The Rakhigarhi woman has spoken, from 4,500 years ago, and so has Home Minister Amit Shah at a function to celebrate Hindi last week, when he mused on the need to “unite” India around a “common” language.
“There is so much influence of English on us that we cannot talk in Hindi without its help….Language connects us to the root of the nation….We must leave the inferiority complex towards Hindi and our other languages that has set in due to the colonial hangover … a national language is needed so that foreign languages do not overpower our own,” Shah said at the Hindi Divas Samaroh.
Later this month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will fly to New York to speak at the UN General Assembly, in Hindi no doubt, as well as to Houston where an event called “Howdy, Modi!” is being organised by Indian-Americans.
Within weeks of offering mediation on Kashmir, US President Donald Trump is also attending the Modi event – ultimate proof that he is scarcely interested in either the politics or the human rights aspect of Kashmir.
In fact, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, whose deeply intimate knowledge of the Western world is better than any living South Asian, as this Vanity Fair profile by Aatish Taseer demonstrates, is also cruelly aware of the realpolitik of the marketplace.
In an interview with Al Jazeera last weekend, Khan not only talked about the threats of a conventional war against India over Kashmir, but also remorsefully added in another interview that it was India’s huge tantalising market that unfortunately overcame all concerns over human rights violations.
Khan is absolutely right. He should know. Considering he has allowed Pakistan to become a colony of China with the invasive expanse of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and never once raised his voice over human rights violations the Chinese state carries out over its Muslim Uyghur population – leave alone Buddhists in Tibet – he is nervous that Kashmir may soon fall off the international pages.
It’s another matter what the Modi government is doing inside Kashmir – detaining a sitting member of Parliament, Farooq Abdullah, without showing any cause, is hardly the way to win hearts and minds of the Kashmiris.
The plan to keep the Valley quiet and eliminate even the slightest thought of protest by the local population is fully underway. National Security Adviser Ajit Doval recently told a mix of Indian and foreign press that Pakistan is fomenting trouble – that, clearly, is the BJP alibi, not wholly true but silly to discount.
Meanwhile, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat is planning a meet-the-foreign-press to dispel its conceptions of the Sangh.
This outreach to the foreign press by the Modi government is, indeed, interesting. On the one hand, there is Amit Shah whose ideas about a deracinated elite must be taken seriously – after all, he is saying the same thing his guru and mentor Narendra Modi once said when he described liberal elites as the “Khan Market gang”. Shah’s comment about the need to get over the hangover of the “colonial” era and its attendant insecurities is a point well made.
In fact, Swaraj India president Yogendra Yadav, in a recent, beautifully debated article on the loneliness of the “Hindi-medium type” Ravish Kumar, who won the Magsaysay Award, makes a similar argument. That English has become such an aspirational language that it threatens to kill off the sounds and smells of Malayalam, Tamil or Gujarati (as well as a host of others).
If only Amit Shah were saying the same thing as guru and mentor Narendra Modi. The PM, in fact, speaks shaky English, but he knows that this foreign language is only a means to communicate what he wants to say to the world.
For example, when Modi speaks, one-on-one, with Russian President Vladimir Putin, both know it can’t be Hindi or Russian, so they better make do with English. (In any case, Putin’s English, like Modi’s, is streets behind that of Imran Khan, even if the Pakistan prime minister got a third-class at Oxford.)
It is fascinating to note that even when Modi was Gujarat chief minister, he loved travelling abroad – China was a favourite destination. In the early 1990s, Modi treated New York “like a second home,” as he sought to promote the RSS gospel in the US.
It is these pro-RSS groups funded by the enormously wealthy and conservative Indian-American community that will host the PM at his “Howdy, Modi !” event in Houston, Texas next week. Trump is as smart as the PM, he knows he better be there – after all, he wants the votes of this very smart, highly influential community.
Meanwhile, the 4,500-year-old woman from Rakhigarhi also has a message for Amit Shah, as journals Science and Cell demonstrate – notwithstanding the faulty reporting by the media that Indian scientists like Vasant Shinde deny Aryan gene in the Harappan civilisation – which is that the Steppe pastoralists travelled to this part of the world, India, as or after the Harappan civilisation declined.
The etymology of the word, ‘India,’ a bewildering mélange of cultures, ethnicities and languages, is derived from Classical Latin, while the ancient Greeks called this land “Indos” or “Indoi” (people who live on the Indus river), from which the Sanskrit cognate, “Sindhu”, emerges.
Similarly, the word ‘Hindi’ is borrowed from the Classical Persian word, ‘Hendi,’ while the 11-century poet Amir Khusro used a predecessor word, ‘Hindavi’ – all this is well-known, of course.
Amit Shah’s political motives may or may not be to stir things up. But as the PM travels to the US to participate in the ultimate colloquial “Howdy, Modi!” event, give or take a cheeseburger or two, it’s time to bury the “one-nation-one-language” theme in the Rakhigarhi sand.
Even the female skeleton’s DNA doesn’t support it.