Congress, Gandhi, India, Indian Politics, Muslim, Narendra Modi, Politics, The Hindu

Development of Linguistic Provisions of the Constitution of India

Jawaharlal Nehru moves the resolution for an independent sovereign republic in the Constituent Assembly in New Delhi
Jawaharlal Nehru moves the resolution for an independent sovereign republic in the Constituent Assembly in New Delhi. Source.

First published in Centre Right India.

“There was no article which proved more controversial than article 115 (which deals with the Hindi question). No Article produced more opposition. No article more heat” – Thoughts on Linguistic States, B. R. Ambedkar

Recently a circular was issued by the Raj Bhasha Department of the Ministry of Home Affairs, asking Government officials to use Hindi, or Hindi and English, while communicating on social media platforms.etc The circular is based on a decision taken on March 10 when the Congress was in power and is dated May 27, two days before Mr Rajnath Singh took charge as Home Minister. The circular is meant for officials in Category A States which use Hindi as their official language.

Though the subsequent furore was quick to blame Mr. Modi personally in a rather uninformed manner, the reaction that the issue generated among the common public, and the comments by some of the political leaders from the north and the south demands a relook at the constitutional provisions regarding the Official Languages of India and the debates which preceded their inclusion into the constitution. One will be surprised that the language debate happening at present is not much different in its tone and tenor from the deliberations held among the members of the Constituent Assembly. The importance given to the issue can be gauged from the fact that the language question remained a point of contention during the entire length of the period of framing of the constitution of India.

Constitutional Provisions

Provisions regarding the Official Language are given in Part XVII of the Constitution from Article 343 to 351. It is divided in four chapters – Language of the Union; Regional Languages; Language of the Supreme Court, High Court etc; and Special Directives.

Regarding the provisions, Granville Austin comments that “The members of the CA did not attempt the impossible; they did not lay down in the language provisions of the Constitution that one language should be spoken all over India. Yet they could not avoid giving one of the regional languages special status, so they provided, not that there be a ‘national’ language, but, using a tactful euphemism, that Hindi should be the ‘official language of the Union’”

Issue at Hand

The Constituent Assembly had not been separated into distinct factions in its early days since the general sentiment in favour of an Indian language as opposed to English, the language of the oppressor, blinded all other concerns. Not all the provisions whipped up extreme reactions in the Assembly. Only as they set to work did the difficulties become apparent and the split grew in an unprecedented manner. The Language issue was considered important because it affected everyone with the issues of mother-tongue instruction; question of medium of instruction in universities; language of the civil services; cultural and historical background of linguistic groups; religious sentiments.There were mainly two groups – the Pro – Hindi members unofficially headed by Purushottam Das Tandon and Seth Govind Das and the moderate non-Hindi bloc headed by South Indian leaders.

 

Gandhi to independence

Mahatma Gandhi was pro-Hindustani. Hindustani is a term used for that language which is neither a Sanskritized Hindi nor Persianised Urdu, but a combination of both freely admitting words wherever necessary from different provincial languages and also assimilating words from foreign languages. Jawaharlal Nehru, Vallabhbhai Patel, Rajenda Prasad and Abdul Kalam Azad accepted this. In fact, Rajagopalachari suggested broadening Hindustani even further by writing it in regional scripts. The 1928 Motilal Nehru Report also wanted Hindustani to be the common language. It was Gandhi-ji who initiated the idea of widening the independence struggle by using provincial languages and based on his suggestion, the 1920s saw Provincial Congress Committees being formed along on linguistic lines. In 1934 Congress made Hindustani its official language. During this time when Nehru said that “Hindustani was bound to become the all-India medium of communication”, it did not cause any resentment since not much thought went into the role envisaged for English, the status of regional language, languages of court etc during this period.

This reason why the top leadership Congress preferred Hindustani instead of Tamil or Bengali which were more developed at that time and ‘met the needs of the state’ was because it was spoken widely in the north and also, more importantly, the leaders felt that it bridged the Hindu – Muslim divide. This is not to say that the issue did not attract any criticism at all. When Rajaji made Hindi mandatory in high schools of Madras in 1938 there was a violent reaction with slogans like “Let Hindi die and Let Tamil live. Let … Rajagopalachari die.

Independence to Partition

The first sign that language will be a thorny issue appeared when Rules of Constituent Assembly was being framed. It had been generally accepted that the members can speak in Hindi or English or in their mother tongue. A pro-Hindi member Seth Govind Das, took exception to this and said in Hindustani “I want to tell my brethren from Madras that if after twenty-five years of efforts on the part of Mahatma Gandhi, they have not been able to understand Hindustani, the blame lies at their door. It is beyond our patience that because some of our brethren from Madras do not understand Hindustani, English should reign supreme in a Constituent Assembly assembled to frame a Constitution for a free India.” In response A K Ayyar promptly asked that Seth Govind Das’s speech be translated into English for him since he could not understand the content and that he was too old to learn Hindustani at this point of time. Issue was settled, with the members free to talk in the language of their wish.

Next mention of language was made as part of the Fundamental Rights. The draft Rights said that Hindustani in Devanagari or Urdu scripts will be the national language and English will be a secondary official language. Two members wanted Roman to be made an optional script for Hindustani since South Indians were not familiar with the northern scripts. But Patel dropped the entire clause on language saying that language will be dealt with by a higher committee.

Partition to Bitter Debates

Partition was a watershed moment as far as the language issue was concerned. Hindi-wallahs upped their ante against the impure Persianised Hindustani. The question of Hindustani becoming the national language was effectively closed. All drafts mentioning Hindustani was replaced by Hindi. “Partition killed Hindustani and endangered the position of English and the provincial languages in constitution” noted an observer. K. Santhanam, one of the more influential national politician from Madras said, “If there had been no partition, Hindustani would, without doubt have been the national language. But the anger against Muslims turned against Urdu. Hindustani became a bad word after Partition and the party leaders were reluctant to divide the party over it [despite being proponents of Hindustani]”. The Pro- Hindi group did not just stop with that, but made their attacks on English and Provincial languages bitter, resulting in the alienation of popular support for them. Initially there were two main strands of opposition against Hindi group – Muslims and South Indians. Muslims wanted Hindustani in both scripts did not care about English while the South Indian bloc, who wanted English to be retained, was ready for Hindi with Devanagari script as an official language in addition to English.

Meanwhile even the Congress Presidential campaign acquired linguistic overtones with Telugu speaking Pattabhi Sitaramayya and a hardcore Hindi proponent Purushottam Dad Tandon pitted against each other. Tandon contested in the election despite requests from Prasad, asking him not to do so as it might virtually become a North versus South contest. This did not happen and Sitaramayya later won with a slender margin.

By this time the outline of the general demand of Hindi group was spelled out

  • Hindi in Nagari as Official Language
  • English optional during a transitional period
  • Mandatory knowledge of Hindi for entry in to Civil Services while the Hindi applicants should know a provincial language.

Members like T T Krishnamachari of Madras and L K Maitra of Bengal warned the Constituent Assembly of threats from secessionist groups and accused the Hindi group of displaying linguistic fanaticism and ‘Hindi-imperialism’. Nehru who had become more of an umpire rather than a player after the question of Hindustani was shelved supported the moderates. He was lamenting the fact that issue of Hindi was hijacked by language extremists there by affecting Hindi’s chances of becoming an all-India language. Nehru had a clear belief that Hindi was superior to the provincial languages and this is known from many of his speeches. In one instance he says “Everybody knows that obviously Hindi is the most powerful language of India. But it is misfortune of Hindi that it has collected round it some advocates who continually do tremendous injury to its cause by advocating it in the wrong way.”

Final Debate – Numerals

Towards the final days of drafting of the language provisions, bitterness and fanatical statements started emanating from everywhere. Seth Govind Das, President of Hindi Sahitya Sammellan said that Hindi in Nagari must be made the national language of India and that ‘this arrangement was quite in accordance with the nation’s will’. Purushottam Das Tandon said that “those who oppose acceptance of Hindi as national language and Nagari as the single script are still following a policy of anti-national appeasement and are catering to communal aspirations.

During the assembly proceedings, the pro-Hindi group had a large base from Bihar, Central Provinces, United Provinces, and interestingly several members from the South also. Their amendments which gave predominance to Hindi were flatly rejected by the non-Hindi bloc led by Southern members who fervently refused the clause that provided for the progressive substitution of Hindi during a 15 year transitional period when English is used as the official language. But a consensus was taken in a meeting of all the Congress members of the Constituent Assembly that Hindi in Nagari will be accepted as the official language. The status of Hindi with regards to this was never in doubt again.

The sorest part of language issue was when the representation of numerals was discussed. Facetiously speaking, this reiterated that Indians were obsessive about numbers. Non-Hindi bloc mentioned that Arabic numerals (which had its origin in India) should be used for all official purpose. Hindi group protested furiously saying that Devanagari numerals must be used. The question of numerals was so hotly debated that nearly 3 hours alone was spent speaking about it. The debate ended with a 75-74 vote in favour of Devanagari numerals but it was accepted that such a controversial issue cannot be implemented with such a thin margin. This issue was a turning point in the language debates. Austin observes that “The pressure of the extremists, particularly on the numerals issue drove many Gujarati, Marathi, Bengali and even Bihari assembly members from the Hindi group into the ranks of its moderates.” South Indian moderates scoffed at the intransigent stand on numerals, and The Hindu called the fight over the numerals “stupid and useless”, which on retrospect indeed looks very much so.

At this time Ambedkar came to the fore-front and suggested that a Language Commission formed after the inauguration of Constitution will consider the question of Numerals and the transitional period of English. Munshi – Ayyangar (MA) formula, which later became the basis for the current provisions of our constitution, had its origin in these suggestions from Ambedkar. MA formula was endorsed by even Patel, who had sympathised with Tandon and group, and who had been annoyed by the southern resistance to Hindi. In his suggestions Ambedkar also recommended that all the Indian languages should be listed in a schedule in the constitution. At a superficial level the reason cited for listing languages in a separate schedule is that these languages were supposed to be the sources from which Hindi should broaden itself. But leaders have later on mentioned that it was out of psychological reasons and to give the languages a status that the languages were listed in a Schedule. “We had these languages listed in the Constitution to protect them from being ignored or wiped out by the Hindi-wallahs.” said a leader.

When the MA formula was finally produced Ayyangar rightly pointed out that it was a compromise between mutually incompatible ideas. In response to MA formula Seth Govind Das said that “Indian had had one cultural tradition for 1000s of years. We do not want it to be said that there are two cultures here.” To which Bharatiya Jana Sangh leader from Bengal, Shyama Prasad Mookerjee responded that “If it is claimed by anyone that by passing an article in the Constitution of India, one language is going to be accepted by all by a process of coercion, I say, sir, that that will not be possible to achieve. Unity in diversity is India’s keynote and must be achieved by a process of understanding and consent and for that a proper atmosphere has to be created.

On contrasting this with Nehru’s attitude who said “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. It is the reference to Hindustani that has allowed me to support MA formula. Else it would have been very difficult for me”, it is clear that Nehru had no more interest in provincial languages being given equal treatment than Ambedkar had when he had introduced Sanskrit to be made the national language, so as to douse the ‘jealousies raised by the special status accorded to Hindi’. After much deliberations and resignations from a couple of members including Tandon, M-A formula was passed with 5 amendments among deafening cheer.

Reference

1. The Indian Constitution – Cornerstone of a Nation by Granville Austin

2. India: A History – John Keay

3. The Indian Constitution – Fadia and Fadia

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Book Review, Gandhi, India, Indian Politics, Narendra Modi, Review

Book Review : Indian Summer: The Secret History of the End of an Empire

I rewrote the Review for a magazine, which I think is better than the original review. I am publishing it here in my blog.

The book Indian Summer: The Secret History of the End of an Empire is written by Alex von Tunzelmann, a British historian. Tunzelmann was educated in Brighton and at University College, Oxford. She has contributed to The Political Animal by Jeremy Paxman, The Truth About Markets by John Kay, Does Education Matter? by Alison Wolf, and Not on the Label by Felicity Lawrence. She has been recognized as a Financial Times Young Business Writer of the Year. Most recently she has collaborated with Jeremy Paxman on his book, On Royalty. Recently, she has begun writing a weekly column for The Guardian entitled “Reel history”, in which she discusses and rates popular films for their historical accuracy. India Summer is her first book and was released in 2007. Red Heat. Conspiracy, Murder, and the Cold War in the Caribbean, 2011, covers the relationship of the United States with Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti during the time of the Cold War.

Indian Summer focuses on that period of Indian history when India was fighting a war of its own which had been clouded by the much larger war going on in the world. Our traditional understanding of Indian history is dominated by left – leaning narratives. Most of the books which deal with the ‘Modern History’ of India, usually gains speed with the Battle of Plassey of 1757 which seals the question of Anglo- French rivalry in India. The Battle of Buxar which takes place 7 years later establishes the British as one among top powers in Indian subcontinent. This narrative of Indian history meanders through various ups and downs involving 1st War of Indian Independence in 1857, jumping next to the formation of the Indian National Congress in 1885, the Moderate – Extremist tussle, the Surat split of Congress, the 1916 merger and Lucknow pact, arrival of Gandhi, the Non-cooperation Movement of 1922, Civil Disobedience Movement of 1930, the passing of Government of India act 1935 and subsequent formation of Congress governments in various provinces, the Second World War and Quit India Movement, Arrival of Mountbatten, Partition and finally Independence. Nearly 190 years of history is compressed into books of some 500 pages long and is passed off as a thorough look at the various aspects of history; when the authors and readers themselves know that it is an impossible task to capture in a single book, even the various strands of our national movement, leave alone the entire duration from the arrival of British to their exit. It is one of the reasons, why the division of Indian history into ancient, medieval and modern, following the standard western practice, makes little sense.

Especially glossed over are those final years of Independence when readers are overwhelmed by the countless number of frantic attempts by both the Indian and British sides to reach an amiable solution to the question of Independence and the then elephant in the room, Partition. Hence we see a series of solutions following one after the other in quick succession: August Offer, Cripps Mission, Rajagopalachari Formula, Desai – Liaqat Pact, Wavell plan, Cabinet Mission and finally the Mountbatten Plan which eventually gets converted into Indian Independence Act 1947. But the amount of painful discussions gone into them, the thought process that went behind the decision, the names of those invisible men and women who held the strings of the political puppets, remain unacknowledged and rightly so. After all, the traditional historians are only trying to present the important milestones of our national movement and not write an encyclopaedia. It’s a different fact that those who were indeed entrusted by the government to write encyclopaedias only siphoned off the funds and later turned up empty handed with flimsy excuses. The curious case of how these very researchers ended up publishing many history books on their own is detailed in ‘Eminent Historians’ by the inimitable Arun Shourie.

One of the more famous accounts of those final days is given in the book Freedom at Midnight by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre, which is more of a hagiography of Mountbatten than a serious attempt at chronicling the history.

Among such books, Indian Summer: The Secret History of the End of an Empire, with a better access to resources and a relatively novel attempt at narrating the final days of Independence, does stand out. The book is different from others of the same genre in such a way that it is less about a historical period and more about some of the key personalities – namely India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, the last viceroy of India Louis Mountbatten and his wife Edwina Mountbatten – who shaped those crucial moments of our Independence movement. The author narrates incidents from the protagonists’ early days, leading up to the moment of their meeting, the influences they had on each other, how it continued to influence them even post  Independence and how all this inadvertently shaped India’s destiny.

Indian Summer is one of those new kinds of history books that tries to present nuggets of tinnient information interspersed along with the actual narrative. Hence we find that during the First War of Indian Independence in 1857, a police constable Gangadhar Nehru and his wife Indrani who were fleeing Delhi, were almost caught because their daughter looked as pale as an English girl; that Winston Churchill had suggested to have Gandhi-ji “bound hand and foot at the gates of Delhi, and let the viceroy sit on the back of a giant elephant and trample the Mahatma into the dirt.”; that Annie Besant had identified Prince Edward as the re-incarnation of Akbar and that the young prince “was not over-pleased at the idea of having been a black man” and so on.

As a side track history, Tunzelmann has also recorded the Mountbattens’ activities in London. Louis Mountbatten, known as Dickie to his friends, had been the right hand of Edward VIII. Tunzlemann recounts what an appalling disaster a young Edward’s India visit had been in the 1920s. One is reminded of the Downton Abbey scene where it is told “The Prince did splendidly, sir. He was so popular wherever he went” when in reality the tour was a mess wherever he went – Bombay, UP, Delhi, Madras. Tunzelmann says ‘the prince‘s tour had revealed the acute unpopularity of the British in India.’

Departing from the usual historians, Tunzelmann focuses on some of the key female personas of those times – a Lady Macbethesque Fatima Jinnah; the lovelorn Padmaja Naidu, who had smashed the portrait of Edwina on finding out that a visit by Jawaharlal, apparently to propose to her did not turn out quite the way she wanted it to be; the calm, composed and responsible first female Cabinet minister Amrit Kaur; and of course Edwina Mountbatten, who, in a way, is the protagonist of the book.  She writes “Women were prominent in Indian politics, a trend which Edwina Mountbatten, along with many Indian women, attributed to Gandhism. Nonviolence, passive resistance and boycotts were all tactics which could be practiced by women without breaking social conventions. As a result, there were more powerful women in India‘s Congress than there were in Britain‘s Labour Party or in the United States‘ Democratic Party at the time”

But the author loses the plot when it comes to certain details regarding other Indian leaders. It may be because they do not have personalities as colourful as Nehru and the Mountbattens; but much attention has not been given to the details about Bose and Patel. Hence Bose is described as a right-wing leader while Patel is projected as a Hindutva leader who would have been bad choice as the Prime Minister. When contacted, she responded that she stands by her views on Patel and Bose. She also soft-pedals the role played by Pakistan in the Kashmir issue, with the general tone of her writing suggesting that some-how it was the well-intentioned budding nation of Pakistan that was wronged by the arrogant new power India under the strong-man Home Minister Patel, with Nehru unable to do anything since his hands were tied because of public pressure. But then again, her chapter on Kashmir is well worth a read since it explains the circumstances from a British point-of-view and gives some justification for referring the issue to United Nations. The final chapter also seems unnecessary; meandering into territories which do not suit the general setting of the book.

A book which shares similar topic with Tunzelmann’s Indian Summer is Ramachandra Guha’s voluminous India After Gandhi. Though Guha’s book is a work on the Independent India, topics such as Partition, Kashmir, the influence of Mountbatten, consolidation of Princely states are dealt in both, albeit with varying levels of indulgence. Indian Summer has a slight flair for theatrics while India After Gandhi uses a more tempered language, though it is amusing to note that Guha does not mind peddling half – truths about the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his ‘magisterial work’ . Hence while Guha stops with how the Dewan of Travancore Sir C P Ramaswamy Aiyer ‘used to launch an excoriating attack on Gandhi’, Tunzelmann doesn’t mince any words and quotes the Dewan that he had files which contained cuttings to prove that Gandhi was a dangerous sex maniac who could not keep his hands off  young girls. Like India Since Independence by Bipan Chandra, Tunzelmann doesn’t try to present a picture perfect situation and treads the dangerous territory of the internal lives of Nehru and Mountbatten. She leaves the more bromide way of chronicling to other historians and livens up the whole exercise using trinkets of amusing anecdotes. For example we see how Jinnah deliberately turned up late for a party thrown up Mountbatten. When asked about it, he replied ― “My boy do you think I would come to this damn man‘s party on time? I purposely came late to show him I despise him.”; how when the Maharaja of Jodhpur met the ever so percipient V P Menon, he had “pulled out a pistol concealed behind the nib of a very large fountain pen and screamed that he would ―shoot him down like a dog if he betrayed the starving people of Jodhpur.”

Indian Summer, in fact, is not so much of an extended gossip column as has been advertised in many places. It mainly speaks about the fears, aspirations, indecisiveness and hopes of Mountbatten, Edwina, Nehru, Jinnah and Gandhi during the beginning of a new era in the world’s history. It is a decent effort, but none the less, admirable.

Congress, CPIM, India, Indian Politics, Jihad, Narendra Modi, Politics, Sonia Gandhi, Terror Attacks, Terror Fundings

Modi and Kerala

Modi recently visited Kazargod in Kerala and loudly proclaimed in his rally that Kerala has become a nursery for budding terrorists. Some in facebook took exception to this comment and posted in facebook that Modi is trying to indulge in fear mongering in Kerala since he know he has no substantial voter base here.  I try to dissect here what Modi meant, and how a possible Modi Prime Ministership will affect Kerala. Most of the following is part of a discussion I had in facebook and need not be in the form of an actual essay.

This was the initial post

So, the ones who can’t be coerced into following his ideals must all be terrorists. Oh yes… We won’t follow his ideals like the others who would do so blindly without a thought and this makes us terrorists? Applause! Applause!

To all the Modi supporters… Is this the person who you want us to vote for? So sweet of him…

Just because Narendra Modi said it, do not jump your guns. The messenger may not be to everybody’s liking, but the message is important here. Kerala has been slotted under the Red Zone category of terrorist activity by National Investigation Agency acc to whom SIMI and IM are operating in Kerala via ‘micro-modules’. A Kerala-link has been in one way or other established in some of the major blasts in other parts of India (for ex – Chinnasamy Stadium blast in 2010, Gujarat Blasts 2008, 2008 Jaipur blasts,

In Oct 2013, 13 Keralites were given life sentence for training and recruiting 200 men into LeT to work in Kashmir. These 13 jailed people have allegedly misled the 200 young men saying they were going to given a good job. In fact these men were told that if they do not take part in terror training, their families would be harmed. K. P. Sabir, considered to be the ‘kingpin’ of Kerala terror network is still off the radar.

The annual remittance through hawala channels into Kerala alone is Rs 20,000 crore, a % of which has been used to fund the above mentioned blasts. And because of this not just NIA, all anti-terror org in India focus specifically on Kerala. Even the Intelligence Bureau says that up until a few years ago, Kerala, which was only a mere entry point for larger terror activities in India has turned into a breeding centre for extremist groups. IB says that Pakistan ISI uses the Gulf connection of Kerala to sponsor dubious anti-Indian activities.Kerala Police themselves have seized CDs which showed Taliban-style training for new recruits in Kerala.

Main advantage of Kerala for such extremist group is that

1. there is no political will to tack the situation
2. Kerala offers an easy exit route to Gulf due to its long coast.

I must tell here, that I have no bias against anyone. I am just trying to point out the facts. I have not even accused any political party of terror links. I have merely reproduced what the top Anti-terror organisations have put out in the public. Anyone can easily search it and obtain the required information from internet.

I just took the effort to write this because you commented

“We won’t follow his ideals like the others who would do so blindly without a thought and this makes us terrorists?”

That is not the case. Scoring political points is one thing. But, accepting certain facts, how ever unpleasant they are, is the need of the hour.

To this, I got the response

That was a long one. And I assume you must have done your research before writing it. Well and good. Since we are talking about hard truths here, I will also ask you… Can you also assure me that if he wins the election there won’t be any biases to the steps he will take? He already has an impression that Kerala is a nursery to terrorism. How could someone be expected to rule fair if he has such a biase about the people who he will be ruling? Also, if Congress rule was responsible of the rise in terrorism in Kerala, Modi should be for Gujarat riots, should he not be?

Government doesn’t work that way. Similar question can be asked about Chattisgarh which is the breeding centre of Naxals. Is the question going to be, “Oh! Is the government now going to view Chattisgarh with a biased eye?” or is the question going to be “How will government eliminate Naxal problem?” Hence the question of bias, I feel, is irrelevant. It is like a cancer patient asking the doctor “You are biased against my cancerous cells compared to my normal cells.”

That aside, politically speaking, Kerala is a very very important state to India. More imp. than half the states we have, due to a variety of factors. And no government can be stable if it is viewing Kerala with a biased view. Modi cannot sustain if that is the case. His fall will be imminent. And he is a smart enough politician not to let go of something as precious as his Prime Ministerial post. That is, assuming that Modi will be biased in his mind. I, do not feel he is biased. He is genuine.

Post May 2014, if exit polls are anything to go by, Congress will be at its worst tally. Regional leaders like our own Chandi and Assam’s Gogoi will have more muscle power than ever in Congress. Chandi is practical. Modi is too. I think they will make a fine PM-CM duo for the betterment of Kerala.

As far as your Congress responsibility and 2002 is concerned: I do not just blame Congress. I blame all the dominant political parties in Kerala, who have no individuality or ideology. They are nothing but a disgusting alphabet soup of political outfit. I will give a small example to compare Gujarat and Kerala. Ma’adanis case; who is Bangalore jail in Karnataka, where a BJP govt was in power just a few months ago, is no where near the end, not least due to endless influence by our own state politicians. You see our politicians acting like running lackeys of fanatics. But in Gujarat, convictions have been made. Many have been packed to jail. Case is going on with so much scrutiny by media and that too when a hostile government is at the centre. I am not saying everything is A class in Gujarat. But you see movement towards an eventual justice. In Kerala, everything is still in air.

To this I got the response

All of us are pretty sure how irresponsible the leaders of Kerala has been in all the cases that you pointed out. I am just panicking because I’m not sure if we should run away from one evil into the hands of another. I am concerned what will happen if Modi comes to power of the whole nation. People have died in Godhra, and in Naroda Patiya, both of which are the worst hit on man’s conscience. I’m just not sure because Modi took a side in the matter.
Quoted from NYTimes, “A top state official tells one investigation panel that Mr. Modi ordered officials to take no action against rioters. That official was murdered. Thousands of cases against rioters are dismissed by the police for lack of evidence despite eyewitness accounts.”
and Modi himself in 2012,
“There may have been a time when I hurt someone or when I made a mistake,” he says, adding, “I ask my 60 million Gujaratis to forgive me.”
You see, I am just concerned about a leader and followers with a biased state of mind.

I am not here to defend Modi. Do not support NDA just because of Modi. Support them since they have an efficient team who can put an end to the imminent problems we face in a swift manner.

For one quote from New York Times I can quote from a dozen other articles in Time or Guardian or NYT itself.

In fact, I can quote even from Raghavan-headed Special Investigation Team whose investigation was monitored by the Supreme Court, which has absolved Modi of all the allgations levelled against him. I can quote from cases where those “human rights” activists, like Teesta Setalvad, are facing a court cases for misusing the money collected for seeking justice to Gulbarg Society massacre victims, or are linked in a doubtful manner to Congress party (ex – Sanjeev Bhatt; R B Sreekumar). I can go ahead and say that they are just trying to frame Modi so that he will become eletorally irrelvant and Congress can maintain its dominance over Indian political scenario. One can view it this way too.

Regarding Modi’s role; I think he can be accused only of mismanaging the riot situation. Even then, for a newly appointed CM, he handled the situation pretty well compared to Assam Riots under Congress CM Tarun Gogoi or Muzaffarnagar Riots under Mulayam Singh – Akhilesh Yadav govt. I did not see anyone criticising these men with the ferocity that is reserved for Modi. In fact, half the people do not even know the details. And if Modi has apologised he has apologised for his mismanagement; not for plotting the murder of minorities. And in fact, it is good that you are quoting his apology, since one of the charges against him is that “He is so arrogant that he hasn’t even apologised.” So, that takes care of it. Asking for apology shows that he is ready to own his mistakes and not to repeat them. I see no reason why his apology should be used against him. If anything, it should be used to give him another chance to prove that he is being truthful.

The accusation that he is prejudiced against the minorities cannot be proven. What he thinks, feels etc is in his head. Neither I nor anyone else can assume that he must be thinking in a particular way. It becomes your perception versus my perception of him. n fact, what he is fighting is a Battle of Perceptions. Some feel he is a good administrator. Some feel he is a tyrant. Those who feel he is a tyrant, I can only tell that India is not Germany or Italy were Fascist elements sprang up. Those who have read history, in an unbiased and objective manner would know and realise how pluralistic and diverse India is and how different India is from the west European nations. There has been only one tyrant in our history. Her name is Indira Gandhi. And her descendants are still ruling the government. Constitution has been amended since the times of emergency, so that no one, not even the most popular PM can over turn the basic rights of Indians.

At the end of the day, it comes down to whether you believe in our Constitution or not. I believe in it.

Indian Politics, Misogyny, Narendra Modi, Politics, Sanjay Nirupam, Smriti Irani, Sunanda Pushkar

Look Into The Mirror To See Misogyny

First Published in Centre Right India  – Misogyny in Indian Politics

The fiery Prime Minister of Australia, Julia Gillard, in a spout of indignation hit back at her Opposition Leader Tony Abbott who had called for the sacking of one of her party members over a sexist row,

“I will not be lectured on sexism and misogyny by this man. Not now, not ever.  The leader of the opposition says that people who hold sexist views and who are misogynists are not appropriate for high office. Well I hope the leader of the opposition has got a piece of paper and is writing out his resignation. Because if he wants to know what misogyny looks like in modern Australia, he doesn’t need a motion in the House, he needs a mirror.”

The fact that we got our first woman Prime Minister even before our colonisers, doesn’t dilute the fact that Indian politics is male dominated despite having some of the top most political players in our country from the fairer section of the society – including Sonia Gandhi, the 4th most powerful woman in the world, Sushma Swaraj, Meira Kumar, Shiela Dixit, Mamata Bannerjee, Mayawati, Vasundhara Raje Scindia, and Jayalalithaa. Hence it was really nobody’s surprise when Sanjay Nirupam insulted Smriti Irani taunting about her profession. In the recent past we have seen a lot of politicians being leaky mouthed uttering comments which puts common sense to shame. Some include Mr. Narendra Modi also in this list, attributing his misogyny to the now infamous “50 Crore girlfriend”. The larger question one would want to ask is that when can we say that somebody is unnecessarily using the gender card to play the victim and when has an actual case of sexism occurred, where shall we draw the line? After all we live in a society which is supposed to treat women like ‘Devi’ and yet have a propensity for acting in a way opposite to the concept.
A notion of equality, which is the basis for modern feminism – classified often as a western philosophy – demands equal treatment towards men and women. So, if I am paying a man Rs.5 for something I should pay the same amount, for the same work to a woman also. That is the concept, put extremely lightly. Hence if equality applies in issues of rewards, I have often wondered why the same equality doesn’t apply in case of penalty too. Anyone who raises the question runs the risk of being perceived a chauvinist, especially in a society such as ours where theoretically, we are to give extreme respect to women to the point of being irritatingly patronising. I read, as a kid, that this was how Gandhi-ji differed in his approach to women. I distinctly remember the chapter where in, it was opined that reformers like Raja Ram Mohan Roy and others patronized women but it was only Gandhi, who, among the mass leaders, treated the Indian woman like a worthy companion waiting to be given the recognition she deserves. One can dispute and disagree.
The idea I am trying to convey is that the Indian concept of women equality has been a flawed one from the beginning. Either the patronisation in the name of equality will be sickening else the Indian woman would be confined to her fixed role, as that of a good “house wife”. A third kind of attitude is that of sycophancy and extreme adoration. But this is different from the rest of the two. I will explain how.
Let us consider the first instance – excessively sickening patronisation. I cannot find a more recent example that the “50 Crore Girl Friend” incident. The point to be understood is that Mrs. Sunanda Pushkar has a personality that is distinct from Mr. Shashi Tharoor. She was first introduced as an associate of Mr. Tharoor and a Director of the Dubai-based real estate company Tecom. Even though, her present fame and position is due to her being his wife, she became a public person when the scam broke out. She was neither any poor old lady from the streets nor a public persona known for her yeomen service rendered to the society. She was a possible accomplice in a scam which caused Mr. Tharoor his minister-ship. Hence when Modi is attacking her, and giving an adjective of a 50 Crore Girl Friend, it would have been only normal to treat the comment just like the way it would have been treated had Modi called Vadra a “50 Billion Damaad” or something to that effect. They are related to top politicians, and their activities have caused enormous troubles to these powerful relatives. So to sit and lament over the fact that Modi defined her using this utterly horrible phrase, and this shows how low class Modi is and that Modi’s behaviour reeks of misogyny, is ridiculous because he treated the Tharoor issue in exactly the same way as any politician any where would have done, had he/she known that a leader and his family were involved in a scam which caused this minister his job. Perhaps this unnecessary patronisation is the same reason why many voices were raised asking Kanimozhi to be freed from the jail because she is a woman and a mother, as if that seals the issue. But there will still be people who will be more than ready to take a train to some place a thousand kilometers away and get slapped. These people would fight tooth and nail to prove that the phrase “girl friend” was used with an innuendo. It is your problem if you treat phrases with imaginary insinuations. Even I can suggest that when Rahul Gandhi spoke about Pink Elephants he was not talking about the statues, but Mayawati herself! 
If there are basic rules as to how a man is supposed to deal with a woman opponent just because she is a woman, it is difficult to realise them as legitimate. Of course, the basic question of morality comes under the umbrella of graceful political discourse automatically. Just like the way you can’t say that a male leader is less of a man, and hence less of a leader, because he hasn’t been able to produce an heir, you can’t say that a female leader is characterless because of her “apparently” colourful past. One can treat his female opponent only the way he would have responded if he were arguing with a male opponent. A an can’t be expected to make special allowances by toning down the arguments because he is dealing with a woman. If you are that kind of a person who feels that women deserve special treatment because she is a woman, it’s against what many of the feminists and anti-misogynists apparently believe in – equality. Hence, if you want equality please train your mind to be treated equal. But , if it’s your opinion that men should be overtly courteous to women, no matter what, then don’t blame people who have an archaic notion of how women are supposed to behave , since you are no less a part of that archaic society who believe that men are supposed to behave in a particular way.
If you are accepting one and not ready accept the other you are a hypocrite and that in turn makes the whole argument invalid, because hypocrites will somehow find an argument to fit their point. It’s a waste of time talking with such people. To now cry foul and talk of sexism is absolute hogwash and unnecessary patronisation. You know it, I know it, but you will never agree with it because bashing Modi is more important.
Coming to the second instance, the Smriti Irani – Sanjay Nirupam episode is a perfect example where in Mr. Nirupam actually derides her by uttering uncharitable remarks. I hear some people apportioning the blame equally to both of them, saying that it was Mrs. Irani who started getting personal by saying that people like Sanjay Nirupam, who desert the mother organisation, are a true blot on the country and since she provoked him, she should also be ready to bear the brunt. After all, two can play the same game. Assuming that Nirupam is a man of extremely stupendous standards and that he lost his cool only because Mrs. Irani drew in the RSS issue, even then what Nirupam showcased was a brutal stereotyping of women. Many feel that actresses are women of questionable background, bimbos, with no job other than to be accessories to skin show. Hence we saw Shahi Imam Syed Ahmed Bukhari shouting at Shabana Azmi calling her a dancing prostitute. We see people loathing Khushboo, treating her with a restrained contempt. But people forget that even in USA they make film actors Presidents and Governors. Back at home, even N. T. Rama Rao and M. G. Ramachandran have become Chief Ministers. Even average screen playwrights like K. Karunanidhi has made it big and branched out into franchisees in Tamil politics. It is from the same field that Jayalalithaa has arrived and has been ruling with efficiencies and inefficiencies only similar to any other male Chief Minister from a conventionally politically background. But yet there is a disdain, certain amount of derision when women from this industry make it big. Note, that this has not often been seen against men from the same background, despite these heroes being excruciatingly inefficient and uninspiring politicians.
Recently a Muslim woman leader Aasifa Khan shifted her alliance from Congress to BJP in Gujarat. People were quick to accuse her of betrayal and opportunism. But her reasons were sound. She felt that Gujarat Congress is not doing anything development oriented neither to the Gujarati Muslims, nor to Gujarat as a whole. And everyone knows how hopeless and lack-lustred the Congress is in Gujarat and that what she has said is not without substance. Such ideological shifts from inactivity to activity, from nadir to zenith, are something that needs to be acknowledged. But sadly such incidents of changing alliances due to staunch convictions are rarely seen in India. On the other hand, deserters in Indian politics, have been usually nothing more than petty opportunists. There is no solid ground as to why anyone shifts from one party to another. If there is K. R. Gowriamma in Kerala who is with LDF one day and with UDF the other, on one side, there is Sharad Pawar on the other side, who after having started his party as a protest against Sonia, has now sunk to the level of dispelling a founding member to please the same Sonia and her Presidential nominee. Hence Sanjay Nirupam is not exactly in a great position to counter his ideological shift. (On a lighter vein,for a man whose Wikipedia account appears to have been written by himself, as pointed out by @pierrefitter, it’s too difficult to take him seriously). One could argue that Mrs. Irani need not have brought the issue of deserting RSS into the conversation, but surely she doesn’t deserve to be stereotyped as a bimbo or worse, caricatured as a person who shakes her hips for money.
And that exactly, is why, I assert that, Sanjay Nirupam is a misogynist, Narendra Modi is not, Pushkar took advantage of the sickening Indian Patronisation, and that Irani was subjected to the cruel stereotyping of Indian misogynists.
A third type of attitude towards the women is deification. Be it Indira, Jayalalithaa, Raje, Mamata, Mayawati or Sonia there are always a set of people who deify these leaders beyond boundaries of reasons. But this is not reserved to the women leaders alone. The same happens to men also including Nehru, Gandhi, Ambedkar, MGR, NTR, and more recently Narendra Modi. So, this is something we can be contented with, at the least, that, if we have decided to be creepy fanboys and fangirls of politicians, we will become one, no matter what the sex of the leader is. And the admirable thing is that these leaders have almost never played the gender card for sympathy, unlike a teary eyed Hillary Clinton during the 2008 Primaries. We Indians tend to respect the Indian women leaders no matter we despise them or adore them. Perhaps it is the tacit knowledge that if a woman has become a leader despite all the misogyny, she must be terrific after all.