Shooting oneself…

In any healthy organic system, a self-correcting mechanism kicks in the moment the system sensors sense something going wrong. For Narendra Modi led-BJP, which didn’t set a foot wrong in the long election campaign and, as regards its initial moves, in government, the Home Ministry directive to use Hindi in all inputs — even if only in the “social media” is an appalling misstep. Because social media today, could be all official correspondence tomorrow. It has predictably led the southern states starting with Tamil Nadu to rear themselves up on their hind legs to oppose the imposition of a “North Indian” language. Indeed, it was precisely the Tamil fear of such cultural imperialism that led to the Dravidian parties in Tamil Nadu to consolidate their hold on the state polity. That such instructions should have been ordered fairly casually, presumably, by Rajnath Singh in the main suggests the PM’s social sensors are beginning to go on the blink. For surely, Modi would have been in on this decision and should have warned Rajnath of this folly — which has every potential of spreading like wildfire and consuming all the hard work the party has done so far so early in his first term.

The language issue has historically been at the centre of Dravidian identity. Reviving this problem at just the point in time when BJP’s prospects in South India are looking up — if the performance of the party at the hustings is any indication — amounts to shooting oneself in the foot even as the race has just begun. Combined with the BJP’s support for the Rajasthan MP, Nihalchand, accused of rape and his minions charged with terrorizing the young woman at the receiving end of his evil actions — was no background check done? And if this rape-case in the court did turn up on his docket, was it willfully disregarded or inadvertently ignored — it isn’t clear which, in either case it shows up the BJP in very bad light, and are the sorts of things that were avoidable and could have been easily avoided.

About Bharat Karnad

Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, he was Member of the (1st) National Security Advisory Board and the Nuclear Doctrine-drafting Group, and author, among other books of, 'Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security: The Realist Foundations of Strategy', 'India's Nuclear Policy' and most recently, 'Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)'. Educated at the University of California (undergrad and grad), he was Visiting Scholar at Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies, and Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington, DC.
This entry was posted in Indian democracy, Indian Politics, Internal Security, society, South Asia. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Shooting oneself…

  1. ramana says:

    Bharat, The circular was issued on 10 March 2014 and on 27 May 2014 before the new govt was sworn in the reminder to observe the old circular was issued. It was a booby trap set by voted out govt. The babus know which other land mines are lurking in each ministry and should be held accountable.

    • The fact that the babus are at the heart of this move — assuming what you say is right — doesn’t in any way excuse the PM, whose USP is his proven ability to handle the bureaucracy, from his responsibility for this grievous snafu. Though, the latest news reports suggest a clarification has been issued to say that that earlier directive was meant only for Hindi-speaking states! In which case, it’ll be the first time that GOI has hinted at separate language policies for Hindi-speaking and non-Hindi speaking provinces!

  2. Shaurya says:

    I will disagree with you on this Hindi issue. The FACT is English is devouring ALL of our languages. I have never understood this penchant of some Tamils to accept English but reject Hindi.

    Hard choices and decisions have to be made and a COMMON national language is ESSENTIAL on a whole host of counts, strategic, economic, cultural and identity driven parameters.

    The experiences of the United States in the 19th century is a pointer to similar issues faced and choices made. Samuel Huntington’s “Who we are?” is an instructive read on the matter.

    • The larger, strategic-economic, issue is this: Like it or not the English language is in the present day the universal lingua franca — as French was in the 19th Century. It is the communications means of exchange. India has the edge in the global marketplace in the main because of the English language not just being wisely retained after Independence, but now gaining currency even among the lowest sections of society for whom proficiency in English is not just an aspirational thing but a passport to better quality livelihood and life. (Yaswant Sinha a few years back told me that in the remotest villages he visited the hut walls were plastered with advertisements for “convent schools” with names such as “St. Francis”, or Saint something or the other that represented not so much the educational reach of the Bihar-Jarkhand bishoprics but educational entrepreneurs espying business potential!) Indeed, it may be argued that had Indian states not stressed regional languages at the expense and detriment of the English language, India would have been far better placed to turn the demographic reality of a burgeoning population in the 18-35 age bracket into a definite dividend in the new millennium, rather than as is case now, into a likely demographic liability.

      • Shaurya says:

        Bharat ji: I will not go into details here but quote something and leave it to you to reflect upon. This is from JLN during the language debates of the constituent assembly.

        ““Although English must continue to be a most important language in India, no nation could become great on the basis of a foreign language. The language India chose for itself must be a language of the people, not a language of the learned coterie.”

        JLN did not win this debate and I will leave it up to you to judge the correctness of his prophecy on this score.

    • RV says:

      India has a more pressing need for scientific programmers and algorithm designers, than for Tamil-Hindi translators. The two degrees that ravaged India were the MBA (overtly) and the MCA (covertly). The latter produced hordes of people who do not know the basics of implementing a numerical algorithm, let alone designing one from scratch.

      The so-called “IT superpower” not having its own search engine is a joke, but true for the case of India. That is why there is often no other option but for India to go hat in hand to other countries for sensor fusion technology, pay a King’s ransom, only to repeat the process at a latter date. BTW, I am no Anglophile looking down at India’s culture. Just merely a realist!

  3. RV says:

    I cannot understand Indians. English is the universal “lingua franca”. The EU has recently started a scheme called “Every Citizen a Scientist”, which some believe may change the face of science (for the better). Other countries are starting similar initiatives, and the networking and gridding is at the point of commencing. India should leverage its strengths one of which is English, with due respects to Mr. Rajnath Singh. India needs Nation-wide initiatives like this to try to seriously undo the near hopeless scientific scenario it faces today, and not street-level politics day in and day out.

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