‘Classical Language’ status to Marathi: Maha drops 125,000 postcards to Prez

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Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Sunday dispatched a courier containing around 4,000 postcards to President Ram Nath Kovind, demanding the status of ‘Classical Language’ to Marathi.

This was the second lot of postcards – earlier another lot of 6,000 was sent – to the President with the same plea, and people from across the state – celebs to commoners – have so far ‘dropped’ over 125,000 pleading postcards to Rashtrapati Bhavan in the past couple of months.

It was in December last year that the Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar fired the first ‘postcard’ to the President, neatly typed in Marathi and signed by him, that started the trend.

Present were Marathi Language Minister Subhash Desai and Mumbai South MP Arvind Sawant as the CM approved and cleared a gift-wrapped box containing the postcards, with the slogan ‘Abhijat Marathi Jan Abhiyaan’ (Mass Campaign for Classical Marathi) printed on it.

The move attained urgency as the state will celebrate the ‘Marathi Language Day’ on February 27, and the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government is hoping the Centre will accord the status to the state language by then.

Presently, there are only six Indian languages bestowed the status officially – Sanskrit, Tamil, Kannada, Telugu, Malayalam, and Odia, based on various parameters.

MVA leaders pointed out that although the Centre took the decision in 2004 to confer the “classical language” status to various languages, the Marathi language has been ignored despite repeated requests.

Even a high-level committee of language experts appointed by the Centre had unanimously approved a proposal to this effect seven years ago, but there has been no further progress in the matter.

Pawar had said in his postcard to the President that it was necessary to grant the status of a “classical language” to Marathi as recommended even by the Sahitya Akademi, at the earliest.

“Marathi is not only an ancient language but also the state language, used by litterateurs, intellectuals, by people of religion besides the common masses, and ranks among the major languages in the world,” he pointed out. (IANS – Dec 24, 2021).

The Maharashtra Legislature passed a unanimous resolution recommending to the Centre to accord the “classical language” status to Marathi in 2020.

In anticipation of the exalted status, Thackeray in October 2021 cleared the proposal to construct a ‘Marathi Bhasha Bhavan’ on a 2,500 square metre plot in south Mumbai, which had been on the backburner for nearly eight years.

Coming up within the Jawahar Bal Bhavan complex at Marine Drive, the work on the project is starting shortly with a completion target of 18 months, comprising a library, an expo centre, conference halls, etc, to promote the Marathi language.

During the tenure of Congress Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, a committee chaired by litterateur Rangnath Pathare had prepared a voluminous report running into 500 pages on the same issue.

The report was forwarded to the government in July 2013, but the matter remained unresolved after the change of guard both at the Centre and the state.

The Akhil Bharatiya Marathi Sahitya Sammelan, which started in 1878, has demanded the “classical language” status for Marathi several times in the past.

The status paves the way for two prestigious international-level awards for scholars of eminence in the Indian “classical language”, setting up centres of excellence for studies, the University Grants Commission creating or starting certain number of Professional Chairs in these languages besides dedicating various institutions for the same to promote the study and research in such “classical languages”.

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