• What We Need Are Kannada Schools Not Sammelanas

    Translated from Kannada by Rashmi Munikempanna

    Rupa Hassan

    January 9, 2019

    Scheduled to be held in Dharwad this year, the Akhila Bharata Sahitya Sammelana is an annual gathering of writers, poets and kannadigas, held with the aim of preserving and developing Kannada language, its literature, art, culture and music. Year after year, the expenditure for these Sammelanas has been increasing by the crores. While it was Rs 8 crores for the Sammelana held in Mysore last year, and over Rs 7 crores for the one before that in Shravanabelagola, this year the total expenditure is estimated to be around Rs 12 crores.

    The Sammelana is organised by the Kannada Sahitya Parishat, an organisation representative of Kannadigas. The primary objective of the Sahitya Parishat, as declared in the organisation’s bylaws, is the protection, development and promotion of Kannada language, literature, art, culture and folk practices. . In order to realise this objective, along with organising conventions, literary festivals, state festivals, lectures, seminars and workshops, an important aim is to undertake the work of establishing and encouraging Kannada schools as well as literacy campaigns.

    But while the Parishat is spending a huge amount of money in organising conventions throughout the year, it has turned a blind eye to the objective of “protection and development”. The opulence of these Sammelanas at a time when Kannada land-language is in extreme distress is shameful. Recently, the Supreme Court has passed a judgement against the use of mother tongue as a medium of instruction in primary schools. How will Kannada language survive if it is not even part of education? Instead of thinking of doing something to preserve and promote the language, the Sahitya Parishat is busy organising a grand sammelana, spending huge amounts of money.

    A Sahitya Parishat that should have found its purpose in advancing Kannada education, showed phenomenal disregard limiting itself to writing perfunctory letters to the government, not attempting anything else constructive and merely organising Sammelanas where lectures were organised one after the other about Kannada land, language and education. It has also limited itself to only passing resolutions, all of which is like a mockery of Kannada land-language.

    In the midst of severe burning issues in Karnataka – the sharing of Kaveri and Mahadayi river water, border disputes, unemployment issues, severe drought, farmers’ suicides by the thousands, natural calamity caused by the cloudburt in Kodagu and Malanadu – the Sahitya Parishat has neither stood up to fight nor designed any constructive programs to tackle the problems or even be persistently motivated to act.

    Hence, when the state government announced that it would impart English medium education in a thousand government schools, the Parishat’s thundering that "if the order is not withdrawn then a Gokak-like movement would be created" was laughable. Does the Parishat have the strength to mobilise a movement against the government when it always stands with outstretched hands for support from the government, even for organising Sammelanas? Thousands of Kannada schools have shut down in the last decade itself. There is a severe shortage of basic facilities in the government schools that remain. A shortage of teachers, school buildings approaching dilapidation, this is the plight. As a result, well-off parents send their children to private schools instead of government schools. Licenses to establish private schools are being given indiscriminately, while the impoverished government schools are being side-lined like inconvenient manifestations.

    In the midst of all this, the education department’s satellite based mapping has revealed that 5272 villages don’t even have the mandatory primary school! There is a direct link between this and the number of children being left out of the schooling system. According to the Right to Education Act, it is a violation of children’s legal right to education if there is no school within a one and a half kilometer range. The Sahitya Parishat that was supposed to have raised these concerns has always remained quiet.

    In such a situation, the credibility of their sudden concern is questionable, given that they are investing crores in organising a sammelana when its core aim should be to establish new Kannada schools and improve the basic infrastructural facilities of the neglected government schools. The act of standing in support of the educational rights of vulnerable children would be safeguarding Kannada. Only then can the condition of state education be altered for the better.

    But does the Kannada Sahitya Parishat have the intelligence and the will to do this? Isn’t it far easier and more profitable to organise Sammelanas rather than do this work?

    Hence I rejected the invitation to preside over the Hassan District Sahitya Sammelan held earlier last year. Along with this, about one and a half months ago, I also wrote a letter to the President of the Sahitya Parishat, resigning from my membership to the Sahitya Parishat. I have not received a reply yet!

    Rupa Hassan is an award winning Kannada poet, writer and activist. She is currently involved with the Hasiru Bhoomi Trust in the successful work of rejuvenation of kalyanis (traditional water tanks) in Hassan district, Karnataka, that has seen drought over consecutive years.

    Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the writer's own, and do not necessarily represent the views of the Indian Writers' Forum.

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