Triveni Journal

1927 | 11,233,916 words

Triveni is a journal dedicated to ancient Indian culture, history, philosophy, art, spirituality, music and all sorts of literature. Triveni was founded at Madras in 1927 and since that time various authors have donated their creativity in the form of articles, covering many aspects of public life....

The Case for Karnataka

V. B. Kulkarni

One of the paradoxes of Indian history is that the demarcation of its provincial boundaries was undertaken by an authority that was least qualified to do it. The Company of British traders, who came to this country on a less exalted mission of negotiating trade treaties, suddenly found itself called upon to administer a sub-continent bristling with problems of great magnitude. The work of territorial division, which called for considerable skill and local knowledge and, above all, a sympathetic understanding of the history and traditions of the people, was undertaken by a band of businessmen who had none of these advantages. The insatiable thirst for more and more territories and the resources of the land, gave them little opportunity for constructing a more stable and scientific map of India. The Provinces that arose out of their ‘administrative convenience’ presented the curious picture of a promiscuous grouping together of communities with distinct languages, history, culture and tradition.

The ‘virtue’ of the system lay in the inability of the people to revolt against it. But the uprising tide of nationalism has leavened men’s minds as never before. We are no longer prepared to accept the false coin of ‘administrative expediency’ as legal tender. With our urge for self-determination has grown the irresistible desire for our distinctive growth. The conviction has at last dawned upon us that it is impossible to visualize national reconstruction without a revivification and revitalization of the component parts of our Motherland. In this aspiration we need not apprehend the accusation of ‘parochialism’ or ‘provincialism.’ It is, to my mind, an abuse of language to stigmatize a community as ‘provincial’ which seeks to grow to its full stature in order that it might serve its country better.

Let me at once state that Andhra and Karnataka are not guilty of any political enormity in demanding their separation. Similar demands by others have already been conceded, although the injustice to us still remains. Nor should we forget that the right of a people to self-determination, provided they satisfied certain criteria, was recognized by no less a person than Mr. Montagu. The late Secretary of State, who prefaced his famous proposals for constitutional reforms with a visit to this country, was struck by the chaotic exuberance into which provincial demarcation had grown. The Montford Reforms incorporated a specific provision empowering the Government of India to create new Provinces whenever such a necessity arose. Unfortunately, however, our Central Government did not make anything like a systematic approach to the problem, and although considerations of expediency and equity induced them to constitute the N. W. F., Sind, and Orissa into separate Provinces, the older and sounder claims of Andhra and Karnataka were pigeonholed.

It was a cruel stroke that rent Andhra and Karnataka asunder. They are the twin daughters of our Motherland, animated by common traditions, a common history and a common culture. Even their languages and literature, although distinct, have a striking similarity. Their collaboration in the past bore results of far-reaching significance. The pages of Vijayanagara history are replete with the achievements of the combined genius of Karnataka and Andhra. Under the patronage of the Rulers of that Empire, they produced immortal forms of song, art and literature and rose to great altitudes in civilisation.

But with the dissolution and dismemberment of Vijayanagara and the disappearance of political power from the hands of the people of the land, the concord between Andhra and Karnataka, which had brought them together for centuries, was broken. They gradually lost all community of interest and ceased to be inspired by those ennobling ideals that stood as a guarantee to their enduring friendship. Collaboration gave place to isolation, and mutual cordiality was reduced to a mere formal recognition of one another as belonging to a common country.

Thanks to the separation movement, the hiatus between us has at last been healed. We are once more uplifted and animated by the same ideal. The value of collaboration cannot be over-emphasized. Isolated issues are apt to share the fate of lost causes, but the united voice of Andhra and Karnataka can transcend every obstacle, overcome every opposition and compel immediate attention to our demand.

The case for Andhra has been ably sponsored by its leaders. In this article I shall endeavour to show how Karnataka’s claim rests on an equally firm foundation and how our demand is based on justice equity and fairplay.1

It is curious that although Karnataka has made out a prima facie case for separation and is prepared to meet all legitimate objections, quite a needless furore is being caused in certain quarters. While no useful purpose can be served by examining at length criticisms which are but sentimental, passionate and prejudicial in their import, it is perhaps worth while to examine some of the more fundamental of them, which might be broadly set out under the following three heads:

(1) Is separation financially feasible?

(2) Will not such a consummation retard the growth of nationalism?

(3) What are the objections to the present arrangement?

For purposes of convenience, I shall take up the last issue first, namely, "What is our quarrel with the existing order of things?" It will be amply evident to every student of Indian history that till the dissolution of Vijayanagara in the Battle of Talikota, and later the advent of the East India Company to the Deccan as a rival Power, Karnataka represented a vast and compact territory, embracing within its orbit a homogeneous population with a distinctive culture, tradition and a high type of civilisation. Even after the loss of her political power, Karnataka was able to conserve her native genius and transmit it to posterity so long as her territories remained intact. But with the fall of Tippu, who strove once again to establish the hegemony of Karnataka in the Deccan, the chances of her revival were finally extinguished. Today we have the sad picture of a once compact area with a population of 11,206,380 being cut up of into mincemeat and thrown over to no less than 20 different administrative units.

Thus, the present Mysore State became politically independent of Karnataka after Tippu’s downfall and began to have a separate existence, although its linguistic, cultural, racial and historical affinities have remained unchanged. Coorg, with a population of 163,327, was similarly disjoined from the parent body. North Karnataka was split up and the four districts of Belgaum, Bijapur, Dharwar and North Kanara were anxexed by the Bombay Presidency. The Madras Presidency obtained the districts of Bellary, South Kanara and Nilgiri. Hyderabad (Dn) mulcted Gulbarga, Bedar and Raichur. The Southern Mahratta States of Kolhapur, Sangli, Miraj (Sr), Miraj (Sr), Jath, Kurundwad (Sr), Kurundwad (Jr), Jamkhandi, Mudhol, and Akkalkot and the small State of Sandur in the Bellary District completed the ruin of a once compact territory.2

Being chained to a plethora of States, where caprice is still the basis of governance, and to Provinces where the kernel of power goes into the hands of majorities, Karnataka’s voice is nowhere heard. She is condemned to a perpetual minority under every administrative unit, with all its attendant disadvantages. Her genius has suffered a serious set-by the dispersal of her people, who, in the absence of a common unifying force, have lost all community of interest, content to play the unedifying role of camp-followers and burning incense at the altar of others’ greatness. She has become a mute and helpless spectator of her own cultural conquest by her aggressive neighbours. Till the middle of the last decade Kannada was not taught in the High Schools in Bellary. Even today the influence of Marathi over the Kannada population of Belgaum, the northern border district of Karnataka, is so all-pervasive that an amazing proportion of our children are still sent to Marathi schools. Our trading community here maintains its accounts in Modi although it is a rapidly dying script. Hundreds of families, which but a generation ago were purely Kannada in origin, have adopted Marathi as their mother-tongue and oppose the separation movement with a vehemence of which only new converts are capable. It has been estimated that in one census alone Karnataka lost about 2 lakhs of its population.

Our cultural degeneration apart, even our language has suffered serious reverses. Even today in some of the predominantly Karnataka areas. Kannada is under a ban. In most of the Southern Mahratta States, which are an integral part of Karnataka, the language of the people is little encouraged.

Here are some illuminating facts, gathered from ancient archives, which disclose the attitude taken up by the authorities in the matter of our education. Schools were opened in Bombay Karnataka in 1856 and Marathi was taught in them. It took nearly a decade for the Bombay Department of Public Instruction to realise that the language of Karnataka was not Marathi but Kannada.3 Describing the situation, Mr. Russel, an Educational Officer of the Southern Division, wrote in 1865 thus: "The Deputy Inspectors and English masters in this Division are none of them Kanarese and there are very few Kanarese men even among the vernacular school masters in the Districts. The Kanarese language has never been taught or cultivated in this Division as Gujerati or Marathi in theirs…..Therefore the indifference of the Kanarese people in general to schools in which the books and teachers are mostly Marathi can hardly be wondered at." Mr. Venkat Rango Katti’s observations made at that period throw further light on the subject. He says: "Before Mr. Russel’s appointment, the Division possessed no Kanarese books of its own excepting the first three reading books of questionable utility…..A translation exhibitionership was transferred from Poona to this Division at the time of Major Waddington, and it was held at the time of Mr. Russel’s arrival by a Maratha man who was to prepare Kanarese books for Government schools." Further on he makes the revealing statement that a non-Kannada-knowing man was commissioned to write Kanarese books for use in Government Schools!

But even today our position has scarcely improved. Madras Karnataka has no colleges at all except for a second grade college at Mangalore. Bellary struggled hard to get one, but her efforts ended only in a struggle. Even Bombay Karnataka with four big Districts has only two Colleges. 4 Lack of educational facilities compel our young men to emigrate to places outside Karnataka. Apart from the economic drain which this exodus entails, the removal of our young men from their native environments at an impressionable period of their lives is having a deleterious effect upon our social life. Coming into contact with modes of life which are not theirs and having had little or no opportunity of cultivating their own culture, they emerge from the portals of their colleges, strangers to their own homes and vainly seeking to foist their new-fangled ideas upon their people. Surely, this is an intolerable position which can be remedied only by giving Karnataka a University of its own.

How distant this cry for a Karnataka University is will be amply borne out by the fact that although the Government of Bombay are contemplating to start some more Colleges for technical studies, none of these are proposed to be located in Karnataka. We have no Agricultural College, although Karnataka is the granary of the Bombay Presidency and although the cotton grown here is one of the finest varieties in India. We have no Forest College in spite of the fact that the moiety of the provincial revenue from ‘Forests’ is derived from us. We have no Law College although we send out no less than 200 students annually for legal education. Indeed, we have no educational institutions worth the name, and yet not a finger has been raised by the Government to redress this gross injustice.

Equally distressing is the condition of industries in Karnataka. Our cottage industries, for which we were once famous, are in a state of suspended animation. Our mineral wealth remains yet unexplored and unexploited. The indigence and illiteracy of the people and lack of organized capital are a great handicap to private enterprise. It is true that Karnataka abounds in States with varying revenues, but their resources are utilized by their non-Karnataka Rulers for purposes that scarcely benefit us. We are poorly served in respect of rail and road communications. North Kanara is practically cut out from the rest of the Presidency and is condemned to shift as best as it can in its mountain fastness. From 1818 to date Bombay has spent nearly 55 crores of rupees on irrigation works, but a paltry sum of Rs. 8-10 lakhs is all that has been the share of Karnataka. The districts of Bijapur and Bellary are stricken with chronic famine conditions. Yet no systematic efforts have so far been made to relieve the misery of the people.

Karnataka has scarcely any share in the governance of Bombay and Madras, although substantial contributions are wrung from her. Even the Government of India Act of 1935, which is heralded as having ushered in a new era, has hardly improved our status and strength in the legislatures. It is worthy of remark that there is not a single Karnatak member in the Cabinets of either Bombay or Madras even under the Congress regime. With our territories scattered pell-mell and yoked to far-flung, inland and god-forsaken areas, we are denied those advantages and opportunities which proximity to seats of Government usually brings. Despite these obvious disadvantages, we are admonished not to raise the cry for separation, as if it is a crime to do so. Too our detractors our only answer is, "We congratulate you upon escaping the fate of the toad under the harrow!"

Now for the second issue. Our demand for separation is interpreted in certain interested quarters as a willful attempt to drive a wedge into our body politic. This, I am afraid, is a hackneyed objection which does not even deserve a rejoinder. If our critics are to be taken seriously, will they tell us the precise number of Provinces into which India can suitably divided without checking the forces of nationalism? If such an arrangement is at all feasible, will it be immutable? What did these self-appointed guardians of our nationalism do when under their very nose the Pathans of N. W. F., the Sindhis and the Oriyas got separate Provinces for themselves? Why did they not prevent these ‘misguided’ countrymen of theirs from heading to their ‘self-destruction’? The fact of the matter is that their objections are of a piece with the reactions of diehardism against all innovations, however welcome and desirable they may be.

There need be no apprehensions about Karnataka degenerating into a ‘communal’ Province. It is true that the Lingayats are in a majority in Karnataka and will inevitably play a more prominent part in its affairs, but it is an abuse of language to brand the whole community as ‘communal.’ A rapid dissemination of education and increasing opportunities of public service will certainly modify the attitude of even those who might be found to side with reaction today. The past achievements of Karnataka in the national struggle will not belie these expectations.

The separation of Karnataka is financially feasible. Here is the testimony of the Nehru Report which says: "……a prima facie case for unification and the formation of Karnataka as a separate Province was made……Financially the position of Karnataka was very strong and even at present there was a considerably surplus in the British part of Karnataka." It is estimated that Karnataka’s total revenue from the eight districts and five talukas will amount to about Rs. 260 lakhs, and after deducting about Rs. 210 lakhs for running the administration, she will have a clear surplus of Rs. 50 lakhs.5 This is a position which compares, favourably with that of the Provinces of N. W. F., Assam, Sind and Orissa, most of which have to be given heavy subventions to balance their budgets.

We are told that the liabilities of the Bombay Government are a bar to our separation becoming a fait accompli. In years past this Government embarked upon a series of costly eccentricities and left the provincial revenues in a state of chronic wreckage. It is monstrous to call upon Karnataka to share these financial burdens. We are, however, willing to take over all reasonable liabilities incurred on our behalf. We represent 12% of this Presidency’s total population, and any future financial adjustment should be based on an appraisal of the return we have obtained from our contributions to the provincial revenues. As in others, we demand fairplay in this matter also.

The separation of Andhra and Karnataka brooks no delay. It is as urgent as national redemption. If the fulfillment of our demand is contingent upon the settlement of the larger issue, why not call a halt to all other progressive movements? We have set our hearts upon our self-determination and nothing will thwart us in marching to our chosen goal. At the 7th Karnataka Unification Conference held in May last, Karnataka took the grim resolve of resorting to direct action if such a course was deemed necessary. The days of mere prayer and petition are past. And it is of vital importance that Andhra and Karnataka should work in closest collaboration if they want to gain their objective soon.

1 See my articles ‘Is Karnatak Unification Feasible?’ and ‘Why Karnatak should be separated’ in The Modern Review of November 1937 and July 1938.

2 The demand for separation is confined to the British part of Karnataka, which despite its great mutilations is comprehensive enough to constituted into a separate Province.

3 Karnataka owes a debt of gratitude to the Missionaries of Mangalore for fighting our battles in securing the reversal of this deplorable position. Their contribution to our literature is equally impressive.

4 The College at Dharwar is run by the Bombay Government while the Lingaraj College at Belgaum owes its existence to the munificence of the Lingayat community.

5 These figures represent a modest estimate. Our revenues will certainly increase when the resources of Karnataka, now untouched, are fully tapped.

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