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Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Konkani's tireless crusader

He is not one to rest on his laurels. N. Purushothama Mallaya's campaign to keep Konkani alive continues

The Konkani Bhasha Prachar Sabha in Kochi recently celebrated the Golden Jubilee of the Konkani Recognition Movement of 1954. At a function organised in the city under its auspices, two stalwarts of the Konkani community, K. K. Pai of the Dr. T. M. A. Pai Foundation, Manipal, and N. Purushothama Mallaya of Kochi were honoured with the titles of `Konkani Pratibha' and `Konkani Pitamaha' respectively.

Though it is well known that Mr. Mallaya is intimately connected with the propagation of Konkani language and culture, the exact nature of this connection is worth noting. If a many laurels have come his way it is not without reason. It was Mr. Mallaya who began the struggle for the recognition of Konkani as an independent language in Kochi and this crusade has borne fruit.

In the 1951 census report it was stated that the Konkani language was a dialect of Marathi. Mr. Mallaya publicly contradicted this statement with the claim that Konkani was not a dialect of Marathi but a separate language. Nor was Marathi its parent language, and began a movement to substantiate this claim. The 1961 census report rectified this statement, notes M. A. T. Pai, the present President of the Konkani Bhasha Prachar Sabha, Kochi, and it was `tentatively' declared that Konkani was `an independent language belonging to the Southern group of the outer sub-branch of the Indo-Aryan sub-family and not a dialect of Marathi'.

Mr. Mallaya's crusade did not stop with this report. He argued for the cause before the Mahajan Commission, which soon recognised Konkani as an independent language. Then came recognition from the Sahitya Academy and now its literature has become eligible for awards. Finally, after a long struggle in which Mr. Mallaya was always at the forefront, Konkani came to be included in the 8th Schedule of the Indian Constitution.

Mr. Mallaya was instrumental in having a Konkani Prachar Sabha established in Kochi for the study and propagation of this language and later on a Bhavan, the first of its kind for Konkani, was set up for this purpose. His efforts have gone a long way towards persuading the Kerala Government to recognise that Konkani speakers in the State were a linguistic minority as under Article 30 of the Constitution. As a step towards giving the language its due status, the Kerala Government allowed Konkani to be introduced in primary schools conducted by the Konkani linguistic minority in Kochi. He was also instrumental in having a chair for the study of Konkani established at the Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam.

Mr. Mallaya, 76, is not content to rest on his achievements. He is a prolific writer with 21 works to his credit, the latest being a poem on Dr. Narayana Venkateswara Mallaya. Mr. Mallaya believes in doing whatever he can to keep the language he loves, and its rich culture alive, be it is folklore, or its songs or its dances.

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