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.



Sahitya Akademi Awardee Dr.Kasturi Desai Passed Away In Goa

Dr. Kasturi Desai’s body to be donated to Ayurvedic college

Dr Kasturi Narayan Desai (Bhattacharya), well-known writer & researcher, founder-member of the Botanical Society of Goa and co-author of its DST&E Project-based book “Conservation and Management of Coastal Sand Dune Vegetation in Goa” passed away at KLE Hospital, Belgaum, after a brief illness on Friday, March 23.She was 55.

Married to Goan educationist Narayan Desai, Dr. Kasturi, a Bengali, had won the ‘Sahitya Akademi Translation Award’ in 2010 for ‘Adhikar Aranyacho’, a Konkani translation of Mahashweta Devi’s Bengali novel, ‘Aranyer Adhikari’. She had recently told reporters that she wanted to translate Rabindranath Tagore’s book ‘Shesher Kobita’ into Konkani.

An associate professor of Botany at a Ponda-based college, Dr. Kasturi had done studies and written books on flowers and sand dune vegetation. She was a very popular lecturer and many of her students had rushed to Belgaum to donate blood. Dr. Kasturi was also an active member of the Goa Bengali Cultural Association and had written extensively on medicinal plants. As per wish, her body will be donated to the Ayurvedic college in Shiroda.

She is survived by her husband Dr Narayan Desai, former principal of S S Angle Higher Secondary School, Mashem-Canacona and member of the Board of Studies on Agriculture based courses at the Goa Board of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education, and their daughter, Apurva.

Dr Kasturi Desai’s body was brought to their Nageushi-Ponda residence on Saturday, March 24 at 9.30 am. There will be no cremation or burial as she has donated her body as a cadaver to the Ayurveda College, Shiroda-Ponda.

Dr Kasturi Desai completed her M Sc in Botany from Ranchi University and joined as lecturer in Botany at Ponda Education Society’s college [now the Ravi Naik College] in Farmagudi. She did her Ph D from Goa University under the guidance of Dr A G Untawale, founder-president of the Botanical Society of Goa.

She continued to teach while doing her research on different plants and eco-systems in Goa. She had done a wide study on flowers. Her articles on plants & ayurveda were published regularly in Goa’s English daily, ‘The Navhind Times’. She contributed her write-ups on science related topics for a Konkani daily newspaper ‘Sunaparant.’  She was a Sahitya Academy awardee for the rare distinction of translating a  book from her mother tongue, Bengali, into Konkani which she spoke fluently after learning it in Goa.

Earlier, she was an active member of the Ponda Jaycees and has served as its secretary during her early days in Goa. In Ponda, she was actively involved in a movement against plastic as well as several other environmental activities.

The Botanical Society of Goa, Panaji-Goa, deeply mourns the untimely passing away of its active member Dr Kasturi Desai.  May her soul rest in peace. May Dr Narayan Desai and their daughter Apurva have the fortitude to bear the loss.

Her recent interview in Konkani Rocks (http://www.konkanirocks.com):

How did you react when you got the news of achieving laurels at the National level?
When Mr. Pundalik Naik gave me a call from Delhi, I was teaching in the college at that time and I could not believe my ears. I first thank God for my success, my husband- Dr Narayan Desai for guiding me and giving valuable suggestions in the process of translation and also my family who supported me all the time. I am grateful to Shridhar Kamat Bambolkar, Pundalik Naik, Ravindrabab Kelekar, Gurunathbab Kelekar, Ramesh Veluskar and many others who supported me throughtout and enlightened me to do a major job.
What is special in Mahashweta Devi’s novel?
This novel is based on Birsa Munda, a leader of a tribal community who raises voice against the atrocities of the Britishers and the higher class for the right of their forest. Basically, it talks about the tribes from Bihar, Jharkand, Orissa, Bengal and Chota Nagpur areas.
In one of the interviews, the Dnyanpith awardee- Ravindrabab Kelekar stated that your translation is a precious literary work. How you feel about this compliment?
I am very much thankful for Ravindrabab Kelekar. I am originally from Bengal and when I got married to Dr Narayan Desai (a Goan) at that time Ravindrabab Kelekar advised me “It is good to marry interstate but, it is worth when you exchange your literature with another state.” These words encouraged me and played a major role for inspiration.
What are the difficulties you faced to bring a Bengali novel into Konkani Version?
Some Bengali views were not so easy to translate into Konkani. The dialect was used at the time of 1875-1900’s. Therefore I faced quite a lot of difficulties in bringing Bengali into Konkani. Some of the plants, trees and the nature description proved to be a difficult task for me. However, the full credit goes to my husband, Dr Narayan, who guided me, throughout. Since I have completed my MSc in Ranchi, I was fortunate enough as this story is based near this place which made me understand the dialect of the locals easily.
What are your future projects for translation? 
I am thinking to translate more Bengali literature in Konkani. I want to translate Rabindranath Tagore’s book titled ‘Shesher kobita’ into Konkani.
How it makes the literature rich trough translation?
I feel that the concept in the book has to be understood by the masses from different states of the country; every civilised person ought to know what is happening in the other part of his own country. And I think translation contributes to this to a very great extent.