Kannada in Higher Ed: Why the Usual Suspects’ Opposition is Uncalled For

The Government of Karnataka wants to introduce Kannada as a mandatory subject in Higher Education, esp. professional courses such as Engineering and Medicine. But apparently, corporate leaders and educators think it’s a bad move.

Let me examine these guys’ arguments.

Here’s what Mindtree’s Krishnakumar Natarajan, had to say:

Higher education should be beyond local languages. In higher education, the capability and skills imparted to students is more important. Are we creating enough local content and research in the local language? And what is the maturity of the local language content?

First of all, Natarajan is speaking as if GoK wants to make Kannada the medium of instruction in higher education. Else, why all the stuff about research and content and maturity? Is he saying Kannada literature isn’t mature enough? I hope not, because that’s not only incorrect but also racist – white racism, to be precise. The GoK only wants to introduce Kannada as a subject in higher education, so these concerns are uncalled for. I wonder where they even came from.

Now that we’re on the topic of actual higher-education content in Kannada, let me say that socially responsible corporates must share the responsibility of making Kannada fit and ‘mature’ for the purpose. They must share the responsibility of creating enough local content and research in Kannada. It’s not as if corporates are doomed to be mere consumers of content.

Ranjan Pai from the Manipal education conglomerate says:

What are we trying to achieve? The market and the globe is more anglicised. Forcing non-Kannada students to learn Kannada will be regressive. It won’t send the right message.

Since you ask, we’re trying to achieve social cohesion. Ring a bell, Mr. Pai? Understand such a thing? Is it taught in your education institutions? The idea that the market and the globe is getting more and more anglicised comes from a myopic view of the world. The world’s languages are getting increasingly represented everywhere, and Kannada is ahead of the pack in many ways.

If asking students studying in Karnataka to learn basic Kannada is regressive, what is asking them to not give a damn about the local language? Progressive?

Do you really want to make money from non-Kannadiga students by telling them not to give a damn about the local language, Mr Pai? It’s a fundamental responsibility of education institutions to maintain if not enhance social harmony. If education destroys it, shouldn’t we call it terrorism?

Biocon’s Kiran Mazudar Shaw says:

Kannada cannot be made compulsory in all courses, but can be offered as an option. Let’s see the fine print as I can’t imagine how they can enforce this very ill-conceived idea.

Ideally, what can or cannot be made compulsory in Karnataka will be decided by Karnataka state, not a non-Kannadiga businesswoman or her money. Hasn’t Biocon made it compulsory for employees not to smoke inside labs? In the same way, the state wants to make it compulsory to study Kannada. There’s nothing ‘ill-conceived’ here. The UK is asking people who don’t know English to leave. Why shouldn’t Karnataka consider doing the same with those who don’t know Kannada?

But the fact is, the state is not going to that extreme; it can’t as long as the current constitution isn’t declared null and void. Karnataka only wants to introduce a course – yes, just a course – asking people to learn the language of the land. It helps everyone.

As HC Boralangiah, former VC of Kannada university says:

For non-Kannada students, we have prescribed simple texts. We want them to become familiar with Kannada and Karnataka’s culture. Otherwise, we risk losing Kannada. Making Kannada compulsory means students need to pass in an examination as part of their degree.

And people find this unnecessary, regressive and ill-conceived? Come on, guys, stop your bean-counting and show some respect to India. Show that you are responsible citizens of India – the India right around you which you can touch and see and smell, the India that speaks Kannada.