Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai has announced that his administration will soon introduce legislation to make Kannada “mandatory” in the state amid protests against honouring “Hindi Diwas”
The full adoption of Kannada as the administrative language has long been a demand of Kannada activist groups.
According to PTI sources, the chief minister may have been making a reference to the ‘Kannada Language Comprehensive Development Bill’, which would intensify current efforts to give Kannada priority.
“India is a union of states with different languages, cultures. There is no scope here to impose any specific language. Our Prime Minister has said very clearly that all mother tongues and regional languages are national languages,” Bommai said.
Bommai emphasised that Kannada is the predominant language of the state and claimed that this is the first time that a law has been passed with legal backing seeking to make Kannada a requirement in the state.
This is not the first time that this issue has been raised, though. The national government said in a response submitted to the Karnataka High Court in March 2022 that Kannada cannot be deemed a requirement for undergraduate students because it is not mentioned in the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020.
Dinesh T Pali, Undersecretary, Department of Higher Education, Ministry of Education said that NEP is meant to achieve a comprehensive educational system for citizens while keeping local, regional, and national aspirations in mind.
“The policy must be understood, interpreted, and implemented while keeping in mind the broad objectives enshrined in the Constitution,” the statement said.
The policy specifically states that higher education institutions will use mother tongue/local language as the medium of instruction and/or offer bilingually.
It envisions making a wide range of educational software available to students and teachers at all levels, in all major Indian languages.
This is not the only backlash recieved by the proposed policy. Several petitions from student organizations as well as a PIL from Bengaluru’s Samskrita Bharati (Karnataka) Trust and three other organisations involved in the promotion of other languages are being heard by the court.
The petitioners contend that mandating students to study Kannada goes against National Education Policy 2020’s core objectives.
They have also asked that the government order that requires graduate students in graduate programmes to take a first-year semester of “Functional Kannada” be overturned. They argue that this requirement is difficult for students who have never learnt any Kannada in their lives.
The state government and Bengaluru University were prohibited from acting hastily in this regard by a High Court decision that was given on December 16, 2021.
However, the state government defended the choice, saying that students from other states would just have to study functional Kannada for a year.