Gokak agitation (ಗೋಕಾಕ್ ಚಳುವಳಿ) was a successful language rights agitation in the 1980s that fought for the first language status of the Kannada language in the state of Karnataka, India.
It was named after the committee headed by V. K. Gokak that had recommended giving primacy to Kannada in State schools. The actor Rajkumar led the campaign.
Karnataka had adopted Three language formula for education in schools since the linguistic reorganization of states in 1956. Strong opposition to Hindi was witnessed in the 1960s and '70s, leading to Kannada speakers leaning towards English. It was also felt that Kannada faced threat from Sanskrit, which was the dominant language in schools, leading to a situation where students could complete their high school education without having to study Kannada. This created a wide incompatibility between languages used for state administration and education.
This led to a linguistic movement against retaining Sanskrit as the first language in School education. The movement was initiated and supported by political parties, groups of Kannada teachers, students, college and university professors, literary critics, playwrights, and creative writers. This made the government rethink about the language policy for school education and constituted a committee on July 5, 1980 with Prof. V.K. Gokak as the Chairman.
V.K. Gokak, the former Vice-Chancellor of Karnataka University , also now one of the Jnanpith awardees, headed the committee appointed by the Government of Karnataka to analyse and study the linguistic issues that were raised regarding the importance of various languages, including the state language Kannada and other languages such as English, Marathi, Telugu, Tamil and Urdu.
The report given by the committee recommended that the Government provide first language status to Kannada and also demanded the primary facilities that the language needed at the time.
The agitation and campaign
There was opposition to the Gokak Report from several sectors of the public, which included minorities from various non-Kannada speaking groups.
The Government had not passed any ruling or announcement, even after the report was officially submitted by the committee. This resulted in minor protests from various men of letters, writers, and some pro-Kannada, pro-Karnataka organizations. The response from the public was moderate and there were no signs from the Government that it intended to implement the recommendations made by the Gokak committee.
Dr. Rajkumar's leadership
Various personalities from Kannada literature
world including Chandrashekhar Patil
, approached and requested Rajkumar
, an icon of the Kannada film industry
, to participate in the agitation along with the other major artists from the industry. Rajkumar accepted to participate, and soon the entire Kannada film industry stopped its film-making activity, and started in state-wide rallies and speeches. With Dr. Rajkumar's leadership, the agitation gained a very strong momentum and there was a drastic change in the response from the general public of Karnataka
state. People from all over the state, started participating in the various gatherings, and speeches. The topics such as, importance of the Kannada as the mother-tongue, and importance of having the primary education including the learning of Kannada language were talked in detail in all those speeches.
Government's response to the agitation
The Government of Karnataka
, headed by the then Chief Minister, R. Gundu Rao
, responded to the seriousness of the agitation, which had gained significant momentum after Rajkumar had taken leadership of the agitation. It announced that it accepted the report submitted by the Gokak Committee and would ensure all the primary facilities that the language Kannada deserves as the mother tongue of the local people as well as the official language of the state of Karnataka.
- B. Mallikarjun, Language policy for education in Indian states: Karnataka, in Language in India, Vol.2: 9 December 2002 accessed at Feb 20, 2007
- K.N. Harikumar, Language and democracy, article in Deccan Herald, April 5, 1982 accessed at kannadasaahithya.com Feb 20, 2007