New on my other blogs

"Gandhi is dead, Who is now Mahatmaji?"
Solar scam reveals decadent polity and sociery
A Dalit poet writing in English, based in Kerala
Foreword to Media Tides on Kerala Coast
Teacher seeks V.S. Achuthanandan's intervention to end harassment by partymen


15 August, 2014

Challenge of divisive issues

BRP Bhaskar
Gulf Today

There is cause for disquiet. Some parties are stirring the pots of language and religion, hoping to gain from the divisive sentiments they generate.

Gandhi recognised the divisive potential of these factors when he was working among Indians in South Africa. On his return home, he devised strategies to overcome them and unite the people in the cause of national freedom. Some of them worked. Some didn’t.

His language strategy worked. He kept differences under wraps by reorganising the Congress party on a linguistic basis and promising reorganisation of states also on a linguistic basis after Independence. After his time linguistic divisions started haunting governments.

Failure to honour the commitment to reorganise states on a linguistic basis provoked violent agitations and governments were forced to redraw the political map several times. Strong regional sentiments recently compelled the Centre to divide the Telugu-speaking state of Andhra Pradesh into Telangana and Seemandhra.

As the deadline of 1965 set by the Constitution for replacing English with Hindi as the official language of the central government approached, the Tamil people’s fear that it would work to their disadvantage precipitated violent protests. The government amended the Constitution to retain English as associate official language. It also held out an assurance that English would stay as long as the non-Hindi states wanted.

A three-language formula was proposed to promote understanding and good feeling among the different linguistic groups. It envisaged compulsory study of Hindi by students in the non-Hindi states and of a southern language by students in the Hindi states. The formula failed as most states did not implement it sincerely.

Now Hindi-speakers are up in arms against English. They want the Union Public Service Commission, which conducts competitive examinations to select the members of the administrative services, to scrap the aptitude and English language comprehension skills tests which were introduced in 2011. These, they claim, adversely affect candidates from rural areas of Hindi states.

Pending a final call on the issue, the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government, which owes its majority in the Lok Sabha to its remarkable success in the Hindi-speaking states, has asked the UPSC not to count the marks awarded for English language skills while grading the candidates. It has also agreed to the agitators’ demand that the unsuccessful candidates of 2011 be allowed to sit for the examinations again next year.

In Parliament, members from non-Hindi states protested against the decision. They demanded that examinations be held in all the major languages of the country so that there is no unfair advantage to candidates from any region.

The issue has split the English-educated. One group, which includes many retired bureaucrats, argues that devaluation of English will affect the quality of the administration. Another, which includes some intellectuals, wants the elitism of the English-educated to be countered.

The government has said it will consult all political parties before taking a final decision on the subject. If the parties do not handle the issue with due regard for the sensitivities of the different sections irreparable damage may be done.

In Uttar Pradesh, the BJP and other Sangh Parivar outfits have seized upon an alleged case of abduction, rape and forced conversion of a young woman at Sarawa village, located 60 kilometres from New Delhi, to launch a campaign against what they have dubbed as ‘love jihad’.

Police investigation has yielded no evidence of forced conversion. Yet a Sangh Parivar outfit has said it will hold anti-conversion rallies throughout the state from August 23 to September 15, and organise two separate programmes in December for conversion of Muslims and Christians to Hinduism.

UP has witnessed several communal incidents in recent weeks and the state’s Samajwadi Party government has so far failed to stem the rot. If the Parivar campaign results in deterioration of the law and order situation, the Central government can oust the state government, citing that as the reason. The BJP, which bagged most of the state’s Lok Sabha seats in this year’s election, can reasonably expect to seize power if fresh Assembly elections are held.

Jayati Bharatam, a little-known organisation, moved the Supreme Court last week for the constitution of a special investigation team to probe alleged instances of conversion of Hindu girls. A bench headed by Chief Justice RM Lodha refused to entertain the plea. “This is a secular state,” the Chief Justice told the petitioner. “Don’t try to bring religion into the court.”

Ominously while regional functionaries make such provocative statements the bigwigs of the Parivar are remaining silent. So is Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

No comments: