Follow-up on Linguistic Minorities "GO" in Mysore State

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Sun May 16 15:52:21 UTC 2004

Last week I forwarded a message copied from the newspaper Star of Mysore,
about a Government Order to communicate with the citizenry in minority
languages; this has now been rescinded:  (Note the wonderful reference to
the use of English reaching only the "creamy layer." HS)

Controversial order

In summarily withdrawing the Government Order (GO) ordering the issuing of
notifications, orders and rules in minority languages in addition to
Kannada and English, the Mr. S.M. Krishna regime has opted for the easiest
and safest course of action in the face of mounting opposition.

>>From the very day it was mooted by the Department of Personnel
Administration and Reforms (DPAR), it was clear that the controversial GO
was headed for trouble. The GO had stipulated that in areas where the
population of linguistic minorities constituted a minimum 15 per cent of
the total population, government notifications, orders and rules should
also be issued in the language of the said minorities. It could have been
Marathi in Belgaum, Tulu/ Konkani in Mangalore, Telugu in Bidar, Kodava in
Kodagu. But many of these languages are dialects which use Kannada script.
So in any case, they can read Kannada.

Viewed through the prism of an ordinary common man in these places, the GO
could have been construed as a patently progressive move, and one that
behoves an increasingly cosmopolitan State. By making arcane government
notifications available in their tongue, it could have been argued that
the government was empowering the very people who had put it there. In
addition, the GO would also have gone some distance in removing confusion
and eliminating middlemen who thrive in such conditions.

However, a host of Kannada writers and activists, and the Kannada
Development Authority (KDA), urged the government to withdraw the move.
They feared that the GO would go against the spirit of Statehood of
Karnataka, and might spoil the harmony between Kannadigas and linguistic
minorities. There is merit in their argument.

It can be argued that the needs of the linguistic minorities are met by
publication of notifications in English. But that only reaches the creamy
layer, and the Krishna governments bid to assuage the simmering discontent
at the grassroots has come unstuck.

One thought Mr. S.M. Krishna, who incidentally was the Dy. CM in Mr. M.
Veerappa Moily's cabinet, would have learnt a lesson after seeing the
problems created following Moily's decision to broadcast news in Urdu,
apparently to please Muslims. Following protest, this decision was
withdrawn. Sure, Mr. Krishna has not learnt his lesson.

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