Send me to hell or cut my tongue.
I will still talk Kannada through my nose.
These are not lines written by a fire-breathing Kannada bigot, and certainly not by the Kannadiga equivalent of an Islamic State suicide bomber.
These words are translated from a poem written by popular Kannada poet GP Rajaratnam. And he had Tamil roots: His ancestors had migrated to Karnataka a century earlier. Although Rajaratnam died in 1979, his literature for children continues to be avidly read in Karnataka and his works are a matter of immense pride to the state.
Those who are branding Tamils in Bengaluru today as anti-Kannadiga and venting their silly anger on Tamil-owned business establishments and vehicles must know this.
They must also know that the man who had helped Rajaratnam become a poet was another legendary Kannada writer. He was known by the nickname of Masti Kannadada Aasti. That loosely means: Masti is Kannada’s pride. He was Masti Venkatesha Iyengar, the 1983 Jnanpith Award winner who was born into a Tamil family in Karnataka’s Kolar district. His 123 Kannada books took modern Kannada literature to a new level. The award instituted in his name, the Masti Venkatesha Iyengar award, after his death in 1986, is much-coveted by modern Kannada writers.
Don’t forget RK Narayan. He had packed his bags in what was then Madras and migrated to the then Mysore. Many believe that the name of the fictional town Malgudi that figures in many of Narayan’s works comes from the first and the last letters of Malleswaram and Basavanagudi, two areas of Bengaluru.
And Malleswaram and Basavanagudi were extensions of Bengaluru that came up at the initiative of a Palghat Iyer. He was Seshadri Iyer, the dewan of Mysore between 1883 and 1901, whose initiatives made many Kannadiga leaders hail him as the maker of modern Bengaluru. Without him, Bengaluru wouldn’t have had many of its famous landmarks including the famous Glass House in Lalbagh. A part of the city known as Seshadripuram, where I once lived, was named after him.
The list of Tamils who have made Karnataka in general and the state’s capital in particular proud is endless.
What did Karnataka contribute to Tamil Nadu? Plenty. It gave that state J Jayalalithaa, who was born into a Tamil family at Melukote in Karnataka’s Mandya district — the heart of the state’s Cauvery basin—and who studied in Bengaluru. Karnataka also gave Rajinikath to the Tamils.
And Karnataka had once supplied at least part of the electricity for the construction of Tamil Nadu’s Mettur Dam, where the state is storing the Cauvery water being released now.
The fringe groups unleashing the hate campaigns must be told that Tamils and Kannadigas have been part of each other’s development and culture for a long time: thousand years to be precise. Beginning with the first major wave of Tamil migration to Bangalore in year 1004, when king Rajendra Chola captured Bangalore, the Kannadiga-Tamil bond continues.
Both the states must end this nonsense. And end it at once.
And it will continue forever despite goons in Tamil Nadu attacking Kannadigas and their counterparts in Karnataka venting their ridiculous fury on Tamils.
At least 20 percent of Bengaluru’s 84.26 lakh population are Tamils, who are the city’s second largest linguistic group after Kannadigas. Those custodians of Kannadiga rights who are attacking Tamils are in effect attacking nearly a quarter of Bengaluru. It’s just as preposterous as a man cutting off his own nose in a mad fit of fury.
Besides, the hapless owners of the shops, which are being raided, have nothing to do with the Cauvery water war. Those on this mindless rampage must know that Karnataka is releasing Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu on an order from the Supreme Court. The marauders must also know that their actions amount to defiance of the Supreme Court. The violence in both the states does not amount to bravery. It’s called cowardice.
As the court said on Monday: “Citizens cannot become a law unto themselves. Once the Supreme Court orders something, it is the obligation of the Executive and citizens to obey.”
As chief ministers of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, both Siddaramaiah and Jayalalithaa are guilty of having failed to nip the violence in the bud. Karnataka, in particular, showed a lackadaisical approach in dealing with the situation, which could have been prevented with smart policing in anticipation of just this ugly situation.
Both the chief ministers are clearly guilty of a much bigger crime. They have miserably failed — by omission or commission — in telling their respective people the truth about the Cauvery river, about the realities of the extent of the deficiency in rainfall, about what it meant precisely in terms of the water available and finally about the need to share the deficit.
Siddaramaiah’s failure lies in not effectively communicating to the farmers in the Cauvery basin that some water must go to Tamil Nadu. On her part, Jayalalithaa has failed by choosing not to tell her farmers that they simply cannot expect as much water as they need right now because there simply isn’t enough in the river.
The proportion of sharing the deficient waters is what the Supreme Court is looking into. And it’s also a question the Cauvery Supervisory Committee, a body headed by Central government’s water resources secretary and made up of officials of the warring states, is trying to answer.
Monday’s modified order of the Supreme Court, reducing the quantum of release from 15,000 cusecs to 12,000 till 20 September effectively means Karnataka is parting with more water, in the interim. That’s because although the state will release less water, it’s for a longer period, and this falls short of the expectations of both the states. The court will hear the case again on 20 September. But that in no way means it’s all darkness at the end of the tunnel for both the states.
And it by no means justifies the senseless violence, which is already prompting questions like: Are Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, India and Pakistan? Or are they Israel and Palestine?
In the rest of India, the Cauvery dispute is turning both Tamil Nadu (doing exceedingly well on many economic parameters) and Karnataka (India’s IT showcase) into one big, combined laughingstock. Outside India, this will only present the inevitable and exaggerated picture of a divided India.
Both the states must end this nonsense. And end it at once.
Author tweets @sprasadindia