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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2704

For SP it is back to Methuselah

By Atul Cowshish - Syndicate Features

The unending and sometimes pointless debate in the country between 'progressive' and 'regressive'—or whatever other labels one prefers—is supposed to be about what is the best way to lead the country forward and also ensure that this nation of one billion plus—a sixth of humanity—takes its rightful place in the comity of nations.

There may be some reservations about accepting that prescription. But will anyone contest that you can march forward only if you look ahead; turning your face backward is not the best way to advance. So, how does the election manifesto of Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party appear? Certainly, not as the one that has any idea about shaping the future of this country.

With the long process for the 15th Lok Sabha poll having begun, dwelling on a manifesto at this juncture may look inappropriate or unnecessary. Nonetheless, Samajwadi Party’s manifesto deserves a close examination as it bears the authentic stamp of the political and social philosophy—if it can be so called—of Mulayam Singh Yadav. He is the single 'proprietor' of a political outfit that dreams of running the affairs of the country after the parliamentary polls, with the great helmsman role for Mulayam Singh.

His words cannot be dismissed as a poll gimmick because in the event of his or his party managing a commanding post-poll position his wishes—whims, one may call—will matter in re-writing polices and programmes of the government.

Mulayam Singh’s antipathy to English can be traced to his 'socialist' roots nurtured under the guidance of that deliciously maverick politician of early post-Independence days, Ram Manohar Lohia. It is, of course, besides the point that late Lohia with all his anti-English zeal knew and spoke the hateful English language in addition to another language of the 'imperialists' and 'colonialists', German.

Mulayam Singh’s obsession with film stars may be an inconsequential diversion, but it is curious why the people from the glamour world that he draws are generally known to speak in the forbidden language in public and, one suspects, in their homes too. Being the daughter of an Anglo-Indian mother, the Samajwadi Party candidate in Lucknow, if it is not taken as a personal 'attack', is decidedly more used to speaking in English, the sine qua non for acceptance in the 'page three' circuit, than conversing in 'rashtriya bhasha'. The father of Big B, the film star, was a great Hindi poet but he taught English at Allahabad University and his famous son is a product of one of the prestigious public schools (English medium) in the country.

Apart from being a self-appointed 'Angrezi hatao' (remove English) campaigner, Mulayam Singh has taken on additional burdens by discovering that apart from the legacy of Lord Macaulay (English), a lot of other things, such as 'computers', 'machines' and god knows what else, have been responsible for keeping India down.

His youth as a wrestler may have encouraged Mulayam Singh to imagine that he is strong enough to take on all the extra load on his shoulders. But he could have shed much of it if only he had looked around to see what his own political kith and kin in the Third or Fourth Front have been doing. If he is in a mellow mood, he might begin by looking at what his adversary number one has done in his political territory, UP. The chief minister of the state, Mayawati, has decreed that teaching of English is no longer a ‘taboo’ subject in state-run schools.

If viewed with the spectacle that Mulayam Singh Yadav wears, the decision to bring back English in UP schools could not have been easy for her. She may be preaching ‘sarvajan’, or all-inclusive, politics today but she remains an unparalleled Dalit icon. Except for the 'creamy layer', the Dalits as a community have all the reasons to be as aggressively anti-English as Mulayam Singh Yadav. Arguably, they have remained more deprived of the fruits of the 'privileged' English education than most other communities in the country, including the OBCs whose champion Mulayam Singh claims to be.

Likewise, the comrades that apparently Mulayam Singh Yadav admires so much, did the same in their little kingdom of West Bengal. They want all the school-going children in the state to be proficient in the 'colonial' language as they used to be in the bad old days of the bourgeois Raj. Despite their militant trade unionism and paranoia about the 'imperialism' and 'colonialism', the comrades would not work to abolish all the signs of modern technology and science, especially computers. Still Mulayam Singh Yadav might be able to bank upon the support of the red brigade in his tirade against 'machines' that have intruded into the countryside.

There is no comparison in the nature of farming in the Marxist-ruled West Bengal or the other little Marxist haven Kerala, and UP, especially its western part. The fields in UP produce more varied crops than West Bengal. The western part of UP is adjacent to Haryana, the number two granary of the country, (Punjab being number one) and is no stranger to having 'bumper' crops that resulted from the use of 'machines'. Mechanised farming may not be as common in UP as it is in the two 'granary' states, but will the farmers in UP or anywhere else be averse to 'machines' that help them take bigger yields? A primary job of the ‘machines’ and all other innovations is to 'help' mankind, nor harm it.

Mulayam Singh would do well to speak to a fellow Yadav, Lalu Prasad of Bihar, to find out why the latter gave up his opposition to 'machines', especially computers? When computers were introduced in the country in the first flush of 'liberalisation', Lalu Prasad was in the forefront of its critics. The critics were predicting that 'computerisation' would ruin the country as 'all' the manual jobs would be taken up by this devilish 'machine'.

Computers may have replaced some human hands but far from bringing a catastrophe that was forecast they have done a lot of good to the country. With two computer-savvy sons, who incidentally had attended ‘English-medium’ schools in India before enrolling in colleges in the demonic English-speaking countries (Australia and Britain), Mulayam Singh should be able to see that India’s standing as a 'knowledge power' in the world comes from the country’s vast army of computer whiz kids all of whom speaking the language he wants to abolish.

The Back to Methuselah approach of Mulayam Singh Yadav can only be called a non-religious or 'secular' version of the Taliban-type ideology. If it has an adverse impact on the 18-35 age group, perhaps the most important segment among the 71 crore voters in the country, after the polls Mulayam Singh Yadav may have to come out with more convincing ‘clarifications’ than he has on these subjects when reacting to the uproar that followed the release if his party’s election manifesto.

- Asian Tribune –

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