It is a matter of great pride for many Indians and people of Indian origin overseas that at long last an Indian language is used as a medium of communication in official meetings with representatives of foreign governments. Indeed, it was high time that government officials expressed themselves in one of their own languages in international meetings. We should congratulate the newly-elected government for opening a new era of self-confidence in the country’s assertion of its identity by giving primacy to Hindi straightforwardly, without any dilly-dallying.
Sri Narendra Modi’s first post-elections speech to thank the public in Varanasi was delivered in Hindi. His pre-electoral visit to his mother to receive ashirwad, and his offerings at a temple after the BJP victory reflect the country’s age-old culture, and it is quite natural for a patriotic leader to officially assume the identity of Bharat which has for too long been overshadowed by the compromises which India felt obliged to do with to satisfy one and all.
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sushma Swaraj spoke in Hindi to her Chinese counterpart, with an assistant taking care of the translation for her foreign guest. Similarly, the Indian Prime Minister delivered his speech in Hindi during his highly symbolic visit to the small kingdom of Bhutan. We hope that the Prime Minister will keep using Hindi in official international meetings in Europe, the US and other parts of the world.
The visit to Bhutan is highly symbolic in itself at a civilisational and diplomatic level. The Buddhist kingdom of happiness is the friendliest country to India; it does not harbour an ounce of resentment, hostility or hatred towards Bharat which is after all the source of a civilization which has spread to all the region for centuries. The choice of Bhutan shows that the importance of a country is not measured in terms of its size, military power, economic index and bullying capacity. So there was no need to fly 20 000 kms off to faraway places to kowtow in front of leaders who lack the wisdom to adopt the right strategy to promote world peace.
Another country, which deserves the attention of India, is the small island of Bali, which is part of Indonesia. Bali has a flourishing indigenous culture together with Hinduism, and its people welcome Hindus as their elder brothers and sisters. It is the only place after India where Mauritians of Hindu faith receive a heartiest welcome and feel as being part of the Family. It is a much better place than other small islands which have kept the slave mindset towards former colonial masters, whose leaders give away part of the territory for their own interest, and are likely to hand over their country and its dependencies on a platter to France in a few decades.
It took India a few decades to have Hindi given the primacy it deserves. The first attempt stirred strong controversy decades ago, and caused non-Hindi speakers, especially in the South, to take to the streets. As one of the official languages beside English, it gradually made inroads in other states where it is partially understood by locals.
Though it still remains a controversial issue today for Indians are deeply attached to their own languages, it has gained acceptance in the minds of most Indians. At least, both pro-BJP supporters and anti-Modi detractors agree on that point. It is inappropriate for a big country like Bharat with a millennial culture not to use its own language in international fora. It is a matter of dignity and pride.
Language is part and parcel of a country’s identity, it reinforces the self-confidence of a country and its people. Westernized Indians and westoxicated intellectuals around should be made to understand that imitators are not respected by those, especially westerners, whom they try to imitate. Imitators are regarded as being servile and weak.
Leaders are elected to take decisions, and this is what Narendra Modi rightly did.
Most of the leaders in the Middle East speak Arabic in international meetings, and even Palestinians, despite Palestine not being a state yet. All European leaders address international gatherings in their own languages. So do China and Japan. Besides, China expects foreigners who choose to work in China to learn Mandarin.
Bharat is the first country on Earth with the extent of diversity in language and culture including religious practices. Others brazenly conducted cultural genocide and mass slaughter to impose a single linguistic, cultural and religious model in their countries. Their minds were and still are, in some places, poisoned by the ‘mono’ vision of everything related to cultural and religious identity. Bharat’s civilized model and vision is what today Europe is trying to adopt and work at in the European Union with much less real diversity.
The civilized model was and still is the result of the universal and insightful truths about human beings and their interaction with the Cosmos contained in Hinduism which is inherently secular in character. This is the message that the Chief Minister of Gujarat was trying to convey in the pre-election period in an interview in English, during which the Indian journalist aggressively harassed the CM to answer straight questions on secularism and communalism. The journalist probably felt he scored a point when the CM got tired of the repetitive questions and asked to put an end to the interview.
This breed of westernized Indian journalists and their loyalty to the dynastic Congress Party and its so-called secular brand is a tragedy of India. By stifling any policy which defends people and protects culture against aggressors, they hope to gain approval in the western press. Little wonder that BJP supporters brand seculars as ‘sickulars’. What westernised minds fail to grasp is that their country and its civilization was constantly assaulted for centuries, and the assault is still going on.
While retaining its basic ideals and principles, a country has to adjust to circumstances and adopt the right strategy to ward off adversity, internal and external. One cannot lay down arms in the middle of a battle. It is a fact that aggressors are used to the image of the ‘soft-spoken’ Indians, whom they look down on. They equate civilized behaviour with weakness. So at one point, aggressors should be given a taste of their own medicine so that it dampens any rage for further aggression. It has nothing to do with secularism or communalism. The sooner westoxicated people understand this, the better. History took a new turn in 1945 only for the West, and the West does not represent the World.
It is paradoxical and even grotesque that India should have kept a low profile and shied away from asserting itself on the world stage so long just because this might not go down well with some people locally and others abroad. It is high time Bharat took awareness of its own worth and role in shaping the future of the world.
Incidentally, as regards command of the English language, judging from pre-election interviews on the Internet, the Indian PM is quite articulate in English. For someone who was not educated in that language, it is all to his credit. There is no need for him to quote Shakespeare; he may not use expressions like ‘the sword of Damocles’, but his quotes from Sanskrit texts are a relish. Anyway, his pronunciation of English is much better than the Creolized accent that you get to hear in our local Assembly. Mugabe’s or any African leader’s English is much better than our brand of distorted English.
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Among other challenges, the newly formed Indian government faces the daunting task of eradicating corruption and cronyism. Symbolically, no relatives of MPs and Ministers were invited to the swearing-in ceremony of the new PM. Corruption is the result of poor governance, and it is damaging to the people’s morale, the country’s economy and its image.
In the field of tertiary education, the onus is on the government to check and forbid the expansion of universities, which are not authorized to deliver diplomas. Students in Mauritius are beguiled into enrolling in such places and are left in the lurch after having spent their parents’ hard-earned money and loans. It is most outrageous and unacceptable that the Ministries of Tertiary Education and of Health and other relevant public bodies have failed to prevent such a situation.
To what extent tertiary education is becoming a big business with the project of Knowledge Hub should be a cause of serious concern. Local big companies are planning to set up French-inspired model ESSEC for Economics and Commerce, and a Science Politique special school known as IEP, Institut d’Etudes Politiques in France. The aim is to attract students from neighbouring regions and French-speaking African countries. Réunion is set to face a bleak economic future; Madagascar is staggering in its economic take-off. Just a glance at the fees which are going to be levied makes one wonder if Mauritians and Africans are rich enough to fill the future schools planned for the Knowledge Hub project.
* Published in print edition on 20 June 2014