Sanskrit an official language, then why not Tulu and Kodava?

Sanskrit, ostensibly spoken by 50,000 people, is included in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution as one of the official languages but Kodava, spoken by half a million people, isn’t!

Photo by Sneha Srivastava/Mint via Getty Images
Photo by Sneha Srivastava/Mint via Getty Images

BK Hariprasad

My mother tongue is Tulu, so I had to learn it. Then, immediately, I had to learn the state language, Kannada. Then, I had to learn one of the 22 official languages. According to Article 351 of the Constitution, the official language is Hindi. I must learn it if I want to speak to the Home Minister.

Then, I should speak the languages of the sister states – Telugu and Tamil. I am proud to say that I can speak in six languages. So, I have great pride in speaking in these languages – Tulu, Kannada, Tamil, Telugu, Hindi and English.

Of the many languages in Karnataka, Kodava is in trouble. I am speaking on behalf of the Kodava people because there is no member speaking that language either in Rajya Sabha or Lok Sabha or even in the Karnataka legislature. So, I am speaking for them. The Kodava language is called Coorg in English.

Though the number of Kodava-speaking people is only two lakh, their contribution to this country in the Armed Forces and in terms of agriculture is commendable. But, unfortunately, it has been 70 years now and their language is not being recognised nor is being included in the Eighth Schedule.

Kodava was not the only language which hadn’t been included in the Eighth Schedule. Sixteen languages of the country, including Angika, Avadhi, Bhojpuri, Bundeli, Chhattisgarhi, Haryanvi, Hindustani, Kannauji, Magadhi, Marwari, Bhil, Gondi, Kachachhi, Tulu and Mahi have not been officially recognised.

Languages such as Manipuri and Dogri have been included in the Eighth Schedule. If I were to go by statistics, languages which are spoken by fewer number of people than those who speak Tulu and Kodava have been included in the Eighth Schedule.

There are five major Dravidian languages in the Southern part of the country. Telugu is the most spoken language and then it is Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam and the fifth is Tulu. Out of these five languages, four languages have got their due in their states and recognition from the Centre, but, unfortunately, the Tulu language has not got the patronage either from the state government or the central government.

After the Constitution was adopted way back in 1950, twenty-two languages were included in the Eighth Schedule; even languages such as Konkani, Sanskrit and Assamese have been added.

Statistically, the Assamese has 13 lakh speakers, Sindhi had two lakh speakers, Nepali approximately had a population of three lakh, Konkani has two-and-a-half lakh, Manipuri 14 lakh, Kashmiri six lakh and Sanskrit with fifty thousand have been included in the Eighth Schedule. But Tulu and Kodava have not been included, even though the Kodava population is more than five lakh.

The people of this region feel that they have been discriminated against and Konkani has been included because it is spoken by the elite of the society, whereas the farmers and the fishermen in the coastal area speak Tulu. In the tribal area of Karnataka, that is, Coorg also, they speak Kodava, that is why there is a discrimination against these languages.

Even the universities in USA and Europe had recognised Tulu as an important Indian language. Tulu is among the 19 Indian languages on the Information Bulletin of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and the Test Of English as a Foreign Language Examination.

In the Eighth Schedule, under Articles 343, 344(1) and 251, there are 22 languages. Article 351 clearly says, “Directive for development in the Hindi language: It shall be the duty of the Union to promote the spread of the Hindi language, to develop it so that it may serve as a medium of expression for all the elements of the composite culture of India and to secure its enrichment by assimilating without interfering with its genius, the forms, style and expressions used in Hindustani and in the other languages of India specified in the Eighth Schedule, and by drawing, wherever necessary or desirable, for its vocabulary, primarily on Sanskrit and secondarily on other languages.’

During the days of the Freedom Struggle, it was felt necessary to recognise one language as an official language. But, it does not mean that other languages should not be recognised or neglected. The people from other parts of the country whose spoken languages have not been included feel that these languages are neglected.

Article 351 gives importance to Hindi. I take pride in speaking Hindi. But it doesn’t mean that Hindi can encroach upon the Southern languages. Other senior politicians from Tamil Nadu have raised the issue of languages getting their due. If you go by the largest spoken languages, after Hindi, it is Telugu which is spoken right from Kanyakumari to Bengal border, and also in parts of Maharashtra, Karnataka, Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh.

During my travels, nowhere on the National Highways have I found signage in any one of the south Indian languages. They should give recognition to one of the Southern languages so that It feels like an integrated country, which believes in a pluralistic society. With vast diversity, languages are the only culture which, I would say, would keep the country united.

Based on the speech delivered by Congress leader BK Hariprasad in the Rajya Sabha while moving a Private Member’s Bill for the inclusion of Tulu and Kodava in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution

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Published: 20 Apr 2017, 2:52 PM