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Karnataka: Basavaraj Bommai joins stars’ language war

Kannada actor Kichcha Sudeep and Bollywood superstar Ajay Devgn had sparred on Twitter after Sudeep had said Hindi was no longer a national language
Basavaraj Bommai.
Basavaraj Bommai.
File photo

K.M. Rakesh   |   Bangalore   |   Published 29.04.22, 03:10 AM

Karnataka chief minister Basavaraj Bommai on Thursday asserted that regional languages were supreme in their respective states, wading into a controversy triggered by a public spat between two superstars but in the process putting himself in conflict with his BJP senior Amit Shah’s views.

On Wednesday, hugely popular Kannada actor Kichcha Sudeep and Bollywood superstar Ajay Devgn had sparred on Twitter after Sudeep had said Hindi was no longer a national language and Devgn had contested this by claiming that Hindi would always be “our mother tongue and national language”. Soon, a major controversy erupted with social media users getting divided into camps.


Bommai backed Sudeep, who had played the chief antagonist opposite Salman Khan in Dabangg 3, and urged everyone to respect all languages. Talking to reporters in Hubli, Bommai said: “What Sudeep said is correct. The regional languages are supreme in the states since our states were formed on linguistic basis. That’s what Sudeep said. Everyone should understand and respect this fact.”

While Bommai’s statement was on expected lines in the state where Kannada has always been an emotive subject, it was at odds with Union home minister Shah’s controversial thrust to make Hindi the sole link language in the country. Recently, Shah ran into steep opposition for claiming that schools in all eight northeastern states had agreed to make Hindi compulsory till Class X.

Shah’s call for Hindi as the sole link language has heightened the inherent fears of Hindi imposition that had in the past led to innumerable protests and vandalism in the state.

Activists from several Kannada organisations had in 2017 carried out a massive campaign against a Hindi signboard in Bangalore Metro trains. While the existing boards were blackened, subsequent signages had writings only in Kannada and English.

The row started after Sudeep declared at an event that “Hindi is not a national language anymore”, when asked about the massive countrywide reception to Kannada blockbuster K.G.F — Chapter 2. He took a dig at Bollywood and said Hindi films dubbed in southern languages did not receive the kind of response that films from the south got in north India. “We are today making films that are going everywhere,” Sudeep said.

Devgn, who has often backed the policies of the Narendra Modi government, took to social media to contest this view, tweeting in Hindi: “Kichcha Sudeep, my brother, if according to you Hindi is not our national language, then why do you dub in Hindi films made in your mother tongue and release them? Hindi was, is and will always be our mother tongue and national language.”

Sudeep replied: “…Sir @ajaydevgn, I did understand the txt you sent in hindi. Tats only coz we all have respected, loved and learnt hindi. No offence sir, but was wondering what’d the situation be if my response was typed in kannada.!! Don’t we too belong to India sir.”

The actor said he had no intention to “hurt, provoke or to start a debate”.

Devgn, who has a film releasing this Friday, responded: “Hi @KicchaSudeep, You are a friend. thanks for clearing up the misunderstanding. I’ve always thought of the film industry as one. We respect all languages and we expect everyone to respect our language as well. Perhaps, something was lost in translation.”

Sudeep got back: “Translation & interpretations are perspectives sir. Tats the reason not reacting without knowing the complete matter, matters. I don’t blame you @ajaydevgn sir. Perhaps it would have been a happy moment if i had received a tweet from u for a creative reason. Luv&Regards.”

Two former chief ministers of Karnataka also backed Sudeep and slammed Devgn and the Hindi lobby for purportedly disrespecting regional languages.

“Hindi was never & will never be our National Language. It is the duty of every Indian to respect linguistic diversity of our Country. Each language has its own rich history for its people to be proud of. I am proud to be a Kannadiga!!” Congress veteran P.C. Siddaramaiah tweeted, tagging Devgn.

H.D. Kumaraswamy of the Janata Dal Secular went to the extent of describing Devgn as a “BJP mouthpiece”.

“Ajaya Devgan’s blabbered as a mouthpiece of BJP’s Hindi Nationalism of one nation, one tax, one language & one government… Devgan must realise that Kannada cinema is outgrowing Hindi film industry. Because of encouragement by Kannadigas, Hindi cinema has grown. Devgan shouldn’t forget that his first movie ‘Phool aur Kaante’ ran for a year in Bengaluru,” tweeted Kumaraswamy, who runs a successful film production and distribution company.

He warned about the dangers of alleged linguistic chauvinism. “An addiction for primacy is dividing the country. A seed sown by the BJP has become contagious dividing the nation. This is a threat to India’s unity.”

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