Kannada is a language spoken by 40 million people in Karnataka— one of the four southern states of India.The Kannada Wikimedia community, in collaboration with CIS-A2K, are enthusiastic about having almost all of the works of Niranjana re-licensed under CC-BY-SA 4.0 on the occasion of Kannada Rajyotsava. Niranjana was a prolific Indian author and activist, and wrote more than 60 books over the course of his career. These works will be digitized and made available on Kannada Wikisource, allowing Kannada speakers to freely access the diverse set of works. Niranjana’s works give a rich glimpse into social, political, and cultural history of Karnataka from the 1940s to 1990s; they can be used as a potential resource for creating and improving articles on Kannada Wikipedia.
Niranjana (1924-1992) was the pseudonym of Kulkund Shivarao, a prominent Kannada writer of the 20th century and a leading figure in the Progressive Writers’ Movement in Kannada. His prolific output, across nearly five decades, included novels, short stories, plays, biographies, political commentary, and translations. He was a regular columnist in the Kannada newspapers and magazines. Among his achievements as an editor are Jnana Gangotri, a 7-volume encyclopedia for young people, and a 25-volume compilation of the world’s greatest short stories.
A total of 55 Kannada books by Niranjana are re-licensed. “This is the single largest and most comprehensive individual collection of a writer to be released under CC-BY-SA 4.0 in any of the Indian languages so far,” says Kannada Wikimedian Omshivaprakash. Kannada Wikimedians and CIS-A2K have organized a formal event to celebrate Creative Commons efforts to cultivate free and open knowledge online in Kannada; specifically, Kannada Wikisource. It is important to also acknowledge the great initiative shown by Niranjana’s daughter, Dr. Tejaswini Niranjana, in getting these works released under CC-BY-SA 4.0 licensing.
Dr. Tejaswini Niranjana says, “[Kannada] Wikisource is an excellent free and open knowledge platform for books in Indian languages and I am happy that my father’s works can now be accessed by [all] Kannadigas across the world. Let these writings have innumerable readers. What more could any author want?”
She is determined to release more work under CC licensing, and says, “[I] will be more than glad to get as many Indian works as possible under a free license as this will ensure that a lot of knowledge produced over the past many decades in India can easily be made accessible to the next generation of seekers of knowledge, who are digital natives.”
Tejas Jain, another Kannada Wikimedian, was quick to co-write a blog in Kannada about this content donation. Jain says, “this is a bold step…and will act as motivation for other Kannada writers to release more content under CC-BY-SA 4.0.” He hopes to see “Kannda Wikisource grow as the comprehensive single digital resource for free Kannada books” and address “the fear of loosing the rich print heritage of Kannada to time.”
Omshivaprakash was surprised to realize that there is no article on such a prominent Kannada writer like Niranjana on English Wikipedia.This led to a Facebook discussion, and User Tito Dutta responded swiftly, but needed help with verifiable resources. Omshivaprakash chipped in with resources and a page on Niranjana (needs your Wiki Love) has now been started on English Wikipedia. While this is not a big achievement, it is a simple example of how the (Indian) English Wikipedians could collaborate with Indic Wikimedians in creating India focused content on English Wikipeida and how social media could be used for off-wiki collaboration by Wikimedians. Incidentally Tito and Omshivaprakash became friends on FB during the WMF’s India Community Consultation 2014 which was held recently in Bangalore.
T. Vishnu Vardhan, Program Director, CIS-A2K