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Mind your language in national interest

One of the salient features of the NEP 2020 is its emphasis on Indian languages. If its recommendations for teaching young learners in their mother tongue along with imparting knowledge of regional Indian languages are followed well, it has the potential to strengthen the spirit of ‘unity in diversity’ for the generations to come.

Niranjan Kumar

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The new National Education Policy (NEP) 2020, prepared under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s mentorship and the guidance of Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’, is a charter with a historic vision. It has far-reaching national and international ramifications, particularly for the future of Indian education, and for building an Aatmanirbhar Bharat or self-reliant India. Whether it is for employment or social justice, research and development, or the development of Indian languages, the recommendations of the NEP 2020 are highly progressive in nature. It contains many important features pertaining to the development of Indian languages, however, some need to be reconsidered in larger national interest.

Emphasis on Indian languages is a major feature of the NEP. The foundational ‘Principles of this Policy’ mentioned in the introduction of the NEP includes «promoting multilingualism and the power of language in teaching and learning». In view of this principle, emphasis has been laid on the ‹Teaching of Indian languages› as well as ‹Teaching in Indian languages› from school to higher levels. An important recommendation in this context is that schooling up to at least the fifth grade will be done in one’s mother tongue or local/regional language. This can be extended further till the eighth grade. This significant incorporation in the NEP 2020 is in line with educational psychology’s research and the 2008 UNESCO report, both of which underscore that learning in one’s mother tongue is easy since communication and cognition happen easily and quickly. The child understands in the mother tongue or the local language, whereas in other languages, he crams.

It is not without reason that in developed countries, schooling is done in the mother tongue or local language. In fact, even higher education is imparted, usually, in the language of that country. Keeping in mind this significance of ‘desi’ (native) languages as the medium of education as well as the lingual proficiency status of the common people, the NEP also advocates for higher education in Indian languages. The policy says that all Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) would “develop more degree courses taught in Indian languages and bilingually”.

In a welcome move, regarding the implementation of these provisions, it has been announced recently after a meeting chaired by the Education Minister that some of the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and National Institutes of Technology (NITs) will start offering engineering courses in mother tongues from the 2021-22 academic session. The Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) is also likely to offer non-technical courses in regional languages soon. In addition to this, as per the spirit of the NEP, it has been announced that the IIT-JEE Main examination would be conducted in nine regional languages in 2021, besides Hindi and English.

Apart from this, “to make high-quality learning materials and other important written and spoken material in various Indian languages, an Indian Institute of Translation and Interpretation (IITI) will be established”. It’s good to know that a committee has already been formed by the government to implement this provision. In addition to this, to boost the languages (along with the literature, art and culture associated with them) mentioned in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution of India, ‘academies’ will be established. Besides this, special efforts will be directed to preserve and promote tribal and endangered languages with the help of technology. These efforts most certainly will prove to be milestones in the strengthening of Indian languages and culture.

The three language formula (TLF), emphasizing Indian languages and multilingualism, is another great feature of the NEP 2020. The proposed TLF, with greater flexibility, is slightly different from the preceding TLF. In NEP 1986, TLF provided for the study of an Indian language, preferably one of the Southern languages, apart from Hindi and English, in the Hindi-speaking states (HSS), and of the regional languages along with Hindi and English in the non-Hindi-speaking states (NHSS). In view of the controversies due to the vested interests in states like Tamil Nadu, TLF in NEP 2020 was made a bit flexible by proposing that two Indian languages will be taught. No specific language was mentioned for it. In practical terms, what will happen is that in most of the NHSS, along with English and the principal regional language of that state, there will be another Indian language (third language), barring a few exceptions. It would most likely be Hindi, considering the national importance of Hindi from the points of view of trade, employment and its country-wide utility. On the other hand, besides Hindi and English, Sanskrit will be taught as another Indian language (third language) in HSS, as has been usual so far.

This situation, however, is not satisfactory in terms of national integration, as the students of HSS will never move to learn other modern Indian languages. Tamil Nadu and other NHSS will continue to hold the grudge that HSS people don’t learn NHSS’s languages, which is not a good situation for national unity and integrity. It is my firm belief that under TLF, both Indian languages must be «modern Indian languages», other than Sanskrit. The HSS must adopt one of the languages of any other NHSS, instead of Sanskrit as the third language in TLF. It must be reiterated that in the NEP 1968 or NEP 1986, when TLF was accepted, the spirit behind it was that the children of the HSS will study a regional language as the third language, preferably a South Indian language. One of the reasons in the past for not considering the option of regional languages as the third language in HSS was probably the non-availability of teachers for these languages. But in the current era of technology, the solution to this problem has become quite easy, especially through the new system of online learning where teaching these languages won’t be difficult. The Ministry of Education’s website, ‹SWAYAM›, and the television channel ‹Swayam Prabha› can also be utilised in this regard.  Even the NEP talks of the “extensive use of technology in teaching and learning, removing language barriers” in its basic principles. With this one modification in TLF, not only will young learners of our HSS get an opportunity to learn the language and culture of other states of the country, but it will also strengthen a sense of national unity and integrity. At the same time, this will also address the fear of the NHSS that their languages will disappear and the dominance of Hindi will be established. Besides this, narrow-minded politicians will also not get a chance to provoke any language-based politics.

As far as Sanskrit is concerned, not even an iota of doubt should be there that the knowledge of Sanskrit is necessary. It is required not only to understand the rich and glorious ancient Indian culture and society, but Sanskrit also has an important status as the link language connecting most of the Indian languages from north to south. It’s a welcome move that in chapter four of the NEP 2020, it is mentioned that Sanskrit and classical languages will be taught in schools for at least 2 years starting from Class VI. It’s also heartening that Sanskrit has been emphasised in higher education as well. In fact, considering the importance of Sanskrit, its study will be linked to other contemporary and relevant subjects such as mathematics, astronomy, philosophy, linguistics, medicine, architecture, metallurgy, drama, etc. In line with this point of the NEP, the Sanskrit University will move, rightly, towards becoming a large multi-disciplinary institution of higher education.

Another vital point of reconsideration in the NEP 2020 is related to the study of foreign languages.  The NEP states that foreign languages will also be offered to students “to enrich their global knowledge and mobility according to their own interests and aspirations, at secondary level”. It would be better, however, if imparting of these foreign languages is done at the Bachelor’s level or Senior Secondary level, when one starts making up one’s mind about their career, rather than at the Secondary standard, as, in junior classes, a child doesn’t understand which foreign language s/he should study or how s/he can use it in the future. Moreover, on account of the lack of a lingual environment and use in daily life, children mostly forget these foreign languages.

Another concern with regard to foreign languages, besides this, is the non-inclusion of the Chinese language ‘Mandarin’ in the foreign languages mentioned in Para 4.20 of the NEP. This must be known that in the NEP draft of 2019, the Chinese language was categorically mentioned along with other foreign languages. Dropping the Chinese language from the NEP 2020 list is probably a response to China›s hostile behaviour in Ladakh this year. Keeping in mind the honour and pride of the nation, prima facie, it seems justified emotionally, because just like Chinese goods, the Chinese language must also be boycotted. But in national interest, we must remember here what the Chinese strategist Sun Tzu said: “Keep your friends close, and your enemies even closer”, that is, to deal with and win over the enemy, we must have every detail concerning it, i.e., a good understanding of its society, culture and collective psyche, for which the knowledge of its language is crucial. It is also requisite to note that in the US two decades ago, when terrorists attacked the country in September 2001 and dread started engulfing the world, Arabic language studies suddenly began to be emphasised in almost all American universities. To deal with China, taking a cue from the US, we must have a good knowledge of its language and culture. It is thus necessary that the linguistic policy makers think about this sooner than later.

As NEP 2020 has started rolling out, the above-mentioned suggestions with regard to languages must be considered in national interest.

The writer is a Professor in the Department of Hindi, University of Delhi and has taught earlier in various US universities. The views expressed are personal.

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Opinion

THE CURIOUS CASE OF ARYAN KHAN AND THE NCB

Pankaj Vohra

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Eyebrows were raised in legal circles when a special court hearing the bail application of superstar Shahrukh Khan’s son, Aryan and two others, reserved its order till October 20th. This effectively means that that the three of the accused nabbed in connection with the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) raid on a Cruise ship earlier this month, remained in prison till that time. What is being considered unusual is that Courts normally do not reserve orders in a bail application case, particularly after the arguments of both the prosecution and defense are over. The practice of reserving the order is mostly witnessed in matters where the trial has ended and the Court has to give its final judgment. In the present instance, the learned Judge must be having compelling reasons for reserving his verdict and it is not certain that he may do so, one way or the other, on October 20th itself, since he could be pre-occupied with other important legal matters as well.

There is every possibility that the prosecution would have time to also file a fresh application to oppose the bail plea citing new evidences that have been unearthed in this period. The higher judiciary must monitor cases where there is an inordinate delay in reaching an inference by the Sessions Court. Mr Justice V.R.Krishna Iyer, one of the most distinguished Judges of the Supreme Court had made his famous ruling more than four decades ago where he said that bail and not jail should be always considered when hearing matters pertaining to criminal charges. It is nobody’s case that if Aryan Khan is indeed guilty of breaking the law in the eyes of the court, he should go unpunished. However, when the NCB has been unable to unearth any drugs from his person, he is eligible for being considered for bail. Noted senior Advocate and president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, Mr Vikas Singh has opined that the NCB had perhaps made a mistake in arresting him and was now attempting to strengthen its case subsequently. Whether that is true or not, only the court can decide. However, there are many loopholes in the entire raid which was conducted while not adhering to the accepted procedures. Even the former NCB Chief, Mr B.V.Kumar, has gone on record to indicate that the investigation was flawed. The Cruise ship should have been seized and not allowed to sail after the preliminary arrests and if the need had arisen to stop it, the help of the Navy and Coast Guard should have been taken. The hurry in which the NCB officials announced the arrest, cast several doubts on how the case has unfolded. The Cabins which were occupied by the accused persons should have been sealed after a thorough search. The most appalling aspect of the matter is that on day one itself, two private persons, one a BJP activist and the other a private detective, described as informers, were seen physically escorting Aryan Khan and his friend Arbaaz Merchant to the NCB office in Mumbai. This was indeed shocking and now it turns out to be that the private detective is absconding. The sloppy probe though defended robustly by the Additional Solicitor General, Anil Singh, has come under fire from even political parties such as the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) whose leaders including Sharad Pawar and Nawab Malik have attributed motives to the central agency.

There is also a talk in political circles that the matter has been allowed to linger on so that the investigations into the Lakhimpuri Kheri incident does not get adequate coverage in the national media. For instance, on Thursday when the Uttar Pradesh police took the Union Minister’s son for Nishan Dehi (Renactment of the scene of crime), the matter was reported only in the passing while there was total spotlight on Sharukh Khan’s son. The prosecuting agency while opposing the bail has maintained that in a case under the Narcotics, Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS), the accused cannot take the plea of being innocent unless proven guilty. It implies that anyone who has been booked under this Act is to be presumed guilty from the time he has been taken into custody till the Court finds him Not Guilty. The NCB has also come under fire for making small recoveries from various accused in Mumbai, particularly those connected with Bollywood to get magnified publicity. In the process, it has been not able to concentrate on its mandate of detecting international drug cartels and making huge hauls. The short point is that if Aryan Khan has infringed the law as is being made out to be as per the prosecution charges, the court must take cognizance. If it is a case of just harassment and there is an oblique purpose behind the arrest, the prosecuting agency should be rapped on the knuckles, and strict action should be taken against those involved. The Court’s ruling is final and the rule of law has to be respected under all conditions.

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Opinion

Jal Jeevan Mission: The water revolution

If there is one leader who has made water management and clean environment the fulcrum of his governance, it is Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Sanju Verma

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PM Narendra Modi’s ambitious scheme of providing piped water to every household in the country has been a massive success, as it has exceeded its target so far since inception. The flagship ‘Har Ghar Nal Se Jal’ has provided tap water to over 5 crore rural households, which is almost 20% more than the target. Also, over 8 crore rural households now have access to drinking tap water. 100% rural households of Goa, Telangana and Andaman & Nicobar Islands now have tap water connections with states like Puducherry, Haryana and Gujarat inching close to the 100% mark. Historically, access to clean and safe piped water has been a luxury, thanks to successively incompetent Congress led regimes for decades together.

Out of 19.19 crore rural households in India, only 16.87% of households had tap water connections till August 15, 2019, since the time of independence. This means, at the start of the scheme, only around 3.2 crore rural households had water connections, and that number has more than doubled after the launch of the scheme. Concerned about the lack of safe drinking water for rural households, PM Narendra Modi had launched the time-bound initiative— the Jal Jeevan Mission, on August 15, 2019. The aim of the initiative is to provide safe and adequate drinking water through individual household tap connections to all rural households in India by 2024. The initiative also touches upon other sustainable measures for water conservation, recharge and reuse through groundwater management and rainwater harvesting.

Jal Jeevan Mission is working in partnership with various States with an aim to provide potable water in adequate quantity and of prescribed quality on regular and long-term basis. While implementing, states are giving priority to water quality-affected areas, villages in drought prone and desert areas, Scheduled Caste/ Scheduled Tribe majority villages, aspirational districts and Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana villages.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has repeatedly stressed on India’s water security, as is evident from his announcement of an allocation of Rs 3.35 lakh crore for the Jal Jeevan Mission, one of the most socially inclusive programmes of his government’s second term. A key focus of the Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM) is the “Har Ghar Nal Se Jal” initiative, under which piped water will be supplied to almost 16 crore rural and peripheral households in India by 2024. When the scheme was launched in 2019, only 3.01 crore out of 19 crore rural and peri-urban households had access to tap water.

The gigantic task of taking potable water to all rural households got a further leg up with the 15th Finance Commission’s grant of Rs 30,375 crore to rural local bodies. The grant is being utilised for two components — first, the supply of drinking water, rain water harvesting and water recycling; and, second, for sanitation and the maintenance of an open defecation-free status. Clearly, for the Modi government, big bang reforms and the provision of basic amenities and sanitation run in parallel. Work is also in full swing, with the likes of Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Mizoram likely to provide piped drinking water to all rural households by 2022, two years ahead of the deadline. Goa has already earned the enviable distinction of becoming the first “Har Ghar Jal” state in the country, as it successfully provides 100% functional household tap connections (FHTCs) to 2.30 lakh rural households.

To strengthen water testing facilities, Goa is in getting 14 water quality testing laboratories accredited by the National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL). The Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM) mandates the training of five persons in every village, especially women, in using field test kits, so that water can be tested there. The state is now planning a sensor-based service delivery monitoring system to monitor the functionality of water supply, i.e., potable water in adequate quantity and of prescribed quality being provided to every rural household on a regular and long-term basis.

The “Nal Se Jal” scheme is based on a unique model under which villagers will decide for themselves about how much to pay for the water they consume. For example, large families will pay more as their consumption will be higher, while poor families or those with no earning members will pay less. Under this scheme, the Modi government will provide a minimum of 55 litres of water per person per day, which is commendable for the sheer size of the task at hand. The inspiration for this model came from Gujarat’s potable water supply scheme implemented by the Water & Sanitation Management Organisation (WASMO). The WASMO scheme helped 79% rural households in Gujarat get potable water supply, which is the second-highest number in the country, after Goa.

In Gujarat, “paani samitis” (water committees) have been set up in every village, which decide the amount of tariff to be charged from the consumers. The final approval is given by the gram sabha. The committees comprise 10 to 15 elected members of the panchayat, of which 50% are women. The “Bank Mitras”, largely women, have made the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) one of the biggest financial inclusion schemes worldwide. Similarly, the “Nal Se Jal” scheme also deploys women in large numbers and will have villagers bear 10% of the capital cost of a project under the scheme, either in cash or in kind (in the form of labour). Once the project is completed, the villagers will get their money back and the responsibility for its maintenance and operation will be handed over to them. This decentralised model would help in giving a sense of ownership to the villagers and encourage community participation. While the Central government is there for providing most of the funds and hand-holding, it is the villagers who will decide what they want.

The fact that cleanliness, sanitation and access to the basics are at the core of PM Modi’s development mantra is also exemplified by the “Blue Flag” tag received by eight Indian beaches, in the very first attempt. In order to qualify for this tag, 33 stringent criteria relating to environmental standards, bathing water quality,educational, safety, services and accessibility standards must be met by the beaches. These beaches are now considered among the cleanest in the world and this is a recognition of India’s drive towards a clean environment and conservation.

In the last few months, Bihar has seen a massive push towards implementing PM Modi’s flagship “Har Ghar Nal Se Jal” programme. Between 1 April and 30 June 2020, Bihar provided functional tap water connections to 4.39 lakh households, with a full year target of 1.5 crore households for the financial year 2020-21. PM Modi in 2020 inaugurated two sewage treatment plants (STP) — one each at Beur and Karmalichak in Patna — which would treat the water before releasing it in the Ganga to prevent the river from getting polluted. PM Modi also inaugurated water supply schemes for Chhapra and Siwan where 81,000 and 58,000 people, respectively, will benefit from the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) scheme, besides laying the foundation stone for developing the ghats along the Burhi Gandak river in Muzaffarpur.

If there is one leader who has made water management and clean environment the fulcrum of his governance, it is PM Modi. People are far more aware now with regard to the environment, which is evident from the fact that 5.16 crore people came together to form a 18,000 km long human chain across the state of Bihar last year,in support of the Jal-Jeevan-Hariyali (WaterLife-Greenery) campaign recently.

Besides the “Har Ghar Jal” mission, the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG), the national body leading the efforts for the cleaning and rejuvenation of river Ganga, has seen significant progress with the “Namami Gange” project, with over Rs 10,000 crore, out of the budgeted Rs 20,000 crore, spent. The project is not just about cleaning but also aims at improving the ecology, conserving biodiversity, protecting wetlands and springs and enhancing India’s water security. When the project started, around 3,000 MLD (million litres per day) of sewage was being dumped into the Ganga, with a treatment capacity of less than 1,000 MLD. But now, the treatment capacity exceeds 2,000 MLD and is likely to reach 3,300 MLD in the next two years. In Uttarakhand, almost the entire required capacity has been created, with four STPs in Haridwar (68 MLD), Rishikesh (26 MLD) and Muni Ki Reti (7.5 and 5 MLD) being commissioned during the last few months, during the lockdown. Similarly, in Kanpur, Prayagraj and Patna, STPs are being completed. All along the 2,500 km stretch of the Ganga, sewage capacity is being created. This includes areas like Patna where there was almost no sewage treatment capacity earlier.

The Modi government’s idea is not to build and forget. There is a built-in component for operations and maintenance in all his projects for 15 years. This government has moved beyond the construction era and entered the performance based era.Besides the above, “Ganga Avalokan” was also inaugurated by PM Modi, which is the first museum on Ganga and is aimed at showcasing the biodiversity, culture and rejuvenation activities done in the river. The museum is situated in Chandi Ghat, Haridwar.

It would suffice to say that for PM Modi, clean water is more than just a mission statement. Water scarcity affects every continent and about 2.8 billion people around the world for at least one month every year. Globally, more than 1.2 billion people also lack access to clean drinking water. Hence, PM Modi’s clarion call for water management is both timely and much needed, as India takes giant strides towards uninterrupted water sufficiency.

The writer is an Economist, National Spokesperson of the BJP and the Bestselling Author of ‘Truth & Dare-The Modi Dynamic’. Views expressed are writer’s personal

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Opinion

Analysing philosophical perspectives through mathematics principles

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Indian knowledge tradition, if we look carefully at the various components, plays an important role in addition to expression, and displays a pseudo-form together with the form. Philosophers have termed it as Vagjal, ending it and merging it only in the element, and the name of identification with the element. Numbers are the best means of expression, and many spiritual problems can be solved by understanding the result obtained from operations on numbers in the form of elements.

The philosophical side of mathematics also gives an opportunity to develop a similar vision. Mathematical operations can be helpful in building bridges, buildings, architecture— from the point of view of process, this is the external view of mathematics. Apart from this, the processes of mathematics also provides an insight, which is very important for a mathematician to understand. In small operations, many such important topics are contained in a secret form, which also explains the relationship of life and the theory of cosmic bodies. Due to the utilitarian application of mathematics, we have gone so far from the philosophical dimension of mathematics, that it is too much effort to return to that dimension, and it is not enough to arrive at it spontaneously or in a short time.

To understand the philosophical nature of mathematics, we ought to have a broad view. Considering a circle or a triangle as just a figure, we have to rise above the calculation of its area, perimeter, base, perpendicular, radius, etc., and understand the expression which can express these shapes in a broad sense. For example, a triangle is not a mere figure, but a concept that shows the way from multiple to unity and again from unity to multiplicity, if the methods of study are those moving from the base of the triangle to the vertex or vice versa.

If made, then the study material and teaching method in the student’s mind can be planted with the practical seed of unity in plurality, and vice versa. Similarly circle is not only a figure of geometry but a means of expression of that concept, which shows the circular motion of this entire creation and the life of a person. In geography, for instance rock movement — contraction after continental displacement — Himalaya Mountains are in the place of Tethys Sea, and high mountains of Aravalli today turn into plains, in future might turn into trench or rift valley. From this point of view it is very important to analyze mathematical figures or operations.

When the vision of mathematics is so broad, then the formulas which will be applied on these concepts will open the mystery of the cosmic principles. A person who does not believe in God or the Soul can understand the nature of a force/law through mathematics. Mathematics talks about every concept that we spiritually experience in our daily lives. Our experience is that the world is changeable, but the direction of change tells us the circle, and at the root of this change is the ever-changing power, which remains unchanged even at the root of every change, is the ratio of circumference and diameter. , which we know as the greek alphabet pie.

Our ancient sages have used many experiments to describe the manifestation of the Rita (Universal reality) hidden in the root of every change. Similarly, no matter how many sides of the triangle keep changing, the change of these sides does not make any difference in the sum of the interior angles of the triangle, it remains 180° always. These examples given through triangles and circles are applied to every operation of mathematics, and gradually developing this mathematical vision leads man to the never-changing element inherent in change, which is closer to the concept of Rita.

Truth is relative, Rita is universal. The constants/coefficients found not only in mathematics but also in physics confirm broad concepts. There is a need to develop this type of vision at the level of higher education and research, and to develop a teaching method that increases thinking ability at the level of primary classes. This vision can be able to make a person who does not believe in God and the Soul realize the power by which all are bound, which remains unchanged even after being at the root of change, the regulator of many truths which is Rita.

Writer is the Assistant Professor, Department of Sanskrit, Tilkamanjhi Bhagalpur University.

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Opinion

RASHTRIYA SWAYAMSEVAK SANGH: FOUR YEARS SHORT OF ITS CENTENARY

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The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is four years short of its centenary. “Thank you, Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh USA it was an honour, to celebrate Raksha Bandhan with you,” read a post on the Facebook page of Irving police department in the United States on September 22 this year. The post also carried a set of photos which showed a young Indian woman in a traditional dress tying Rakhi on the hands of a group of police officers in uniform and putting a Tilak on their forehead. The post became so popular immediately and earned over 5.8k likes and 1.4k comments.

This massive response is an indicator to a lesser known yet impeccable growth story of an Indian socio-cultural umbrella organisation which is celebrating its 96th foundation day all over the world. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which started its journey on the Vijaya Dashami or Dussehra to mark the victory of Lord Rama over evil Ravana, a date which fell on September 27 in 1925 with a mission to make the nation “a self-reliant, resurgent and mighty”, is no longer restricted to the 39,454 Shakhas or boundaries of the country only now. Its presence is felt overseas through its affiliates like Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS) which is single-handedly carrying forward the message of Indianness and cultural inclusivity in every nook and corner on foreign soil.

The U.S. unit of HSS has the mission of “World Peace through Dharma”.  It elaborates, “Sangh, as the organization is popularly known, aims to coordinate the Hindu American community to practice, preserve, and advance ideals and values of the Hindu Dharma. HSS conducts regular values-based education programs for children, youth and adults through more than 220 branches in the US. We also organise service activities and community outreach projects.”

It adds, “Through our regular educational programs based on Dharma, we instil and promote discipline, self-confidence, teamwork, and the spirit of selfless service. Through service activities and outreach projects, we foster a sense of civic duty, responsibility, and volunteerism. HSS in the USA endeavours to instil pride in Hindu heritage among its members and to enhance appreciation of Hindus around the world, their traditions, and civilisation by the broader community in the U.S.” 

The HSS also has its footprint in Canada, a neighbouring country of the U.S. “Sangh is inspired by the idea that the whole world is one family and conducts activities across Canada in order to spread this message widely. The HSS has over 25 weekly meeting centers (shakhas) spread over Ontario, Quebec, Greater Vancouver Area (GVA), Alberta, and Saskatchewan,” it states.

In the United Kingdom, HSS runs over 100 activity centres (known as shakhas) and are attended by over 2000 people on a weekly basis. Regular activities include games, yoga, health & fitness, educational and cultural activities for all age ranges (from 4 years to 80 + years old). It also has a parallel women’s organisation called, Hindu Sevika Samiti, which was established in 1975.

The HSS (UK) further notes, “Hindu Sevika Samiti, through its activities, encourages girls and women to learn and promote, universal Hindu values, to build self-confidence, cultivate a sense of social consciousness and achieve all round development through our model of Sanskar, Sewa and Sangathan. This will lead to individuals to proactively contribute and eventually become integral members of the culture, society and country in which they live.»

Back home in India, the RSS has been scripting a different success story quietly. It recently reached out to the minority communities with an aim to bring them into its fold with a message to the Muslims for a greater cause of religious stability and integrity. In September 2021, the RSS also got in touch with the Christians. An RSS leader Valsan Thillenkery met Pala bishop Mar Joseph Kallarangatt following uproar over his remark of ‹Narcotic Jihad› and apparently endorsed his stand.

On the political front, the RSS has become the key driver to the ruling BJP›s organisational renaissance in the last seven years compared to the opposition parties, most of which are led and dominated by the old guards. 

For instance, the new face of the BJP in West Bengal unit is a young RSS functionary, Sukanta Majumdar, who won as a Lok Sabha MP only two years ago. He replaced his fellow parliamentarian, Dilip Ghosh, who is not only close to 60 years of age, but also had become an old face in the post. As a young chief of a state party which is in power at the Centre, Majumdar will get three years of preparation for the next Lok Sabha Election.

Thus, culturally and politically, the RSS has altogether achieved an enviable milestone nationwide and beyond which no outfit has been able to match in the last nine decades and perhaps would not be able to too. That is the mantra of its success.

And when the RSS celebrates its centenary after a few years, its global perception will make it more acceptable in more countries and draw the minorities including the Muslims closer to it.

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Opinion

Vishwa Bharatiya: Indian diaspora’s new identity

Prime Minister Modi’s government has gone a long way to forge a strong friendship with the diaspora community and the diaspora has responded in equal measure. The remittance sent by the Indian diaspora to India every year is around $78.6 billion. We need a bold vision to shape the prospects, and its time has come.

Nitin Mehta

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During Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent visit to the United States, U.S. President Joe Biden mentioned his India connection and said that his “great, great, great, great, great, grandfather had settled in India and had married an Indian.”

President Biden is one of the many politicians in different parts of the world who claim their Indian roots. This is the legacy of massive migrations of Indians to different parts of the world over centuries. From indentured labourers to the Caribbean countries to the present day highly skilled professionals settling in many parts of the world, the Indian diaspora numbers are at 32 million. An additional 2.5 million people migrate from India every year.

The island of Fiji has an Indian population of almost 38%; they are descendants of indentured labourers brought by the British to work on the sugar plantations. Today there are many Fijians of Indian descent in politics and Mahendra Chaudhry was the first Indo-Fijian Prime Minister between 1999-2000. The Caribbean Island of Guyana has an Indian population of almost 40% and Cheddi Jagan and Bharat Jagdeo have been prime ministers. Sridarth Ramphal, former Commonwealth Secretary was also a Guyanese of Indian origin, Trinidad and Tibago have an Indian origin population of 37%. Kamla Persad Bissessar was the Prime Minister of the country from 2010 to 2015. Suriname, a small country in South America, has an Indian population of over 27% and it is the largest ethnic group in the country. Preeaap Radhakishun was a former Prime Minister and Ramsewak Shankar was a former president between 1988 and 1990. Chan Santokhi is the incumbent President of the country. Indians also have a big presence in Jamaica. Kamala Jean Gopie is a Jamaican of Indian descent who is a well-known political activist in Canada.

Kamala Harris, the Vice President of the United States, was born to a Jamaican father and an Indian mother. Mauritius the Indian Ocean Island has an Indian origin population of almost 60%. It has had several Indian prime ministers and presidents. Sookdeo Bisindoyal was one of the founding fathers of Mauritius. Another Indian Ocean Island Reunion is a French overseas territory. It has a population of 800,000 of which 200,000 are of Indian origin, mainly Tamil. The Indian Ocean Island of Seychelles also has a substantial Indian origin population and the current president Wavel Ramkalwan has traced his origins to the Indian state of Bihar.

With countries like Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos, and South Korea, India has strong religious and cultural links going back thousands of years. In all these countries the Hindu epic of Ramayana remains very popular. Malaysia also has a huge number of politicians of Indian origin. Singapore too has had several presidents of the Indian-origin.

The East African countries of Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania have a substantial Indian origin population and they play a huge role in the economic development of these countries. People of Indian origin also played a crucial role in the freedom movement of these countries. The Constitution of Kenya Review Commission was headed by Yashpal Ghai whose parents had migrated from India during British colonial rule. The review was presented to the country in 2010 and it was accepted by the majority of Kenyans. The new constitution has strengthened democracy in Kenya, promoted gender equality, and safeguarded minority rights. South Africa has around 1.3 million people of Indian origin and none other than Mahatma Gandhi had settled in the country. He influenced many freedom fighters and helped change the course of human history. Nigeria and Ghana also have substantial populations of Indian origin.

In the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand, there is a huge number of Indian-origin politicians. Kamala Harris the vice president of the United States, Rishi Sunak the Chancellor of Exchequer, and Priti Patel the Home Secretary of the UK hold some of the most powerful positions. The last Irish Taoiseach or Prime minister of Ireland was Leo Vardkar whose father hails from the Indian state of Maharashtra. The current Prime Minister of Portugal Antonio Costa is also of Indian origin. His father’s family hails from Goa.

The Netherlands has around 240,000 people of Indian origin, many of them are from the former Dutch colony of Suriname. There is a huge interest in Hinduism and Indian culture in Russia and East European countries like Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic, and Croatia. In the coming years, they will also have very strong links with India. There is a growing presence of India in Latin American countries of Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and Panama.

Around 90,000 Jews of Indian origin live in Israel. Their love for India is undiminished. In the United Arab Emirates there are 3,429,000 people of Indian origin, which is around 38% of the total population.

Apart from the top politicians, there is a huge number of people of Indian origin in the countries mentioned who serve as Ministers, Ambassadors, and in many prominent positions.

As India becomes a global power the Indian diaspora is and will be the country’s ambassadors. Unlike China, this partnership between India and the diaspora will not be at the expense of the countries in which the diaspora lives. The ethos on which Indians will operate will be based on the saying, ‘Vasudev Kutumbakam’ which means that the world is a family. Prime Minister Modi’s government has gone a long way to forge a strong friendship with the diaspora community and the diaspora has responded in equal measure.

The remittance sent by the Indian diaspora to India every year is around $78.6 billion. We need a bold vision to shape History and its time has come. Perhaps the term NRI needs to be dropped and changed to Vishwa Bharatiya.

Writer is the founder of Indian Cultural Centre, London. Views expressed are writer’s personal.

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Opinion

SURGE IN TERRORISM IN J&K SHOWS PAKISTAN’S FRUSTRATION

Joyeeta Basu

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The surge in terrorist violence in Kashmir valley is in direct proportion to the frustration of the Pakistani military establishment over the normalisation of the situation in the union territory. Post the revocation of Article 370, the merchants of doom and gloom had made dire predictions about a conflagration in the valley, making it a security nightmare for India. They had talked about the return of the months-long unrests that were seen in the past—in fact something much worse. But much to their dismay, nothing like that happened. In spite of some initial serious security curbs, there was no major trouble that could not be handled by the administration, without the use of excessive force. A little more than two years after the revocation of Article 370, the valley seems calmer, and on its way back to normalcy. The tourism industry, one of the mainstays of J&K has started coming back to life, with tourists from the rest of the country flocking to the valley. Stone pelting incidents have seen a drastic decline. Ministry of Home Affairs statistics in August 2021 show a decline of 88% between January and July 2021 compared to the same period in 2019. Injuries to security forces and civilians in related incidents—including injuries caused to civilians by baton charges and pellet guns—too have come down by 84% and 93%, respectively, compared to the same period in 2019. The improvement in the law and order situation has been largely possible because of the presence of the security forces, some Covid related restrictions and action against separatist leaders and terrorist outfits. Although the UT is yet to witness Assembly elections, the District Development Council elections held last year saw unprecedented participation from the residents. Make no mistake, arriving at a certain state of normalcy would not have been possible but for the common Kashmiri’s desire for peace and willingness to lead a normal life. The security forces too have achieved unprecedented success in eliminating the Pakistan backed terrorist leadership in the valley. In fact every attempt by Pakistan to groom such a leadership has ended in failure, with the security forces eliminating them in a matter of months. It is in this context that Pakistan’s frustration has to be seen.

This has led to a change in strategy in perpetrating “lone wolf” attacks on the minority population of the valley, with radicalised youngsters being given small arms to carry out targeted killings. This has led to some migration by the Pandit population from the valley, however it would be wrong to compare the situation with the 1990s. The security forces are way too alert now for letting these terrorist elements get away with murder. Also, the toxicity in the milieu against the local minority population seems to have subsided to a large extent. There is greater integration of the valley population with the rest of the country as well. And the more interaction increases, more mainstream Kashmir becomes. Hence, there is reason for hope, in spite of the sudden spurt in incidents of terrorist violence. Of course, the security forces are paying a heavy price to secure J&K from the Pakistan-backed malignancy, as the recent incident in Jammu’s Poonch where five Army personnel were killed, showed. Also with the possibility of Pakistan diverting its pet terrorists operating in Afghanistan to its eastern border, adding to the ranks of the Laskhar-e-Tayyabas and Hizbul Mujahideens, it will need 24×7 vigil by the security forces to keep the situation under control. Hence, the message needs to sink in that picking up the gun will not give any returns. As the Army has been saying, anyone picking up the gun will be eliminated inside a matter of months.

At the same time, the ground should be prepared for an elected government to take charge of the union territory, for that is the best way to give voice to people’s aspirations and listen to their grievances. There is no reason to believe that the attacks of the last few days mark the beginning of a prolonged period of unrest in Kashmir. Hence, it is time Pakistan and its proxies in the valley accepted the reality of Article 370 being history and allowed peace to prevail.

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