Mumbai: Yes, I am a South Indian, with Telugu as my so-called mother tongue. My father tongue, too, is the same. My parents could not read or write. I did not study in English-medium convent schools, neither of Christian or Hindu persuasion. I learnt English that I speak and write because of my passion to know the world, not just India. The pinnacle of my education was Osmania University, which has a chequered history of Urdu, English and Telugu medium teaching.
Given my family background, I could never even dream of British education like Vinayak Damodar Savarkar (Ferguson College and then Gray’s Inn, London) or Syama Prasad Mookerjee (Lincoln’s Inn). Nor could I study in St. John’s College, Agra, like Deen Dayal Upadhyaya. Both Deen Dayal and Syama Prasad graduated in English literature. Deen Dayal Upadhyaya even did his masters in English literature. The Hindutva school claims that he was the only leader from that school of thought who was a philosopher, economist, sociologist, historian, journalist and political activist.
I feel I was deprived of good English as I could not, unlike L.K. Advani, study in St Patrick’s School, Karachi.
The Bharatiya Janata Party, which was initially the Bharatiya Jan Sangh, was formed, nurtured and developed by Hindu (not Hindi) nationalists with the ideological inspiration and hard work of Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, Syama Prasad Mookerjee, Deen Dayal Upadhyaya and, of course, Mr Advani. More than anybody else it was Mr Advani who built the BJP as it is today by deploying a language of hatred against Christians and Muslims. During his tenure as deputy Prime Minister and Union home minister, Graham Staines was burnt alive along with his two sons, aged 6 and 10, in 1999. Thereafter, several English teaching missionary schools were attacked and burnt down.
But see where the BJP leaders studied. Were there no Hindi medium schools and colleges when those leaders were studying? Why did they study in “un-Indian” schools and colleges whose medium of instruction was the colonial English language?
In his very first Parliament debate, Prime Minister Narendra Modi referred to Mahatma Gandhi, Ram Manohar Lohia and Deen Dayal Upadhyaya as men who inspire him. Gandhi and Lohia studied abroad — England and Germany. Surely these people were what they were partly because of their modern education, mainly taught in English. So, how does English become an anti-national language now?
An official circular issued by the home ministry instructed officials to use Hindi, especially on social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. There was eventually a retraction of this directive.
But the Hindi-first debate will rage throughout the BJP’s tenure in Delhi. And I fear the BJP may train their eyes on government schools, especially in north India.
Though I am a South Indian, it’s my duty to defend the right of the North Indian children — the boys and girls of the Hindi or the cow belt — to learn English, just like the children of the top leaders of all parties do, especially the BJP.
Should the children born in Hindi-speaking states — particularly the dalits, Other Backward Classes and tribals — who cannot study in private, English-medium schools, not have the right to become leaders like the ones mentioned above?
The nation has a right to know whether Rajnath Singh’s children and grandchildren studied or are studying in English or Hindi medium schools. And, for that matter, in which medium schools do the children of all the leaders of the BJP, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and Vishwa Hindu Parishad study.
The ruling party has a team of spokespersons who speak fluent English. The way they speak English it is clear that they studied in at least convent schools in India, if not abroad. In between raising the flag of Hindi nationalism, let them tell the TV viewers in which schools their own children are studying. If their children do not study in Hindi medium schools, why should the children of poor studying in government schools in villages study in Hindi medium?
In his reply on the discussion on the President of India’s address to the joint session of Parliament,
Mr Modi said that his India will be “skill India, not scam India”. In which language is global skill learning available and possible?
The love for one’s mother tongue and its retention in family is a test in which even Mahatma Gandhi failed. He too preferred the native language Hindi over English, though B.R. Ambedkar wanted that English be declared the national language, not just the official language. Today we know where Gandhi’s grand and great grandchildren are and which language has become almost their mother tongue.
Nobody can find a more honest Hindu than Gandhi in the entire Sangh Parivar. Yet his experiment with Gujarati and Hindi failed in his own family. The family members of that very honest Hindu, whose portrait sits behind the Prime Minister Modi’s chair, could not withstand the pressures of global market and became Englishwalas.
The BJP must know that the market is more powerful than mahatmas and saints. After all, people have to eat and live. All of India’s decision-makers, whether they belong to north, south, east or west India — including the ones supporting the “make Hindi the official language” policy — educate their children only and only in English medium schools. Their children learn English in order to become global citizens. So every time these leaders want to deny that right to the children of poor Indians, the Hindutva brigade is being extremely hypocritical.
If language and nationalism are so intrinsically connected, why do their own children not study in schools where the medium of instruction is their mother tongue? Why do they admit their children in English-medium, private schools where just one Indian language is taught as an optional subject, along with French, German, Spanish and so on?
The decision they take as parents, grandparents is driven only by concerns of the child’s future. So if the welfare of their own children is linked to good education in English medium schools, often followed by studying abroad, how can they hold the future of children from poor families hostage by forcing them to attend Hindi medium schools? Because their children’s future is related to the market economy, but when they take political decisions outside the family domain, other’s — particularly poor people’s children — are only cannon fodder for Hindutva.
The writer is director, Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy, Maulana Azad National Urdu University, Hyderabad