My SCRAPBOOK (సేకరణలు): A COLLECTION of articles in English and Telugu(తెలుగు), from various sources, on varied subjects. I do not claim credit for any of the contents of these postings as my own.A student's declaration made at the end of his answer paper, holds good to the articles here too:"I hereby declare that the answers written above are true to the best of my friend's knowledge and I claim no responsibility whatsoever of the correctness of the answers."

Monday, December 15, 2014

1699- Q & A - `Fears over Sanskrit are emotional ­ with - clear caste and religious overtones'

Dec 15 2014 : The Times of India (Chennai)

Ganesh Devy is a Padma Shri awardee and Unesco Linguapax laureate who headed the People's Linguistic Survey of India 2010. Speaking with Robin David, Devy discussed why qualms around Sanskrit are emotional, effective ways of preserving Sanskrit's heritage ­ and which languages merit equal attention: 
Why do you say the current debate over reviving Sanskrit is more emotional than practical?

Today, very few people claim Sanskrit as their first language ­ it's not possible to buy a train ticket or even get Ayurveda medicine us ing Sanskrit. It is not a language of use any more. It's not been a language of use in India since the 17th century ­ and we're now in the 21st century. So, to whip up emotions about losing Sanskrit, then reviving it, is a purely emotive effort.
It is true that modern Indian languages are based on Sanskrit. But it is also true that modern Indian languages have been in existence for nearly 1,000 years now and can be studied seriously on their own. For great scholarship in English, you no longer have to study Latin and Greek.
It's an emotional issue ­ and it has very clear overtones of caste and religious identities.

You've fought to ensure certain languages don't die ­ why shouldn't Sanskrit be amongst those languages?

I fight for languages spoken by people in communities. They need to live on, so that the communities can continue their existence with dignity.
Some languages are seen as less important. Tribal languages are seen as inferior and backward. That is not desirable. But with Sanskrit, no one will ever look at its use as a sign of backwardness. On the contrary , if there's an individual who can speak or write Sanskrit, that's seen as a sign of scholarship. The fear is, we might forget the legacy of Sanskrit, rather than the life of Sanskrit. We have to make that distinction. There are ways of managing that fear by preserving manuscripts, building good libraries, digitising Sanskrit literature. Look at how the French take care of their language.
All Indian languages together constitute less than 1% of the international web space, which is not good.

If we strive to protect all our Indian languages, that would lead to a much better situation.
Many see English as a threat to Sanskrit ­ your view?

It definitely isn't. The use of the two languages is different. In India, we've managed successfully to allow languages to have different roles in our lives.
Our banking is done in English but our birth, death and marriage rituals are in Sanskrit. Certain domains of our lives are dominated by Persian even today ­ our entire entertainment domain is managed by languages that spring out of Persian.On the other hand, cricket comes from an English ethos.

To disturb the good harmony between different languages is not a good thing for India.
Which Indian languages deserve as much emphasis as Sanskrit?

Tamil, Telugu and Bengali ­ these are spoken by very large numbers and will survive this phase of lan guage decline.
From a business point of view also, these will be important in the future.

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