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Unification of Karnataka

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Unification of Karnataka

Present map of Karnataka. Only South Karnataka was Mysore State from 1947 to 1956.

The Unification of Karnataka refers to the formation of the Indian state of Karnataka, then named Mysore State, in 1956 when several Indian states were created by redrawing borders based on linguistic demographics. The formation of the state of Mysore was the culmination of a movement that had started several decades earlier during British rule when the first demands for a state based on Kannada demographics had been put forward.

Historical background

Territories before unification

During the period of British rule, areas that today comprise Karnataka were under as many as 20 different administrative units with the princely state of Mysore, Nizam's Hyderabad, the Bombay Presidency, the Madras Presidency and the territory of Kodagu being the most important ones. In effect, nearly two-thirds of what is now Karnataka fell outside the rule of the Wodeyar kings of Mysore.

What this meant for the Kannadigas in these regions was that they in spite of their large numbers they did not enjoy an administrative patronage. Kannadigas in the Hubli-Karnataka region for example, came under the rule of the Bombay Presidency where Marathi was the official language. Those in the Hyderabad-Karnataka region came under the Nizam's rule where Urdu ruled. Kannadigas in South Canara came under the rule from Madras Presidency which used Tamil as the main language.

Under these conditions, a feeling of discontent had started brewing among Kannadigas outside Mysore. They felt that their interests and their language was being mortgaged to the interests of the higher ups. Thus, while the Kannadigas under the Nizam felt that Urdu was being thrust on them at the expense of Kannada, those in the Bombay Presidency felt similarly vis a vis Marathi.[1] Economically also, these areas remained undeveloped, neglected and backward. It was against this backdrop that the movement that first started as a protest against linguistic oppression, soon morphed into one that began demanding a separate state be created consolidating all Kannada-speaking regions. This was essentially a movement that was spearheaded by the poets, journalists and writers and was called the Ekikarana or 'Unification' movement.

The role of North Karnataka

Almost the entire southern half of Karnataka was then under the Wodeyars of Mysore with Karnataka Vidyavardhaka Sangha also took birth in Dharwad. Thus the contribution of the people and leaders of North Karnataka towards the unification of Karnataka is central.

The Vidyavardhaka Sangha and other organisations

Participants of the first Kannada Sahitya Parishat

The establishment of the Kannada Sahitya Parishat (Bangalore) that was set up in 1915, the Karnataka Sangha (Shivamogga) that took birth in 1916 and the Karnataka Samithi in Kasaragodin the year 1955.

Karnataka Samithi (R), Kasaragod

Karnataka Samithi (R), Kasaragod is an organisation set up in 1955 which advocates a merger of Kasaragod with Karanataka State. Late Sri Umesha Rao, popularly known as 'Gadinadu Gandhi' was the first president. Rao was the only person to be elected to the Kerala Assembly unanimously. On his death in 1957, late Sri B. S. Kakkillaya, a well-known advocate was holding the office of the president till 1967. Kakkillaya was one of the leading personalities who fought for the unification of Karnataka. His services for the cause was recognised by the government of Karnataka, and he was one whose photograph was printed in the Karnataka government Suvarna Karnataka calendar published in 2006.

Sri Kallige Mahabala Bhandari, advocate, was elected to the Kerala Assembly from Manjeshwaram Constituency in Kasaragod under the Samithi banner. Late Sri U. P. Kunikullaya was elected to the Kerala Assembly in 1967 under the Samithi Banner. Due to the continuous efforts of the Samithi, the issue of merger of Kasaragod was referred to Justice Mahajan Commission by the government of India in 1966. Late Sri B. S. Kakkillaya prepared a case for presenting before the commission. Late Sri K. R. Karanth, a former minister under late Sri Rajagopalachari in the then State of Madras and a leading advocate represented the Samithi before the commission. The commission upheld the claim for merger of Kasaragod with the State of Karnataka in his report to the government of India. The report was placed before the Indian Parliament. The Parliament is yet to take a final decision in the matter.

Sri B.V. Kakkillaya took over the presidency of the Samithi in 2000. During his term as president, the government of Kerala nominated him as a member of the State Level Committee for Linguistic Minorities in Kerala. The government of Karnataka gave the 'Suvarna Karnataka Ekikarana Award' to the Samithi on the occasion of Suvarna Karnataka Rajyotsava in 2006. Sri B.V. Kakkillaya, the president of the Samithi, received the award. Kakkillaya, ex-MLA, Mangalore (uncle of Sri B.V.Kakkillaya, president of Karnataka Samithi) was awarded the Suvarna Karnataka Ekikarana Award on the same occasion.It is unique that two persons from the same family and having the same name are conferred with Rajyotsava award for the same reason, one in his individual capacity and the other in his capacity as the president of Karnataka Samithi.

Aluru Venkata Rao

Even though the first strains of resentment and protest had started as early as in 1856 and the Karnataka Vidyavardhaka Sangha had been established in 1890, the movement took a dramatic turn with the arrival of Aluru Venkata Rao on the scene. Speaking at a meeting of the Sangha in 1903, Alur Venkata Rao made a case for integrating all Kannada regions of Madras Province and north Karnataka with Mysore kingdom. Aluru himself found inspiration in the vehement protests that followed the British partitioning of Bengal.

In 1907 and again in 1908, Rao organised the All-Karnataka Writers' Conference in Dharwad. Drawing inspiration from the Vidyavardhaka Sangha and the efforts of Deshpande, Aluru helped found the Kannada Sahitya Parishat in Bangalore in 1915. This Parishat found an eager patron in the ruler of Mysore. The Parishat began holding annual literary conferences(that continue even today) in different parts of the state. Intellectuals from across the Kannada speaking regions attended these conferences. During the Home Rule Movement, Aluru floated the idea of a Karnataka 'Provincial' unit of the Indian National Congress. This soon took shape and the Karnataka Pradesh Congress committee was formed.

Karnataka Gatha Vaibhava

Amidst all this, Aluru published his magnum opus, the Karnataka Gatha Vaibhava in 1912. Karnataka Gatha Vaibhava literally means The glory that was Karnataka!. It was a book that recounted in great detail the glorious history that had been Karnataka's until the fall of Vijayanagar after which the Marathas, Nizam and the British took over. The book created tremendous impact on the young and old alike. The movement soon caught the imagination of the public and people started rallying around the Ekikarana movement and the movement picked up momentum. For all these efforts and for being the one who inspired a whole movement, Aluru is today fondly remembered as the Kannada Kula Purohita or the 'High priest of the Kannada clan'.

The movement gathers momentum

Starting with Aluru's call for a Kannada linguistic state, the movement had slowly started gaining momentum and following. It was also around the time that the Indian independence movement itself was gathering steam. For freedom fighters in Karnataka, the incentive to fight on was not just independence for India but also a chance to fulfill their dreams of building a united Karnataka. These organisations began organising numerous rallies, talks and conferences where vociferous demands for a separate state for Kannada speaking people was made.

Apart from Aluru himself, stalwarts like Gudleppa Hallikeri, Siddappa Kambli, R H Deshpande, Rangarao Diwakar, Koujalgi Srinivasarao,Srinivas Rao Mangalvedhe, Kengal Hanumanthaiah, Gorur Ramaswamy Iyengar, S Nijalingappa, T Mariyappa, Subramanya, Sowcar Chennaiah, H K Veerangowda, H C Dasappa, H Siddaiah,K. R. Karanth, B. S. Kakkillaya, B. V. Kakkillaya and Anakru were by now at the forefront of the agitations. Anakru in particular, had a mesmerising impact on the masses with his writing and powerful oratory.

The Nagpur Conference

Due to the efforts of these organisations and leaders, the movement not only gained in momentum but also attained a quasi-political clout. In 1920, Karnataka State Political Conference was held at Dharwad. At this conference, which was presided over by V P Madhav Rao, a unanimous resolution was passed demanding the unification of all Kannada speaking areas. The conference also exhorted Kannadigas to attend the Nagpur Congress to be held later that year in large numbers. Almost 800 delegates answered the call and attended the Nagpur conference where the Indian National Congress took the landmark decision to create the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee.This provided further fillip to the movement and many influential leaders of the Congress like S Nijalingappa and Kengal Hanumanthaiah (both of whom went on to become Chief Ministers of Karnataka) and Gudleppa Hallikeri also served as active members of the Ekikarana movement.

The Belgaum Conference of 1924

In 1924, the Belgaum congress was held under the aegis of the newly formed Karnataka Pradesh Congress committee arm of the INC. Mahatma Gandhi presided over this historic conference. This conference was attended by Kannadigas from all parts in large numbers. The first Karnataka Unification Conference was also organised at the same venue. This was presided over by Siddappa Kambli.

These twin conferences drew numerous leaders, writers, poets and intellectuals from all over Karnataka and forceful speeches were made extolling the glory and greatness of Karnataka. It was here that Huilgol Narayana Rao first sang his famous Udayavagali namma cheluva kannada nadu, which meant Let our charming Kannada land dawn!. The INC, for the first time lent formal support to the cause. This marked an important event in the history of the movement as for the first time, the movement got explicit political support. As a result of these conferences, the Karnataka Ekikarana Sabha which was to work in close collaboration with the KPCC took birth with the objective of the unification of Karnataka. The Karntaka Ekikarana Sabha later came to be known as the Karnataka Ekikarana Sangha.

The Nehru committee recommendation

In 1928, due to the efforts of Gudleppa Hallikeri, the formation of a single province by uniting all Kannada speaking areas was recommended by the Nehru Committee. It was observed by the committee that there was a "strong prima facie case for unification". It also went on to state that it believed Karnataka could also be a financially strong province. This recommendation provided tremendous boost to the movement. It was supplanted by the intellectual and emotional support that came from stalwarts of the literary world like Kuvempu, Bendre, Gokak, S B Joshi, Betgeri Krishna Sharma, M Govinda Pai, Shivarama Karanth, Kayyara Kiyyanna Rai et al. There was also widespread support growing from the newspapers and media. Several smaller public and college organisations also sprang up, notably in Bengalur, Shivamogga and Raichur.

The elections of 1937

Following the Simon Commission, elections were held in 1937. The Congress took the stand that it would favour the formation of separate Karnataka and Andhra states. This however met with some resistance from the British and also some of the princely states. While the princely states feared that they might stand to lose some territory, the British themselves were unsure of how they would handle the reorganisation.

Siddappa Kambli sensing the reluctance, decided that the movement had to approach the Simon Commission with their case. But the other leaders of the movement like Gangadhar Deshpande, Rangarao Diwakar, Koujalgi Srinivasarao and Aluru prevailed upon him not to do so as they had boycotted the commission. Gudlappa Hallikeri invited the Maharaja of Mysore to tour the Kannada speaking provinces of Bombay and Hyderabad. After the tour and several discussions the movement gained the active support of the Maharaja of Mysore.

The 1946 conference

The year 1946 was a defining point in the history of the movement. The tenth conference of the Ekikarana movement was held on 10 January 1946 in Bombay. This was a very high profile conference which inaugurated by Sardar Patel and attended by the likes of B G Kher, the then Chief Minister of Bombay presidency. In his speech at the conference, Sardar Patel declared that the interests of all linguistic groups would be high on the list of priorities for the new government of independent India. This served to assuage any apprehensions of the movement leaders and the common people. This was also to have a bearing on the constituent assembly that met in the same year.

In the same year, the All-Karnataka convention, a massive gathering of Kannadigas was held in Davanagere, which is practically the geographic center of Karnataka. This was presided over by Mr. M P Patil, the revenue minister of Bombay. This convention attracted tens of thousands of Kannadigas from all over Karnataka. Influential leaders like Gudlappa Hallikeri, Kengal Hanumanthaiah, T Mariyappa, Subramanya, Sowcar Chennaiah, H K Veerangowda, H C Dasappa and H Siddaiah attended this convention and urged the constituent assembly to create the linguistic states.

Post Independence

Political Divisions of Karnataka post Independence.

India soon gained independence in 1947. The joy of independence soon gave way to disappointment as the new government started dragging its feet on Karnataka Ekikarana movement. Kannada speaking areas now got grouped under five administrative units of the Bombay and Madras provinces, Kodagu, and the princely states of Mysore and Hyderabad. The Akhila Karnataka Ekikarana Parishat met in Kasargod and reiterated the demand for a separate state for Kannadigas.

Liberation of Hyderabad-Karnataka

While Karnataka became independent with the rest of the country on 15 August 1947, the story was a little different in some parts of the state that were under the rule of the Nizam of Hyderabad. Hyderabad consisted of large portions of what were later to be the north eastern districts of Bidar, Gulbarga and Raichur of Karnataka state. The lingayat minority in these regions also nursed the grouse that they had been neglected and resented the oppression of the Nizam and the Razakars. The Nizam refused to accede to India until his rule got overthrown by force. Following the 'police action' against the Nizam, Hyderabad province and its citizens became independent on 17 September 1948. This day is celebrated by the Karnataka government as the Hyderabad-Karnataka liberation day.[2]

The Dhar and JVP committee

In the same year, the government appointed the Dhar commission to look into the demands of the Ekikarana movement as well as those of the other parallel movements in the other states. The Dhar commission in its report, opposed any reorganisation of the states. This came in for severe flak from all quarters including the Jaipur Congress.

The government now formed the 'JVP' committee. This committee had Jawaharlal Nehru, Vallabhai Patel and Dr Pattabhi Sitaramayya on the board. This committee took another look into the demands and came out with its report. The JVP report, however, favoured only the creation of the Andhra state while the Karnataka Ekikarana movement was given the cold shoulder. The Ekikarana movement saw this as a betrayal of the Congress which had declared the creation of linguistic provinces as one of its goals in its 1951 manifesto.

The movement now formed the Karnataka Ekikarana Paksha to contest the 1951 polls. This was supported strongly by the literary giants as well as influential politicians like Gudlappa Hallikeri, Kengal Hanumantayya, S Nijalingappa and C M Poonacha the Chief Minister of Kodagu.

The Fazal Ali Committee

In January 1953, the movement entered its last leg when at the Congress session in Hyderabad, a resolution was also passed favouring just the creation of Andhra Pradesh but not Karnataka. This was the last straw and A J Dodmeti, a senior Congress leader and the member of the Bombay assembly, immediately resigned from his seat and launched a hunger strike at Jakkali in Dharwad. This found widespread support and the situation also took a violent turn. In the Hubli riots that followed, many people were injured and several courted arrest.

In the Hubli-Dharwad by elections that followed, the Congress suffered thumping defeat while the Karnataka Ekikarana Paksha's candidate won by a landslide. Buckling under pressure, Prime Minister Nehru constituted the Bharata Ratna Sir M Vishweshwarayya.

Eminent congress leader Gudlappa Hallikeri furthered the cause of Karnataka Unification within the congress party by strongly advocating for states based on linguistic demographics. He also represented and urged for complete unification of Karnataka before the States reorganisation commission. The States Reorganisation Commission eventually recommended the reorganisation of the states based on linguistic demographics and it got ratified in parliament soon.


The ratification in parliament of the recommendations of the Fazal Ali Committee brought unbounded joy to the entire Kannadiga population that now was merged under the state of Mysore. Along with all the joy, came the acute disappointment at the non-inclusion of certain parts in the Mysore state. The biggest disappointment lay in the non-inclusion of Kasargod in the newly formed state. The irony also lay in the fact that Kasargod was one of the bastions from which the Ekikarana movement had launched its agitation. This is an issue that continues to rankle those who fought for the unification of Karnataka. Some like literary giant Rashtrakavi Govinda Pai, B. Sridara Kakkillaya, B.V. Kakkillaya and Kayyara Kiyyanna Rai were part of the movement since its earliest days. B.V. Kakkillaya and Kayyara Kiyyanna Rai still continue to fight for Kasargod's merger with Karnataka albeit peacefully. The contributions of K. R. Karanth towards the causes of unification of Karnataka can not be ignored.

On 1 November 1973, under Devaraj Urs as Chief Minister, Mysore state was renamed as Karnataka since it was felt that Karnataka was more 'inclusive' of all the other regions of Karnataka than the name Mysore.

Ekikarana Awards

To mark the celebrations of the 50th year of Karnataka's unification, the Karnataka.

Fittingly, the Karnataka Vidyavardhaka Sangha, Dharwad and the Kannada Sahitya Parishat, Bengalooru (that Aluru once nurtured and headed) and Karnataka Samithi (R), Kasaragod figured among the recipients.

See also


  1. ^ a b "Contributing to the cause".  
  2. ^ "Hyderabad Karnataka Liberation Day to be celebrated in Bidar on September 17".  


  • in the Deccan Herald movement EkikaranaA detailed account of the
  • detailing the unification of KarnatakaDeccan Herald in the Vidyavardhaka SanghaAn article about the
  • The HinduDetails of the Liberation Day celebrations in
  • detailing the struggle for unificationDeccan HeraldContributing to the cause - An article in the
  • throwing light on the 'liberation' of Nizam's territoriesThe HinduAn article in
  • Mention of the Fazal Ali report - The Hindu
  • Unification and Congress support

External links

  • G B Pant's statement on reorganisation
  • Freedom fighters of Karnataka
  • Ekikarana awards list
  • [1]
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