Mysuru: The 83rd edition of Akhila Bharata Kannada Sahitya Sammelana began with great fervour at Maharaja’s College Grounds in city yesterday.
The Sammelana was inaugurated by Chief Minister Siddharamaiah in the presence of Sammelana President Prof. Chandrashekar Patil, popular as Champa, Mysuru District in-Charge Minister Dr. H.C. Mahadevappa, Mayor M.J. Ravikumar, MLA M.K. Somashekar, Kannada Sahitya Parishat President Dr. Manu Baligar, District Kannada Sahitya Parishat President Dr. Y.D. Rajanna, littérateur Dr. Baragur Ramachandrappa, ZP President Nayeema Sultana and a host of other dignitaries.
Addressing the gathering, Siddharamaiah advocated ‘Karnataka Development Model’ (Karnataka Abhivruddhi Maadari) as against the Gujarat Model of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Listing out his contributions as Chief Minister for the development of Karnataka and Kannada, the CM said that in addition to upholding the dignity of the language of the land, his government also aimed at achieving comprehensive social and economic growth of the State.
“Kannada is not all about letters or varnamale. Kannada includes the people, land, rivers, life, literature, culture, art, music of Karnataka and this is what Kannada is for all Kannadigas. I have never indulged in politics with regard to Kannada and neither have I compromised on any aspect regarding Kannada. Our government has always supported Kannada-medium education and in this regard I have also written letters to the Central Government.
“In the coming days, I will convene a meeting with Chief Ministers of other States to press for a new amendment in the Constitution to make Kannada compulsory as a medium of instruction. The government has made Kannada education compulsory across Karnataka irrespective of the affiliation of the Boards,” he said.
Recalling his earlier initiative to design the Karnataka flag, he said: “Naadadhwaja and Raashtradhwaja can coexist with Naadageethe and Raashtrageethe. They will complement each other. They are not pitted against each other. I believe in the unity in diversity philosophy of the nation and would reiterate that again, just like how we have a State anthem exclusively for Karnataka, we need a State flag along with utmost respect for the National flag,” the CM said.
He also invoked Rashtrakavi Kuvempu while referring to the federal structure of the Indian Constitution and said States enjoyed the right to protect their respective region’s interests in terms of their crops, industries, economy, literature, and culture. “If the States’ rights to protect their interests are frustrated, the very meaning and purpose of the country’s freedom will be defeated, he said.
Siddharamaiah also spoke about how the funds for Kannada and culture activities had gone up from Rs. 160 crore to Rs. 424 crore after he became the CM. He said a policy would be announced soon to promote Karnataka’s culture and Rs. 23 crore would be earmarked to create the necessary infrastructure.
‘Freedom of expression under threat’: Speakers at the opening day of the Kannada Sahitya Sammelana got a platform to condemn the “attack on freedom of expression”.
While Siddharamaiah condemned efforts to undermine freedom of expression under the pretext of patriotism and nationalism, Ramachandrappa sought an answer from the congregation on whether they want a country “where people are victimised for questioning and airing their opinion and recording their dissent” or “a pluralist nation which stands for secular and democratic values.”
“The murders of Gauri Lankesh and M.M. Kalburgi have raised questions on whether we need a ‘Supari culture’ or harmonious culture where people engage in debate over a controversial issue.”
Launching a more direct attack, Champa questioned the silence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the killings of Gauri and Kalburgi. He sought to know the reason behind not condemning attack on freedom of expression.
Relentless struggle for Kannada
Chandrashekar Patil said that there is a special bonding between Kannada and mass struggles where people have fought to give Kannada a special status. “Kannada consciousness is secular and unites people while all other religious conventions divide people and sow the seeds of communalism,” he said.
For the record, Patil is the foremost voices of the “Bandaya” Movement. He served as Chairman of Kannada Development Authority and had returned the State Government’s highest literary honour Pampa Award protesting against the killing of scholar M.M. Kalburgi two years ago.
Calling upon Kannadigas to relentlessly fight to save the language and literature, Champa said that successive governments at the Centre have tried to impose Hindi. “There is no mention of Hindi being the national language in the Constitution. Just because people in New Delhi speak the language, the Centre cannot impose the language on the States. Hindi is like any other regional language,” he said.
Praise for Siddharamaiah
Asking people to vote for a “national party with a regional agenda”, Champa heaped praises on CM Siddharamaiah. He said the Congress Government was pro-Kannada and Chief Minister Siddharamaiah, being the first Chairman of the Kannada Kavalu Samiti and with a socialist background, was making his best efforts to meet the aspirations of Kannadigas. As the CM, he has done his best in making Kannada the medium of instruction, despite the non-cooperation of the Centre, he said. However, he said that the government had a lot more to do.
‘Replace Tanveer Sait with a pro-Kannada Minister’
Incumbent and past Presidents of the Akhila Bharata Kannada Sahitya Sammelana came down heavily on Minister for Primary and Secondary Education Tanveer Sait for ignoring their recommendations on school textbooks for the students of Karnataka.
During his speech at the inaugural ceremony of the meet, previous President Prof. Baragur Ramachandrappa, who is also the Chairman of the Textbook Revision Committee, expressed anger at Sait for not responding to them and their efforts to introduce regional textbooks from classes 6 to 10.
“After we met the Chief Minister, who said he would to discuss the matter with Tanveer Sait and that the latter would contact us, there has been no communication. Our efforts to meet him have also failed,” he said. In his address, Sammelana President Champa urged the CM to replace Sait with “a pro-Kannada Minister”. He, however, clarified that their demand was not to drop Sait from the Ministry, but merely to replace him as head of the Department of Primary Education.