Monday, April 24, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


E D I T O R I A L   P A G E


Drought and dry run
A scanty rainfall takes months to mature into a drought. If it happens for the second successive year, it rages as famine. No government, either in the states or at the Centre, should, therefore, pretend as though drought has sneaked in this year and surprised everyone.

NPT: India's opportunity
The first formal review of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty begins in New York today (April 24) under the dark clouds of political egotism and suspicion and with an unconvincing agenda.


Talking To Salman Rushdie
Why freedom is indivisible
SALMAN Rushdie’s visit to India, after a long, tense, aching gap of 12 years, was a landmark. The visit signifies a change in our intellectual climate despite the rise to power of the BJP, itself a force of Hindutva intolerance.

Punjabi not getting its due at university
HOW has Punjabi University performed during the last few decades in respect of its basic mandate — promotion of Punjabi? The answer to this question is not at all flattering. But one can go further and say that there is something disquieting about the way the university has gone about identifying and promoting talent in Punjabi.

Pakistan’s changing scenario
April 23, 2000
Undying aberration
April 22, 2000
Trivialising cricket crimes
April 21, 2000
April 21, 2000
Group for group's sake
April 20, 2000
Political volatility
April 19, 2000
A routine BJP session
April 18, 2000
Labouring a conflict
April 17, 2000
A liberal in the constituency of fanatics
April 16, 2000
The Cronje effect
April 15, 2000
Pass marks for India
April 14, 2000
April 14, 2000

English is the new father tongue
“ENGLISH could never have been chosen by legislative vote as the national language of India,” writes Robert D. King, even though it is not a “foregone conclusion that a country emerging from colonial status will reject the status of the coloniser.... Such an outcome was possible in former British colonies like Singapore, but not in India; never.”


Dance workshops, weekend retreats
Foremost, all those heady predictions that with the mercury rising the season is coming to an abrupt close, lie challenged. Every single evening lies crammed with programmes and perhaps all those who find it difficult to afford the prime time are trying to catch hold of even the afternoon slot.

75 years ago

International Railway Conference
IT is announced that an international railway conference will be held at London at the end of June and India will be represented by Mr C.M. Hindley, Chief Commissioner, Sir Ernest Bell, Government Director, and Mr Chase.Top


Drought and dry run

A scanty rainfall takes months to mature into a drought. If it happens for the second successive year, it rages as famine. No government, either in the states or at the Centre, should, therefore, pretend as though drought has sneaked in this year and surprised everyone. Gujarat, neighbouring Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh had a bad monsoon last year and the moisture-sustaining winter rains too gave these regions a miss, thus forewarning the people and the administration of crop failure, water scarcity and an acute fodder shortage. What this translates into is hunger and thirst of both man and cattle. All this was inexorably unfolding over the past five months and yet the local and state-level administration waited for the scorching summer before springing into action.

In the past week there has been a flurry of activities. The media, print and also electronic, has unleashed colourful stories on the grim situation. Statistics tumble out from every report, as though it is the sheer number that makes drought so painful to contemplate and so impossible to live through. As is to be expected, there is a shadowy villain lurking in the background, who driven by greed has pumped out all available underground water and thereby caused a dry overground. He is the kisan and his accomplice is the politician who never tires of promising abundant water unmindful of the devastating consequences. This is buck passing of the crudest variety. Even in Delhi the water table has nearly disappeared and there is no kisan in the metropolis (except for the “humble farmer” from Hardanahalli).Actually, the farmer has been let down. It is he who suffers the most during drought. Also the landless labour. True, there is unacceptable overuse of water in Punjab, Haryana and western UP. Northern districts of Tamil Nadu ruthlessly exploited underground water until the state government intervened to stop this mad race to man-made disaster. In Ahmednagar district, made famous by Anna Hazare, sprinkler irrigation and imaginative selection of crops have brought prosperity, with farm labour getting a daily wage of Rs 150. It is out and out a local initiative without bureaucratic meddling and hence successful. Madhya Pradesh is skilfully involving the newly decentralised administrative structure to educate the people on rainwater harvesting. The method was first evolved in Dewas town. Thus there are ways of saving water and heading off a severe drought like the one this year. But they are never the focus of any government campaign, not on a continuing basis.

In the absence the government has to depend on purely ad hoc relief measures. Food for work programme is being revived for the drought-hit to undertake totally useless work and offering Rs 8.40 a day. Rajasthan has spent nearly Rs 1800 crore on such works in the past four decades but has no asset to show. Increasing the PDS (public distribution system) quota of foodgrains is tokenism if there is no network of fair price shops, as it indeed is the case. Drought relief funds often end up in bureaucratic and contractors’ pocket. The Centre says it is ready to organise water specials (trains) to quench people’s thirst. Perhaps it is waiting for a formal invitation, not realising that a thirsty man or woman will never refuse water. Overall, the drought has exposed more than the brittle rural economy. It has exposed the coarsening of the collective conscience of the nation. Even the timely arrival of the monsoon will not soften the situation.Top


NPT: India's opportunity

The first formal review of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) begins in New York today (April 24) under the dark clouds of political egotism and suspicion and with an unconvincing agenda. More than rejoicing over the seeming shift in the USA's thinking on India's nuclear necessity in view of the growing threats from Pakistan and China, the Indian policy-planners have to reckon positively the issues involved with stark realism. What is going to be reviewed is the bedrock of the five-nation monopolistic regime and its extension in perpetuity granted by the all-mighty gang. The year 1995 was the blackest time-tombstone. The permanent extension was the ultimate result of the triumph achieved through a colonial mindset, conspiratorial super(ior)-power activities and the legitimacy granted to a more-sovereign-than-you attitude of a few nations. The unlimited extension had the support of badgered, blackmailed, threatened and coerced countries. The genuflection was cowardly and slavish.

It boosted the instruments of an unequal regime. The NPT was mortified by its creators' and supporters' sense of self-perpetuation. Practically, its epitaph was written in 1995. All subsequent talk of "a better non-proliferation regime" or "a less harsh regimen" was meaningless. The A.I. Baer proposal was not worse than this week-end's Herman Wulf conceptualisation. India has to build its defence shield. Pakistan did not follow a re-active policy by way of its 1998 nuclear tests.

According to the Kargil Committee Report, Pakistan's Minister Z.Noorani asked the then Indian Ambassador, Mr S.K. Singh, in 1987 to convey a message to his government to the effect that if it (India) took any action not conducive to "our sovereignty and territorial integrity", Pakistan "was capable of inflicting unacceptable damage on it (India)". Literature showing Islamabad's initial nuclear lead is widely available like the unhidden record of New Delhi's steps to gain parity and then improved strength. India's nuclear weapon development policy (and programme) was formulated during Indira Gandhi's tenures as Prime Minister and Rajiv Gandhi and P.V. Narsimha Rao looked after the ideational seed "with active contribution from V.P. Singh, Chandra Shekhar, Deve Gowda and Inder Gujral". The Bharatiya Janata Party-led government conducted successfully the twice postponed tests. Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, with a team of committed scientists, provided the lead; he continues to do so. The weaponisation of India's nuclear programme was completed as far back as 1994. That year, the Indian Air Force carried out toss bombing tests (without the nuclear core). There has been no going back since then. India should look at the New York review from a point of strength. It can do all that China and Pakistan can do. It has the wherewithal. It has the competence. Its self-restraint is its grand Gandhian moral force.

At New York, it would suffice to have three objectives achieved. India's nuclear strength should be made scientifically manifest, the London Club's membership should come to this country as a leaf comes to a tree and the hollowness of the NPT should be exposed thoroughly. We have, in our own way, heralded the Second Nuclear Age. The fact should be known beyond New York. The mask of a review should be removed from the so-called exclusivist face. The nuclear have-nots should follow India's lead without the fear of the Musharraf mania or the Beijing button. France, one of our arch detractors, has learnt to respect our strength. There is no Krishna Menon on the scene but whosoever speaks for it, India will be his guiding spirit. Those powers, which want to proclaim themselves as the law-givers of the world without giving up nuclearisation, will be compelled to listen to India. A good opportunity has come to the nation which knew the power of "anu" and "paramanu" when the rest of the world was struggling with minor puzzles of physics.Top


Talking To Salman Rushdie
Why freedom is indivisible
by Praful Bidwai

SALMAN Rushdie’s visit to India, after a long, tense, aching gap of 12 years, was a landmark. The visit signifies a change in our intellectual climate despite the rise to power of the BJP, itself a force of Hindutva intolerance. There is today greater acceptance within the intelligentsia of the importance of the freedom of expression, of which pluralism in thought and literature is a part. There is also better appreciation of Rushdie’s merit as a writer, who can’t be reduced to just two chapters in The Satanic Verses, only one of his many novels.

This proposition might seem to sit ill with the recent spate of vicious attacks from the Hindu right on secular films, paintings and books. But each one of these attacks has drawn a strong protest. They have rarely received institutional endorsement or legitimacy from the enlightened intelligentsia. There is, if you like, growing polarisation between the communal parochialism and tub-thumping nationalism of book-burning philistines, on the one hand, and the book-reading public and the liberal intelligentsia, on the other, which is far more open today to liberal and pluralist values. The significance of this constituency should not be underestimated. A large number of journalists, commentators and politicians who had called for a ban on the Verses in 1988 now want it lifted.

No less important is the growing secularisation of India’s Muslim community, and the decline in the weight of its “traditional” intellectual and political leadership which emphasises separateness and plays the politics of patronage and fear, rather than of secularism. This is related to the spread of education and secular practices, especially among women, the rise of a professional modern middle class, and the growing constituency for liberalism among Muslims. There has been some serious soul-searching and introspection within the Muslim intelligentsia. This could not have ruled out strong spirited, protest demonstrations against Rushdie. There, indeed, were such protests. Those who felt enraged at what they perceived as Rushdie’s heresy in the Verses had every right to vent their anger. But that was a relatively minor, marginal, phenomenon.

At another level, Rushdie’s return to India marks a change in the world of Islam, captured above all by what is happening in Iran. Once the site of the world’s most militant, anti-modern, anti-Western movement, led by Ayatollah Khomeini, Iran is today making a rapid and emancipatory transition to a modernist, plural, liberal society. The fatwa to kill Rushdie could not have been issued in isolation from the Iranian Revolution of 1977-79 and its agenda to establish the Rule of the Pure, in which apostates could have no place. Under an Anglo-Iranian agreement, the fatwa stands effectively nullified. Fundamentalist Islam is increasingly isolated everywhere. For instance, Afghanistan’s Taliban regime is recognised by just three of the world’s 180-plus states. Moderate liberal Islam is in the ascendant.

When the BJP-led government granted a visa to Rushdie last year and publicised the decision, it was for some dishonourable motives. This writer then commented on the use of the visa as “a political weapon”. But if the BJP thought the move would give it a liberal and tolerant image, and help it demonise Islam via Rushdie, it was mistaken. Rushdie did not oblige it. He did not come on a high-profile, controversial, explicitly “political” visit. His trip was largely personal and tied to a felicitously literary Commonwealth event. Rushdie is no V.S. Naipaul. And the BJP, wisely, didn’t try to appropriate him.

Now that Rushdie has finally re-established contact, one can only hope we will see some serious, sustained engagement between him and our intellectual and literary communities. Rushdie should gradually fade out from the news pages and occupy space in the cultural and literary sections of the media — where he belongs. It is time we viewed Rushdie first and foremost as a highly gifted writer, as an extraordinary novelist, and not the embodiment of controversy, nor even as person over whom hangs the sword of death.

As someone who has known Salman Rushdie — not too well, I confess — for almost two decades, I am struck by the ease with which he today carries the burden of that threat. He is a mellowed, relaxed, cool, man, at equilibrium with himself, no longer concerned to make a strong point, although never aloof or unconcerned. Rushdie remains as intense as ever. And just as passionate as in the early 1980s when we spoke together at peace conferences in Britain against the high-tech insanity of “Star Wars” compounding the epochal stupidity of nuclear weapons. Rushdie drew brilliant parallels between Reagan’s “Evil Empire” (the USSR) and the movie’s theme.

When I last met Rushdie in the USA eight years ago, he was a famous but hunted man, tense and anxious, living uncomfortably with his own shadow: there was Salman, the private individual and Rushdie, the public person. Today, he is still hunted. But he is no longer tense. He has resolved the private-public dichotomy — to the extent that it can be resolved. (I suppose literary creation is itself therapeutic). Today, there is no confrontation in Rushdie. He exudes conciliation, reason, the spirit of dialogue. He relaxes you even as he persuades you.

Rushdie is significant to us for many reasons. He represents in a pioneering way the contemporary interface between “Western” and “Eastern” (in particular South Asian) realities, experiences, sensibilities. It is not that there was no such interaction in the past. Of course, there was — from Derozio and Tagore, to Raja Rao and R.K. Narayan. Modern literature in Indian languages owes much to this interaction. The novel, as a literary form, for instance, was derived from it. But there is a specific contemporaneity about the genre to which Rushdie belongs, which represents a new, intense, direct, involvement between South Asia and the West, through migration, shared experiences and the exploration of global themes.

Rushdie is perhaps the best known, and the most widely acclaimed, of the line of writers which runs from Adil Jussawalla and Vikram Seth, through Amitava Ghosh and Geeta Hariharan, or A.K. Ramanujan and Arvind Krishna Mehrotra, to Arundhati Roy and Jhumpa Lahiri. One can add any number of names to this list, from Dom Moraes and Kiran Desai to Mukul Kesavan and Vikram Chandra, depending on one’s taste. As the author of 11 books, Rushdie has explored a wide range of themes. This range, as well as his inimitable style, is a tribute to the richness of the new composite Anglophone culture now evolving in South Asia.

It won’t do to pooh-pooh South Asian writing in English as something derivative, as “Indo-Anglian”, “alien”, artificial, “inauthentic”, and unworthy of comparison with the no-doubt-remarkable work being done in other Indian languages. South Asian or Indian writing in English is authentic, solidly original and creative. English is an Indian or South Asian language, which we have adopted, adapted, and transformed — just as we took over and adapted cricket or shirts and trousers.

Another remarkable feature about Rushdie is that he deals with what might be called world-historical issues. For instance, migration — one of the greatest processes of our times, which involves hundreds of millions, and has churned whole cultures inside out. The migrant’s experience of loss of place, language, community and culture is unique, as is her absorption of the host culture. This is a continuing theme in Midnight’s Children and the Verses. Similarly, Rushdie tries to grapple with myths, as those of Orpheus and Ulysses, as depictions of the inner recesses of our consciousness — about life and death, and self and others.... That puts him in the universal category.

Then there is Rushdie the iconoclast, who poses for us wrenching dilemmas about freedom and its limits. To be fair, Rushdie does not see himself as a heretic. He only brings an intensely skeptical modern perspective to bear upon faith. The result is devastating for some. But it is so largely in the imagination. The truth is that few of those who want The Satanic Verses banned have read it. They go by mere hearsay. At any rate, the world has had to choose between banning the book and allowing it to be published, and opened to criticism, often harsh. It has by and large taken the second option.... Even a Muslim majority country like Syria teaches courses based upon parts of the Verses.

There is a lesson in this for us. Even when free artistic expression hurts sentiments, we must defend it to the point of permitting what may appear apostasy to some. Of course, we must also defend their right to protest against blasphemy. In practice, it is admittedly hard to draw the line between artistic expression and outright calumny, or between eroticism and pornography. But in any enlightened and discriminating judgement, we must give primacy to freedom, and restrict it only in exceptional circumstances and with the utmost reluctance. Ultimately, freedom is indivisible. Top


Punjabi not getting its due at university
by Amrik Singh

HOW has Punjabi University performed during the last few decades in respect of its basic mandate — promotion of Punjabi? The answer to this question is not at all flattering. But one can go further and say that there is something disquieting about the way the university has gone about identifying and promoting talent in Punjabi. A university has no business to exist unless it can identify talent and do everything possible to encourage it. Some of the incidents narrated below point in the opposite direction. If, in the process, some names are mentioned, that cannot be helped. The crucial thing is whether the incidents described are true or untrue.

In 1965, Dr Harbhajan Singh was appointed the first Professor of Punjabi at the university. At that time, he was a lecturer in Hindi in Khalsa College, Delhi. He had no formal qualification in Punjabi except that his Ph.D thesis was in an area which was on the borderline between Hindi and Punjabi. He was a well-known poet even at that time. After more than three decades, I vividly recall that meeting of the Selection Committee which was held at the residence of Dr M.S. Randhawa, who was then holding a senior position in the Central government to consider the issue of selecting a Professor of Punjabi for Punjabi University. I too was a member of the Selection Committee. Harbhajan Singh and I had been colleagues for a number of years, and I had first-hand knowledge both of his capability and potential.

The choice at that time was out of two-three people. Punjabi had been introduced as a subject only a few years earlier. Not many people had done even their Master’s degree in Punjabi. In any case, none of them was senior enough to be considered for the post of Professor.

After a good deal of discussion, it was unanimously decided to appoint Dr Harbhajan Singh. But before the Syndicate could meet to confirm that decision, politicking took over and the decision was turned down. In defending the decision, to which all members of the Selection Committee had given their approval, I cautioned the then Vice-Chancellor, who had just joined, that a decision to which he too had been a party at the time of selection should not be reversed. But then it was reversed and the appointment was not confirmed.

The only thing that requires to be added is that about a year later he was appointed Professor of Punjabi at Delhi University, and two decades later he went on to win Saraswati Sammaan, one of the more prestigious awards given to writers in Indian languages. A couple of years earlier, he had won Kabir Puraskaar and several other awards. In plain words, Punjabi University had completely misjudged the potential of the man who was turned down for professorship.

The second incident relates to Prof. G.S. Talib. He had worked at several universities, including Punjabi University itself. Towards the end of his career, he decided to translate the Adi Granth into English. It took him eight years to do so. The university was involved in the whole project because, apart from the general support that was extended to him, he was also given a fellowship by it for those years.

On completion of the project, the translation was published in four volumes. It compares very favourably with other translations available in the market. Without saying anything more, it can be safely said that it is generally well regarded. Bhai Jodh Singh, who was regarded as a distinguished scholar of Sikhism, had vetted it fairly thoroughly and, of the translations available today, this one probably sells the most. in addition to this translation, he had written several scholarly books dealing with various aspects of Punjabi literature and Sikh theology.

A couple of years after the publication of that translation, I spoke to the then Vice-Chancellor and suggested that, in recognition of the praiseworthy job done by Prof G.S. Talib, it would be in the fitness of things to confer an honorary doctorate upon him. It is a matter of regret that that did not come to pass. Had it been done, it would have been something appropriate, I still maintain.

The third incident relates to Prof Harbans Singh, who was fortunate enough to live long enough to complete the job of the Encyclopaedia of Sikhism which he had conceived and undertaken. Towards the end, he was confined to his bed and could not work as industriously as he had been doing earlier. Nonetheless he managed to complete the job. On the whole, this project has been well received by most people. After his death, the department continues to function because it is now proposed to adapt the encyclopaedia into Punjabi and make certain other changes, additions, etc.

But it needs to be recalled that during the last few years of his life most people wanted to see the project completed as early as possible and just could not wait. The project had taken almost 30 years to be completed. In terms of temperament, Prof Harbans Singh did not delegate much. Almost everything had to pass through his hands. In consequence, the project took several years longer than it might have taken otherwise. Had there been a couple of other suitable people to share the burden, things could have been expedited. Some individuals were located but Prof Harbans Singh was some kind of a perfectionist and he preferred doing things with his own hands to other people doing them on his behalf.

This gave rise to some misunderstanding which manifested themselves in two ways. The first one was a certain kind of muted criticism. On one occasion or two, some ungracious things were said about him in the Syndicate. The second thing related to Guru Nanak Dev University which offered him an honorary doctorate but not Punjabi University. In doing so, that university was guilty of one or two procedural slips. But the fact remains that that university chose to honour him. What needs to be underlined is the fact that Harbans Singh had worked with complete dedication for full three decades. He refused to accept any other assignment, including the Vice-Chancellorship of the university and continued to work uninterruptedly on the project in hand. He was lucky enough to have completed it before his death, and it is also gratifying to find that, in an act of belated recognition, the department has been named after him.

The fourth incident refers to Gurdial Singh who has just been given the Gyanpeeth Award. He retired as Professor of Punjabi from the Bathinda Centre of the university some half a dozen years ago. Having joined the profession somewhat late, he was entitled only to a part of the pension. In any case he looked forward to some kind of a fellowship from Punjabi University but it did not come his way.

At one stage, when he talked to me, I wrote to the Vice-Chancellor and supported his case. As a matter of fact, a number of letters were exchanged between me and the then Vice-Chancellor on this subject. In the upshot, he was not given that fellowship to which I believe he was incontestably entitled. One of the arguments I had used in the course of my correspondence was that here was a talented writer whose name was under consideration for the Gyanpeeth Award. In my letter I also referred to the earlier incident of the university having turned down the case of Dr Harbhajan Singh for the professorship of Punjabi. Indeed, I expressed my misgivings as to the embarrassment which would be caused if Gurdial Singh were to be honoured in the way he has now been honoured and Punjabi University had not found him fit enough for a fellowship. But my plea fell on deaf ears and what was feared has come to pass.

The question to ask is: must Punjabi University misjudge every time? More than that, must it turn a blind eye to talent every time? What has been described above points to one misjudgement after another. These incidents could have been avoided. One of the qualities expected of the executive head of any university is that he or she must have an eye for talent. Since this university has been mandated to promote Punjabi, it is all the more regrettable that it is mainly in this area of activity that mistakes have been made, not once or twice but several times over.

One mark of a neocolonial outlook is the inability to rise above subjective considerations. It needs to be recalled that Gurudev Tagore was pointedly neglected for years together by the Bengali literary establishment before he got the Nobel Prize. Once he got it, a whole bunch of self-important people travelled from Calcutta to Shantiniketan to honour him. As could have been anticipated, Tagore kept aloof from all the song and drama that had been mounted by these people, who lacked the quality to discern talent. It appears, however, that, decades later, we are still determined to be colonial — or neocolonial, if that is preferred — in our outlook.

It is painful to have to say these things in print. However, it is time to learn from the mistakes made in the past. Misjudgement cannot be always avoided. But to refuse to learn from a whole series of them would be unforgivable.

The writer is a former Vice-Chancellor of Punjabi University, Patiala.Top


English is the new father tongue
by Anupam Gupta

“ENGLISH could never have been chosen by legislative vote as the national language of India,” writes Robert D. King, even though it is not a “foregone conclusion that a country emerging from colonial status will reject the status of the coloniser.... Such an outcome was possible in former British colonies like Singapore, but not in India; never.” One will seek in vain, he adds, through the voluminous minutes of the All-India Congress Committee meetings (before 1947) for resolutions affirming English as a “national” or “official” language. Hindustani, yes, English never.

“Hindustani, for all the problems associated with it (writes King, Professor of Linguistics and Asian Studies at the University of Texas and author of one of the finest studies on the language problem in India published in 1997) symbolised freedom and independence, Swaraj. English symbolised precisely the opposite: servility, meekness, bowed heads before the sahib and the memsahib, the topi. The English language was an icon for all that was wrong in the colonial relationship.”

The icon was placed on high constitutional pedestal last week, April 20, when a Full Bench of the Madras High Court, after a bitterly contested hearing (starting on March 7 and ending on March 22) unanimously struck down a Tamil Nadu government order imposing Tamil as the medium of instruction in primary schools from Classes I to V.

The order had kicked up angry protests from several private English medium primary schools, reports The Asian Age, estimating the number of such schools in the state as over 10,000.

Another paper closer home and generally very dependable, The Hindu, puts the number of such schools functioning and affected at a mind-boggling 30,000.

The GO (government order), held the Full Bench, was irrational, vague, arbitrary and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution.

Article 14 was invoked, and successfully, because the state, while permitting students whose mother tongue was not English to study in English in Anglo-Indian and CBSE schools, obligated other students to study only in their mother tongue. In Tamil, that is.

The number of such Anglo-Indian and CBSE schools, according to a leader in The Statesman, hailing the verdict as a snub to linguistic chauvinism, is a mere 200 odd.

Equality apart, the right to education, said the Full Bench, is a fundamental right which includes the right to choose the medium of instruction as well. The right, infringed by the GO, could well be exercised by the parents on behalf of their children.

More importantly, if portentously, for Indian lawyers, judges and law-makers, the Bench invoked the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a major jurisprudential postulate.

Every one has a right to education, says Article 26, Clause (1) of the Declaration, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 10, 1948.. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.

Clause (3) is a platitude regarding education being directed towards the development of the human personality and respect for human rights, etc. Such platitudes are the very stuff of which international conventions are made. Then comes Clause (3) of Article 26, which the Full Bench has swiftly and categorically converted into law directly enforceable in India.

“Parents (says the Clause) have a right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.”

Assuming that it covers the specific issue of medium of instruction, a sweeping and mechanistic enforcement of this Clause at the level of primary education by one High Court after the other, or by the Supreme Court, would gravely undermine, if not put at nought, the whole scheme and vision of linguistic reorganisation of States.

“It is futile,” writes Prof King, “what the constitution of a free country...proclaims in regard to ‘official’ and ‘national’ languages. That decision, in a free or even more or less free country, is never made by words written on a piece of paper and ratified by parliaments but by people doing what they want to do and refusing to do what they do not want to do.... There is a ‘free-market’ principle at work in regard to language. People will speak and use the language that they feel will be of the greatest advantage to themselves and their children.”

This free-market of language, he adds, goes well beyond nation and region. There are global aspects too.

English has willy-nilly (he says) become the de facto working language of most of the world. For politicians, businessmen, academics and sports heroes alike, English is far more often than not their working language as soon as they leave the linguistic comfort of their home countries.

“This (maintains King in his Nehru and the Language Politics of India) is not a decision compelled by a world government, by the United Nations, by any government, it is a decision “made” by the linguistic free-market of which I have spoken. A world as compressed as ours by modern technology works best with a common medium of communication.... English works not because it is intrinsically better for this purpose than any other language; it works only because so many people in the world already speak it.”

Words which no young man or woman stepping out of college or university can afford to ignore. But those tiny tots just entering school — does this ponderous burden of linguistic globalisation fall on them as well? Shouldn’t they be allowed to frolic and grow, for the first few years at least, in the cradle of their mother tongue?Top


Dance workshops, weekend retreats
by Humra Quraishi

Foremost, all those heady predictions that with the mercury rising the season is coming to an abrupt close, lie challenged. Every single evening lies crammed with programmes and perhaps all those who find it difficult to afford the prime time are trying to catch hold of even the afternoon slot. Just yesterday Kathak dancer Nisha Mahajan came to invite me for a workshop (that she and theatre personality Alka Ameen are holding this weekend, trying to bring focus on the wants of the child vis- a- vis the need to express himself) and I was somewhat taken aback to see the programme schedule stretching right from noon till late afternoon. Then, as though it is the prime season of the year, a group of very well-known Delhi artistes and art critics are going next week for a retreat, they call it artistes’ camp, to the Jim Corbett Park (mind you, though it is situated in the foothills but the fury of the heat isn’t much different than that experienced here, in the capital). And much against the general perception that around this time of the year there is a halt or at least a lull in foreign productions coming down here, there came a surprise invite from the embassy of Israel. On May 2 the Embassy of Israel in collaboration with the India International Centre is screening a film on the havoc during World War II. Based on Uri Orlev’s novel, “The Island On Bird Street”, it revolves around the author’s own experiences as a child during World War II.Moving from the foreign productions towards our very own. Nafisa Ali and Action India’s Holistic Aids Care Centre held a special exhibition — Arts For AIDS — in one of the art galleries fitted in one of the five star luxury hotels. The exhibition was inaugurated by the wife of the US Ambassador to India, Jacqueline Lundquist. And needless to add that with that particular frill all those from the Capital’s glitterati were present in full attendance. I am told that the proceeds from the sales would go towards “ building an AIDS care centre in Delhi”.

The weekend closed with the New Delhi Municipal Corporation playing host to a two-day dance festival. For the last few months the NDMC has taken on the additional responsibility of hosting the classical art forms in the different garden stretches manned by them. And the opening day of the coming week will witness a fusion of three dance forms. Three dancers — Geetanjali Lal, Lata Singh and Madhumita Raut — will present the creative fusion of Kathak, Bharatnatyam and Odissi (respectively) at the IIC. And on the same day one of the veterans in the publishing field is being felicitated. He is D.N. Malhotra, Chairman of the Hind Pocket Books, who recently received the Padma Shri. Though I can’t really comment on the man and nor on the books published by him but whenever I read his name one fact stands out — sometime back activist Saroj Vashisth (who is known for the tremendous work she did for the Tihar Jail inmates) had told me that whenever she needed books for the inmates Mr Malhotra had always helped out “he used to send me bundles and bundles of books, some I would take to the Tihar jail, some I would take with me for the jails situated in Himachal Pradesh...” I think it is a tremendous gesture to reach out for those imprisoned. (Mind you, most of those imprisoned in our jails are undertrials and so could be totally innocent and yet because of the system sit rotting in those prison cells).

A special book: This brings me to write about a special book released here very recently. Titled “Tea — The Universal Health Drink” (UBSPD). Authored by Rama Shankar Jhawar, who is the chairman of the Indian Tea Association, it is an extremely well-written and well-produced book, complete with all possible facts and figures. The chapter on "Tea and Human Health” could make you into a tea addict and I cannot hold myself back from quoting some lines for the only weakness I have nurtured is tea. I quote from this book - “ Dr Hassan Mukhtar of case Western University (USA) has done more than 50 experiments initially on green tea and then on black tea, which demonstrated that the chemo preventive agent, polyphenols, formed in tea help in controlling the activity of free radicals which cause most diseases, including cancer. Experiments have also been done on tea by Dr Y. Hara of Japan and Dr C.S. Yang of Rutger University (NY) with similar results “. In fact each page of this book brings out a hidden wonder of this brew, highlighting the fact that it has the potential of curing to a certain extent, eye diseases, diabetes, dental problems, immune related disorders. Do read the book and I can predict that in many a home it would find a permanent place on the shelf.

From tea towards wine: Just received an invitation from the press officer Catherine Rabanier Gonder of the Tokyo situated French Embassy, which says the international wine and spirits exhibition for Asia-Pacific will take place in Tokyo, June 6 to 8. It is estimated that 1000 registered exhibitors from 30 producing countries will be at the Tokyo ‘big sight’, awaiting the 12,000 visitors expected from 15 countries in the Asia-Pacific region. And besides a session on everything related to wine and spirits, there will be two talks on the relationship between alcohol and health. They will be delivered by experts such as Dr Serge Renaud from Bordeaux University and Prof Yukio Yamori from Kyoto University.

Those of you who wish to get some more details on this exhibition can get in touch with the Vinexpo Office at V & S Tokyo: Roi Building 5-5-1 Roppongi, Minato-ku TOKYO 106-0032 Japan Tel:+81334046131 Fax:+81334046132.Top


75 years ago

International Railway Conference

IT is announced that an international railway conference will be held at London at the end of June and India will be represented by Mr C.M. Hindley, Chief Commissioner, Sir Ernest Bell, Government Director, and Mr Chase.

Each Indian Railway will also be represented by some of its officers. Under these circumstances the absence of an Indian railwayman is a serious defect in the arrangement of the delegation.

The conference is said to be an important one. Most of the question to be discussed will no doubt be technical. But there must be some of very general interest. In regard to railway policy and administration the Indian national view is not identical with the official view and points of conflict are very marked.

A few Indians from those composing the Railway Advisory Council could well have been deputed to the conference. Even now we hope that the Government will consider the advisability of sending a couple of Indian representatives.Top

Home | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Editorial |
Business | Sport | World | Mailbag | Chandigarh Tribune | In Spotlight |
50 years of Independence | Tercentenary Celebrations |
119 Years of Trust | Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |