Bengaluru, a city renowned for its cosmopolitan culture, found itself embroiled in a heated debate over linguistic prominence as protests by the Kannada Rakshana Vedike (KRV) erupted, demanding the elevation of Kannada on signboards. However, what started as a call for linguistic representation swiftly transformed into chaos, resulting in the abrupt closure of several prominent malls, including the newly-opened Phoenix Mall of Asia.
The scenes on Wednesday painted a picture of unrest and tension as the KRV activists took to the streets, purportedly resorting to vandalism by smashing English signboards and causing damage to properties, advertisement boards, and hoardings during their ‘Maha Abhiyan’ campaign.
With heavy police presence barricading the entrances of malls, Bengaluru residents were left bewildered as authorities announced the sudden closure, declaring these commercial hubs off-limits for the day. The repercussions were felt by popular establishments such as Starbucks, Third Wave, Toyota, House of Masaba, Forest Essentials, Theobroma, and more, all bearing the brunt of the protest fervor demanding Kannada language eminence.
TA Narayana Gowda, President of the KRV, expressed regret for the inconvenience caused to the people of Bengaluru, attributing the protests as a means to amplify the use of the Kannada language on signboards. “We apologize for the inconvenience faced by the people of Bengaluru. I assume that they will understand the organization of large-scale protests to ensure the usage of Kannada language on signboards,” Gowda conveyed to news agency IANS.
However, this expression of regret was coupled with a stern warning from Gowda, stating an intent to escalate the protests if signboards giving precedence to Kannada language were not installed by February 28. In tandem with this, Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) Commissioner Tushar Girinath issued a directive mandating all signboards to be in Kannada by the end of February in Bengaluru.
As the city grapples with the aftermath of these fervent protests and the subsequent directives, the debate over linguistic representation on public platforms has intensified, posing a challenge to strike a balance between cultural identity and inclusivity within Bengaluru’s diverse landscape.