Insights into Editorial: A case for including Tulu in the Eighth Schedule
According to the 2001 Census, India has 30 languages that are spoken by more than a million people each.
Additionally, it has 122 languages that are spoken by at least 10,000 people each.
It also has 1,599 languages, most of which are dialects. These are restricted to specific regions and many of them are on the verge of extinction.
India must accommodate this plethora of languages in its cultural discourse and administrative apparatus.
Indian Constitutional safeguards:
India is one of unique countries in the world that has the legacy of diversity of languages.
The Constitution of India has recognised 22 official languages. Multilingualism is the way of life in India as people in different parts of the country speak more than one language from their birth and learns additional languages during their life time.
Article 29 of the Constitution provides that a section of citizens having a distinct language, script or culture have the right to conserve the same.
Given the linguistic diversity of India, there is no national language as all the states are free to decide their own official languages.
The Eighth Schedule to the Constitution of India lists the official languages of the Republic of India.
It consists of the following 22 languages:-(1) Assamese, (2) Bengali, (3) Gujarati, (4) Hindi, (5) Kannada, (6) Kashmiri, (7) Konkani, (8) Malayalam, (9) Manipuri, (10) Marathi, (11) Nepali, (12) Oriya, (13) Punjabi, (14) Sanskrit, (15) Sindhi, (16) Tamil, (17) Telugu, (18) Urdu (19) Bodo, (20) Santhali, (21) Maithili and (22) Dogri.
In addition to these scheduled and classical languages, The Constitution of India has included the clause to protect minority languages as a fundamental right.
It states” Any section of the citizens residing in the territory of India or any part of thereof having a distinct language, script or culture of its own shall have the right to conserve the same.”
The Yuelu Proclamation:
The Yuelu Proclamation, made by the UNESCO at Changsha, The People’s Republic of China, in 2018, says:
The protection and promotion of linguistic diversity helps to improve social inclusion and partnerships, helps to reduce the gender and social inequality between different native speakers, guarantee the rights for native speakers of endangered, minority, indigenous languages, as well as non-official languages and dialects to receive education.
This will in turn enhance the social inclusion level and social decision-making ability by encouraging them to participate in a series of actions to promote cultural diversity, endangered language protection, and the protection of intangible cultural heritage.
Thousands of speakers:
Many languages that are kept out of this favoured position are in some ways more deserving to be included in the Eighth Schedule.
For example, Sanskrit, an Eighth Schedule language, has only 24,821 speakers (2011 Census). Manipuri, another scheduled language, has only 17,61,079 speakers.
However, many unscheduled languages have a sizeable number of speakers: Bhili/Bhilodi has 1,04,13,637 speakers; Gondi has 29,84,453 speakers; Garo has 11,45,323; Ho has 14,21,418; Khandeshi, 18,60,236; Khasi, 14,31,344; and Oraon, 19,88,350.
The language policy of India provides guarantee to protect the linguistic minorities.
Under the Constitution provision is made for appointment of Special Officer for linguistic minority with the sole responsibilities of safeguarding the interest of language spoken by the minority groups.
About Tulu Language:
Tulu is a textbook example of linguistic discrimination. Tulu is a Dravidian language whose speakers are concentrated in two coastal districts of Karnataka and in Kasaragod district of Kerala.
Kasaragod district is called ‘Sapta bhasha Samgama Bhumi (the confluence of seven languages)’, and Tulu is among the seven.
The Census reports 18,46,427 native speakers of Tulu in India. The Tulu-speaking people are larger in number than speakers of Manipuri and Sanskrit, which have the Eighth Schedule status.
Robert Caldwell (1814-1891), in his book, A Comparative Grammar of the Dravidian or South-Indian Family of Languages, called Tulu as “one of the most highly developed languages of the Dravidian family”.
Benefits of Recognition in Eighth Schedule:
If included in the Eighth Schedule, Tulu would get the following benefits:
- Recognition from the Sahitya Akademi.
- Translation of Tulu literary works into other languages.
- Members of Parliament (MP) and Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) could speak Tulu in Parliament and State Assemblies, respectively.
- Option to take competitive exams in Tulu including all-India competitive examinations like the Civil Services exam.
- Special funds from the Central government.
- Teaching of Tulu in primary and high school.
India has a lot to learn from the Yuelu Proclamation.
Placing of all the deserving languages on equal footing will promote social inclusion and national solidarity.
It will reduce the inequalities within the country to a great extent.
So, Tulu, along with other deserving languages, should be included in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution in order to substantially materialise the promise of equality of status and opportunity mentioned in the Preamble.
Both the state and the citizens have an equal responsibility to conserve the distinct language, script and culture of a people.