In the run up to the Assembly elections in Karnataka, the BJP is moving to appease linguistic groups in coastal Karnataka — just days after it sought to appease caste groups with the promise of enhanced reservations.
Minister for Kannada and Culture V Sunil Kumar on Monday, 30 January, said that a panel has been formed to study the demand for and make recommendations to accord official language status to Tulu in Karnataka.
One of India’s oldest languages, Tulu is understood to have a history extending back 2,500 years. The panel, headed by educationist Dr Mohan Alva, has been asked to submit a report within a week.
Other than the timing of the push for Tulu just months before the elections, the move also comes in the backdrop of several Kannada rights activists pushing the BJP on the backfoot over “Hindi imposition” in Karnataka.
With this move, the BJP government in Karnataka hopes to counter criticism on linguistic identities and regional pride issues at the state level by giving impetus to language pride at the sub-regional level.
The move also comes as a means to appease Tuluvas — a large ethno-linguistic group in coastal Karnataka — who make up a considerable chunk of BJP’s vote bank in the districts of Dakshin Kannada, Udupi and parts of Uttara Kannada.
Tulu language activists hopeful
Speaking to South First, Panel chief Dr Mohan Alva said: “Tulu is a lovable language. There are several sects of communities who, despite their different mother tongues, prefer to speak and write in Tulu. Bunts, Mogaveera, Brahmins, Jains, Muslims, Christians, Sapaligaru, Shettigaru, are few of the communities who have adopted Tulu — the way it is — and have been practicing the language for ages together now.”
Tulu language activist, Ganesh Sankamar told South First: “There is a lot of valuable literature in Tulu, a lot of movies have been made in Tulu, including the blockbuster Kantara, where several scenes, including the climax, is depicted in Tulu language — the original! — as it is portrayed.”
“We will convene a meeting in a week’s time and discuss how it needs to be taken forward,” Sankamar told South First, adding: “If Tulu language is declared as the second official language in Karnataka state, then the probability of Tulu being added to the 8th Schedule will get prominence nationally.”
Mohan Alva said the Karnataka government has constituted a 12-member committee with him as the president. “Within a week’s time, we have to meet, discuss, and submit a report to the government,” he said.
Around 38 languages in India are awaiting their turn to get official language status, and efforts are being made to include Tulu in the 8th Schedule of the Constitution, according to Alva.
A Dravidian language
Tulu is a Dravidian language whose speakers are concentrated in Dakshina Kannada, and southern part of Udupi in Karnataka, and in northern parts of Kasargod district of Kerala.
In December 2009, during the First Vishwa Tulu Sammelan organised at Ujire-Dharmastala, the then Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa promised to send a fresh proposal on including the Tulu language in the 8th Schedule of the Constitution.
In August 2017, an online campaign was launched to include Tulu in the 8th Schedule of Constitution.
In October 2017, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Dharmasthala Temple, the same demand was presented in front of him.
Similarly, in 2018, MP from the Kasargod constituency, P Karunakaran, also raised the demand for the inclusion of Tulu language in the 8th schedule of the Constitution.