Kannada or Devanagari? The dialect-rich Konkani sets off furious debate between Sahitya Academy & Konknnis

Politically powerful Devanagari lobbyists have argued that the Central Sahitya Akademi has only recognised Konkani written in Devanagari.

Though Konkani is written in 5 different scripts, namely – Kannada, Roman, Devanagari, Perso-Arabic and Malayalam – the Sahitya Akademi (Central), since the very beginning, has been awarding Awards, Assignments and Projects only to the literature in the Devanagari script.   Despite the fact that Devanagari is only the 3rdmost prolific script (after Kannada and Roman), the Akademi has been squarely ignoring and neglecting Konkani literature in other scripts.  When innumerable pleas and countless representations against this gross injustice evoked no positive response, Eric Ozario and 2 others (Vally Vagga, Mysore and Marcel D’souza, Mangalore ), on behalf of all Konkanis, have approached the honourable High Court of Karnataka, with a Writ Petition – WP. No. 35120/2011(GM-PIL) dated 8-9-2011.

The Writ Petition prays the High Court – ‘to issue a direction to the Sahitya Akademi, Respondent no. 1 herein, to recognize all the 5 scripts of Konkani Language viz., Kannada, Roman (English), Devanagari, Arabic and Malayalam as eligible for grant of Awards, Research funding and all other incidental works, for which assistance is rendered by the Akademi’.

While the High Court is considering this Petition, the ‘Karnataka State Konkani Linguistic Minorities Institutions’ have filed an application to implead them in the case and have pleaded to consider ‘only Devanagari for recognition’.  Together, they have issued a Press Statement (published on l2-6-2012) with false information.

Their statement claims that –

1.      ‘Devanagari is the official script of Konkani’.

2.      ‘The Constitution has given prominence to the Devanagari script’.

3.      ‘Konkanis use only the Devanagari script and not Kannada or Malayalam’.

4.      ‘If any script other than Devanagari is recognized, it will be detrimental to Konkani Langauage’.

Jagotik Konkani Songhotton (JKS) condemns these statements and wishes to expose the truth –

 Official Script –

(i)                  Who decides which is the official script of a language?  Does Devanagari become the official script, just because the Devanagari lobby declares so?  Such a decision has to be taken in a democratic process, at an assembly of representatives of all scripts.  Such an assembly has never been convened in Konkani.

(ii)                Moreover, this is not a question of the ‘Official script’. The Question is whether the Sahitya Akademi’s mandate is to honour and support the ‘literature’ of a language or the ‘script’ of a language.  If it is literature, then how can the Akademi pamper and patronize the literature in one script alone and completely ignore and disregard the literature in other scripts?

‘The Constitution has given prominence to the Devanagari script’ – totally untrue.  Articles 14 and  29 of the Constitution of India read as follows –

(i)                              Article 14 – Equality before law – “the state shall not deny to any person equality before law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India”.

(ii)                            Article 29 – Protection of interests of minorities – 1. ‘Any section of the citizen residing in the territory of India or any part thereof having a distinct language, script or culture of its own, shall have the right to conserve the same’

a.                   The Constitution of the Sahitya Akademi is very clear as to the script issue – the Constitution of the Sahitya Akademi – clause 3, sub clause 9 (a) ‘To improve and develop the various scripts in which the languages of the country are written’.

b.                  Not only that, in its reply to our Petition the Sahitya Akademi has admitted to the honourable High Court that – ‘ The mandate of the Sahitya Akademi is – fully to recognize and support the literary traditions of the given language”.  The literary traditions of Konkani being that it is in 5 scripts, the Sahitya Akademi has no option but to recognize and support literature in all 5 scripts of Konkani.

‘Konkanis use only the Devanagari script and not Kannada or Malayalam’.  This is the pinnacle of falsehood.  The truth is – According to the2001 Census, of the total Konkanis in India, 31.82% Konkanis live in Goa. 31.73% live in Karnataka.  All Konkanis living in Karnataka read and write Konkani in the Kannada script Goa is divided between Roman and Devanagari.  A Study conducted in 2011 reveals that only 12.7%Konkanis in India use Devanagari script; the remaining 87.3% use other scripts.  The use of Kannada script is the highest – 58%.

‘If any script other than Devanagari is recognized, it will be detrimental to Konkani language’. Our Response –

(i)                  Our fight is not against Devanagari.  We are not demanding that Devanagari be neglected.  Our demand is that the other 4 scripts also be considered, along with Devanagari.

(ii)                Their attempt is to destroy all script variety in Konkani and impose their variety on everyone.  This is detrimental to the unity and development of Konkani.  We condemn this and seek legal remedies.

Variety in Konkani is not in script alone. There is plenty of variety in dialect, religion, caste, traditions, customs, practices, folk-arts, cuisine, costumes, festivals, rituals etc. etc..  In the midst of so much variety to seek unity by destroying these varieties and by imposing one’s variety on all, is utter folly. ‘Unity in diversity’ is the mantra of our nation’s unity.  ‘Unity in diversity’ is also the formula for Konkani unity and future.