Skip to main content

Forget 'bheek', by this logic, Gujarat was free of British rule in 1995, 19 yrs before India

The real freedom fighting brigade
By Rajiv Shah 
Bollywood actor Kangana Ranaut may have her own reasons to say that India acquired real freedom in May 2014, when Narendra Modi came to occupy India’s seat of power.  There was little to be amused by what she said, for, as many commentators have variously pointed out, her viewpoint was surely based on her little or no knowledge of the history of the Indian freedom movement.
I wasn’t surprised, as most of the Bollywood “stars” are devoid of any sense of history; they appear to be more guided by their own circumstances when utter something. But what amused me was a Facebook post with a screenshot of a Guardian editorial dated May 18, 2014, which said virtually the same thing as Ranaut -- except that it didn’t call India achieving independence as “bheek” (alms) in 1947. I decided to search for a link – and I found it: here it is!
The Facebook post which I have referred to expressed surprise over the Guardian editorial, stating, it’s a Left-wing British newspaper, wondering, why should it have said so is difficult to understand. Let me quote from the editorial itself. It started by saying: “It should be obvious that underlying changes in Indian society have brought us Modi and not the other way round”, insisting, “Today, May 18, 2014, may well go down in history as the day when Britain finally left India.”
Explained the editorial, “Narendra Modi's victory in the elections marks the end of a long era in which the structures of power did not differ greatly from those through which Britain ruled the subcontinent”, adding, “India under the Congress party was in many ways a continuation of the British Raj by other means.”
It continued, “The India those men and women lived in was one that, like its predecessor, was centralised, garrisoned, culturally constricted, and ruled by a relatively small English-speaking elite whose attitude toward the masses was alternately benevolent and exploitative but never inclusive”, even as calling Modi “a new kind of leader ... from the lower castes”, who is “not a natural English speaker”, having “no truck with the secular and socialist traditions that shaped Congress.”
Under this English speaking elite, the Guardian underlined, “the poor were there to be helped, when the elite remembered to do so or when they needed to seek or, in effect, to buy votes”, but as for the middling classes, they “were taken for granted and sometimes snubbed.” Suggesting that this appeared to have changed with the change of guards, it said, Modi “has discarded the deference it displayed toward the Gandhi family and toward the Anglicised or, these days, Americanised top levels of society.”
According to Guardian, Modi “sensed a great shift in mood and played to it”, yet, it said skeptically, “It matters enormously what kind of man he is... we really do not know.” Refusing to question what role Modi “played in the Gujarat massacres of 2002”, which it said has remained “unresolved”, it tried to predict, he would show “balance” between “pragmatism and the extremist ideology”. In fact, it went on to state: “Pragmatism would lead him to avoid sharp confrontation with Indian Muslims, perhaps offsetting any trouble at home by a peace-seeking diplomacy with Pakistan.”
Going by Guardian’s seven year old logic, Gujarat won freedom much before India. But its seeds were sown, ironically, by Congress rulers
While last part of Guardian prediction – a typical journalistic one having little knowledge of what Modi was (and is) – hasn’t come true, one thing is clear: the BJP successfully wooed majority of the non-Anglicised (or Americanised) middle classes, catching their imagination, one reason why it was so successful in “breaking” from the past. Today, Modi’s closest associate Amit Shah dares suggest, he has little or nothing to with the “Aglicised” past – going so far as to declare that all Ministry of Home Affairs (which he heads) files are in Hindi, and not in English!
Going by Guardian’s seven year old logic, Gujarat won “real” independence much before India. But its seeds were sown, ironically, by Congress leaders. There used to be two education “experts” in the Gujarat government under the Congress rule, which finally ended in 1995, after which the party has never returned to power. One of them was called “Thakor panchmo”, and another “Thakor athmo”. Both having Thakor surnames, the first one wanted English education to be introduced from fifth class, while the second one favoured it from eighth.
Kangana Ranaut: Enjoying freedom
Finally, it was left to the schools in Gujarat to decide whether to begin teaching English from class five or class eight. Many schools (including those in Ahmedabad) opted to teach English from class eighth, with the result that many children began learning ABCD in eighth standard, and forgot about the language in high school, when it was optional.
A whole generation in middle classes in Gujarat, therefore, knows no English, something that Modi tried to correct in 2001, even though he was very poor in English language, which he slowly learned when in power as chief minister. He did this despite one his closest allies, Anandiben Patel, now Uttar Pradesh governor, once told me (when I was the Times of India man in Gandhinagar) as education minister that “Sanskrit is more important than English.”
As for Shah, I suspect, even today he pretends to be happy that he knows little or no English. He once told me in his chamber of state home minister, when I used to meet him as in Gandhinagar: “What’s wrong with our education system? It’s perfectly fine!” On another occasion, he proudly told me, he reads “no English newspaper.”
It is another thing that Shah always kept tab with everything that appeared in the Times of India, so much so that he once objected to a story which I did when I met him ahead of a Modi rally in Khedbrahma. I quipped, “But Sir, you don’t read English dailies”, and he replied, “Others tell me what appears in our paper.” On another occasion he reached our office in Gandhinagar to register a complain with the editor about a particular news item.
Be that as it may, going by the Guardian logic, Gujarat got rid of any “Anglicised” past in 1995, when Keshubhai Patel became the first BJP chief minister. He knew no English, so much so that when he wanted to speak in English in order to address a “broader audience” (which included Mukesh Ambani and Sam Pitroda) while inaugurating the Infocity in Gandhinagar, he was given an English language speech written in Gujarati script. I recall, he started reading out, but after some time, pushed it aside, and began speaking in Hindi, as he found it very uncomfortable.
Most BJP ministers and BJP MLAs knew no or little English – and the ones who some knew (like former Narmada minister Jay Narayan Vyas or home minister late Haren Pandya) were pushed around at some point or the other. One BJP MLA, whom I believed was pretty “polished”, wanted my phone number. I asked him to write it down, and he sounded reluctant. Finally, he took out a paper and wrote “Rajiv Shah, Taims”! Yet another leader (now a Union minister), when I asked in 2001 how did he assess Modi, tried replying in English, “Hardly working… hardly working…”!
There are several other instances of this type, but among most interesting ones are: Modi himself called delegates “dulgats” while addressing Resurgent Gujarat, his first business meet as chief minister in early 2002, weeks before the infamous riots erupted in February. An ex-BJP industries and tourism minister whom I intimately know called in reporters to his chamber to tell them, “Come in! I want to brief you about something important… We have planned to eliminate Somnath”. A reporter smiled and told him in Gujarati, “You will be eliminated if you do this… it’s illuminate.” 
All this is not to undermine all these top persons' real capacities, which were surely immense, but the fact is, I have always wondered: who is responsible for this state of affairs? Why couldn’t the "Anglicised" leaders, who virtually ruled the country for 70-odd years, ensure that local languages should be as important as English for making policy decisions or discussing policies on public fora? Even today, English in the language is High Courts and the Supreme Court. All top intellectuals write in English – but seldom in local languages – in order to sound “authentic.”
Further: English newspapers and electronic media carry more weight among policy makers than local languages. The Gujarat government even today considers English language alone as “authentic” for all legal papers, including laws passed in the Gujarat state assembly (ironically voted upon by MLAs, most of whom know no English), government resolutions (GRs) and notifications. I don’t know whether this is true of other Indian States or the Union government… But these are bare facts...

Comments

TRENDING

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Examples of support to Hindu temples, scriptures, saints by 'Muslim' rulers galore

Siya Ram coin issued by Akbar By Bharat Dogra* At a time when the country as well as the world are passing through very difficult times leading to more urgent need for strengthening national unity for meeting several big challenges ahead, unfortunately disputes relating to religious places have been allowed to raise their ugly head once again. It is well-realized by now by many people that it is not historical facts but narrow considerations of political gain and spreading of fanatic ideas of intolerance which are behind such mischief, but due to the increasing threat of mob violence and patronage available at higher levels to groups spreading intolerance many people are reluctant to openly and fearlessly express their views. Hence there is urgent need for broad-based peace committees with wider social support to spread the message of communal harmony and to appeal against the dangers of spreading false messages regarding places of worship which can ultimate

Gyanvapi case: Use of 'illegal' lawfare to keep the communal pot simmering

By Venkatesh Narayanan, Bobby Ramakant, Manoj Sarang* With a steady drumbeat of bad news for the lives of ordinary citizens --  inflation at a multi-year high , rupee at an all-time low , negative job creation and when all forward indicators as seen by industry leaders point to recessionary clouds on the horizon , what’s a serially-incompetent government to do?  Dust out their time-tested-citizen-distraction playbook. The Gyanvapi-Masjid case is all of this -- as a weapon of mass distraction. This zeitgeist of our times is best captured by a recent opinion piece : "The idea is to keep the pot on a perpetual boil, simmering at the top, whirling feverishly beneath. A restless society forever living precariously on the precipice arouses distrst, uneasiness, fear and discomfort, That is a toxic panoply for manufacturing rage, which can then be effortlessly mobilized at short notice. BJP is creating an eco-system of real-time instant delivery of hate-mongers. That is how we are sudde

Targeting mosques, churches: 'Roadmap' for 2025, RSS' centenary year?

416 years old Our Lady of Health Church, Sancoale, Goa  By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ*  Fascists use manipulative strategies aimed at whipping up sympathy and support from the majority community, to which they normally ‘belong’. They do so in a variety of insidious and subtle ways. In the past few months, they have gone overboard in their efforts to denigrate and demonize minorities in India, particularly Muslims and Christians. They have spewed hate and divisiveness through their venomous speeches; incited people to violence and have effectively used officialdom to further their vested interests. The results are there for all to see: greater polarisation of the majority community in a country which prided itself for its pluralism and diversity. Their meticulously planned agenda is in order to gain absolute power of the country in the 2024 national elections. More so it is also a roadmap towards 2025 when the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) will complete one hundred years of its existence.

This varsity succumbed to extra-academic mobocracy, 'ignored' Hindutva archives

By Shamsul Islam* Open letter to Sharda University vice-chancellor Sub: Discarding a Question on Linkages of Hindutva with Nazism/Fascism is blatant Academic Dishonesty! Dear Professor Sibaram Khara Saheb, Namaskaar! According to your esteemed University’s portal: “The name of University, 'Sharda' is synonymous to 'Goddess of knowledge and learning-Saraswati'. She is identified with 'veena', an Indian musical instrument and the ‘lotus’, where she resides. The lotus in our logo symbolizes the seat of learning that the University is created for.  "Variety of colours signify the variety of disciplines the university offers and the overlap between petals creating new colours demonstrate the ethos of collaboration between students and teachers of different programme, nationality, creed and colour working towards creating new knowledge…the University's cherished mission to provide education beyond boundaries and to facilitate the students and faculty to achie

Whither climate goal? Increasing reliance on coal 'likely to worsen' India's power crisis

By Shankar Sharma*  Recent news articles, How to shock-proof India’s power sector and Power minister points finger at states for worsening electricity crisis , have highlighted a few current problems for the ongoing power sector issues as in April 2022. However, there is a lot more to it than a few temporary solutions as indicated in the articles. It should also be emphasised that it is techno-economically impossible to completely shock-proof a highly complex and geographically wide-spread vast power network, such as the one in India, which is only getting more and more complex with the passage of each year due to some irrational policies/ practices in the sector. A business-as-usual (BAU) scenario, wherein more and more of conventional technology power plants, including coal power plants, will be added in the near future, will also necessitate the increased complexity in the integrated national grid, and as a result the instances of power shortage/ disruptions can only escalate for

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

A former Modi ally, Prashant Kishor wanted to enter Congress 'on contract, as trader'

By Anand Sahay*  The Congress Party and the election campaigns specialist Prashant Kishor, whose company has done strategic communications for a host of political parties across ideology, should both count themselves lucky that they could not reach an agreement for Kishor to join the party. News reports suggest that the Congress rejected Kishor’s terms. This is not wholly unexpected. People join a party because they are attracted to it, and wish to serve it in any capacity that the party may see fit. But that isn’t Kishor at all. He gave the impression of entering into a contract, as a trader might. If news reports are to be believed, he sought freedom to report directly to party chief Sonia Gandhi, and sought untrammeled control over party communications. When such ideas did not find favour, the consultant withdrew. It is clear he has no particular love for the Congress, and its ideas, ideology and politics. In contrast, look at the key personae in G-23. They

Govt of India 'compromising' on mandate to regulate gene technologies, protect nature

Counterview Desk  In a letter sent to the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) and other related ministries and departments, the Coalition for a GM-Free India has raised "serious concern" over the guidelines notified for Genome Edited Organisms, in which major exemptions from regulations have been offered to certain categories of Genome Edited Organisms/Plants and products. A letter signed by Sridhar Radhakrishnan and Kapil Shah, co-convenors of the NGO network, addressed to Union Minister for Environment, Forest & Climate Change Bhupender Yadav, said, the Office Memorandum, dated May 17, 2022 of the Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science & Technology about Safety Assessment Guidelines, which follows the Office Memorandum dated March 30, 2022 of the MoEFCC, said, the move "essentially amounts to entry of risky GMOs through the backdoor. Text : Coalition for a  GM-Free India is a national volunteer-driven platform of hundre

A Marxian trend that queries undemocratic customs and traditions of capitalism

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*  A very well-meaning comrade called me a pluriversal Marxist with a wild smile full of English irony, while chairing my book release function in the Marx Memorial Library, London. I dedicate this piece to her… There is no other philosopher who is more abused and misunderstood like Marx. There is no other philosophy like Marxism which is more demonised on a regular basis. The mindless vilification campaign against Marx and Marxism continues without any form of reason. The propaganda and portrayal of Marxism as a devilish doctrine signify its importance as a philosophy of human emancipation from the very forces who demonise it. Marxism is a philosophy of praxis which helps us to understand the centrality of creative power of labour in producing socially meaningful value. It helps us to analyse the laws governing production, distribution, consumption, exchange, market, profit, pricing and private property in the development of class-based society. As a humanist p