Maharashtra seeks 'classical language' tag for Marathi

Maharashtra legislature seeks 'classical language' tag for Marathi

Both houses of the Maharashtra legislature on Thursday unanimously passed separate resolutions, asking the Centre to accord Marathi the status of a "classical language".

The legislative assembly first passed the resolution followed by the council.

The resolution in the assembly was moved by Cabinet Minister for Marathi language Subhash Desai. The one line resolution asked the Centre to take a decision to declare Marathi a "classical language".

An identical resolution was passed in the upper house. Minister of State for Marathi Language Vishwajeet Kadam tabled the resolution in the council where it was passed unanimously after discussion.

Speaking on the issue in the assembly, Food and Civil Supplies Minister Chhagan Bhujbal said Marathi was an ancient language, older than even Sanskrit.

All political parties in the state should step up efforts to persuade the Centre to accord classical language status to Marathi, he said.

Former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan (Congress) said it was during his tenure that a committee was set up on the issue under the chairmanship of litterateur Rangnath Pathare who gave a 500-page report on classical language status for Marathi.

"We forwarded the report to the Centre in July 2013. But then there was a change in government (at the Centre in May 2014).

"In the last few years, efforts to get classical status for the Marathi language have not yielded result. At the same, five languages have been declared as classical," he said.

Chavan felt there was need to set up a committee of litterateurs and experts for follow-up action on the issue.

Ashish Shelar (BJP) said the Marathi language was 1,500 to 2,000 years old and there was proof for back this claim.

Ravindra Waikar (Shiv Sena) wondered if there was no political will in the state to take up the matter with the Centre.

Members also demanded that an all-party delegation go to Delhi for follow-up action with the Centre.

They lamented that despite Marathi fulfilling all criteria of a classical language, it had not been accorded the status so far.

The resolutions coincided with `Marathi Bhasha Din' (Marathi language day) which is celebrated on February 27, the birth anniversary of Jnanpith award winning poet the late V V Shirwadkar.

Speaking in the council, Kadam said, The Maharashtra government will take all efforts to get classical status for the Marathi language. There is also a need for a peoples movement demanding such a status.

MLC Kapil Patil said, The Marathi language was in use in some old format even before Sanskrit existed. But due to some influential lobbying by communities hundreds of years ago, Sanskrit came to be regarded as the mother of all Indian languages, including Marathi.

"We need to correct it now. There are enough evidence to show that Marathi was used by natives and some writing has been found as well.

"I urge the state government to pursue the matter with the Centre and ensure Marathi gets the status of a classical language," Patil said.

As of now, six languages -- Tamil, Telugu, Sanskrit, Kannada, Malayalam and Odia -- have been given the status of classical languages.

The criteria adopted by the Centre to determine the eligibility of a language for classical status include its recorded history over a period of 1,500-2,000 years, body of ancient literature and whether its literary tradition is original, among other yardsticks.

In the past, the Centre has said a proposal for granting classical language status to Marathi was under active consideration of the Ministry of Culture.

Languages declared as classical are given certain benefits by the Human Resource and Development Ministry. These include setting up centres for their study and international awards for their scholars.

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