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My problem with NaMo’s speech in Hindi on ‘Guru Utsav’

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As we all know, September 5th is celebrated as Teacher’s Day (now also refered to as the Guru Utsav) in India, which marks the birth anniversary of the second president of India, Dr. S. Radhakrishnan.

There are two things I shall be primarily discussing in this article. First, the notion of soft power, and second, the imposition of the state’s ideology over the public mind.

While development and related topics might be the propaganda tool of leaders today, power does not merely operate at the level of hard, tangible power. It also brings along with itself a set of discourse that plays a significant role in shaping the mindset of the civil society at large. Power structures are not restricted to legislation and administration, but are also key shapers of the ideologies of the people subjected to the rule.

Through his speeches (and I would say ‘only’ speeches and not work, because 100 days is too less a time to assess) Modi has managed to make the population visualize an Indian utopia where the youth is not unemployed, where India doesn’t beg for loans from the World Bank, where our cities are world class and a thousand and one other such things. Interestingly, this India is devoid of any class/religious/gender conflicts, and the center of the mission remains the highly glamorized word ‘development’.

The question is, ‘Who’s development?’ Of the richest creamy layer of the society or probably the one’s in power? Whether its Manmohan Singh or Modi, the rikshaw wala will still take Rs.20 to take you from Visvavidyala metro station to Arts faculty. How is he developing? The unequal distribution of resources is so deeply entrenched in us that we’ve almost started taking it for granted. Modi has not risen above the religious/class conflicts, he has chosen to ignore them, in order to satisfy the capitalist model.

It is his soft power that derives it strength from his overwhelming hard power. The right wing politics has assumed new strengths in his rule and are permeating the civil society through modes like the speeches. While the idea of speech is not my problem, it is the fact that it’s in Hindi and that it’s being called Guru Utsav is what I have a problem with.

Going ahead with the belief that India was and continues to be a land of  ‘hindus’ and everyone else is hence an ‘outsider’ and apparently needs to be subsumed within the dominant Hindu discourse is a big problem. BJP was founded on the idea that India is a Hindu nation, Hindi is our national language, and the Hindu aspects of history constitute as national heritage while our aspect of Indian history is just history of the invaders is highly erroneous.

It is only an extension of this ideology that everything pristine has to accommodate itself in the larger Sanskrit linguistic (hence, Guru Utsav) and the way to create an imagined sense of togetherness among people is to unite them with the language of the dominant class- Hindi.

Though officially we maintain that English and Hindi are our official languages and we have no national languages, Hindi continues to operate at the level of the soft power, and conversations in English invite the criticism of rightists who believe we’re belittling our own culture.

I understand that English also at one level has been the language of the colonizer, but at the level of communicating to a nation which speaks multiple languages; English becomes a comparatively less biased language. The over emphasis towards learning Hindi, points towards our obsession with formation of a national culture that is largely secluding in nature and seeks to establish the rule of the dominant class and therefore needs to be subjected to critical analysis.

[email protected];I think my life would be much better off if I’d make as much effort in reading books as much as I do in buying them. A bibliophile through and through, I possess a keen interest in the history of art and museums and I believe that walking with oneself is the best form of adventure. On a more random (a.k.a siddhi) note, my dream destination is the Rann of Kuttchh, because I find it oddly displaced in time, an entirely different story, and that’s how I truly want to be.

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