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Karnataka: Story and journey of State unification

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Karnataka, the sixth largest State in India by area is located in the South Western region of India and it was formed on November 1, 1956, with the passing of the State Reorganisation Act. The State which was originally named Mysore got its name, Karnataka after final unification in 1973. This beautiful land shares its borders with Goa, Maharashtra, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala and has 31 Districts with Kannada being the State language.

Today, Karnataka is known as the technological hub. However, its winning spree dates back to prehistoric times. The State attracted settlement of vibrant civilisation since then and it’s a truly proud feeling that the early inhabitants of Karnataka knew the use of iron even before 1200 BC, far earlier than the North of India as it has been revealed at Hallur in Dharawad District.

Further, the State has seen many glorious empires, and some of the rulers from the North of India were Nandas and Mauryas. The Kadambas, Gangas and Badami Chalukyas, Vijayanagara are some of the indigenous empires that had glorious rule in the State.

Although the roots of the word ‘Karnataka’ are very old, the territory of present-day Karnataka was split into over 20 different administrative units including different princely states, the Madras and Bombay presidencies, and the Nizam’s Hyderabad state.

The movement for the unification of Karnataka began in the late 19th century, with the formation of the Karnataka Vidyavardhaka Sangha in Dharawad in 1890 by R. H. Deshpande. Records show that the Sangha passed a resolution in 1912, calling for the merger of the Kannada-speaking areas under the British. A Kannada Sabha was set up in 1916 to work towards unification, and it was renamed the Kannada Ekikarana Sangha in 1936. The Ekikarana movement got a boost with the organisation of the Kannada Sahitya Parishath in Bangalore in 1915. Dharawad continued to be the epicentre of the movement for a united Karnataka. When Congress passed a resolution in 1928 to formulate a Constitution for India, N. S. Hardikar and Ranganath Diwakar collected over 36,000 signatures from people who demanded that all the Kannada-speaking regions be merged into a single state.

Elsewhere in the state, the Mysore Kingdom functioned from 1881 when the erstwhile Maharaja Sri Chamarajendra Wadiyar assumed powers of the State and the order for the first representative assembly was issued on August 25, 1881. The assembly met for the first time on October 7 that year. Even then, anyone who had attained the age of 18 could vote.

The first Assembly under the Indian Constitution was formed in 1952 and had 99 elected members and one nominated member. With the formation of Andhra State in 1953, parts or the adjoining Bellary District from Madras State were added to Mysore State and the Strength of the Assembly increased by five members. That year, the unification movement took a violent turn. The Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee decided to hold its Special Executive Committee meetings at Town Hall in Hubballi on April 19, 1953. Around 25,000 people gathered at the Town Hall, and the Congress members had a hard time getting inside. They were gheraoed and heckled, and their resignations were demanded.

On November 1, 1956, the State of Mysore was formed following linguistic re-organisation. It included four Districts from the former Bombay State, three Districts of Hyderabad State, a District and a Taluk of the Old Madras State, the State of Coorg and the Princely State of Mysore. It was only in 1973, under the Chief Ministership of Devaraj Urs that the State was renamed as Karnataka.

The term Karnataka has its roots in terms that find mentioned in literary texts that are several hundred years ago. According to the late U. R. Ananthamurthy, the Kavirajamarga refers to the land from Cauvery to Godavari where Kannada is spoken as Kannada desha. “It is probably one of the earliest instances of defining a land in terms of a language spoken by a people,” Ananthamurthy had added.

Although there was a demand for the unification of all Kannada-speaking areas, there was opposition too, mostly from the Mysore region. However, it was felt by some in the Mysore region that merging the Kannada-speaking regions would place a strain on Mysore’s resources too.

Unfortunately, although territorial integration has been achieved, developmentally, Karnataka could still be divided into three: The Old Mysore region, Mumbai-Karnataka and Hyderabad-Karnataka. They are unequal in terms of living standards and are developed in that order.

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Raksha Deshpande

The author is a postgraduate in Mass Communication and Journalism from Karnataka University, Dharwad. Her interests range from literature, history, travel to politics, and is keenly interested to write human interest stories and articles relating to literature, travel.

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