“Let me state unequivocally that, by any criteria one may choose, Tamil is one of the great classical literatures and traditions of the world.” This quotation was not taken from any recent literary or political statement made in India but from the official “Statement on the Status of Tamil as a Classical Language” issued by the University of California, Berkeley (April 11, 2000). Why has it taken so much time in India to recognise the status of Tamil as a classical language? The reason is political, according to Prof. George L. Hart, who authored the Statement.
The above is excerpted from the Article which appeared in THE HINDU dated 09th JUNE, 2004. The author was one S.S.Vasan, a Rhodes Scholar, Trinity College, Oxford, U.K..
If one were to ask a votary of any particular language, no doubt he/she wud say that his/her language is the best. But when we are talking about CLASSICISM of a particular language, it is not based on the feelings of the person but subject to objective assessment, based on certain criteria, accepted by eminent persons who have adequate knowledge of Languages.
Kannada and Telugu have been accorded the Classical status. As per an article appearing in THE HINDU dt. 10th Nov., 2008, and scripted by one C.Gouridasan Nair; Mr.Krishna Iyer (formerly Justice of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India) besides two others are said to have stated that classification of certain languages as classical created UNHEALTHY HIERARCHIES among languages, and fomented LINGUISTIC FANATICISM.
The above statement by the said Mr.Krishna Iyer and others is the most preposterous statement ever made on this topic. The reasons are:-
Tamil is no doubt hoarier than the other two classical languages declared by the Government of India. I am specifically leaving out Sanskrit, as it is accepted by most as the oldest of all the Classical languages declared by the Govt. of India- yet the native speakers of Sanskrit are negligible and many consider this as dead as Latin and of use only in religious chanting, with no day to day use in a large scale. Mr.Krishna Iyer’s apprehensions are unfounded as, whether it is classified by the Government or not, Tamil had been recognized as a Classical language by the learned. By according official status, the country is doing itself a favour by admitting to its variegated culture of this vast and great country and the cultural length of its past.
If one language is older, distinct and unsullied by other cultures, and therefore if a person takes pride in it, that cannot be called fanaticism. Fanaticism is IMPOSITION of a culture on another, NOT PRIDING ON ONE”S CULTURE OR LANGUAGE. Iyer’s apprehensions are like the AMERICAN DEFENSE (besides S replacing C), the bombing is never on a landmass contiguous to its geographical territory but in alien far-away lands like Vietnam, Iraq, Nicaragua etc.!!
Therefore the place of TAMIL, is not because of anyone doing any favours. It is because of its intrinsic qualities. Even if a hierarchy is not built, the language wud stand on its own. After all it is an INTERNATIONAL LANGUAGE, being recognized in the currencies of Singapore, Malaysia & Sri Lanka. And we as INDIANS shud be proud of such a language and make TAMIL an option in all colleges in India to study this language. After all TAMIL is the only LIVE INTERNATIONAL CLASSICAL LANGUAGE from INDIA.
As regards LINGUISTIC FANATICISM , it is at best an EFFECT that is created not because of a DECLARED superiority of a particular language but because of an attitude taken by the INDIVIDUAL . Merely because it MIGHT produce an undesirable effect, it does not mean that we shud not classify, and therefore club the Horses, Donkeys and Mules, merely on the overall features and functions assignable and call them all quadrupeds.
TAMIL’s UNIQUENESS in the country was ASSERTED not in 2004. It was taken up against certain sections of the political ideologues who wanted to make HINDI the sole OFFICIAL LANGUAGE of the union to the exclusion of ENGLISH, 15 years after the adoption of the constitution, when a consensus was a precondition to Hindi being made so, as per the CONSTITUTIONAL PROVISION.
At that time the other languages did not have the METTLE in them to assert its place in the union, but now that they see the benefits, others also want to climb the band wagon. There is no resistance from the other languages, as this wagon’s uniqueness cud be considerably diluted, which is in-keeping with their motives!!
It is a kind of AFFIRMATIVE ACTION. Give everyone a chance is a policy relating to opportunities available in a social setting. It cannot be applied to the assessment of the DISTINCTNESS of the CULTURE of a language, ANTIQUITY of the language & VOLUME OF LITERARY works of a language that command greatness and the live population that continues to interact in that language.
The title or epithet of CLASSICAL LANGUAGE has become a joke, with each asking for his/her language to be included and the process has become a question of numbers with the ability to push the agenda thru political clout.
Since TAMIL was CHOSEN as the first Classical language, let us enumerate the CRITERIA and see whether the other languages which make a claim to classicism measure up to it and if not, based on other valid reasons classify them also as classical languages, instead of the cacophonous noises made- based on numbers.