All the South Indian states have at some time or the other, agitated against the imposition of a singular culture. Such imposition is mostly in the form of a language. One of the most effective post-independence agitations, which was strongly associated with Kannada Pride, was the Gokak agitation.
What Was The Agitation About?
The Gokak agitation took place in the early 1980s, and it was primarily against the three-language proposal adopted on the recommendations of several commissions. The proposal offered Sanskrit as the first language in Karnataka’s high schools.
The Kannadigas had vehemently opposed the Hindi imposition in the 1960s and 1970s. The aversion towards the ‘North Indian language’ made the people of the state inclined towards English. With the three-language formula in place, Sanskrit became the first preference, followed by English and Kannada. The fact that Kannada became the third option meant that there was no requirement for the Kannadigas to learn their native language.
The then chief minister of the state Devraj Urs, moved the state language Kannada to the first and second language group while pushing down Sanskrit to the third. However, when he was replaced by R. Gundu Rao in 1980, Sanskrit was brought back to the first group.
Rao’s decision met with fierce criticism and widespread protest across the state, as a response to which a committee headed by Vinayaka Krishna Gokak was set. The committee in its report recommended the exclusion of Sanskrit as the first language. It also recommended making Kannada compulsory after class 3.
Considering that the committee was set up by the Gundu Rao government, there was widespread suspicion of its pro – government’s stance. Thus the reports of the Gokak committee came as a pleasant surprise to the public.
However, it was the reluctance and the delay in implementing the Gokak committee reports which caused the state-wide protests. The movement stayed low-key for its initial phase, but the entry of the late superstar Rajkumar turned it into a mass movement. The movement also resulted in rioting which caused the death of seven people in police firing.