With the Golden Jubilee of the Tulu Film Industry in 2021 (the first Tulu film came out in 1971), the demands to recognise Tulu (one of the five Pancha Dravida language) as an official language under the Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution resurfaced on social media and garnered heavy support from the people. Although the campaign resurfaced to greater popularity this time around, the demands for the recognition of Tulu are not new. In fact, Tulu is one of the 38 languages which have regularly been demanded to be included in the Eighth  Schedule, and even as late as last year, there were discussions on including this language in the New Education Policy. These demands concern the protection and promotion of languages and thus fall in line with rights guaranteed under Article 29(1) of the Indian Constitution.

History and Status Quo of Tulu

Tulu is one of the oldest Dravidian languages, with some scholars estimating its origins to as long as 2000 years ago. The famous King Krishnadevaraya of the Vijayanagara Empire was from the Tuluva dynasty, which traced its lineage to Tulu speakers. Robert Caldwell in 1856, had written about Tulu as “one of the most highly developed languages of the Dravidian family”. Tulu is known to have had a script in which it was written earlier  but unfortunately the written influence has declined gradually, although there are demands in place seeking for revival of the rich literary history which the language once carried.  Today even in the Tulu Nadu region, it enjoys a richer oral tradition, with many folklores like Paddana and stories dating back to olden times. It also enjoys a position of prominence in popular theatre techniques like Yaksagana, and boasts of an established film industry which produces 5-7 films every year. Due to lack of preservation and loss in transition there are lesser influences of Tulu found in written or artistic form, but in some Brahmin houses of the Tulu Nadu region, manuscripts and inscriptions can still be discovered.

Presently it is spoken by 1846427 people as per the 2011 census, and majority of its speakers reside in 3 districts, Udipi and Dakshin Kannada of Karnataka, and Kasaragod of Kerela, and the area compromised by these three districts is collectively also known as Tulu Nadu. Despite having over 18 lakh speakers, the UNESCO Atlas had listed Tulu as a language in danger of extinction.  After continuous pressure, it was added to the Karnataka state education system as a language. However, neither is it an official language in Karnataka or Kerala, nor does it find its spot in the Eighth schedule, albeit having a rich heritage from the past and a well-established cinema and literature industry in the present.

The Eighth Schedule Conundrum

The Eighth Schedule is one of the twelve schedules in the Indian Constitution. There are presently 22 languages which find their place in the Eighth Schedule. The last languages to be added in the list date back to 2004, when Bodo, Dogri, Maithili and Santali were added. The Schedule is listed in the Constitution along with Article 344(1) and 351 in parenthesis and the initial impression upon reading these jointly might be that this is an attempt to enrich Hindi by exchanges with other languages, but the truth is that any demand for a language to be listed is primarily for its own enrichment and development due to the increased avenues and funds that accompany such recognition. Article 344(1) is responsible for the Commission and Committee of Parliament on official languages, and Article 351 is regarding development of Hindi. 

Tulu is one of the most popular languages which misses a place in the schedule. Sanskrit, for instance has only about 25000 speakers as per the 2011 census, but it is regardless recognised as an Eighth Schedule language. The argument made in defense of having Sanskrit under the Eighth Schedule might come in terms of the sheer history and cultural heritage Sanskrit as an ancient language carries. However as emphasised earlier, even Tulu dates back to over 2000 years. But in a rare case of this argument being accepted, even languages like Manipuri and Dogri enjoy lesser or equivalent popularity vis-à-vis Tulu, yet manage to find a place in the Eighth Schedule. The inclusion of Manipuri, Nepali and Konkani in the Eighth Schedule by the 71st Amendment was challenged by a petition in the case of Kanhaiaya Lal Sethia and another v Union of India,  wherein the Apex Court dismissed the petition and declared, “whether to include or not a language in eighth schedule is a matter of policy of the Union”.

Criteria for Languages to Be Listed In Eighth Schedule

The Constitution does not prescribe a set of criteria to be fulfilled for a language to find entry into the Eighth Schedule, which is how the inclusion of some languages over other paves way for linguistic exclusion. The Sita Kant Mohapatra Committee had been tasked with churning out the criteria for inclusion of languages into the Eighth Schedule but there have been no guidelines so far. However, it is evident from the history of inclusion of languages like Sindhi, that a recommendation by the Commission of Linguistic Minority to the Central government acts as a catalyst for selection. Moreover, the points given as reasons by the Santali Bhasha Morcha in 1999, submitted to the Prime Minister for inclusion of Santali into the Eighth Schedule, are generally considered as safe essentials to be checked for inclusion, as Santali also managed to find place in the schedule in 2003. The points included for the language were- the submission must have the support of socio cultural and other associations, the language must be spoken by many people, it must have a corpus of literature, it must have a script, it must be used in schools and colleges, it must be used in mass communication, it must have publications in print journals or newspapers, and the language must be recognised by the Kendra Sahitya Academy. The points raised above which led to inclusion of Santali are all checked boxes for Tulu as well, but the lack of a constitutional criteria, often delays the wait until a substantial amount of political pressure is asserted, which, for a language like Tulu which is restricted to three districts, was hitherto difficult.

Benefits To Languages Recognised And Listed In Eighth Schedule 

The languages which find their names in the Eighth Schedule enjoy certain benefits that include a to-and-fro sharing of literature with other languages which helps in the further development of the language and provides a platform for inclusion via exchange. A few other benefits include

1) The language gets recognised by the Sahitya Academy and its literary and cinematic works are translated into other languages. Before the advent of the National Translation Mission, this was an even bigger incentive.

2) Parliamentary debates can be engaged in by the leaders speaking the language and petitions can also be sent to the Parliament in the language so recognised. The language also gets representation under the coveted Official Language Commission.

3) Public Service exams can be attempted in the language so recognised by the Eighth Schedule, 

4) The central government owes an obligation to take developmental steps for these languages and central grants are given for development of languages.

The academic survival of Tulu would be ensured, there would be literary discourses and academic writings which would be translated from other languages and vice-versa, this would enrich the existing literature of Tulu and the other languages.  

These benefits will not only serve as measures to safeguard mere academic survival of Tulu but will also seep deep down and make actual changes within the lives of people. With demands of a separate state named Tulu Nadu gaining traction in recent years, the recognition will act as an initiative to build trust and confidence among a section of speakers who have hitherto felt ostracized among the Kannada speaking majority. To provide context, the largest city of the Tulu speaking region, Mangalore, is officially known by its Kannada name Mangaluru, and not by its Tulu origin name Kudla. Government offices of the region, although comprising of mostly Tulu speakers, can only deal with people’s problems in Kannada due to the former not being recognised as an official language in the region. The entry into the Eighth Schedule would also mean a planned way of inclusion of the language into syllabi of school children, something which has begun but in not a streamlined and regulated manner. All these combined with the key takeaway of the local leaders being able to represent people in the Parliament in their own language and even ordinary masses being able to put forward their demands and grievances in the language so recognised by the Eighth Schedule, would lead to democratisation of the privilege, the privilege of standing up and demanding for their rights in a medium people are comfortable with. This all would come as a harbinger of inclusivity in a region which is struggling for its identity and often feels alienated, while also serving as a catalyst for administrative and infrastructural progress in the region.


At the present juncture the Eighth Schedule serves as the single most dominating threshold which all non-listed languages look to cross, Tulu being one of the popular ones amongst them.  Nehru was quoted saying “we have decided to encourage these great provincial languages”, regarding the purpose of the Eighth Schedule. It is evident that the purpose was to encourage inclusion and inclusion of any language into The Eighth Schedule comes as a dynamic move for most of these dying languages. Although listing of many languages into the list might pose an immediate administrative burden and demand additional costs, in the absence of any other viable alternative to preserve the heritage of the language, the Eighth Schedule seems the way ahead. The inclusion of languages can be planned and phased so as to not cause any failures of the administrative mechanisms, but this should not come as an excuse to wave away these languages and their speakers from enjoying cultural and monetary incentives required to prosper. The pros outweigh the cons and by not allowing the inclusion of these languages under the Eighth Schedule, we are narrowing down the scope of multilingualism as a privilege to a case where it defeats the very purpose of a multilinguistic nation, i.e., inclusion. 

Hence, standing in consonance with the UNESCO’s Yuelu Proclamation and its declaration to promote and protect linguistic diversity by ensuring the rights of minority indigenous language speakers, and to enhance social inclusion and solidarity, it is a case made with a potent coherent backing to plan for inclusion of more languages into the Eighth Schedule considering that no alternative method is coined which is equally beneficial to protect and promote the languages and rights of its speakers.

This article has been authored by Ranjul Malik, a first-year student at Army Institute of Law, Mohali.

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