What We Need Are Kannada Schools Not Sammelanas: Rupa Hassan

This article is a translation of Rupa Hassan’s article published in Samyukta Karnataka on 30th December 2018. The English translation was published on Countercurrents. Reproduced here:

What We Need Are Kannada Schools Not Sammelanas: Rupa Hassan

Our Akhila Bharata Sahitya Sammelana is an annually occurring lavish ritual literally like a school annual day celebration. This time it’s being observed in Dharwad. The expenditure for these Sammelanas has been increasing by the crores, year after year. It was 8 crores for the Sammelana held in Mysore last year, 7 plus crores for the one before that in Shravanabelagola and this year it is estimated to be around 12 crores.

Kannada Sahitya Parishat occupies the distinguished position of being an organisation that is representative of Kannadigas.The protection, development and promotion of Kannada language and literature, art, culture and folk practices has been declared in the rules [bylaws] as the primary objective of the Sahitya Parishat. In order to realise this objective, together with organising conventions, literary festivals, state festivals, lectures, seminars etc an important aim is to undertake the work of establishing and encouraging Kannada schools as well as literacy campaigns.

But the Parishat, following its primary objective, is solely doing the astounding work of ‘promotion’! Lakhs and crores are being spent in organising conventions throughout the year throughout the state, districts, taluks and hoblis. It has turned a complete blind eye to the other aspects of the objective which is ‘protection and development’. The opulence of these Sammelanas at a time when Kannada land-language is in extreme distress is shameful. Without ever taking a strong stand on burning issues regarding land-language, without ever taking on a critical role on behalf of Kannadigas, without ever undertaking any constructive work, without mobilising a movement the Parishat by just paying lip service and drowning in these lavish, grand Sammelanas is like decking up with jasmine even when there’s no food to eat.

The Supreme Court’s judgement against the mother tongue as medium of instruction came coincidentally at the excitement ridden time of the centenary celebrations of the Sahitya Parishat. Even then, it managed to keep the record of spending more than it had previously by organising a grand Sammelana. How will Kannada ever survive if it’s not part of education? There seemed to be no introspection about the ridiculousness of organising a Sammelana at that time in the name of Kannada. A Sahitya Parishat that should have understood making Kannada advantageous in education to be its’ breath, its’ life showed phenomenal disregard limiting itself to writing perfunctory letters to the government, not attempting anything else constructive and merely organising Sammelanas where without fail lectures were assembled one after another about Kannada land, language and education, where it also limited itself to only passing resolutions which all seems like making a mockery of Kannada land-language.

The sharing of Kaveri and Mahadayi river water, border disputes, unemployment issues, severe drought, farmers’ suicides in the thousands, the heavy rainfall, landslides, heavy casualties and property losses in Kodagu and Malanadu because of cloudbursts…..in the midst of such severe burning issues in Karnataka, the Sahitya Parishat has never stood up to fight against all of this nor designed any constructive programs to tackle this and definitely has never ever been persistently motivated to act.

Hence, when the state government announced that it would impart English medium education in a 1000 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. Well off parents send their children to private schools and not to government schools due to all these reasons. At the same time since licenses are being given indiscriminately to establish private schools resulting in them mushrooming everywhere and impoverished government schools that look like a manifestation of inconveniences are being sidelined.

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 its voice about all this has just sat mum and now complaining loudly is only letting itself become a joke.

In such distressing times what the Kannada Sahitya Parishat with its’ core aim of ‘Kannada schools should be established, Kannada schools should be nurtured,’ should do is not organise a Sammelana that costs crores. Putting a halt to unnecessary expenditure, it should use this money to establish new government schools in villages that are well managed and well equipped. It should also take on the critical responsibility of running these from the ground level up. Then, that would be genuine Kannada work. This is the work of safeguarding Kannada. It is the work that becomes an act of standing in support of the educational rights of vulnerable children.

At the very least, adopt a hundred impoverished Kannada schools that have fallen into disarray due to lack of basic infrastructural facilities and strengthen their very core. Probably there is no greater Kannada work than that. There is no doubt that if this happens then the condition of state education will be altered for the better. But does the Kannada Sahitya Parishat have the intelligence and the will to do this? It is far easier and more profitable to organise Sammelanas rather than do this work isn’t it?

Hence I rejected the invitation to preside over the Hassan District Sahitya Sammelan held earlier last year.

Together 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 still not yet received a reply!

Translated from Kannada into English by Rashmi Munikempanna

Rupa Hassan is an award winning Kannada poet, writer and activist who has been working over the decades on issues related to women’s rights, children’s rights and the environment to name a few. Her poetry has been translated into various languages. She, with Hasiru Bhoomi Trust, is currently involved in the successful work of rejuvenation of kalyanis (traditional water tanks) in Hassan that has seen drought over consecutive years.

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