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Do You Really Have To Know Kannada If You Live In Karnataka? | An Opinion

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“If you do not know Kannada, you can go somewhere else”.

This is a common term Non-Kannadigas or sometimes even resident Muslims of Karnataka get to hear.
This sometimes comes off as Kannadigas being intolerant and rude to so-called ‘outsiders’. Recently, the restlessness and chaos created by Pro-Kannada activists from Kannada Rakshana Vedike to have a Kannada sign board backed by the BBMP’s 60-40 rule has invigorated the debate again. This also highlights how the law and order situation has gone for a toss regarding the language. But what is the undercurrent here that no one seems to talk about?

Nuances Like Kannada Literature…

Primarily, we have to understand that Karnataka was created as a linguistic state. The basis of its formation was the Kannada language which was and is a common medium of association and communication for Kannadigas. The protests for the formation of Karnataka were also based on the uniting factor which is the language. The reality also here is that many Kannadaigas across the spectrum know no other languages apart from Kannada. Hence, it is common for them to expect others to know Kannada and speak in the same like they have been doing for ages. On the contrary, many Kannadigas can communicate in other languages like Hindi and English but it would be wrong for those coming from other states to expect every Kannadiga to know the language of their choice.

The Problem is…

Those who have been living in Karnataka, have their businesses in Karnataka and get their daily bread with Kannadiga’s money still refuse to learn Kannada. Many such people are still surviving in the state and have not come under any sort of scrutiny. The fact that they live and thrive in Karnataka somewhat establishes a moral obligation on them to respect the language and the culture of the land and not function as a separate vertical in itself.

If you take the example of European countries or those countries culturally rooted like Japan and Saudi Arabia, they would not entertain you if you don’t know the prerequisite of knowing the language of the country. If you want employment and want to do business in these nations, you have to be proficient in reading and writing the language. While India as a whole or states do not put forward such rules, the language and tradition of the state cannot be taken for granted. It also applies to Kannadigas if they want to start in another state and survive, they would have to adopt and regard the language and culture of that particular state. The idea remains simple. If you want to survive and thrive here, you need to comply with the basic preconditions and essentials here.

There are great examples of those coming from very distinct cultures and adopting Kannada and to Karnataka. For instance, when a bureaucrat is posted in Kannada, it takes him/her six to eight months to learn the language, at least knowing the basics of it through which they can manage the day-to-day administration.
If you are someone who does not want Kannada at all to live in Karnataka, or you don’t find it mandatory to be aware of the language and your day-to-day life is going without it, then it’s absolutely okay. You will not be forced but the least would be to respect the culture and the people of the land. If you are living here and just convey that you are learning Kannada or ‘Kannada Kalitidini’ instead or ‘Kannada Gotilla’, you are pretty much in the good books of all Kannadigas where your effort is appreciated irrespective of how long you need to learn it…

The identity crisis?

There isn’t any. A Kannadiga must protect his/her language and culture like anyone coming from any state would. Karnataka as a state and Kannadigas as individuals have every right to do so. They can promote and even impose it to some extent because Kannada has to survive as Karnataka’s identity itself is Kannada. It is also important for Kannadigas to talk about the beauty of Kannada culture and history and give a sense of accommodation to others coming from any state.

However, Kannada Rakshana Vedika or any other group destroying the signboards to protect language and put the idea of law and order in trouble is not something any Kannadiga would encourage.

This write-up is based on my discussions with Mr Deepak Thimaya, a prominent journalist and TV personality also a Kannadiga.

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