The titular king of Manipur and Rajya Sabha MP Leishemba Sanajaoba is naturally jubilant with the swift response from the Government of India to his very first proposal in the Indian Parliament for recognition of Manipuri as a classical language of India. At present, only six languages of India enjoy the status of classical language. For the first time, Tamil language was recognised as a classical language in 2004, followed by Sanskrit in 2005, Kannada and Telugu in 2008, Malayalam in 2013 and Odia in 2014. Many other states are also demanding that their official languages be recognised as classical languages. The Union Government had asked MP Sanajaoba to submit necessary documents for inclusion of Manipuri as a classical language of India. As he informed the state chief minister regarding the central missive, a committee comprising officials from the Directorate of Language Planning and Implementation and also Directorate of Art and Culture has been formed. He is quite optimistic that the said committee will expedite the process of sending the necessary documents so that the Manipuri language is recognised as a classical language, at the soonest possible time.
According to the Ministry of Culture, the guidelines for declaring a language as ‘Classical’ are high antiquity of its early texts/recorded history over a period of 1500-2000 years; a body of ancient literature/texts, which is considered a valuable heritage by generations of speakers; a literary tradition which is original and not borrowed from another speech community; and finally the classical language and literature being distinct from modern, there may also be a discontinuity between the classical language and its later forms or its offshoots. What are the benefits provided once a language is notified as a Classical language? According to HRD (now Education) ministry, the benefits are two major annual international awards for scholars of eminence in classical Indian languages and a Centre of Excellence for studies in Classical Languages to be set up. Also, the University Grants Commission is requested to create, to start with at least in the Central Universities, a certain number of Professional Chairs for the Classical Languages so declared.