KARWAR: Just days after a controversy over use of Devanagari script in signboards in Karwar, another language row has erupted in Uttara Kannada district, this time in Bhatkal town. After a Urdu signboard appeared on the Town Municipal Corrporation (TMC) office of Bhatkal, Kannada and Hindu activists have locked horns with members of the Muslim community demanding that it be removed, while the latter want the board to remain.
Recently, signboards in Devanagari had angered Kannada activists in Karwar, forcing the municipality to erase them. The Bhatkal TMC building was renovated and painted recently, and the board was put up in Kannada and Urdu which irked the activists. On Tuesday evening, they staged a protest demanding that the authorities erase the Urdu lettering on the board.
The matter came to a head when the authorities buckled under pressure and decided to erase it. But members of the Muslim community gathered in large numbers and staged a counter protest. Arguments broke out between the two groups with both making allegations and counter-allegations.
Srikanth Naik, a local activist, said, “This cannot be tolerated. There is no provision to display an Urdu board. The boards in the state can be in Kannada, English and Hindi, not Urdu. If we start giving importance to locally spoken languages then the authorities will have to display boards in Konkani, Marathi, Urdu and even Navayath. Kannada -- the prominent language in the state -- will lose its importance.”
Countering this, Mista-ul- Haq, member of Jhali TMC, said, “In Karnataka, Kannada should be given first priority. We have done so. Then we have the Urdu board. It is also an Indian language. It has been in use for centuries. Why should it be given step motherly treatment? Moreover, Bhatkal TMC has a history and a special space since colonial times. Urdu has been in use since then. This board in Urdu will remain here.”
As the arguments between the two groups continued to rage on, the police intervened before the situation got out of control. Assistant Commissioner Bhatkal Mamatha ordered that status quo be maintained, stating that the matter will be resolved by the Uttara Kannada Deputy Commissioner. When contacted, Mullai Muhilan, Deputy Commissioner, Uttara Kannada, said, “I am going to Bhatkal. I will conduct a meeting tomorrow and resolve the matter.”