" if protesters were arrested or stopped from continuing the movement.
“I spoke to the chief minister and deputy chief minister yesterday night. They assured us that the protests would be allowed. If they arrest us or stop the movement, then the police will be responsible for any unforeseen incidents in Bengaluru,” he said.
The demonstrators damaged the signboard of the multi-city hotel chain Bloom, which lacked Kannada content. They were observed entering the hotel premises while chanting pro-Kannada slogans. Progressing towards Chikkajala, pro-Kannada activists defaced and took down numerous signboards. Videos circulated on social media depicted protesters spray-painting certain boards, and they were also witnessed tearing down large flexes installed along the airport road.