Malayalam’s long wait for ‘classical’ status is over. The Union Cabinet decided to grant the coveted recognition to the language, spoken by 3.33 crore Malayalis spread over all parts of the globe, at its meeting in the national capital on Thursday.

With the Cabinet’s decision, Malayalam joins Tamil, Kannada and Telugu, all members of the Dravidian linguistic family, as the fourth ‘classical’ language in South India. The Cabinet decision, it has been clarified by the Ministry of Culture, would be subject to the final decision in the writ petition pending before the Madras High Court. However, the political and cultural leadership of Kerala have erupted in jubilation on learning about the Cabinet decision.

Chief Minister Oommen Chandy has described the decision as “a great recognition for Malayalam language and Kerala” and Leader of the Opposition V.S. Achuthanandan has expressed gratification about the preparatory work of his government to build the State’s case for the recognition. Jnanpith-winning poet O.N.V. Kurup has also expressed happiness about Malayalam’s elevation to the long-awaited status and termed it as something that nobody could deny.

Financial assistance

The Cabinet decision would result in the State getting Rs.100 crore in financial assistance from the Centre and support for various projects that the State would chalk out in the coming years for promotion of the language and its literature. It would also result in the University Grants Commission supporting establishment of Chair for Malayalam in various Central universities.

The efforts for securing ‘classical’ status was begun by the last Left Democratic Front government on the initiative of Mr. Achuthanandan and M.A. Baby, the then Chief Minister and Culture Minister. It had constituted a committee comprising Prof. Kurup, poet Puthussery Ramachandran and linguists to prepare the State’s arguments to prove Malayalam’s antiquity.

A three-member panel of experts, constituted by the Sahithya Akademi, had gone into their arguments and heard experts on the subject before endorsing the State’s claim. This followed Mr. Chandy and Culture Minister K.C. Joseph taking up the issue with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.