Political leaders in Karnataka, including Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa, former chief minister H D Kumaraswamy and a few MPs, have taken exception to a purported proposal to rename some of the villages in Kerala’s Kasargod district which has a considerable Kannada-speaking population.
Karnataka Border Area Development Authority (KBADA) chairperson C Somashekara shot off a letter to Kerala’s PWD and revenue departments on June 24, urging them not to change the Kannada names of these villages.
Yediyurappa in a statement said the issue has been brought to his notice and that he would write to Kerala CM Pinnarayi Vijayan that it was not right to rename villages whose Kannada names bear cultural and historic significance. The chief minister said Malayalis and Kannadigas in Kasaragod and Manjeshwar have been living harmoniously, hence it is not right to change the names of places from Kannada to Malayalam.
Somashekara told The Federal that he gathered information through locals that the village panchayats and local bodies are mulling to transliterate the names of places like Madhura as Madhuram, Malla as Mallam, Manjeshwar as Manjeshwaram, Karadka as Kadagam, Bedadka as Bedagam, Kumble as Kumbla, Pilikunje as Pilikunnu, Anebagilu as Anevagil and Hosadurga as Pudiyakota.
“It’s astonishing to note that there’s an attempt from the local bodies to change the names of some of the villages without giving any opportunity to the people to express their views,” Somashekara said. “Predominantly, the existing names were from Kannada and Tulu languages. Some of the names of these villages have a long history of over 100 years,” he added.
However, the Kerala PWD and Revenue Department officials said they haven’t received the letter yet and there was no official communication to rename those villages.
“We haven’t received the letter yet. And there’s no formal decision to rename the villages,” Kerala Minister PA Mohammed Riyas said.
The panchayat president in Manjeshwar, who did not wish to be named said, colloquially they have been using the Malayalam names for a long time and wondered why the issue is being raked up now as there was no demand or protest from the locals.
At the time of Independence, the present area of Kasaragod was part of Karnataka in the Madras province. Following the linguistic state reorganization, Kasaragod was merged with Malabar district and the state of Kerala in 1956.
The issue of Kannadigas vs Keralites in Kasargod has been on the ebb since 2017 when Kerala proposed to make Malayalam mandatory in schools. The Kannada-medium schools in Kasargod were opposed to it. Even a movie Sarkari Hiriya Prathamika Shaale-Kasaragodu (2018) was made to highlight the plight of Kannadigas. Last year, a Malayalam speaking teacher was posted to a Kannada medium school and she had to enter the premises with police protection as the other teachers and students were opposed to her appointment.
“We must strongly oppose the move of the Kerala government as a move to protect Kannada culture. Since the issue is about emotions of the people and also a sensitive one,” Kannada and Culture Minister Aravind Limbavali said.