Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Constitutional Significance of a Classical Language

It strikes me that opinion columns in Indian newspapers have greatly improved in their style, analysis, and content. Previously, opinion writing was dominated by retired bureaucrats who bloviated about their experiences in government and littered their writing with convenient anecdotes. Thankfully, that trend is on the decline. I'm especially pleased that law and legal developments are being covered with greater frequency, and at the risk of shameless self-promotion for this blog, I urge you to pay close attention to Venkatesan's occasional digests with links to op-eds by lawyers and legal commentators.

I thought I'd highlight this column by M.A. Baby, Kerala's Minister for Education and Culture, on the demand for Malayalam to be declared a classical language. I found it especially interesting, readable, and made a good case for the point at issue. Actually, I was surprised that Malayalam is not yet a classical language. I would have thought that the country's first fully literate state would have sought that status for its state language a long time ago. But this issue also raises the question of whether a classical language is entitled to any constitutional or legal benefits. From a constitutional perspective, there are two official languages, English and Hindi. There are 20 (?) other languages listed in the Eighth Schedule. But the Constitution is vague about their precise legal standing -- they are protected against interference on account of Hindi development under Article 351 and representatives of these languages are to constitute the Official Languages Commission (whose mandate does not seem to focus on these languages explicitly). Would our readers have more insights on this issue?
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