Bengaluru: Regional political parties and regional language promotion (and protection) bodies are to meet on 15 July in Bengaluru to strategize a united front against any potential imposition of Hindi by the Central government.

The meeting, hosted by the Karnataka Rakshana Vedike (KRV), a pro-Kannada organisation, will be attended by parties and outfits from Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Kerala.

The trigger for the meeting is the recent controversy over signboards in Bengaluru’s Namma Metro (in three languages, English, Hindi, and Kannada), and the replacement of English with Hindi on milestones and signboards on national highways in Tamil Nadu. There have also been several references recently, including by Union minister M. Venkaiah Naidu, on Hindi being the country’s national language.

Hindi is one of India’s two official languages (English is the other). The country does not have a national language.

“Hindi is being forced upon us by the Centre. We are trying to join hands with organizations across non-Hindi speaking states to fight any attempt to impose Hindi in the guise of it being the national language which is wrong," said B. Sanneerappa, spokesperson and state general secretary of the KRV (T.A. Narayana Gowda faction).

The proposed meeting’s agenda to thwart any imposition of Hindi—felt strongly by states from southern India—will bring together groups that, for decades, have fought each other on contentious issues such as sharing water from the Cauvery (Tamil Nadu and Karnataka) and borders (Maharashtra claims the Marathi-speaking Belgavi area of Karnataka).

Raj Thackeray, who heads the pro-Marathi Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) has deputed Sandip Deshpande to attend the conference. The Dravidian parties of Tamil Nadu are also expected to participate in the meeting. Historically, Tamil Nadu’s two main Dravidian parties are the only ones to have successfully parlayed anti-Hindi sentiment into political capital.

Chandan Gowda, a professor at the Azim Premji University in Bengaluru, says that the dominant perception today is that many Hindi speakers that have migrated to the city in the last 15 years make no effort to learn Kannada, but expect the locals to learn Hindi. But this is not a case of promoting only Kannada in Karnataka, he adds.

“If anyone starts a school in Marathi, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu, then they are entitled to state grants. So it is hardly a case of the state thrusting one language down everybody’s throats," Gowda adds.

Abhiram Ghadyalpatil from Mumbai contributed to this story