[lg policy] India: Mocking 'secularists' in Germany: PM Modi's jibe on Sanskrit is just classic BJP doublespeak

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Wed Apr 15 15:13:40 UTC 2015

Mocking 'secularists' in Germany: PM Modi's jibe on Sanskrit is just
classic BJP doublespeak

by G Pramod Kumar <http://www.firstpost.com/author/pramod>  Apr 14, 2015
16:18 IST

On many occasions, AB Vajpayee, considered to be the most statesmanly
leader of the BJP, had been accused of doublespeak - speaking in two voices
to harness two political constituencies.

One, the Hindutva forces  and the other, the broader political spectrum
whose support his party needed for both staying in power as well as to get
votes. For him, it was also a deft image management exercise which gained
him the profile of a moderate although Congress leader Jaipal Reddy once
accused him of "non-stop doublespeak in a manner most unbecoming of a Prime

Many BJP leaders compulsively indulge in this craft because they straddle
two worlds - that of Hindutva and a constitutional secular democracy. It’s
an inherent contradiction of the BJP. Perhaps the only other party in India
that has a similar intrinsic contradiction is the CPM, which talks of both
democracy and revolution in the same breath.
[image: Modi during the Germany visit. PTI image]

Modi during the Germany visit. PTI image

Prime Minister Narendra Modi
remarks on Sanskrit
Germany should be seen in this context. At a reception hosted by Indians in
Berlin, he recalled that once upon a time, Germans used to broadcast a news
bulletin in Sanskrit when India didn’t have one. His reference was
perfectly justifiable to revoke a bonhomie of the past and glorify the
respect Germany had for Sanskrit, or rather India.

But instead of stopping there, what he said subsequently was cheeky. "I
must applaud the Germans, they had Sanskrit news bulletins...our country
didn't... because of secularism...India's secularism is not so weak that it
will be shaken just because of a language. One should have self-confidence.
That should not be shaken.”

Secularism anti-Sanskrit or Sanskrit, anti-secular? Who said that, when?

He was obviously taking a jibe at “secularists” in India - that Sanskrit is
opposed in India by people who believed in secularism or different
religious beliefs, when even Germany had great respect for that language.
But what he didn’t mention was this: when did secularists ever oppose a
Sanskrit broadcast? Didn’t the All India Radio have a Sanskrit news
bulletin at prime time? Didn’t Doordarshan have a Sanskrit bulletin? Did
anybody oppose those broadcasts on religious grounds? Most probably the
broadcasts were dropped because there were hardly any listeners.

Imposition of language had of course been opposed in India - of both Hindi
and Sanskrit for political reasons. When the Congress tried to impose Hindi
in Tamil Nadu, the state rose against it in unison that led to the
consolidation of Dravidian politics. The Dravidian parties continue to
oppose “*vada mozhi*” (norther languages) such as Hindi and Sanskrit. This
is an expression of an ethnic and linguistic identity in a pluralistic
society. Imposing a language that’s alien to one’s culture is against the
idea of India. If people ever opposed Sanskrit, it was not because of
“secularism” but because it offended their language-sensibilities.

In fact, it was ironical that Modi was praising Germany for its affection
for Sanskrit after dropping German language from the Kendriya Vidyalaya
(KV) schools run his government. A few months ago, the move raised
resentment among KV students and parents because it denied them an
opportunity to learn a foreign language that was quite useful for their
future education and career. Germany is a new-found destination for Indian
students seeking higher education, particularly in engineering and science,
because it is cheap and is linked to liberal employment opportunities.

The obvious reason for dropping German from KVs was to promote Sanskrit
although it was couched as a move to promote a three language policy -
Hindi, English and Sanskrit or a modern Indian language. What was also
overlooked while dropping German was that in the last six years, the number
of students travelling to Germany for higher education had risen by 114 per

In Berlin, Modi didn’t have an explanation for dropping German, which was
promoted by the German run Goethe Institut in partnership with the KVs. The
language was so popular in the KVs that in three years, about 50,000
students had begun learning it. Was Modi’s India low on 'self-confidence'
that it decided to drop an useful language because it threatened Sanskrit?

Meanwhile, using an example of the past for taking a dig at “secularists”
certainly exposes Modi’s continued doublespeak. Following a series of
attacks on Christian institutions, at a function in Delhi he had said in
February that his government would not allow any majority or minority group
incite hatred against others. En route to Germany, he told a UNESCO meeting
in Paris that he was committed to the rights and liberties of all Indians.
But when gets an innocuous opportunity, he takes pot-shots at the
also see

   - [image: Curious case of old guards: Are Advani and Achuthanandan
   riding the same boat?]

   Curious case of old guards: Are Advani and Achuthanandan riding the same
   - [image: Old man begone! PM Modis humiliation of Advani is unkind, may
   backfire later]

   Old man begone! PM Modis humiliation of Advani is unkind, may backfire
   - [image: Now cabinet minister status: Under BJP government, the rise
   and rise of Baba Ramdev]

   Now cabinet minister status: Under BJP government, the rise and rise of
   Baba Ramdev

In fact, this is a never-ending ploy of the BJP leaders to pander to their
core constituency while appearing to be secular. LK Advani, once a thorough
hardliner, went to Pakistan in 2005 and said that Mohammad Ali Jinnah was a
secular man and the demolition of the Babri Masjid was the 'saddest day of
his life’.

Interestingly, the doublespeak transcends issues. Noted journalist N Ram
had made this reference to Vajpayee’s skill in speaking in two voices in an
editorial in Frontline in 1998. He wrote: “In a classical exercise in
doublespeak, Vajpayee (in his India Today interview released on May 15)
manages to appeal to two seemingly incompatible political constituencies.
On the one had, he suggests to the Hindutva constituency that only the BJP,
long committed to the bomb, has had the guts to do what only Indira Gandhi
had once attempted, only to be stopped in her tracks, On the other hand, he
acknowledges, with an eye to a broader political constituency, that every
government and every Prime Minister of independent India had kept “India’s
nuclear option open” and supported “India’s indigenous research and
development in the nuclear field.” (Frontline, 5 June 1998)

So whether it’s the attack on minorities, nuclear bomb or even a language
such as Sanskrit, the BJP has to speak in two voices. A forked tongue is
perhaps one of its unshakable assets.

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