November 10, 2009

Signs of unity

Coming up to one year now, since a gang of murderous maniacs came off a boat and slaughtered 200 people in Bombay. I remember those 60 hours vividly. I also remember vividly so many calls for us Indians to unite, because finding that unity would be the best response to, the best way to fight, terrorism.

Coming up to one year since those calls, we can look around us to find:

* Some folks refuse to sing a song. Some other folks insist that they, and everybody, must indeed sing it.

* A man pronounces that people who call it "Bombay" must be, and I quote, "thrown out of this city".

* Several newly-elected members of Maharashtra's Vidhan Sabha assault a fellow newly-elected member for taking his oath of office in Hindi.

So you see: coming up to one year since that terror attack, we are united indeed. And we also have in place, didn't you know, the best way to defeat terrorism bar none.

The next time a terrorist comes off a boat and says something while on his way to causing mayhem, I'm sure those members of the Vidhan Sabha will be right there, ready to do what needs to be done above all.

They'll demand that he speak in Marathi.

That'll show the murderous maniacs.


B said...

no, no. The local thugs will demand the incoming terrorists to sing Vande mataram in Marathi.

Sumedha said...

Live and let live is something so many people need to learn, right? My friend told me once (very proudly) about a time when he repeatedly kicked the chair of a guy who didn't stand up when the national anthem played before a movie, to make him stand up. He (my friend) couldn't understand why I thought that was wrong, unnecessary and stupid.

I still call it Bombay. It's a habit, what to do?! What difference does it make to anyone??

Chandru K said...

Perhaps India deserved or should expect the Mumbai massacre because there are unsolved "underlying causes" such as Ayodhya and the Gujarat riots. China and North Korea are extremely angelic countries where people are never killed, suppressed, imprisoned or otherwise treated unjustly. That's why killers avenging "causes' like Ayodhya and Gujarat never land on China's or North Korea's shores and start massacre sprees.Only India has ever oppressed anyone or any group.

Dilip D'Souza said...

I must be missing something.

Why would "killers avenging causes like Ayodhya and Gujarat" go to China or North Korea to do it?

What do China and North Korea have to do with Hindi vs Marathi, or Bombay vs Mumbai, or the singing of Vande Mataram?

Please do explain. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Dilip...out of curiosity....what will those members of the Vidhan Soudha who oppose Marathi nationalism do when such a boat arrives in Bombay....

Anonymous said...

Worth of Indians ....

Rahul Siddharthan said...

Just a note: it's not just that "some folks refuse to sing a song", it's that "some folks issue an edict forbidding some other folks from singing that song."

And I really don't see what's wrong with taking the oath of office in the local language. Even if Azmi does not know Marathi, surely he can memorise the few words necessary for the task, especially as the governor will be saying those words first. One can, and should, oppose Raj Thackeray's brand of politics, but one should pick the right fights.

This doesn't justify the violence, of course. But if such an anti-Marathi attitude hadn't been present already among residents of Mumbai, Raj Thackeray wouldn't have arisen.

Chandru K said...

"What do China and North Korea have to do with Hindi vs Marathi, or Bombay vs Mumbai, or the singing of Vande Mataram?"

I am making a point that there are countries that do not experience terrorist acts such as what India went through last year. And it is certainly not because they are tolerant, civilised or non-repressive.

Dilip D'Souza said...

Rahul, religious leaders always presume to tell their followers how to conduct their lives. Why should Catholic leaders tell Catholics that pre-marital sex is a no-no? Or Jewish leaders that Jews must not work on the Sabbath?

The point to look at here, it seems to me, is less that such edicts are issued, but more about how many people choose to ignore it in living their lives. Plenty of reports have suggested that plenty of people have paid it no attention. (Just as plenty of Catholics see no wrong in premarital sex).

The larger point to look at is how this song is then used as yet another stick to beat Muslims with.

Somebody called Firoz Bakht Ahmed put it well in today's HT: "I am a devout Indian Muslim who loves singing Vande Mataram", he says, and explains about that in some detail.

Then he also says: "By the same logic, a patriotic Muslim who loves his nation can't be declared anti-national if chooses not to sing Vande Mataram."

This last is exactly what bothers me about this whole issue: that the singing of the song becomes a test of patriotism. That's what I find offensive.

About the rest of what you say, in another comment.

Anonymous said...


Thanks for engaging. I had noted that you had expressed, or approved of, sentiment that somebody that insists on calling Mumbai, as Bombay after 10yrs+, is comparable in some ways to the SS attitude.

On language, I feel somewhat the same but am more muddled. I dont know Mum but have commented on shopkeepers in parts of BLR refusing to entertain conversations in Kannada- not the HighStreet ones snobbing English- regular guys who only prefer Tam, Mallu, Hindi etc. I can imagine tremendous resentment among the locals and support for K chauvinism.

But in many areas of BLR, the "outsider" languages are more local than K having been spoken by migrants who settled in 100+ yrs ago. Its likely true that in these local areas, K people may be the "immigrants" from adjoining K areas or other parts of Karnataka.

In short, a complicated picture. I expect this maps to Mumbai with Guj, Sindhi, Konkani and others.

Lets all get done factoring the SS / MNS violence out as a baseline.

Hope there is an interesting discussion here, at this level. Is Suresh around?


Dilip D'Souza said...

About Azmi: the twisted part about this whole affair is that I find both the MNS folks and Azmi perverse and destructive. Criticising the MNS should not be seen as a defence of Azmi.

My point is this: this whole affair shows just how hollow all the talk of unity after last year's attacks was. When we let language turn us against each other, what hope is there of uniting to fight off the terrorists?

Much as with Vande Mataram, when the language becomes a measure of your respect or otherwise for Maharashtra, that's when it gets twisted. I know plenty of people who have served this state long and honourably, but who don't know Marathi well. Are they to be damned for that?

My father spoke Marathi, but not fluently; yet at various stages of his IAS career, even Marathi papers praised his work. (A certain well-known Marathi champion also once sent him a complimentary note).

Rahul Siddharthan said...

Anonymous: I don't think I equated calling the place "Bombay" with what the Sena does. That would be hyperbole. What I may have said is that this sort of attitude may be what encourages the Sena in the first place.

Anonymous and Dilip -- I'm fine with Azmi not knowing enough Marathi to speak to customers at his shop or give a speech in the Assembly. He needn't, and that shouldn't be a qualification for getting elected. But anyone can take their oath in Marathi (or any language). All he has to do is repeat what the governor says; if he is nervous, he can practice beforehand -- it's standard text. To refuse to do so sounds like needless provocation.

Dilip D'Souza said...

Trouble is, Rahul, I believe Azmi fully intended to provoke this confrontation. As Sujata Anandan says in HT today, Azmi and the Thackerays are two sides of the same coin. "So why are they beating each other up?" she asks. "They should salute each other."

Dilip D'Souza said...

I am making a point that there are countries that do not experience terrorist acts such as what India went through last year.

What does this point have to do with Hindi vs Marathi, or Bombay vs Mumbai, or the singing of Vande Mataram?

Anonymous said...

Dilip...out of curiosity....what will those members of the Vidhan Soudha who oppose Marathi nationalism do when such a boat arrives in Bombay....

Anonymous said...


How many times did you type and backspace the quotes around "murderous maniacs".

Also a post on "Who Killed Karkare?" by S M Mushrif

Baby V

Jai_C said...


I would like to distinguish between VM and language. VM is a song and that issue is rather silly. Its also getting to be less of an issue and will probably be a non-issue next year.

It seems very stand-offish and exclusionary to not learn the local language of a place if one spends several years there - not asking the person to be an expert, or even fluent, but if he/she doesnt know enough of it to even communicate and get by, its a severe rejection of the environment around you.

If the localites start feeling like outsiders since their language is refused or lowlighted- the attitude seems to be "its you that needs to learn our language if you want to interact with us, or do business with us" its significantly provocative. Not very different, really, from SS/ MNS.

I've not really followed the Azmi issue but note that you have said he was also driving this to a confrontation.


Sapathan said...

I have a feeling the discussion here is missing the essence. Let me give you an example: suppose there is a person from Manipur, who speaks only Manipuri become a Cabinet Minister. Let's assume Finance Minister. So he should present a budget in a language he does not understand? Logically, should not the Union of India accommodate the will of the people in one part and translate all files and official documentation into Manipuri? Or would you claim people from Manipur can't become Ministers (ergo MPs) unless they have proficiency in Hindi/ English?

Now, how many people here actively support that idea and therefore, by extension, want all official documents to be translated into all languages for which there is a script in India?

Maharashtra is a large state and therefore this argument gets trivialized. The issue really is at the other end of the spectrum where the majority in this country impose their hegemony on linguistic minorities.

Rahul Siddharthan said...

Sapathan: There's a difference between "taking oath" and "presenting budget". Even the MNS did not, as far as I have seen, demand that all proceedings should be in Marathi. They only asked that the oath should be taken in Marathi. Maximalising their demands in this way doesn't help anybody.

Sapathan said...

Rahul, that is not my point. Maharashtra, MNS and Marathi are irrelevant to a Manipuri wanting to present the Union Budget.

Rahul Siddharthan said...

Sapathan - ok, you are raising a different point, that in fact has come up: M K Azhagiri apparently wants to use Tamil in Parliament.

The European Parliament has similar issues, and I'm sure we can adopt their solutions (live translation, etc). Money should not be the issue.

Jai_C said...

Re. Sapathan's point:
I think KL has or had, for many years running, interpreter and translation services for the MLAs from Kasargod in its state assembly - in many places there Kannada *is* the 'local' language.

Cherkalam Abdullah reportedly took his oath in Kannada. We're kinda cool abt this :-)


Anonymous said...

This whole discussion takes us back to the States re-organisation during early fifties. The basis for this move was language and in it stems the current Marathi issue rocking Maha assembly.

Setting aside the constitutional aspects, Congress at that time considered the practical aspects while re-organising states. In the spirit of this excercise it is only right that Maha MLAs should take oath in Marathi and TN ones in Tamil.

Anonymous said...

I think the real issue has been lost in the woods on this blog and elsewhere.

In my opinion they are

1. What is the primary language of Maharashtra?
2. What has the State Government done to enrich its primary language?
3. What steps have the non Marathi speaking people who live in Maharasthra taken to learn the state language?.

I'm a Tamilian and I strongly reject suggestions that Hindi is the national language of India. It is not. When we can have a choice on Vande Matarm, why not on Hindi

Anonymous said...

Dilip...out of curiosity....what will those members of the Vidhan Soudha who oppose Marathi nationalism do if such a boat were to arrive in Bombay....

Dilip D'Souza said...

Various suggestions that this discussion is "missing the essence" or "the real issue has been lost in the woods", etc.

So allow me to add my own such.

To me the point is this: how should we measure an official's (elected or otherwise) service to and respect for Maharashtra? By which language he takes his oath in? Or by his dedication and work ethic on the job?

Somewhere in these pages before (can't now recall where), I made this point as well: it must be the job of a government to make its records and functioning understandable to as many citizens as possible. (Not just to those citizens who speak a particular language).

If that means simultaneous translations, or documents in multiple languages, fine: as Rahul says, Europe faces similar problems, and money should not be the issue.

Sapathan said...

Citing Azagiri misses the point about a Manipuri. Simply because Azhagiri carries a lot of clout with him and TN has a history of decisive mandates. Manipur is a tiny state. And, even Azhagiri cannot dream of say becoming the Finance Minister of this country. Forget a poor Manipuri.

Actual effectiveness of an elected official, Dilip, is irrelevant to this argument. The point is, positive affirmation by an authority such as an elected government is very difficult. Bordering on the impossible. That is why the American conservatives harp on limited government -- which is a one possible solution, though not necessarily exhaustive.

The point I intend making is that identity is natural in a representative system and to say it does not help fight terror or build roads or deliver some other public good is silly. Now if you want to again appeal to emotion and give anecdotes or repeat accepted facts, I have noting to add. How thuggish MNS is, is absolutely irrelevant to the resolve of the state to fight terrorists. At least in this version of thuggery.

Jai_C said...

"By which language he takes his oath in? Or by his dedication and work ethic on the job?"

...his readiness to communicate with his constituents in the language that they are most comfortable with, usually their mother tongue is a bigg part of the package of being dedicated and work-ethicish... IMHO. But this would apply equally to an Azmi and to an MNS guy.

PS:Some of my influence was from watching English August and feeling for the folk of 'Madana' (in some respects it looked like colonial sahib days) and feeling quite surprised that nearly everyone else felt for Agastya Sen.

vu2gre said...

Just adding a point to support Dilip: In the aftermath of 26/11, not a murmur was heard from the MNS/SS. Either they were out of their depth and lost for words, or worse, they are truly anti-Indian and fear losing their vote-back if perceived as supporting the Indian union.

Anonymous said...

Dilip...out of curiosity....what will those members of the Vidhan Soudha who oppose Marathi nationalism do if such a boat were to arrive in Bombay....

Nikhil said...

Right. In fact Raj was totally missing / invisible / not to be seen.
The least these marathi manoos lovers could have done was provide water to the NSG and command use of the ambulances at their service.
I believe Raj sent out a mass SMS stating how the max policemen who died were marathis.

Stupid behavior

Anonymous said...

Dilip...out of curiosity....what will those members of the Vidhan Soudha who oppose Marathi nationalism do if such a boat were to arrive in Bombay....

sameer said...

Logic of linking nation's security, with, language, is absurd_ to say the least. So do you mean to say english speaking guard will be able to defend terrorist? I did not want to stoop to this level of argument but thats how insane your logic is.