Watch: Prakash Belawadi, Vikram Sampath Talk Language And Identity Politics In Bengaluru

  • Watch this interesting conversation between Prakash Belawadi and Vikram Sampath on language, culture, identity and all that which characterises the true-blue metropolitan city that is Bengaluru.

Bengaluru has been synonymous with the IT industry, but of late a growing movement for language identity has surfaced, manifesting in incidents that are antithetical to the city’s heterogeneous makeup. For instance, the Metro controversy, where there were orders to remove Hindi signage across Namma Metro stations, was one of the first troubling signs of language politics taking over.

What is driving language politics in Bengaluru?

An animated panel discussion at Swarajya Cityscapes 2017 held at the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore, on 7 October, throws light on where Bengaluru stands on this issue today, and how it will play out in the future.


Author, historian and commentator Vikram Sampath in conversation with actor, activist and a vocal media personality, Prakash Belawadi, brings to fore the complex fabric of Karnataka’s fragmented identities to zero in on a sensational issue that has gripped the state today.

Whose language is it, anyway, asks Sampath, referring to the various intra-Kannada identities that exist in the state by way of different ‘Kannadas’. Belawadi responds by reciting lines from various Kannada poets and relates anecdotes, saying, “everyone here is an outsider”, but there is a need to look forward to coalescence and coexistence.

Belawadi says the city has been home to people from different parts of the country, who have always called themselves “Kannadigas”. He elaborated on the Telugu community, to say: “Telugu people mixed too easily in this city; the Prabhus of Yelahanka , Kempe Gowda is from Kanchi. He was a Goundar from Kanchi and the right-hand man of Krishnadevaraya, who was allowed to build a mud fort. But when he came here he spoke in Telugu – since it was the dominant language of the Vijayanagara Empire. There was also Kannada, but he spoke in Telugu. A Goundar from Kanchi spoke in Telugu and wrote a Yakshagana called Radha Madhava Sallapam in Telugu. A Yakshagana, which we know is a coastal thing, he wrote it in Bangalore in Telugu. So we have coexisted like this for years.”


But what is sparking the agitation now?

“Karnataka has supplied so many Kannadigas to this city that it has become a very Kannada city. And these people are bewildered that there is no Kannada in this city. They are speaking a lot and that is why you hear this aggression. This will eventually translate to votes and so you will see a very peaceful transition in this city,” says Belawadi, adding, “It is up to us to moderate this aggression”.

The Metro agitation is not for the love of language, he says. “They are saying legally we are entitled to it.”


“So, is the city itself a part of the problem too?” asks Sampath.

Belawadi explains that unlike in the past, Bengaluru now is the cultural capital of the city “because cultural production is overwhelmingly from Bangalore. The number of new plays that are written, adapted and performed is overwhelming. Last year, 220 films were made in Bangalore. They were imagined, produced and financed by Bangalore. It is important actually that Bangalore sheds its self-consciousness about Kannada.”

Watch this interesting conversation that covers many more topics surrounding language, culture, identity and all that which characterises this true-blue metropolitan city in all its vibrancy.


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