‘The Kannadiga’: A lost cause?
The Kannadiga; a word that triumphs the cause of the Kannada people, the Kannada Language, and the Kannada identity, in its new avatar has been reduced to a mere vote bank gimmick.
The term as most would want to believe, represents ‘The Kannadiga’, or a native of the state of Karnataka, and acts a connotation of the presence of Kannada culture, language and ethnicity in anyone willing to be identified with the term.
A closer look at the term however, reveals a far more intriguing meaning and relevance that have changed over time, along with the state’s changing history…
Karnataka, the homeland to The Kannadiga, is a historically backed cultural concept, as the state is home to many other communities, ethnically diverse from the mainstream Kannadiga, that share little or no relationship at all.
The majority Kannadiga or the Vokkaliga and Lingayat communities occupy the southern, central, and north central, areas of the state. They are the people of the Kannada heartland.
Kodagu or Coorg is home to the Kodavas, and differs completely from the heartland Kannadiga, while Uttar Kannad and Dakshin Kannada districts earlier known as North Canara and South Canara are home to The Tulus and The Konkanis, who are in majority within their respective areas.
Districts such as Belgaum, Gulbarga, Raichur, and Kolar which share borders with neighbouring states also tend to have more lingual tendencies towards the states they border with. Half the population of the state thus does not speak Kannada as their native language… So who is the Kannadiga?
What is ‘The Kannadiga’ culture? What differs a Kannadiga from a Tamizhian, a Malayalee, or an Andhrite?
The other South Indian states can easily differentiate themselves from each other as they have evolved into cultural structures independently based on their respective majority languages. Why hasn’t this happened in Karnataka?
To understand this, one will firstly have to understand ‘The Kannadiga’, its formation, and treat it as an individual subject without a comparison to any other culture.
‘The Kannadiga’, came into being as a nationalistic concept, the nation here being the unified homeland for the Kannadigas, during the freedom struggle. The need for the homeland drove unificationists to create ‘The Kannadiga’; an individual, who irrespective of the language spoken, shared the homeland earlier known as Kannada Naadu.
The movement centred in on the only ‘Kannada’ Kingdom at that time, The Mysore State, situated in the south of Modern Karnataka. The rest of Modern Karnataka was under the three different presidencies of Madras, Bombay and Nizami Hyderabad.
With such an unbiased classification of ‘The Kannadiga’, the movement received widespread support, and a few years after independence, the full fledged state of Karnataka came into being.
Stretching from the Gulbarg-Bidar area in the north, to the Canara coast, now the Konkan Coast, in the south, the new state promised to be a home to ‘The Kannadiga’.
Somewhere down the years however, ‘The Kannadiga’ began to be connected very literally with Kannada, the majority language, spoken in the state, and thus native Kannada speakers became the ‘true’ ethnic population within the state.
This led to a fractured identity of sorts.
Unlike many other Indian states, Karnataka could not afford to be defined by its majority language, and ‘The Kannadiga’ should have never been defined by the language spoken. But that is exactly what happened in the end!
The propaganda went to the limits of recreating history, Tulu kingdoms became Kannada kingdoms, and a spree of differentiating what was ‘Kannadiga’ from what was not, ultimately led to the complete alienation of all the other ethnic communities from this new particularised ‘Kannadiga’.
‘The Kannadiga’ was now a cultural construct, and the baggage it brought along with its identification, led to a total fracturing of the pre-established concept of ‘The Kannadiga’.
This however benefited a few. Our politicians found a new vote bank, films a new money making idea, and literature a new patriotic theme.
‘The Kannadiga’ was welcomed in its new avatar and made part of our understanding almost effortlessly. Nobody ever dreamt that it was actually a time bomb ticking away, just waiting to explode.
That blow came recently with Belgaum asking for its Marathi identity to be recognised. The demand did not flare up thankfully into anything violent, but there are always possibilities that it will in the future.
The state is existing on a borrowed time of peace, and it’s about time our culturalists, and politicians woke up and mend what went wrong so long ago, failing which, secessionism; something the state should never see, will remain a very predictable doom in the future of this glorious state.