Karnataka’s grant of ₹320 crore to Sanskrit varsity triggers a row

Organisations decry ‘step-motherly treatment’ meted out to Kannada

Published - January 17, 2022 11:31 am IST - Bengaluru

The Bharatiya Janata Party-led State Government has drawn flak from Kannada organisations and writers for promoting Karnataka Samskrit University, with a grant of ₹320 crore for its campus, while Kannada University, Hampi has almost become “paralysed” due to shortage of funds. The financial condition of Kannada University is so precarious that it has been three years since it has inducted any new students.

The Government’s move to promote Karnataka Samskrit University has drawn a lot of ire as it also comes close on the heels of a public interest litigation (PIL) petition by a group of institutions promoting Sanskrit, including a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) affiliate, blocked making Kannada learning mandatory in undergraduate courses.

Kannada organisations and netizens took to Twitter on Sunday with a campaign “#SayNoToSanskrit”. “We should remember the historic Gokak agitation took place against a conspiracy to impose Sanskrit in education at the cost of Kannada. We had to carry out a campaign last year to get some paltry sum of money to Kannada University, Hampi. The priorities of the BJP government have become clear. Time has come to unite against the imposition of both Sanskrit and Hindi,” tweeted T. A. Narayana Gowda, president, Karnataka Rakshana Vedike, leading the Twitter campaign on Sunday.

S. C. Ramesh, Vice-Chancellor, Kannada University, Hampi, said the university was cash strapped and he had written to the State Government seeking assistance of around ₹24 crore and hoped it would come through. “It has been 36 months since the university paid fellowships to students. The financial condition has not allowed us to take a single new student in the last three years,” he said, indicating how the financial difficulties had paralysed the university. It has been six months since it paid guest faculty and had no money to give retirement benefits to professors. In 2021, after a public campaign by Kannada organisations, the Government released ₹3.52 crore, sources said.

Kannada University, Hampi has no college affiliations, doesn’t run courses and is purely research oriented and hence has no revenue sources of its own, but has been under pressure from the State Government to become “self-reliant”, sources in the university said. However, several writers have objected to this, arguing it would change the character of the university. “Can’t the Government of Karnataka not fund a Kannada University, when it can grant ₹320 crore for a Sanskrit University, which has failed to attract enough students?” asked writer S. G. Siddaramaiah, a former chairman of Kannada Development Authority.

Another senior writer K. Marulasiddappa said it was sad that the Government of Karnataka was showing “step-motherly treatment to Kannada”. “In our State there is a State university and two deemed universities for Sanskrit and one university for Kannada, which is being sabotaged. While we do not oppose research on Sanskrit, is it too much to expect that Kannada should be the priority in our State?” he asked.

There has been opposition to this from within as well. T. S. Nagabharana, chairman, KDA, said the authority though did not oppose promoting Sanskrit, the “priorities of the Government seemed to be effectively sidelining Kannada’s interests --- be it the neglect of Kannada University, Kannada medium education or implementation of Kannada in the administration”, he rued. “The authority has also impleaded itself before the High Court in the PIL questioning making Kannada learning mandatory in undergraduate courses and will fight for the language’s interests,” he said.

N. Ravi Kumar, general secretary, BJP Karnataka, said the party and the Government won’t shy away from supporting a Sanskrit University. “Sanskrit is the root of our nationality. Can we open a Sanskrit university in England? Eleven years after establishing the university, there was no place to sit, so we have announced support,” he said, adding this did not mean Kannada was not a priority for the BJP-led State government. “There are some issues in Kannada University, Hampi which we will solve. After all Kannada is the top priority in the State,” he said.

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