Language, the binding factor

Language, the binding factor
Kannada Rajyotsava is celebrated with pride on November 1 every year. It marks the formation of Karnataka State. In 1956, the Kannada-speaking regions were merged to form the state of Mysore. In 1973, the State was renamed Karnataka. With the integration, “Udayavagali Namma Cheluva Kannada Nadu” (Let our charming Kannada Nadu arise), the song composed by Huilgol Narayan Rao, came to be realised. In other words, the unification realised the historical, political, emotional and cultural aspirations of Kannada-speaking people, living in different regions. 

Unification movement

The genesis of the movement can be traced through the historical developments during the second half of the 19th century. The Kannada-speaking regions had been under the political control of different rulers. To unify them into one dominion was the goal of many individuals and associations. Karnataka Vidyavardhaka Sangha, formed in 1890 in Dharwad, played a key role in motivating people through various activities. 

Interestingly, the unification movement went hand in hand with that of the freedom movement. Gradually, the movement became strong in the erstwhile Bombay Presidency and Nizam’s Hyderabad. Soon, Karnataka Vidyavardhaka Sangha became a major centre for campaigns, meetings and protests related to the unification movement.  

In the history of the unification movement, Dharwad is considered as the place from where it all began. The All Karnataka Writers Conference was held here in 1908. It was in favour of the integration of Kannada-speaking regions. The demand became more vocal and political with the convening of the Karnataka State Political Conference in 1920 in Dharwad. The Kannada Sahitya Parishat, founded in Bangalore in 1915, carried the mantle further. With this, both political and literary dimensions of the movement emerged.

The prominent leaders involved in the unification movement were Aluru Venkata Rao, Gangadhar Rao Deshpande, Gudleppa Hallikeri, R H Deshpande and others. Leaders like U Rama Rao, A N Krishna Rao, Jayadevi Tayi Ligade, Srinivasa Rao Mangalavedhe and a host of others contributed their might. Initially, the concept of a linguistic state was conceived by litterateurs. They were later joined by those linked to the media and other sections.

Soon, it was realised that without political conviction, the unification would remain a dream. Leaders used the Indian National Congress (INC) session held at Nagpur in 1920 as a platform for this. If Nagpur session strengthened the movement, the INC session held at Belgaum in 1924 paved way for further activities. Mahatma Gandhi presided over this session. It became historic in its conduct and influence. It was here that the song composed by Huilgol Narayan Rao was sung. In the same venue, Karnataka Unification Conference was held, and the Karnataka Ekikarana Sabha was formed. This later became popular as  Karnataka Ekikarana Sangha.

Political dimension  

While the unification movement gradually became more political, it also turned itself into a literary movement, giving it a cultural dimension. An awareness about the historicity of Kannada, both as a language and a tool to bridge Kannadigas living in different regions, was created. The activists used prose and poetry effectively to motivate people to join the movement. The language, in its form and content, came to be refined. The historicity of Kannada language and culture was revived.

The print media played a leading role in bridging the cultural gap. The contributions of various dynasties to Kannada language, literature and art forms were reinterpreted. The glorification of cultural elements was carried out consciously, by many litterateurs and associations.

A new spirit of nationalism based on language and literature fuelled the unification movement. Concepts like ‘Karnatakatwa’ began to have their influence on the movement.

During early 1940s, the cry for carving a new, separate state exclusively for Kannada-speaking people increased. Karnataka Ekikarana Parishat, an organisation established for integration of Kannada-speaking regions, began to emerge as an important platform in this direction. It was also the peak of national struggle. Places like Bellary, Kasargod, and Mangalore emerged as new centres of the movement. In 1947, Karnataka Ekikarana Mahasamithi was established. With this, the popular sentiments for linguistic mobilisation took a new turn. The movement became stronger after India became independent in 1947.

Particularly, during the time of first general elections in 1951. The INC, in its manifesto had assured the creation of linguistic provinces. This assurance came handy to the associations and organisations like Karnataka Ekikarana Sangha and Kannada Sahitya Parishat. In 1953, Akhanda Karnataka Rajya Nirmana Parishat was formed. Its actions were more political in nature. Leaders of other political parties supported the cause. In fact, it was an association which consisted of leaders from different political parties.

The sole objective was the formation of a separate state for Kannada-speaking people. The appointment of States Reorganisation Commission in 1953 and  its recommendations for the creation of linguistic provinces came as a blessing to the unification movement.

The commission also recommended the unification of all Kannada-speaking regions into an integrated state. Accordingly, the new state of Mysore was formed on November 1, 1956, and in 1973, it was renamed as Karnataka. 
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