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Modi is set to fly to US, and Amit Shah wants Indians to say ‘Howdy, Modi!’ in Hindi

If only Amit Shah were saying the same thing as guru and mentor Modi. The PM speaks shaky English, but he knows its value.

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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.

Also read: A 4,500-old woman from Rakhigarhi spoke this week, and made Indians ask ‘Who are we?’

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.

Also read: Howdy Modi and Trump showcase Indian lobby in US. But double loyalties can’t go far

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.

Also read: Amit Shah will soon overshadow Modi to emerge as BJP govt’s main voice

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.

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  1. “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.”

    This is the most inane statement in an inane article. world leaders are perfectly capable of speaking through translators – that is what they usually do.

    Note also that Imran Khan will be perfectly intelligible in vast swaths of North India whereas Shah will need an interpreter in a south Indian village. For India to talk of unity via language is very dangerous to say the least.

  2. Read a fine column by Shri Sharat Sabharwal, former envoy to Pakistan, in IE. Strengthens one’s initial belief that these constitutional changes do not translate into anything worthwhile, either internally with the good people of Kashmir, or extetnally with Pakistan. A leap of faith to believe that a new, more cordial and trusting relationship can be forged with Kashmiris once they realise that no substantive political change in their status is possible. 2. One vacuum that does not seem to have been thought through is about who will lead the politics of Kashmir. Given the always ambivalent attitude of Kashmiris towards India, the mainstream politicians, Dr Farooq Abdullah the tallest amongst them, have had to play a tricky balancing role. Difficult to see how an alternative leadership can be manufactured in a laboratory. 3. If things are not following a preset glide path, if improvisation is still going on, the aspect of UT merits reconsideration. Restoring statehood would be a meaningful act of outreach.

  3. Without English, the successful Indian diaspora would not exist. Highly educated, many in the learned professions, citizens of the world. The real sense of inferiority is not towards Hindi but English. Language is only one part of the equation. The entire world view, approach to science and modernity, there is the cosmopolitanism of Khan Market versus the insularity of the Vedas. India would prosper if we did not accentuate this faultline so much.

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