March 29, 2020
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Tongue-Tied Kids Of Macaulay

The Sanskrit minister of Rajasthan is not from the Union HRD minister's party, yet they've similar views on Sanskrit. It's not ideological.

Tongue-Tied Kids Of Macaulay
Jayachandran The difference and distance between India and New Delhi is vast, and is often insurmountable. And this difference seems to crop up ever so often. The latest example of this divergence of belief is over the Sanskrit controversy that seems to have got the goat of many in the national capital. Reading from the remoteness of the desert, the distance to Delhi appeared even further. For, what seemed to be the most vexing issue in the national capital scarcely even registered a blip here. This has been the source of much discussion around these parts, and like in all matters of concern in a district the starting point must, of course, be its state capital. Jaipur seems to have given its reply to those in Delhi tormented by the thought of having to learn Sanskrit.

The venue was the Rajasthan Vidhan Sabha and the occasion was a debate on demands for grants for various departments and ministries of the state government. So, demands for grants for the department of Sanskrit education were also discussed. The minister made a speech that quite honestly moved the Opposition to such a degree as to elicit complete support for her proposals. Calling it a scientific language, the minister said that the negligence displayed towards Sanskrit over the past five decades has harmed the society and the nation. Insufficient funding over the decades—since the society and the state administration have neither understood nor accepted the importance of Sanskrit—has resulted in the backward condition that we are in.

Sanskrit is like a computer language, like software, a program. And it's a language that already has sufficient literature in medicine, zoology and metallurgy, the minister said. She further declared that palmistry and astrology were scientific. The only reason why yoga, vaastu and palmistry are being accepted once again is because they have 'returned from abroad'. If adequate research facilities were to be provided to Sanskrit it would, according to her, go on to prove that India possessed vast 'stores' of knowledge. The knowledge already available in the Vedas and vedantic literature needs to be publicised through the efforts of research centres. She ended her speech saying that for this financial and other facilities have to be made available. This clearly moved many of those listening to her.

The minister for the department of Sanskrit education is obviously not from the same political party as the Union human resources development minister. But her belief in Sanskrit couldn't be considered any less than that of the Union minister. It certainly cannot be taken to be an ideological position, but it still was a speech that drew appreciation from all. Across the political divide in the desert, she draws support for her intervention in the debate. I am constantly reminded here that the root of this divide is Lord Macaulay and his 'reforms' in the education sector. Intended or otherwise, periodically there are remarks made about this divergence. And I do sense this difference, straddling the two systems, since my types are, after all, regarded as 'Macaulay's children'.

The roads to Ramgarh must be the flattest driving surface anywhere in the country. For miles on end there's not the slightest elevation on the road, and from miles away its radio tower stands out like a direction indicator. The local legend is that it was at Ramgarh the Pakistan army division intended to halt for a meal during the 1971 war, but instead they were demolished well before at Longewala.Thus Ramgarh missed its opportunity for courting fame. But a recent incident could well have garnered some attention—but it appears to have blown over, leaving behind a tale that would have been amusing had it not been so serious. As if in a replay, once again it is the bsf and suspected Bangladeshis.

The bsf is constructing something in Ramgarh. As with all such projects, the cpwd gives the contract to some construction firm. So, the contract was given and work about to begin when the tragic Boraibari incident took place thousands of miles away. As if waking up from sleep, the bsf in Ramgarh suddenly realised that among the labourers employed by the contractor were some who looked like Bangladeshis. Perhaps, an afterthought; but the work has been stopped even as the labourers plead that they are from Malda and have the ration cards to prove it. That of course doesn't mean anything since ration cards can easily be purchased, particularly in the districts along the Indo-Bangladesh border. But then they could also be completely innocent of any foreign origin.

The tragedy is that the bsf seems to have realised this only after the Boraibari incident. Bangladeshis have been floating around here for a long time, many trying to reach Pakistan. Even when the border fence was under construction and greasy contractors descended from Delhi, the labour certainly included Bangladeshis. Even then, it was the same bsf, but there was never a question raised. For then they too benefited from the presence of Bangladeshis, and in this they were joined by the Indus Rangers, their across-the-border counterparts.

(The writer stood for elections as the BJP candidate in Barmer, Rajasthan. He now works full-time in the constituency and is writing a column on life and development issues in Barmer.)
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