The Telegraph
Tuesday , January 29 , 2013
Since 1st March, 1999
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Listening to politicians speak and react in English is causing unnecessary anguish. When the home minister, Sushil Kumar Shinde, served as the power minister, he had claimed that he had not been informed about the massive power cuts on a day north India experienced its worst power outage in a decade. As home minister, he had been critical of the young men and women who were protesting against the brutal rape of the nameless woman. And now comes this insane comment about the Bharatiya Janata Party protecting militants engaged in ‘Hindu terror’. There is no such thing as Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Sikh or any other community ‘terror’, and the home minister of the largest democracy in the world should know better than to make such a remark.

One wonders if it is a case of foot in mouth disease. Or is it true that English is a language many politicians spout without understanding its idioms and nuances? If Shinde meant that terrorists had links with the BJP and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, he should have said that. However, it is not right for a home minister to make such statements. These men and women should speak in their mother tongue and not attempt to discuss important issues in an alien language they are uneasy with. It causes immense political and social problems and misunderstandings that become volatile. Incidentally, a Congress spokesperson had got agitated when Salman Rushdie had said that Rahul Gandhi had a clean slate, and that commenting on him at this stage would not be fair. The spokesperson clearly didn’t comprehend the meaning of the phrase, ‘clean slate’, and assumed that it implied a ‘vacant mind’.

Too loud

Many current affairs performances on the small screen mutilate the language and misuse words, thereby distorting their meaning. There are many lessons to be learned from the BBC and Al Jazeera. Both channels present news and coherent views and opinions in an interesting and mature manner. No channel, anywhere in the world, is as hysterical and high-pitched as that of one on Indian television. Anarchy also results from the misuse of the language politicians use to communicate with the people. Opposition members pick up bits and pieces and often make a mountain out of a molehill, causing mayhem and disrupting the business at hand.

But thank god for Justice Verma, Leila Seth and Gopal Subramanium. These three jurists with impeccable integrity and sharp intellectual acumen have put together a first-rate document that Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi must force down the throats of all those in the government who have begun to attempt a dilution of the document to suit their limited agenda. Here is a perfect opportunity to alter the declining trajectory that this nation was subjected to and to win the support of the entrepreneurial class that has abandoned the Congress. It is time to renew the faith and execute new legislations, examine and rewrite archaic laws, and initiate administrative and police reforms in the months leading to elections. To entertain a sense of complacency would be fatal for the Congress and the United Progressive Alliance.

The final straw was the manner in which Ashis Nandy’s views at the Jaipur Litfest were misinterpreted. Politicians bayed for his blood, virtually compelling the police to register an first information report. Neither the police nor those who initiated the proceedings against Nandy had any understanding of the issue. It is dangerous to allow the law to be used in a reckless way. If only the police were as rigorous when it comes to lodging FIRs against men who assault women. We are becoming a banana republic, one that is stuck in a time warp.