The newly-appointed chairman of the Centre’s high-powered committee for promoting Indian languages believes language has been “used as a tool” by politicians to achieve their ends, but should help in bridging gaps and uniting people.
Chamu Krishna Shastry, a founding member of the RSS-affiliated Samskrita Bharati, had served as a language adviser with the Human Resource Development Ministry during Smriti Irani’s term. He quit months after Prakash Javadekar replaced Irani.
In 2017, Shastry was awarded the Padma Shri for his contribution to literature and education.
On November 15, the Ministry of Education appointed Shastry the chairman of the high-powered committee for the promotion of Indian languages. The other members of the committee are the Vice-Chancellor of Lal Bahadur Shastri National Sanskrit University, the Director of Central Institute of Indian Languages, and the ministry’s Joint Secretary for languages. Shastry told The Indian Express that while he acknowledges that language is a sensitive topic in India, “there should not be hatred for any language”.
“There are regional aspirations. Language was a tool for politicians to advance their interests. Language is also attached with domination. We will have to rise above all that. Language should not be used as a tool to create divisions. It should bring people together,” he said. Shastry said without Indian languages, it would not be possible to “retrieve the fundamentals of the ancient Indian knowledge system”. According to the National Education Policy, 2020, ancient Indian knowledge “will be incorporated in an accurate and scientific manner” in school curriculum. The committee has been tasked with exploring and recommending paths for the “holistic and multidisciplinary growth” of Indian languages as envisaged in the NEP.
Shastry had supported then HRD Minister Smriti Irani’s 2014 decision to replace German with Sanskrit as the third language in the Kendriya Vidyalayas. Asked about his position now, Shastry said: “At that time, foreign languages were not a part of the education policy… Now, time has changed and the policy has changed.”