NEW DELHI: The criteria to determine the eligibility of languages to be considered for classification as a ‘classical Language’ are high antiquity of its early texts/recorded history over a period of 1500-2000 years, a body of ancient literature/texts, which is considered a valuable heritage by generations of speakers, and the literary tradition be original and not borrowed from another speech community. Moreover, the classical language and literature being distinct from modern, there may also be a discontinuity between the classical language and its later forms or its offshoots.
The Kerala Government had made several representations to the Centre urging that Malayalam must be accorded classical language status. The demand had gathered momentum after other two South Indian languages -- Kannada and Telugu were also accorded classical status after Tamil.
The then LDF Government in Kerala had approached the Union Government with a detailed report proving its claim to be on par with other South Indian languages in terms of antiquity and literary richness. It had argued that going by any standards, whether it is literary or linguistic, Malayalam too deserves to be considered as a classical language. “Being the lone non-classical language in South India, it would create inferiority complex in the minds of Malayalam speaking people,” the then Culture Minister M A Baby had argued. It was noted lyricist and poet O N V Kurup, who had prepared the report for the Kerala Government.
According to him, all the four South Indian languages hail from the same mother known as proto-Dravidian language.
“Among the four, Tamil is closest to the mother language as it has resisted all kind of Sanskritic influences due to the strong anti - Aryan feelings. The rest of the three languages are equally influenced by Sanskrit and has similar literary and linguistic track record. Hence, we consider the Union Government decision as a discrimination against Malayalam,” he had said. However, noted Malayalam literary and cultural personalities including M T Vasudevan Nair, Sukumar Azhikode, K Sachithanandan and V R Krishna Iyer had opposed the Government decision to join the race for classical language status.
In fact, the issue of according classical language is too political than it looks.
The UPA 1 had accorded classical language status to Tamil succumbing to DMK pressure despite strong resistance from the Sahitya Academy. The then Sahitya Academy secretary K Sachithanandan saying that the states are after the huge amount of fund that will be allocated to the classical languages. Instead of funding the already flourished languages, the Government should extend support to dying languages in the country, he had said.