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Open Letter To Home Minister

Open Letter To Home Minister

Dear Shri Amit Shah,

I understand why it became necessary for you to issue a clarification on your controversial statement on Hindi as the national language. If you had not done it, there was the possibility that the language agitation it sparked in southern states would have gained momentum, endangering even your political survival. Your own Karnataka Chief Minister’s response was a case in point.

We saw how an effort to impose Urdu on the people of East Pakistan led to the creation of Bangladesh. We also saw how the Tamil speakers in Sri Lanka stood up against the imposition of Sinhala on them. You may not remember how the anti-Hindi agitation in Tamil Nadu led to unprecedented violence in the state in the sixties.

Yes, language is an emotional issue and it is better not to stir it. While claiming that you are for the development of regional languages, you still maintain that Hindi should be promoted as the national language for better integration. Your party and its forerunner, the Bharatiya Jan Sangh, were always identified with Hindi.

You have been promoting the idea that a nation should have one language, one religion, one food, one dress, one political party, one leader etc. This is utterly dangerous and would lead to a situation where the nation would become a carbon copy of the Third Reich when Germany had a strong, unbending leader like you.

Do you know what happened to Germany? Recently, its President had to go to Poland and apologise to the Polish people for the atrocities committed on them by that Great Leader 80 years ago when he brought Poland under his firm control.

Do you know what Hitler did there? He set up the largest concentration camp at Auschwitz, built using free labour extracted from the Jews themselves. Those who survived became the first inmates of the camp. Your government in Assam is now building one such facility, euphemistically called detention centre, which can accommodate 3,000 “illegal migrants” or “termites” as you call them.

Nine more such centres are being planned in the state which can accommodate altogether 30,000 people, much less than the 19 lakh people identified as “aliens”. Like the Hitler regime, the Assam government has been using about 300 people who could not find their names in the Assam register of citizens to build the facility.

Once the work is completed, they would be accommodated in the same facility with separate wings for men and women. You can say that they are building their own house! What a hideous plan it is!

You have threatened to identify every illegal migrant in the country and treat them the same way you plan to treat them in Assam. In these days of growing unemployment, construction of concentration camps all over the country would certainly create jobs. Alas, only for the “illegal migrants” who are needed to do all the dirty work from Arunachal Pradesh in the Northeast to Kerala in the South.

As I write this, Narendra Modi is in the US, ready to address the largest Indian gathering at Houston in the company of a dimwit who wants to build a wall higher and longer than the Berlin Wall, not to let any Mexican "illegal migrant" to cross the border.

Do you know, who are the largest immigrants, legal or illegal, in the world? They are Indians. Just last week, a young Gujarati, dressed like an 80-year-old man, was caught at the Delhi airport trying to hoodwink the emigration authorities. He was planning to go to the US, not to attend Modi’s meeting but to settle down there for good and, perhaps, start a motel! He used a wheelchair to arrive at the emigration counter where the officer concerned had a doubt about his physical status. When he was asked to stand up and walk, his game was over.

Interrogation of the make-up artist who converted the young man into a doddering old man has revealed that he had helped a few others to leave India in this manner. It is not for no reason that it is said that India is the best place to fly away from. If every country tries to identify the illegal immigrants and start deporting them, will you be able to accept them? You build concentration camps while you celebrate election and appointment of people of Indian origin like Chengara Veettil Devan Nair who once became president of Singapore.

You have mentioned Australia and New Zealand as two countries which lost their national languages. You say that a single national language is a must for growth. Do you know that 90 per cent of Gujaratis will leave for these countries if they liberalise their immigration policy? You say that they do not have a national language. Did it prevent them from providing the best facilities for their citizens? Can you keep the roads free from starving, dying, plastic-eating cows before you denigrate these two nations?

You and your boss trace your worldview to the RSS. If Hindi is such a wonderful language, why is Sanskrit used for the commands, the anthem and the designations in the organisation? Why can’t the RSS rid itself of its obsessive love for Sanskrit to promote Hindi? Now, do you know how Sanskrit virtually died in the country?

It is not because the Mughals and the British neglected it, as some may think. It is because the upper caste Hindus promoted the idea that the language was meant only for them and not for the hoi polloi. When the East India Company started giving grants for the promotion of Sanskrit, progressive, reformist leaders like Raja Ram Mohan Roy gave a written memorandum demanding modern education, not scripture-based education that would have made Indians mere chanters of mantra.

You say that the Vedas are repositories of wisdom but you did not allow women and lower caste people to learn them. Please ask your UP CM why Gita Press at Gorakhpur still does not publish the Vedas and make them available to the common man at a price they can afford. As recently as a few years ago, a Shankaracharya had the temerity to prevent a lady who recited some Vedic shlokas in his honour from doing so. You treated Sanskrit as the language of Gods, not to be spoken by the ordinary people.

My eternal regret is that I did not learn Sanskrit. Otherwise, I would have been able to read the Hindu scriptures in their original.

Once I visited the Goethe Centre in Germany. There are better scholars of Sanskrit in Germany than in India, where they use it, either to cheat people or to make money. After your party came to power and you started giving grants in the name of promotion of Sanskrit, many have been making money. Let Sanskrit be learnt by those who want to learn it, let us not waste money on making it the lingua franca of the country.

A giant ladoo was made and cut on the 69th birthday of Modi because you consider cake-cutting as a British import. Similarly, Modi released some butterflies, caught and kept in captivity, on that day. Usually, pigeons are released on such occasions. There are pictures of Nehru releasing pigeons. They are considered signs of peace and also Christianity. That is why Modi chose butterflies!

Do you know that Hindi is a modern language and it was created by the British? When they came via Surat in Gujarat, they found that the official language in the Mughal empire was Persian which they did not understand. They also learnt that the upper caste Hindus understood Sanskrit better. They wanted a language which the common man could understand.

Even the language in which Tulsidas wrote the Ramacharitamanas was not understood by the common people. Hence Hindi was created using Sanskrit, Hindustani, Persian etc. You may like to find out who wrote the first Hindi Grammar book or, for that matter, the first Hindi dictionary? You recently sent packing a foreign Catholic nun who spent all her life serving the indigent in India when you did not renew her visa.

You may be surprised to know that if languages like Gujarati, Malayalam and Bengali, which were once considered the language of the unlettered, are what they are today, it is also because of the enormous contributions made by Christian missionaries to develop them. You may like to know that the first Gujarati dictionary, grammar book and newspaper were brought out by the missionaries.

As mentioned earlier, the Hindi language you swear by is a British construct. Don’t think that I am against it. I know enough Hindi to survive in North India. My Hindi is like Modi’s English. You say that Hindi should be learnt by all. I have one request in this regard. Why don’t you start a programme to teach Hindi, first, to everyone in Hindi-speaking states? At least it will end illiteracy in India.

Bihar was the first state to adopt Hindi as the official language of the state. If you say that Hindi is necessary for development, then, Bihar should have been the most developed state in the country. Is that so? One state where Hindi is not at all popular is Tamil Nadu. Do you know that on many indices of growth, it is the number one state in the country?

If there is any sector in which the Indians are ahead of the Chinese, it is in the IT sector. It also fetches the nation the maximum foreign exchange. This is not because of Hindi but in spite of Hindi. Do you know that China has been promoting English to catch up with India in the IT sector?

Do you know that when the three-language formula was adopted as the national policy, students in the North were expected to learn a South Indian language. In Kerala, the state where I come from, many people can understand Hindi, especially Sanskritised Hindi. This is because they took the three-language formula seriously. Please find out how many Gujaratis in Gujarat can speak any South Indian language?

When you visit Kerala next time, please go to the spice market at Mattanchery in Kochi. You will find the sellers speaking Malayalam fluently. You can speak to them in Gujarati also. They learnt it for their business, not under the language policy of the government.

Let me also disabuse you of the belief that Hindi is spoken in Bihar. Statistics may say that Biharis speak Hindi. You may like to speak to your MP and Delhi BJP chief. He is a Bhojpuri speaker. Travel in North Bihar, you will find many people speaking Maithili, Urdu and Bengali. And in the tribal areas, they speak their own language. Yesterday, I interviewed a candidate. He was a Himachali who said that he spoke Punjabi, not Hindi, at home. The actual speakers of Hindi are a microscopic minority if you exclude Maithili, Bhojpuri and other dialect speakers from the list.

It is this language that you want to promote as the link language. You claimed that only those who studied in mother tongue could excel in any field. Yes, I am proud of my Malayalam but I have noticed one thing that those who are good in studies score good marks in all subjects, including English. I am yet to come across someone who is good in all subjects except English.

English is now an Indian language. There are excellent Indian writers in that language. Have you noticed one thing? When Modi speaks, he uses many English words. There is nothing wrong in it. Language is for communication. English would not have grown as a truly international language if it was not liberal in adopting words from all other languages.

How can you expect Indians to learn Hindi when the national anthem Jana Gana Mana, the national song, Vande Mataram, and the national motto, Satyameva Jayate, and the patriotic song, Sare Jahan se accha, and the RSS anthem, Namaste Sada Vatsale, are all in non-Hindi languages? By now, the only Hindi words they all understand are, “Mere Pyare Deshvasiyom”. They hear it with dread because it was with these words that Modi announced his demonetisation plan which was actually a devastation plan.

Now, let me conclude. Most Indian languages like Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada, Bengali and Urdu are richer than Hindi, by any standard. Asking speakers of such languages to learn Hindi for national integration is like asking them to eat Gujarati dhokla for national integration. Let all languages and all cultures flourish in the country. Abandon your slogan of one nation, one leader, one party, one language, one dress, one food and promote diversity which is the real strength of the nation. May common sense prevail in the country!

Yours etc

(ajphilip@gmail.com)

(Published on 23rd September 2019, Volume XXXI, Issue 39)