Spat between HRD minister’s adviser and country’s only Sanskrit newspaper over language quality


New Delhi: At a time when the need of the hour is to promote Indian languages and culture, the Human Resources Minister Smriti Irani’s adviser on Sanskrit, Chamu Krishna Shastry, has allegedly threatened to close down the country’s only regularly published Sanskrit newspaper Sajal Sandesh, following a spat with its editors over quality of the content published in the weekly.

According to reports, the newspaper’s editors have shot off complaint letters to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and I&B and HRD ministries, alleging that Chamu Shastry was trying to divide the Sanskrit community into north and south.

Sajal Sandesh, set up two years ago, is edited by Rakesh Mishra and published from Delhi with a circulation of 27,000. The decision to launch it was reportedly taken when the Kendriya Vidyalayas decided to remove the language from the list of optional subjects.

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Shastry has reportedly raised questions over the quality of language used in the weekly, however, the editors alleged that the former was playing regional politics and had threatened them with closure.

Denying the allegation, Shastry told the Economic Times, “There is no such issue there. We should work unitedly for the cause of Sanskrit. They are also good people. I have no personal issues against them. An opinion of quality can differ and it was an exchange at a personal level – not for the public.”

The HRD ministry’s spokesperson, Ghanshyam Goel, went a step further accusing the newspaper of attempting to “extort financial support” from the ministry.

The newspaper’s editor shot back.

“These are absolutely baseless and we reject these allegations. Chamu Shastry is trying to divide the Sanskrit community into north and south.” 

This is a sad state of affairs. Indian languages are already struggling hard to survive the onslaught of English and such public bickering over Sanskrit which needs to be resurrected and restored to its ancient glory is appalling to say the least. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s penchant for Sanskrit, the link between various regional India languages, is well known. Therefore, it was expected that under his leadership the Centre will take concrete actions in this regard.

However, the alleged threat to close down the only Sanskrit newspaper bodes ill for the future and the cause of the ancient language.

Reacting to the story, Dr Joga Singh, Professor and Former Head of Department of Linguistics in Punjabi University, Patiala told NewsGram that the alleged threat to close down the only Sanskrit newspaper was unfortunate and should be condemned as such initiatives needed government’s proactive aid.

“However, I believe Sanskrit is getting preferential treatment from the government when there is a need to equally promote all Indian languages. While more than sufficient funds are being allocated for Sanskrit, the apathy towards other Indian languages by the powers-that-be is appalling. Why should one language get all the support at the cost of others?” the Professor asked.

In an exclusive interview with NewsGram, Deven S Khatri, co-editor and one of the founding members of Sajal Sandesh, had shared his experiences in running Sajal Sandesh in July this year.

We have accepted the challenge to revive and rejuvenate Sanskrit so that it becomes a language of the common man, and we can restore India to its place of Vishwa-Guru (world-teacher),” Khatri said.

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