Friday 18th Jan 2019
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The BJP’s Language Politics

Editorial

That politics is a dirty game, more so when it comes to the sangh parivar, did hold good last week when BJP president Rajnath Singh chose to assert that the “English language has caused the maximum damage to India”. In his 19 July address to a function in the national capital, Mr. Singh in fact expressed two basic concerns: Anglicisation of the country is dangerous; and the other that only a handful of people speaks Sanskrit now.

There is no denying the fact that the English language has earned the position of lingua franca, to a great extent, not only in India but in most parts of the world. Not to say of Sanskrit, which had never been the language of the masses in India, we cannot live with our national language Hindi if we go to the various parts of the country. Call it vastness of the country or unity in diversity, the large segments of masses in the States – save and except those coming to the fold of Hindi belt – love to speak their respective regional languages rather than the national language. As for Sanskrit, it has been losing its sheen steadily – according to the Census 1999, 49,736 persons spoke Sanskrit while the Census 2001 says only 14,135 persons speak Sanskrit. The number may have come down further in 2013. This is despite the concerted efforts made to popularise the language. Pressing for learning Sanskrit shall pose a danger to the development of the country as you can make progress and advancement in science and technology and other branches of knowledge only with the help of the English language.

When Mr. Singh came to the National Press Club in Washington on 24 July to explain his mission US to the Indian media, Indian journalists offered to let him talk in “Hindi or English, whatever you are comfortable with”. A day earlier, he read out his keynote address in English. Reports say that an old media friend complained to the Overseas Friends of BJP convener Vijay Jolly in an aside: “Next time bring someone who knows English. This is America!”

Besides this language politics, the BJP president got into murky waters once again within a week. Before embarking upon his 5-day tour of the US, he said he would raise the issue of Narendra Modi’s US travel ban with Washington. But when he arrived in the United States and was greeted with the news that as many as 65 Indian lawmakers had urged President Barack Obama to maintain Modi’s travel ban, he tried hard to dispel the impression that he was there to sell Modi or get him a visa. This is Machiavellian jiggery-pokery: say whatever suits you best.

 



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