After years of bitter struggle, Kannada has finally got the classical language status. The Union government on Friday announced that Kannada, besides Telugu, would get the classical tag on the occasion of Rajyotsava day.
Making the announcement, Union Culture Minister Ambika Soni said: “It has been decided by the government that on the occasion of Kannada Rajyotsava day and Andhra Pradesh’s formation day, both falling on November 1, Kannada and Telugu will be declared classical languages.”
There is still a hitch, however. A writ petition is pending before the Madras High Court questioning the awarding of classical status to both the languages. The minister clarified that the decision to grant the status was subject to the judgment on the writ petition. She said the Centre had moved a petition to dispose of the case.
The Centre’s sudden decision is seen as a pre-emptive step to counter the move of Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa who had been planning a protest in front of Raj Ghat on November 5 to seek classical status for Kannada.
Representations were received from a wide spectrum of political and civil organisations from both Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh for declaring the two languages classical.
The culture ministry had set up a Linguistic Experts Committee to take a decision on the issue. The committee had recommended to the Centre that both Kannada and Telugu fulfilled all criteria fixed by the Centre for according the classical status.
The minister said there were no languages pending with the committee seeking classical status. Ever since the UPA government accorded the classical status to Tamil on September 17, 2004 in its very first Cabinet meeting following a demand from the Tamil Nadu government ruled by the DMK, the Centre had kept the proposal from the Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh governments pending.
The Centre later formed a committee to determine the eligibility of the languages to be considered for classification as classical. As per a parliamentary reply, these criteria included high antiquity of its early texts/recorded history of over 2000 years (this was 1,000 years earlier, changed to 2,000 years after demands from Kannada and Telugu came); a body of ancient literature/texts, considered a valuable heritage by generations of speakers; the literary tradition should be original and not borrowed from another speech community; and the classical language and literature being distinct from modern; there may also be a discontinuity between the classical language and its later forms of its offshoots.
How many of Kannadigas can speak and understand classical kannada. Many don't even know what it means. It does not make any difference to the suffering people of Karnataka. But it is good propaganda material for the politicians and kannada protagonists. Jai Bhuvaneswari!