Special Correspondent

Government given a week's time

Bangalore: The Kannada Sahitya Parishat, pro-Kannada organisations and a section of Kannada writers have served a week's ultimatum on Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy and Primary and Secondary Education Minister Basavaraj Horatti to review the decision to introduce English from the first standard, in consultation with them.

Coming down strongly on what they termed a "hurried, shocking and anti-Kannada" decision, at a meeting here on Monday, which adopted a resolution in this regard, parishat president Chandrashekar Patil said any government decision should wait till a case on the medium of instruction, pending before the Karnataka High Court, was resolved.

`Protest strongly'

Before the resolution was accepted, however, there were demands by pro-Kannada activists for stronger forms of protest against the decision. The former judge, activist and writer Ko. Channabasappa, for instance, said the parishat and writers should take a firm decision to stay away from all Suvarna Karnataka programmes of the State Government and should not participate in the proposed World Kannada Conference in Belgaum. They should take on the State even if it meant launching an agitation on the scale of the Gokak agitation and being jailed, he added.

Advocate Sarojini Mahishi said the lack of uniformity in the language policy of the State was sending confusing signals to the judiciary. Critic L.S. Sheshagiri Rao said the Government had not bothered to consult legal experts before taking this decision.

Among the others at the meeting were G.S. Shivarudrappa, G. Narayan, B.T. Lalitha Naik and Vyasaraya Ballal.

Voices that disagree

Presiding over the meeting, Mr. Patil repeatedly made it clear that it was a debate among "like-minded people." This alluded to the fact that yet another section of Kannada writers have long argued for teaching English as a language at the primary school level on grounds of social equity.

The former Kannada Development Authority chairman Baragur Ramachandrappa, in a document on language policy compiled in 2001, even while arguing for the mother tongue as the medium of instruction, stated the need for teaching English as a language in primary schools.

Kannada writer and critic K.M. Marulasiddappa, another advocate for introducing English as a subject at the primary school level, says that the language issue should be seen as part of the larger question of social inequalities. While English is a tool of mobility for urban, upper middle-class children, the lack of English knowledge is a handicap for rural, Dalit children, he argues. This view, he adds, is endorsed by most Dalit and farmers' organisations.