They may have joined hands to form a ‘federal front’ as an ‘axis’ against the Congress-led UPA Government but on the cultural front, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamta Bannerjee and Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik are competing against each other to prove the superiority of one’s language over the other and the Centre has smelt blood in this politics of language.
Both the Bengal and the Odisha Governments has approached the Centre demanding classical language status for Bengali and Oriya respectively and both are vying to become the first ever regional language from the Indo-Aryan linguistic group to join the exclusive ‘classical’ club of Tamil, Sanskrit, Kannada, Telugu and Malayalam.
The battle is tough and bitter as either one of them is likely to get the status as both are claiming to be more original than the other.
Both the governments have approached the Union Culture Ministry for the ‘classical status’ and the Ministry has asked both to submit a “detailed” report explaining their claims.
“Both Bengal and Odisha Governments have approached us with a preliminary report claiming their superiority among the Indo-Aryan linguistic group. We have asked for a detailed report,’’ said an official with the ministry. According to him, Marathi and Gujarati also have staked similar claims.
As per the preliminary report submitted on behalf of Oriya, it meets all the criteria for getting classical language status as it has a recorded history over a period of 1,500 to 2,000 years, a valuable body of ancient literature or texts and an original literary tradition not borrowed from another “speech community”.
The report, which claims that Oriya existed even in 3rd century BC, has minute details of Oriya’s pre-historic traditions, culture and maritime tradition, script, origin and development of literature.
On the other hand, Bengali has staked its claim mostly on the grounds of its literary and classical flourishes. Claiming that it is the only language which has been accorded a Nobel Prize among all Indian languages, it has said that the government should consider a language’s literary influence and accolades while considering it for the classical status. It also has claimed that Bengali has been literary language even in the eighth century AD.
“The rivalry and superior/inferior complexes between the Bengali and Oriya is quite complicated. While Oriya has a superior heritage and tradition since time immemorial, literary flourishes which happened in the Bengali language in the 19th and 20th century completely over shadowed Oriya.