Karnataka: Need for review of language policy

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at ccat.sas.upenn.edu
Wed Oct 11 12:32:04 UTC 2006

Date:10/10/2006 URL:

Karnataka - Bangalore Review policy on English, say writers

Special Correspondent

Government given a week's time

Bangalore: The Kannada Sahitya Parishat, pro-Kannada organisations and a
section of Kannada writers have served a week's ultimatum on Chief
Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy and Primary and Secondary Education Minister
Basavaraj Horatti to review the decision to introduce English from the
first standard, in consultation with them. Coming down strongly on what
they termed a "hurried, shocking and anti-Kannada" decision, at a meeting
here on Monday, which adopted a resolution in this regard, parishat
president Chandrashekar Patil said any government decision should wait
till a case on the medium of instruction, pending before the Karnataka
High Court, was resolved.

`Protest strongly'

Before the resolution was accepted, however, there were demands by
pro-Kannada activists for stronger forms of protest against the decision.
The former judge, activist and writer Ko. Channabasappa, for instance,
said the parishat and writers should take a firm decision to stay away
from all Suvarna Karnataka programmes of the State Government and should
not participate in the proposed World Kannada Conference in Belgaum. They
should take on the State even if it meant launching an agitation on the
scale of the Gokak agitation and being jailed, he added. Advocate Sarojini
Mahishi said the lack of uniformity in the language policy of the State
was sending confusing signals to the judiciary. Critic L.S. Sheshagiri Rao
said the Government had not bothered to consult legal experts before
taking this decision. Among the others at the meeting were G.S.
Shivarudrappa, G. Narayan, B.T.  Lalitha Naik and Vyasaraya Ballal.

Voices that disagree

Presiding over the meeting, Mr. Patil repeatedly made it clear that it was
a debate among "like-minded people." This alluded to the fact that yet
another section of Kannada writers have long argued for teaching English
as a language at the primary school level on grounds of social equity. The
former Kannada Development Authority chairman Baragur Ramachandrappa, in a
document on language policy compiled in 2001, even while arguing for the
mother tongue as the medium of instruction, stated the need for teaching
English as a language in primary schools.

Kannada writer and critic K.M. Marulasiddappa, another advocate for
introducing English as a subject at the primary school level, says that
the language issue should be seen as part of the larger question of social
inequalities. While English is a tool of mobility for urban, upper
middle-class children, the lack of English knowledge is a handicap for
rural, Dalit children, he argues. This view, he adds, is endorsed by most
Dalit and farmers' organisations.


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