Hyderabad: Indians who use English in their daily lives are a minority. Their concerns become national issues unlike those of the majority having no or very basic understanding of English.
The issue was raised by Mr Aakar Patel of Amnesty International India, writer and Deccan Chronicle columnist, at Manthan Samvaad 2016 on Sunday, where he spoke on ‘English and its influence on national priorities.’ Mr Patel was recently booked for sedition by the Bengaluru police.
He pointed out that India was a unique nation where the elite spoke a foreign language (English). He compared it to the writer Leo Tolstoy writing his literary masterpieces in Russian, his mother tongue, though he had an affinity for the French.
The English-speaking minority in the country had been capturing the imagination of the media industry. He tried to drive his point home by giving the example of how protagonists in Bollywood movies were not "coolies" or "lawaris" anymore but persons belonging to upper middle class and NRI families.
All this, because the minority English speakers in the country belong to the privileged class and wield considerable economic power. He said this minority decides the priorities of the country strangling the voice of the majority. He reminded how the government was planning a Rs 98,000 crore-bullet train while the Budget allocation for health was just Rs 33,000 crore.
Renowned singer Lata Mangeshkar could veto a flyover in front of her house since it blocked her view but tribals could not stop a corporation from mining their hills due to the Coal Bearing Areas Act.
Giving another example of Madhya Pradesh shutting down public transport he said that the government's priorities are not in line with those who do not speak English, as shutting down public transport will not have any major impact on the privileged English speaking population who do not use the service much.
He spoke of how Islamic terror got lot of attention in the media discourse even though it resulted in a handful of deaths, whereas issues pertaining to killings by Indian security forces in tribal areas, the northeast and Jammu and Kashmir do not find enough space because the English-speaking upper class was more anxious about Islamic terror than killing by security forces.
Everyone has to be selfish sometimes: Sofia Ashraf
Sofia Ashraf, the rapper who became an Internet sensation for taking on a multinational giant over environment and human rights, stressed that children should not be forced into adulthood and it was important they were allowed to experience adolescence to follow their heart.
At the Manthan Samvaad 2016, she presented one of her earliest rap songs which started with a Tamil prose meaning, “The price of your love is the price I pay by being blindfolded and fettered.” She stressed why it was important for everyone to be a little selfish and live life as one willed, rather than passing on the baton of expectations and unhappiness from one generation to another.
Sofia said that when she was a teenager she was very active among some Islamic youth groups, used to wear a burqa and was a practicing Muslim. She said, "I loved dancing and singing. I did everything in a girls’ school between four walls, praying five times. While I choreographed dances, I could not participate in them. I started rapping wearing a hijab."
However she could not continue that way for long. Sofia said, "Wearing burqa gave me peace. Islam percolated in my daily life in everything I did. Religion is beautiful but once you force it down someone's throat it is not."
One day she decided to remove her hijab. She said that although this left many in her family unhappy she was happy. She went to Mumbai in a bid to chase her dream. She later went on to work with acclaimed music director A.R. Rahman on two songs. Sofia lamented the way artistes were treated in India and said that in the country, talent was taken for granted....