After the linguistic controversy in India involving an attempt by the central government to make Hindi the language used by all federal agencies on social media platforms, the country is once again involved in a linguistic debate regarding the central government’s attempt to celebrate Sanskrit Week in schools around the country. Just as it happened when the Hindi measure was announced, local governments have raised opposing views and are rejecting the celebration of a language to which they fail to relate. Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, Jayalalithaa Jayaram, made her opposition public last Sunday and suggested the replacement of Sanskrit Week with a Classical Language Week based on the linguistic heritage of each particular State.
Jayalalithaa addressed the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, and stated that Tamil Nadu has a rich cultural heritage with its own ancient language, Tamil. Because of that reason, she deemed the celebration of Sanskrit Week as inappropriate, which clashes with the linguistic movement present in the State. Other parties, such as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) and Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) consider Sanskrit Week as an attempt against national integrity, and many of them regard Sanskrit as a language spoken only by a privileged higher class.
In Favour of the Move
Sanskrit Week was an initiative of the Indian Central Board of Secondary Education and it was originally aimed at popularising the language, which has been losing speakers in the last years. The Government considers there is no discrimination or attempt at linguistic dominance or unification, but rather sees the move as a way to preserve one of the world’s oldest languages. Currently, only Kendriya Vidyalaya schools (a system of central government schools) offer Sanskrit as an obligatory course, and the language is spoken by only 14,000 people.
M C Dileep Kumar, a Sanskrit scholar, stated that 49 countries around the world, such as Germany and the United States, are studying Sanskrit because they understand the language’s importance. He contrasted this fact with the tendencies in India, where the language is not given the importance it should have mainly due to the lack of job opportunities for speakers of the language.