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Chatan Ahimsa
Thursday , April 11, 2013 at 12 : 07

We, the voices of love


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We, the Voices of Love, assert:

The true beauty and vision of a language stem less from the quantity of its speakers and more from the quality of its openness to growth of varying worldviews, other linguistic traditions and its own hybrid development.

Languages inspire imaginations beyond constructed demarcations of religion, caste, class, political boundaries and forms of chauvinism. Hence, the more languages we know, the more we can work to build a better tomorrow.

Within the political confines of Karnataka, we have a rich legacy of syncretism, secularism and Ahimsa. Various identities have not only co-existed but coalesced, strengthening our peoples.

Languages, like human beings, are combinations of multiple linguistic, religious and other identities. Hence, like our languages, we are all inter-connected, making us one and the same.

Within the political boundaries of Karnataka, history and art reveal that all religious and community affiliations have contributed to the growth of Kannada.

Our common theme of love and equality is exemplified through artists and icons such as the following: Gururajalu Naidu, Ferdinand Kittel, Pampa, AK Ramanujan, Kanaka Dasa, Shishunaala Shareef, DV Gundappa, Nisar Ahmed's translations of Pablo Neruda, Poorna Chandra Tejaswi, Vachanagaras, and several others.

Such unity in diversity has made all our languages a model for the entire globe.

Languages offer an inclusive way of overcoming our shared histories of colonial suffocation. During colonialism, monolithic linguistic identities were forged among our people via the English language and others. The only way to regain our pluralistic strength is to reject static linguistic traditions entrenched by the English language (and other colonial forms) and develop our vernaculars in abundance.

In other words, our lingua franca(s) must always be diverse and complex if we are to grow as unified peoples. If we settle for a static, colonial option like English (or any other) as the primary lingua franca, we limit our imaginative capabilities and perpetuate the dominance and violence of imperial rule once again.

That doesn't mean the colonial linguistic option should be rejected completely. Instead, it should be learnt as a means to overcome the histories of subjugation we have faced by those languages of colonial descent. Learning must be a form of taking pride in our heterogeneity and marginalisation and never a need to emulate or display proficiency which more deeply entrenches hierarchies in the public spheres.

Accents of all kinds are equally valid, and we should work to promote our indigenous accents within the framework of learning the colonial language(s).

We must be aware of our interactions on a daily basis. It is positive growth when we speak to one another in our local languages even without complete knowledge of the others' languages (either spoken and/or written), as we are actually helping our minds grow creatively. Also, by communicating in one another's vernaculars, we are engendering new(er), hybrid languages, recognising our shared histories, undermining modern-day vestiges of imperialism, and hence, strengthening our peoples even further.

According to many scholars, children can readily learn 5 to 6 languages at a stretch. We ask that men and women raising children keep this in mind for long-term betterment and promote the learning of and interaction with several languages along with the tenants of Ahimsa, love, equality and ubiquitous respect.

People without conventional verbal linguistic skills should also be treated as equals and their languages of sign and other methods recognised as equal linguistic traditions.

For the information of all, languages of our peoples outlined within the political boundaries of Karnataka are described in detail below:

The medieval Deccan has been a major repository of Urdu cultural maturation. The Adil Shahis of Bijapur enhanced the aesthetics of Urdu (Dakhani) and even patronised the growth of Sanskrit, Marathi and Kannada, giving credence to the inclusiveness of the Sufi traditions. Partition Urdu literature by Ishmat Chughtai, Hasan Sadat Manto, and others along with ghazals, shairis and kawalis remain inspirations of goodness, compassion and love for all of us today.

The Qutub Shahis of Golkonda (and Hyderabad) also engendered heterodoxy within the political confines of today's Andhra Pradesh. The Qutub Shahis championed non-violence, demilitarisation and the growth of Indo/Persian synthesis. Also, the kingdom of Vijayanagar exemplifies the splendour of Telugu-Kannada interdependence and friendship. Today's Hyderabad-Karnataka region (and Bengaluru) not only has speakers of both languages but has created linguistic amalgams that combine the historicity of Kannada with the lyricality of Telugu. Also, the poetry of Telugu has inspired many to question the injustices of society, making social reformers like Guruzada Venkata Apparao and Srirangam Srinivasa Rao relevant today.

The Tamil Bhakti movements of inclusivity and resistance, Ramaswamy Periyar's idealism and the reformation poet Subramanya Bharati reside in all our hearts even today. Tamil has had an organic presence in our capital Bengaluru ever since the Chola period. Today, those who trace lineage to the age-old migrations from Tamil Nadu-such as litterateur Masti Venkatesh Iyengar and others-have produced wonderful works of art and literature in our local languages.

The theatre movements of Kannada have gained much from the vibrant stage traditions of Marathi (along with Bengali and Parsi dramaturgy movements) via talented stalwarts like Pandit Deenanath Mangeshkar. Marati speakers from Belgaum, Bidar and Bengaluru have provided strong governance dating back to Hyder Ali. Writers such as Da. Ra. Bendre remain sources of strength for today's Kannada literary harmony. Vijay Tendulkar's plays in Marathi have been recognised globally and we appreciate his hybrid Konkani legacy.

Konkani, Tulu, Beary Bashe, and languages of the coast reveal a history of global interactions and innate hybridity. For example, the Paddanas of Tulu describe empowered femininity. The positive growth of the Tulu film industry is also a sign of progress and we support its creativity. Konkani and Beary epitomise diverse linguistic traditions. Konkani's transnational-ness is evident in its influences from Arab, Turkish and Gujarati sources. Beary Bashe's folk music, ghazals and literatures highlight an artistic fortitude stretching beyond political boundaries into today's Kerala.

Malayalam has speakers throughout Dakshin Kannad, Mangalore and Bengaluru. Malayalam speakers' attempts at overwhelming religious, social and educational egalitarianism in Kerala are acknowledgements that all communities and occupations have contributed in building a more inclusive society. We hope Malayalam speakers continue their robust cinema traditions, literary movements and political thoughts as exemplified by the likes of Asan, Ulloor and Vallathol as well as EMS Namboodiripad.

The often-overlooked tribal languages are the ones that present a highly unique, potent and inclusive force of imagination. Kodava has made strides in developing a new script and we support such creative efforts by the Mendale Takka and Kiggaati Takka. We also ask that Kodavas take a leadership position and help grow other tribal languages within our political confines as the Kodavas have benefited much in our society when compared to other tribal languages.

The speakers of our tribal languages such as Sholiga, Jenu Kuruba, Bettad Kuruba are the pride of our peoples. Their languages and belief systems possess enabling oral traditions, innate spirituality, and tenants of equality and justice that should be recognised and fostered for the benefit of the self-esteem of the speakers and an all-encompassing inclusive consciousness.    

The people of Karnataka have a legacy of kindness and respect for those of all linguistic and cultural backgrounds both within the political confines of India and across the globe regardless of race, gender, class, community, religion or any other constructed affiliations. From Tipu Sultan who was fluent in six lanaguages, including Urdu, Persian, Arabic, Kannada, English and French, to Kengal Hanumanthiah who laid the foundations of social service and architecture via "Government's Work is God's Work" motto, to Nijalingappa who provided land for Tibetan refugees in Bylakuppe/ Mundgod/Kollegal/Gurupura, our peoples have prioritised inclusivity and heterodoxy.

According to 'National Geographic' sources, one language dies every 14 days and over the course of fifty years, the world will lose 7,000 languages. The speakers of our local languages recognise that any language on the 'verge of extinction' anywhere within the political confines of Karnataka requires immediate attention from its speakers, our governments and us. 'Verge of extinction' refers to languages that have not been given due recognition governmentally/financially (not including the ones listed above) or has a primarily elderly group of people communicating and maintaining it. We ask the youths to contact the elders of these communities who are like libraries of knowledge and insight, respect our elders, care for them and gain knowledge by documenting as much of the language's oral traditions, legends, folklore, songs, histories, written works and the like from them immediately via videos, notebooks, recordings, etc - as it is in the best interest of our peoples, our languages and our humanity.

The people within the politically-defined boundaries of Karnataka also show respect and care without ever displaying inappropriate physical contact, visual oogling or verbal obscenities toward the women, men, and all gendered migrant workers, students, travellers, and peoples from within our regions, our political nation-state, the larger South Asian subcontinent and throughout the globe.

The political boundaries of Karnataka are composed of the following peoples: Bihari peoples who trace lineage to social reformers like 'Babuji' Jagjivan Ram and Siddhartha Gautama Buddha; Bengali peoples from the birthplace of colonial resistance, Kamaladevi Chatopadhyaya, Rabindra Sangeet, Sheikh Mujbir Rahman and delicacies of seafood; the dedicated workers of the Northeast from the lands of Irom Sharmila, a gender-inclusive Thang-ta and vibrant dance traditions; Malayalam peoples of Syrian Jews and their principles of religious inclusivity; the Afghani people with age-old traditions of heterodoxy epitomised with languages of Pasthu, Dari, Baluchi, religious cohesiveness of Jews, Arabs, and Hindu faiths, the nomadic integration of Uzbeks, Kyrgyes, and Turkmens, Pashtun champions of our Partition freedom struggle Khudai Khitmadgar, and Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan; the peoples of Northern, Central, and Western India and beyond political boundaries of the nation-state from the lands of Dara Shikoh, Guru Nanak, Shukra Raj Shastri, 'Mahatma' Gandhi, Baba Saheb Ambedkar, Kashyap Bandhu, Maulana Azad, Sir Muhammad Iqbal, Bapsi Sidhwa, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, the struggles of Medha Patkar, the wonders of all forms of classical music, folk sports, and folk art; those from the lands of Buddha's influence of Jigme Singye Wangchuk, AP De Zoysa, and Vijay Kumaranatunga; those from the global traditions of social reform such as Annie Besant, Mother Teresa and Anne Smedinghoff.

Our peoples also seek the support from those of Africa, Middle East, South America, North/Central/Southeast Asia, global Island Nations, Australia, North America, Europe, and all others who believe in and champion LOVE, EQUALITY, and AHIMSA for all.

To all language speakers across the globe, we acknowledge your struggles, admire your courage and extend our worlds to you.

Join hearts as we are all the Voices of Love.


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Chatan Ahimsa is an actor and an activist.

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