The latest language in search of a tag is Rajasthani, courtesy Union Culture Minister Chandresh Kumari Katoch.
Recently, Bengali and Odia were in the news for their battle to bag the coveted “classical language” tag for themselves. With the next elections likely to be a close contest, politicians are not leaving anything to chance. They are raising demands to strengthen their regional credentials and Katoch is no exception.
Ahead of the Assembly elections in Rajasthan, Katoch has requested Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to include Rajasthani in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution.
Inclusion in the Eighth Schedule would mean that government would have to take steps to preserve the language by promoting literature and establish language-specific institutions. Moreover, students would be eligible to take various public service examinations in the language. Under this schedule, 22 languages like Urdu, Punjabi, Assamese, Bengali, Santhali, Bodo, Tamil, Malayalam, Hindi and Kashmiri are included.
While Rajasthani may not qualify for “classical language” status for which it needs an antiquity of at least 1,500 to 2,000 years, it is fighting for basic recognition.
The minister, who represents Jodhpur constituency in Rajasthan, wrote to the Prime Minister recently, asking him to bring the bill in the monsoon session so the aspirations of 80 million Rajasthanis could be considered.
The Rajasthan Assembly elections are scheduled in November, when the Congress-led government would be seeking a second consecutive term under Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot. Katoch is the daughter of the erstwhile Maharaja of Jodhpur and is married into a royal family in Himachal.
The demand to include Rajasthani was also raised in August 2003, when Ashok Gehlot was the chief minister and the state Assembly passed a unanimous resolution for insertion of Rajasthani in the Eighth Schedule.
The minister, in her letter argued that the Rajasthani language is spoken by more than 80 million people spread mainly in Rajasthan and neighbouring states of Gujarat, Haryana and Punjab as also some parts of Sindh and Punjab in Pakistan, and all over the world by the immigrants.
“National Census reports from 1901 till 1961 had recorded Rajasthani as a separate and independent language with many dialects. Sahitya Academy and University Grants Commission has recognized Rajasthani as a distinct language from Hindi and was taught in University of Jodhpur and Udaipur. The Rajasthan Board of Secondary Education too has included Rajasthani in the course of studies and since 1973 it has been treated as an optional subject. The University of London has place Rajasthani on a high pedestal,” the minister wrote.
Though many other languages have been included in the Eighth Schedule, Rajasthani could not find a place. The culture minister said the Home Minister had even assured the Lok Sabha in May 2012 that soon a Bill would be brought to include Bhojpuri and Rajasthani in Eighth Schedule of the Constitution.