Bengaluru: A group of pro-Kannada activists staged a massive rally on Wednesday, demanding that all signboards and logos in the city should have at least 60% of the text in Kannada. The rally started from Sadahalli toll plaza, where the protesters tore down the English letter signages of a popular chain of hotels. They also shouted slogans against the use of English and other languages in the public domain.
The police had deployed heavy security near the toll plaza and erected barricades to prevent the rally from entering the main city area. However, the protesters managed to break through the barricades and continued their march toward the city center.
Meanwhile, several traders’ associations in Chickpet, one of the oldest and busiest commercial areas in the city, have urged the owners of shops and business establishments to put up name boards with 60% of signage in Kannada before the deadline of February 28. The deadline was set by the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), the civic body of the city, which has the power to issue notices, and suspend or cancel the trade licenses of those who fail to comply with the rule.
The traders’ associations have also warned their members of possible disruption by pro-Kannada activists, who have been targeting shops and businesses that do not follow the language rule. The Chickpet sub-division police officials have also held a meeting with the traders in their jurisdiction to seek their cooperation and ensure law and order.
According to a report in Times of India, a trader who attended the meeting said that the officials from BBMP and the police department assured the stakeholders that nobody would disturb them till February 28. As a result, the traders’ community is spreading awareness among businessmen and requesting them to change the boards.
“We are spreading awareness by sending messages through WhatsApp and other social media. We are ready to abide by the directive,” the trader was quoted as saying.
However, not all traders are aware of the language rule or its implications. A report in the Deccan Herald stated that many traders are confused about the notification and its source. Some of them thought that the rule was being imposed by certain organisations and not by the BBMP.
“We got to know that there was such a rule only through the media reports in the last two days,” Kailash Balar, Secretary, of Karnataka Hosiery and Garment Association, was quoted as saying.
A senior police officer in charge of the Chickpet subdivision said that they noticed this confusion among the traders and decided to conduct an awareness meeting voluntarily. He said that the meeting was aimed at clarifying the doubts and educating the traders about the rule and its benefits.
The language rule was introduced by the BBMP in 2017, based on the Karnataka Shops and Commercial Establishments Act, 1961, which mandates the use of Kannada in all signboards and nameplates. The rule also applies to other languages recognized by the Constitution of India, such as Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu, etc.
The BBMP chief commissioner Tushar Giri Nath said that the rule was meant to promote the local language and culture and not to suppress any other language. He said that the BBMP will take strict action against those who do not follow the rule after the deadline. He also appealed to the pro-Kannada activists to refrain from violence and vandalism and respect the law.