Unification and its inclusive narrative

Formation of K'taka was unlike the making of united AP carved on the basis of one language formula.

On the eve of Karnataka Rajyothsava day, three crucial aspects need revisiting. They are – the unique nature of the making of Mysore state (which later became Karnataka), the multilingual nature of the people here and the contribution of Kannada writers in explaining this nature with the help of inclusive narrative.

The unification of Karnataka was not like the making of Andhra Pradesh or Tamil Nadu which was carved on the basis of one language formula. It was the coming together of multiple languages like Tulu, Konkani, Urdu, Kodava, Byari, Gowda, Kannada, Havyaka, Banjara etc under one umbrella called Kannada.

Karnataka needs a separate theoretical platform which can explain this unique phenomenon along with the nature of Kannada people who accommodated other language speaking people in the formation of new linguistic state. In doing so, this nature of linguistic accommodation ought not to be compared with the monolingual fervour and parochialism practi-ced by our neighbouring states.

The writers of Kannada steered Kannada nadu towards inclusivity when people of the neighbouring states were drumming for monolingual identity. Writers like Alooru Venkata Rao, B M Shri, Kuvempu et al understood and accepted mod-ernity in the formation of the new nation. They also knew that multiple languages had shaped the cultural lives of the people of this multilingual region.

The Kannada writers saved this region from a monolingual madness that had gripped our neighbouring states. They did not let the ‘one language one state’ narrative to alter the socio cultural ethos of Kannada speaking people and their multilingual mindset.

The writers were making an effort to retain this multilingual nature of the people during unification. Multilingualism to them was a metaphor for diversity. There is no other state in south India where multiple languages willingly formed a state.

Beginning with Adikavi Pampa (940 AD) to Kuvempu who wrote the formula for global/ universal citizenship through his ‘be Kannada’, multiple writers professed coexistence of multiple languages, religions and races. This functional appr-oach to language was practiced by the Maharajas and his people of the erstwhile Mysore state.

Unification has to be seen against the backdrop of such practice of multilingualism which is a formula to embrace diversity. In the aftermath of the split of AP, credit for holding Karnataka together must go to the people for their multilingual mindset and the Kannada writers who recognised this and explained it in the form of an inclusive narrative. Kannada, to them, became a mindset to handle diversity.

Alooru Venkata Rao summed up his idea of unification: “In short, we should not forget that Karnataka is much broader entity than Kannada. Not only the speakers of dialects, we should also not forget the minorities who speak other (neighbouring) languages in the construction of a united Karnataka. This is a principle to be kept in mind”.

Vehemence and violence
Karnataka did not display the vehemence and violence that AP showed in demanding a linguistic state. This prompted Rao to say – “Karnataka has been created through non-violence.” The shockwaves that the killing of Kalburgi sent through Karnataka has to be seen against this statement.

B M Shri called the nature of Kannada people – ‘Kannadatana’. Dr Ramprasad summmed up kannadatana thus - “It must be Kannadatana which holds us back from flaunting ourselves and tolerating others”. The multilingual Kannada people must be the only people today who exhibit an innate multilingual mindset. Kuvempu gave a broader space to Kannada. ‘Be Kannada’ was taking language to the level of an inclusive mindset. The ideal ‘vishwamanava’ or the global citizen had to ‘be kannada’ first.

Compared to the ‘one langu-age only’ narrative practiced by AP and TN, the spatiality Kannada occupies is enormous. It is this aspect of Kannada that has to be strengthened today. As Kannadigas we need to understand that to ‘be Kannada’ is to be different from being a Telugu or Tamil speaking person.

An average Kannada child is able to understand at least three to four languages before s/he enters school. Their multilingual capacity needs a different approach to the role of language in life.

In recent times, the idea of kannadatana/kanndatwa/be Kannada has been translated into English as – ‘Kannada consciousness’ by Midatala Rani (2007). Pampa saw it in the 10th Century. This nature of Kannada people needs recognition.

An awareness of what it is to ‘be Kannada’ is the need of the hour. Celebration of ‘being Kannada’ is a necessity of a modern state. The commercial aspects of language use are not to be confused with Kannada mindset/Kannada consciousness.

What needs focus today is the reality of multiple languages that bind the Kannada people together. The Kannada identity has to be recognised around this existing/practicing model of multilingualism. The model has the potential to be developed as a module to be followed by other states. It also has the potential to be developed as a theoretical premise to study diversity.

(The writer is pursuing study on ‘Language Policy’ in the Department of Political Science, Kuvempu University, Shivamogga)

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