Bengaluru: A campaign to celebrate the reign of Badami Chalukya king Immadi Pulakeshi (or Pulakeshin II) in Karnataka has taken an interesting ‘insider-versus-outsider’ spin.
The Twitter campaign, launched by a group of history enthusiasts on 28 November, has sparked a debate on Kannada regional pride and federalism.
Thousands of tweets hailing Immadi Pulakeshi — who reigned between 610 to 642 CE with Vatapi (current day Badami) as his capital — are seeking to reject “borrowed” icons from other non-Kannada regions.
For those Surgical strikers who keep invoking Rana's , Shivajis , Singh's, Vermas of d North trying to establish them as the only Hindu icons. Today kannadiags hv clinically retaliated to The hindutva project of invisiblising d rulers of Southern Kingdoms thru #ImmadiPulakeshi https://t.co/yZupY8ONhU
— RaNn_Silva (@Rann_Silva) November 28, 2021
— Dhananjaya (@Dhananjayaka) November 29, 2021
Those participating in the campaign have pushed for the need to celebrate Kannada kings instead of “outsiders” like the 17th-century Maratha king Shivaji, who is often promoted by Hindutva organisations as well as the BJP as the most prominent Hindu monarch.
The calls to fund research on Pulakeshi, raise awareness about his achievements and install his statue has turned political as well, drawing comments from both the ruling BJP and the Opposition Congress.
‘Didn’t intend to make it a contest’
“There is not a single statue of Immadi Pulakeshi anywhere. From Badami, he ruled the whole of South-Central India. Our idea was to create awareness about Karnataka’s history,” Kiran Malenadu, curator of the @NamHistory Twitter handle and one of the primary organisers of the campaign, told ThePrint.
Kiran, along with fellow history enthusiasts and social media page curators Shivananda Gundanavara, Sunil Kumar, Vivek and Bhuvanesh, has spearheaded the campaign that saw over 30,000 tweets on 28 November alone. Tweets on Immadi Pulakeshi continue to take up space on social media.
“All of us are common citizens who connected over our common interest in Karnataka history. We didn’t intend it to be a ‘versus’. We have no interest in Shivaji at all,” Kiran added, saying governments over the years have neglected Karnataka’s historical icons.
The supporters of the campaign include popular Kannada actor Dhananjay Ka. “Statue or not is not a concern for me but I believe in celebrating ‘Kannadatana (Kannada identity)’. We celebrate everyone and everything else, except our identity,” Dhananjay told ThePrint. “Immadi Pulakeshi stands first among warriors, given his victory against Harsha.”
‘Have taken note of demand’
The Minister for Kannada and Culture, and Energy, V. Sunil Kumar, told ThePrint that his department “has taken note of the demand”.
“We will hold discussions with historians and experts and consider the demand. All our Kannada icons need to be celebrated,” he added.
Although intended as an ‘apolitical’ campaign, the push to choose a Kannada king as a cultural icon has taken a political turn too. Leader of the Opposition and Congress legislature party chief Siddaramaiah gave it his approval.
“Government should initiate more research on Chalukya Emperor #ImmadiPulakeshi. His achievements should be included in the curriculum for our children to truly understand glorious Karnataka,” Siddaramaiah said, adding that the Chalukya king was the “Pride of Karnataka”. Congress Rajya Sabha MP G.C. Chandrashekhar too joined the campaign on Twitter.
However, the comparisons between Shivaji and Immadi Pulakeshi have not gone down well with some members of the BJP.
“Are they contemporaries? Why should there be comparison? They call it regionalism but this is against nationalism. There was no fight about language then. Whether Harsha won a battle or Pulakeshi, both built temples,” a senior BJP leader said.
“They didn’t destroy culture, unlike Muslim invaders. If these people really love Kannada, they would have opposed Tipu Sultan who imposed Persian,” the leader added. “They have the ‘tukde gang’ mentality. They just want a fight between Marathas and Kannadigas, Tamils and Kannadigas, but won’t want a Kannada-versus-Urdu fight,” the leader added.
A. Narayana, political analyst and faculty member at the School of Public Policy and Governance, Azim Premji University, said the “idea of inventing or re-inventing an icon is interesting because in other states where regionalism is quite strong, this is how it started”. “Currently, Karnataka does not have a strong pan-state icon and therefore if this trend has started, it has to be considered seriously,” he added.
(Edited by Saikat Niyogi)
Also read: Kannada becomes both hipster and political