In a recent decision, Government of India has removed the Pali, ancient classical language of India as a subject from the main examination of the Civil Services examination (popularly known as Indian Administrative Services i.e. IAS) of India, 2013; conducted by UPSC (Union Public service Commission). The presence of Pali in this competitive exam was one of the major reasons to attract many youngsters to opt and study the Pali and Buddhist Studies, and at least this was playing a role to make this declining rich discipline survived in its homeland.
Moreover, perhaps most of the Indian Buddhist scholars even don’t know that, Government of India doesn’t consider Pali as a classical language of India.
In a 2006 press release, Minister of Tourism & Culture Ambika Soni told the Rajya Sabha (upper house of the Indian Parliament) the following criteria were laid down to determine the eligibility of languages to be considered for classification as a "Classical Language":
“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; The literary tradition be original and not borrowed from another speech community; 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.”
Doesn’t Pali language and literature fulfil the above criteria? Pali, which is said to be the dialect of the Buddha’s own teachings contained in Tipitaka, which is a treasure of Buddhist knowledge and became carrier of the propagation of Buddhism in the entire world, is on the verge of dying in its own motherland.
This standpoint of Indian government is illogical, unjustified and reflects ignorance of Indian bureaucratic system and political leadership towards its own heritage. The removal of Pali by UPSC and non-recognition of Pali as an Indian classical language calls for a strong protest not only by those who are related with the Pali & Buddhist Studies but also by all those who study, respect or relate themselves with Indology or Buddhism in whatever ways.
Let’s raise our voice against this unwise decision by writing the letter addressed to Dr. Manmohan Singh, The Prime Minister of India and raising this issue on the common academic platforms to mount a pressure on Government of India to take the following decisions:
1. Include Pali as a classical language of India
2. Withdraw the decision of removing Pali Language & Literature from the Civil Services Examination conducted by Union Public service Commission (UPSC) of India.
Dr. Siddharth Singh,
Pali and Buddhist Studies,
Banaras Hindu University (B.H.U.),
Varanasi – 221005, U.P. , INDIA