1. Why language has been a sensitive matter for Tamilnadu?
The two-language formula has remained the policy of the State
- Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami’s reiteration that the State government would stick to the two-language formula is expected to bring to an end the raging controversy over the National Education Policy but a perusal of the State’s history reveals that the language question has always been a sensitive subject.
- The Chief Minister’s observation has come in the context of the public discourse that the policy would facilitate “indirect entry” of Hindi or Sanskrit as a third language into the State. The argument of proponents of the two-language formula centres around two points — the possibility of the importance of Tamil, which has the oldest literature among living languages, getting diminished and the absence of the need for learning a third language as English serves very well the purpose of communication with the world.
- The State’s political journey on the issue of language can be traced to the decision of the Congress regime, led by C. Rajagopalachari or Rajaji, to make Hindi a compulsory subject in the first, second and third forms (equivalent to the present standards VI to VIII), in August 1937. However, the decision was met with agitations spearheaded by E.V. Ramasamy. But there was no change in the policy till the Congress Ministry remained in office till October 1939. Then, the British government made Hindi optional.
- During the 1950s, the language issue continued to be a major subject of discussion, both in the Assembly and outside. The flashpoint was the eruption of the “anti-Hindi” agitation in January 1965, in the light of the proposed move to make Hindi the sole official language. Though college students had taken part in the agitation, it became one of the reasons for the DMK to capture power for the first time in the State two years later. By this time, Rajaji had become a critic of “imposition” of Hindi. In deference to the sentiments of the people, the Centre decided that English would remain an associate official language.
- It was left to the DMK government, led by C. N. Annadurai, to do away with the three-language formula and adopt the two language formula – teaching Tamil and English. To this day, the two-language formula has been the policy of the State government, regardless of the party in power. Even though the frequency of stirs by political parties against the “Hindi imposition” have considerably gone down in nearly 20 years, the BJP’s return to power at the Centre in 2014 revived in a big way the public discourse on the language issue.
- Durai Murugan, senior leader of the DMK, says, “The genuine apprehension amongst us is that attempts of the Central government would eventually lead to extinction of the Tamil language.” Former School Education Minister Thangam Thennarasu feels that the history of opposition to the three-language formula only demonstrates “strong concerns” of the people over the Central government’s approach that steps were on to effect “clandestine introduction of Hindi or Sanskrit. ”
- A senior leader of the AIADMK, speaking on the condition of anonymity, says that the State’s stand should not be viewed as a mark of blind resistance but as one that is aimed at defending the State’s autonomy. What the two principal parties indicate is that the two-language formula will remain a permanent feature of the education policy in the State government, no matter which party is in power.
|Three-language formula |
The three-language formula for language learning was formulated in 1968 by the Ministry of Education of the Government of India in consultation with the states. The formula as enunciated in the 1968 National Policy Resolution which provided for the study of “Hindi, English and modern Indian language (preferably one of the southern languages) in the Hindi speaking states and Hindi, English and the Regional language in the non-Hindi speaking States”.
The first recommendation for a three-language policy was made by the University Education Commission in 1948–49, which did not find the requirement to study three languages to be an extravagance, citing the precedents of other multilingual nations such as Belgium and Switzerland. While accepting that Modern Standard Hindi was itself a minority language, and had no superiority over others such as Kannada, Telugu, Tamil, Marathi, Bengali, Punjabi, Malayalam, and Gujarati all of which had a longer history and greater body of literature, the commission still foresaw Hindi as eventually replacing English as the means by which every Indian state may participate in the Federal functions.
The Education Commission of 1964–66 recommended a modified or graduated three-language formula. Following some debate, the original three-language formula was adopted by the India Parliament in 1968. The 1986 National Policy on Education reiterated the 1968 formula.
In 1972 the government launched a committee for promotion of Urdu under the chairmanship of I. K. Gujral. The committee’s 1975 report recommended safeguards for significant (i.e. greater than 10 percent) Urdu-speaking minorities which included the use of Urdu for official purposes and as a medium of instruction. Following consideration of the report by the Cabinet in 1979, and by the Taraqqui-e-Urdu Board from 1979 to 1983, modified proposals from the Gujral committee were passed on to the state governments in 1984.
A new committee of experts was launched in 1990 under the chairmanship of Ali Sardar Jafri to examine implementation of the Gujral committee recommendations. This committee recommended modifying the three-language formula to “In Hindi speaking States: (a) Hindi (with Sanskrit as part of the composite course); (b) Urdu or any other modern Indian language and (c) English or any other modern European language. In non-Hindi speaking States: (a) the regional language; (b) Hindi; (c) Urdu or any other modern Indian language excluding (a) and (b); and (d) English or any other modern European language”.
2. A year on, Article 370 and Kashmir mythmaking
The August 5 decision has led to a state wherein the very basis of a potential step of conflict resolution has been undone
- While the long-standing ideological commitment of the Bharatiya Janata Party to undo Article 370 of the Indian Constitution is why Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) was stripped of its special status as well as Statehood making it a simmering cauldron of discontent, our collective mythmaking about Kashmir is the deeper reason for what the former State has become today.
- Kashmir has been a favourite site of our national mythmaking; myths that have over the years assumed larger-than-life manifestations in our collective psyche. Kashmir has most things that popular myths are made of: mesmerising beauty, cross-border terror, deep states and their agents, war and heroism. Clearly, myths about Kashmir are not created by the right wing alone but by successive Indian governments over several decades, enthusiastically embellished by a vibrant, popular culture.
- The most prominent among them is regarding the ills of Articles 370 and 35A of the Indian Constitution. Home Minister Amit Shah’s statements last year on the floor of Parliament that Article 370 was the root cause of terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir is a widely accepted sentiment notwithstanding the fact that there is little material basis to it — neither was Article 370 responsible for terrorism in the Valley nor has its removal ensured a reduction in terrorism. If anything, Article 370 continues to remain very much a part of a solution to the Kashmir conundrum. The constitutional provision is also held responsible for ruining J&K, stalling its development and preventing proper health care and blocking industries. Once again, these arguments lack merit and evidence.
- J&K, as a matter of fact, has been doing much better than most other Indian States and one of the reasons for this was the land reforms carried out in the State in the early 1950s which was possible precisely because of the presence of Article 370. For sure, the educational and health sectors in J&K should be further improved (as should be in the rest of the country), but the reason for the underperformance of the educational and health sectors in Kashmir is not Article 370. While private enterprises could set up industries in the former State on leased land, as they have over the years, acquisition of land by public sector enterprises from outside the State was never a problem. Private investors do not set up shop in Kashmir due to militancy which is a product of an existing conflict; not because of Articles 370 or 35A. In any case, Articles 370 or 35A did not start the Kashmir conflict; if anything, they played a role in containing it.
- The oft-cited counter-argument is that if J&K is doing better than the other Indian States, it is because of the massive amounts of funds provided by New Delhi. That is the second myth. How subsidised by New Delhi was J&K? Did ‘our’ taxpayer money actually go into sustaining J&K’s relatively better position among the Indian States? Well if it did, it would weaken the argument that ‘Kashmir needed to be developed’.
- The argument is not that Kashmir did not receive funding from New Delhi. It did, but not massive funds as it is often made out to be. Economist and former State Finance Minister of J&K Haseeb Drabu makes a distinction between funds that went to the J&K government and those that went into economic development in the State. The J&K government’s revenue deficit has traditionally been taken care of by New Delhi: J&K, for historical reasons, has had a bloated bureaucracy in comparison to other States and their salaries and pensions have been financed by the central government. But that does precious little for the State’s economy or the general population. Then there are routine transfers of funds from the Centre to J&K just as transfers take place from New Delhi to other States. Finally, J&K also received funds thanks to its status as a special category State which again is a case with several other Indian States. Put differently, J&K’s better performance in comparison to most other Indian States is at least partly because of Article 370, and its well-being is not necessarily a result of New Delhi’s economic packages.
- Let us take the third myth about Kashmir, one that is repeated by politicians and scholars alike: ‘Development can defeat militancy and insurgency.’ Notwithstanding the fact that a cash-strapped country such as ours has inherent limitations on how much development assistance it can provide to J&K over other States, the reality may well be that development may not lead to pacification of the conflict in Kashmir. The Kashmir conflict is a function of complex historical grievances, politico-ethnic demands, increasing religious radicalisation, and Pakistan’s unrelenting interference in the Kashmir Valley. It would be simplistic to imagine that such a multi-layered and complex conflict can be resolved by the stroke of a pen effecting a constitutional change or providing an economic package. A cursory reading of the vast literature on conflict resolution would testify to that.
The deep impact
- This overwhelming mythmaking on Kashmir has had unfortunate implications on how we understand and treat Kashmir and Kashmiris. The rare political unity in the rest of the country supporting the August 5 decision, especially on Article 370, was a function of this mythmaking. The popular cultural articulations about Kashmir and Kashmiris in the media, films, music and other cultural representations have further strengthened these myths. That “Kashmir needs to be reunited with the rest of India” has been a powerful claim made by such representations and political articulations: no matter Kashmir was easily India’s most securitised State with various central institutions and agencies undermining not only what was left of Article 370 prior to August last year but also impeding the elected government’s power in the former State.
- Yet another popular perception about ‘Kashmiris as troublemakers and sympathisers of terror’ has led to a noticeable increase in the mistreatment of Kashmiri Muslims in the rest of the country. How little empathy exists in the country today towards the plight of the Kashmiris (including mainstream politicians) is a direct outcome of such mythmaking.
- This mythmaking about Kashmir has today led us to a situation wherein we have undone the very basis of a potential process of conflict resolution in Kashmir. If indeed Article 370 was a stumbling block in bringing Kashmir closer to the rest of India, a source of extremism and separatism in the Kashmir Valley, and an avenue for Pakistan to gain a foothold in the Valley, has the removal of the special status brought Kashmir closer to India, reduced the sources of extremism and separatism, and undermined Pakistani influence in the Valley? Most indicators of violence in Kashmir have shown an uptick despite the double lockdown that Kashmir is under today. Mainstream Kashmiri politicians today are as unhappy and disgruntled as the separatist politicians and the restive youngsters in South Kashmir. And Pakistan has left no stone unturned to aid and abet violence in the Valley. For Rawalpindi, all bets are off on Kashmir. India’s national interest hardly benefits from such a toxic situation.
- New Delhi’s Kashmir policy today is caught between a rock and a hard place: there is no indication that the path that it chose in August 2019 would lead to peace and development in the Valley, nor can it revert to pre-2019 August status quo which would be political suicide for the BJP.
3. A change that hit federalism, inclusion
The idea that Article 370 weakened the Indian Union is erroneous and against basic understanding of democracy
- Ever since Article 370 that broadly defined Jammu and Kashmir’s relationship with the rest of India was upended and a new framework introduced last year, political activity in the erstwhile State has come to a complete halt.
- In the last one year, the reorganisation of the erstwhile State was defended on the ground that it would lead to greater integration of J&K with the rest of the country. In a democracy, the concept of integration has to be evaluated from a multi-faceted system and lens, which includes the emotional aspect as well. And in that respect, sadly, the effect on the ground of the cataclysmic change of August 5, 2019 has yielded the opposite effect. J&K seems to be stuck in a morass.
- First, the continued detention of political prisoners, particularly those who have been legislators and sworn in by the Constitution of India, shows that if democratic rights are not even available to the voices that speak on behalf of the Indian Union — voices that were more loyal than the king — how would ordinary people even think of enjoying them? Incidentally, this change was introduced on August 5, which also happens to be the birth date of arguably the foremost scholar (and activist) on J&K, Balraj Puri; he passed away in 2014.
- The two core ideas that he consistently advocated were: peace would not ensue in J&K without guaranteeing respect for the democratic rights for its people; to ensure that the most important tool would be a rigorous pursuit of federalism within the State. Both of these are particularly salient in the present context.
Key to integration
- In his best-selling book, Kashmir Towards Insurgency, published in the early 1990s, Balraj Puri presciently wrote that there was a persistent policy of denying Kashmir a right to democracy; one-party rule had been imposed on the State through manipulation of elections; Opposition parties had been prevented from growing, and elementary civil liberties and human rights had been refused to the people. “This refusal to integrate Kashmir within the framework of Indian democracy has proved to be the single greatest block to the process of Kashmir’s emotional and political integration with the rest of India.” He repeatedly argued that the feeling of hopelessness and a threat to identity exacerbated by a political vacuum create a breeding ground for militancy. He emphasised that a prerequisite to emotionally integrate Kashmir with the rest of India was to ensure that the people of the State enjoy the same democratic rights and constitutional protections as the people across the country.
- Lessons of the last seven decades in J&K are crystal clear. The more democratic rights we give to the people of J&K, the more they feel a part of the Indian Union. The present phase of political dormancy reminds me of the early 1990s when the Kashmir Valley was perpetually under curfew. It was only after the channels of communications with everyone were opened that the strength of India’s democracy was exhibited. It was also realised that respect for human rights should be a key component of the Kashmir policy, as this and upholding national interest go hand in hand. These lessons were learnt the hard way with a lot of sacrifices, of lives, including those of ordinary Kashmiris and security personnel.
Asymmetry and federalism
- The last year should worry the entire country, as the constitutional change was an attack on Indian federalism. The idea that the presence of Article 370 weakened the Indian Union is erroneous and is contrary to a basic understanding of democracy and lessons learnt from the experiments of Indian federalism. J&K’s separate flag and Constitution within the Indian Union represented asymmetry, which is integral to the Indian federal experience. It should be seen in the context of an urge for recognition of identity within the vast ambit of the liberal and accommodative spirit of the Indian Union.
- There is plenty of evidence to suggest that such asymmetry has strengthened the Indian Union and led to better policy implementation and participation in political processes. In this respect, the multi-regional and ethnic J&K’s quest for autonomy should be seen through the broader lens of a multi-layered appetite for political, economic and social empowerment of all the three regions. J&K remains a microcosm of India’s diversity. J&K’s immense geographical, ethnic and religious diversity should be the source of strength rather than seen or viewed as a liability.
- I have always advocated, drawing from Balraj Puri’s life-long advocacy of the same, that the devolution of political power from Centre to J&K should not lead to political hegemony of any one region or political party; rather, it should be accompanied with a devolution of powers within J&K to reflect the former State’s divergent regional and ethnic urges. The institutional reconciliation of differences among these various shades of diversity is one of the prime components for a harmonious solution to the J&K imbroglio. Any devolution should have adequate federal checks and balances as accountability and transparency are at the heart of any successful federal democracy.
Overcoming the setback
- Sadly, the decision, of August, 5, by the Indian Parliament has left everyone dissatisfied in J&K, including the people of Kargil within the separated Ladakh. It has only compounded the divide between J&K and the rest of the country that we, as a political class in J&K, had been assiduously trying to bridge for several decades, and at grave risk to our lives.
- As we complete a year of this new constitutional reality, the situation in J&K calls for serious introspection from all those who believe in an inclusive and accommodative idea of India. We need multiple bridges including those between J&K and the rest of the country and among the various communities and regions of the former State. In order to build these bridges we will need a greater multi-layered, institutionalised decentralisation and respect for democratic rights for the people of J&K. And in this respect the developments that ensued after August 5, 2019 have run contrary to both.
4. There may never be a silver bullet for COVID-19: WHO
‘Stopping outbreaks comes down to basics of public health’
- The World Health Organization warned Monday that there might never be a “silver bullet” for COVID-19, despite the rush to discover effective vaccines.
- The WHO urged governments and citizens to focus on doing the known basics, such as testing, contact tracing, maintaining physical distancing and wearing a mask in order to suppress the pandemic, which has upended normal life around the globe and triggered a devastating economic crisis. “We all hope to have a number of effective vaccines that can help prevent people from infection,” WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a virtual press conference.
- “However, there’s no silver bullet at the moment — and there might never be. “For now, stopping outbreaks comes down to the basics of public health and disease control. The virus has killed nearly 6,90,000 people and infected at least 18.1 million since the outbreak emerged in Wuhan in China last December, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP.
Probing virus’ origins
- The WHO began pressing China in early May to invite in its experts to help investigate the animal origins of COVID-19. The UN health agency sent an epidemiologist and an animal health specialist to Beijing on July 10 to lay the groundwork for a probe aimed at identifying how the virus entered the human species. Their scoping mission is now complete, said Mr. Tedros.
- “The WHO advance team that travelled to China has now concluded their mission to lay the groundwork for further joint efforts to identify the virus origins,” he said. “WHO and Chinese experts have drafted the terms of reference for the studies and programme of work for an international team, led by WHO. “The international team will include leading scientists and researchers from China and around the world.
- “Epidemiological studies will begin in Wuhan to identify the potential source of infection of the early cases. “Evidence and hypotheses generated through this work will lay the ground for further, longer-term studies.”