The Telangana state government is all set to host the prestigious World Telugu Conference-2017 (WTC) in Hyderabad from December 15 to 19.
Officials have stepped up preparations for the conference and are busy sprucing up the city to celebrate Telugu and Telangana culture.
The event comes at a time when it is reported that the state was considering making it compulsory for commercial establishments and other organisations to print their name in Telugu on signboards.
Last month, the Telangana government said that it had decided to make Telugu a mandatory subject in schools from the next academic year.
All this is being seen as an active effort by the state to promote Telugu, which is recognised as a classical language by the Central government.
World Telugu Conference
The WTC is touted as the first conference to celebrate Telugu as a language, and promote its literature and culture.
The proposed conference and celebrations will be done under the supervision of the Telangana Sahitya Academy.
In May this year, while forming the Sahitya Academy, KCR also decided to constitute the Telangana Lalitha Kala Academy, Sangeet Nataka Academy and Folk Arts Academy.
Stating that the best Telugu dialect and best poetry is available in Telangana, he said that the academies should become platforms to spread the literary flavour of Telangana to the world.
The CM asked officials to conduct the conference and its programmes in such a manner that they should be heard and talked about the world over and become a historic milestone.
He wanted well-known and prominent literary personalities as well as followers of the Telugu language living within the country and abroad to be invited for the conference.
As part of the conference, poets’ gatherings (Kavi Sammelanas) and conferences on various genres of literature would be organised, officials said.
“The importance of language is such that even the formation of a state is usually dependent on it. So, it must definitely be given priority among the administration. This is the need of the hour,” says Professor P Kanakaiah, head of the Telugu department, Telangana University in Nizamabad.
Classical Telugu or Telangana dialect?
Professor Kanakaiah is also one of the biggest proponents of Telangana Telugu, which he argues is different from the Sanskritised Telugu that was spoken before bifurcation.
Arguing that there was a necessity to promote the dialect which was common among villages in the centre of the state, Kanakaiah says, “Telangana slang is very simple to speak and write. The grammar itself is different and we use much fewer alphabets. We must write the way we speak.”
Stating that Sanskritised Telugu was forced upon the people, similar to Urdu being forced during the Nizam rule in Telangana, Kanakaiah also dubs the Telangana dialect as ‘real Telugu.’
“Take our own Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao, for example. It was the Telangana dialect he spoke that enabled him to connect with the masses and later led to the state’s formation,” Kanakaiah points out.
“We have been doing a lot of research, and KCR must promote this Telugu dialect. He should give priority to universities, and ensure that the Telugu department is well-funded and openings for language teachers are filled. If he does that, he will succeed,” Kanakaiah adds.
Comparing the rise of Telugu to the importance given to Kannada in Karnataka, the professor says, “The Chief Minister has the vision and there is a lot of scope to promote Telugu even further. Linguists are hoping for a brighter future.”
KCR, too, is well aware of this. Speaking to reporters last month, he said, “Historical evidence proves that Telugu language has been in vogue in Telangana for the past 2,000 years. However, darkness engulfed the hoary literary tradition of Telangana in the erstwhile AP state ... The works of our literary giants gathered dust and remained unknown to the world. The very nativity of the likes of Vemulavada Bhima Kavi and Bammera Pothana were distorted. At one point of time, an extremely skewed argument to paint the picture that Telangana never gave birth to any poet of repute became prevalent.”
Calls to promote Telugu are not new and have seen a rise in the last few years.
In October this year, in its largest expansion drive since the 1940s, the BBC launched news services in four Indian languages, including Telugu, along with Marathi, Gujarati and Punjabi.
The news services were available online and on social media, with a Telugu TV bulletin, BBC Prapancham.
In August, Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu advised both Telangana and Andhra Pradesh to make Telugu the language of administration as well as a compulsory subject for people to get government jobs.
“I am not saying Telugu should be the medium of instruction but everybody should compulsorily study Telugu as a language and as a subject,” he said, while speaking at a civic reception hosted by the Telangana government.
He advised Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao and his Andhra Pradesh counterpart N. Chandrababu Naidu to give priority to Telugu, saying the language of administration should be the one which people understand.