What is the Root Cause of Terrorism?

Let me state it loud and clear: it’s people crossing diversity borders for political or economic reasons. As I point out in my book, Gandhi, Ambedkar, and Tagore held similar views. Let me produce some quotes from these three thinkers (I’ve used them in my book).

Let me state it loud and clear.

The root of all global problems today is the fact that people are crossing diversity borders for political or economic reasons at an unprecedented rate.

As I point out in Chapter 3 of my book, three of India’s most important thinkers, namely Gandhi, Ambedkar, and Tagore, held similar views.

Let me share some quotes from these three thinkers (I’ve used them in my book).

Mahatma Gandhi pointed out that people become ‘confounded’ when they come in contact with others of different natures, religions, etc. His point was that the very meeting should not take place. He literally considered the British-introduced Indian Railways evil:

[Man] is so made by nature as to require him to restrict his movements as far as his hands and feet will take him. If we did not rush about from place to place by means of railways and such other maddening conveniences, much of the confusion that arises would be obviated. Our difficulties are of our own creation. God set a limit to a man’s locomotive ambition in the construction of his body. Man immediately proceeded to discover means of overriding the limit. God gifted man with intellect that he might know his Maker. Man abused it so that he might forget his Maker. I am so constructed that I can only serve my immediate neighbors, but in my conceit I pretend to have discovered that I must with my body serve every individual in the Universe. In thus attempting the impossible, man comes in contact with different natures, different religions, and is utterly confounded. According to this reasoning, it must be apparent to you that railways are a most dangerous institution. Owing to them, man has gone further away from his Maker.

B. R. Ambedkar issued words of caution to be exercised whenever there is the intermingling of diverse peoples. According to him, if diverse peoples are ‘forced to take part in a common cycle of participation, such as Government’, there can be neither fellow-feeling nor peace because of racial and cultural conflicts which arise due to sheer ‘enforced juxtaposition’:

Why do Tamils hate Andhras and Andhras hate Tamils? Why do Andhras in Hyderabad hate Maharashtrians and Maharashtrians hate Andhras? Why do Gujaratis hate Maharashtrians and Maharashtrians hate Gujaratis? The answer is very simple. It is not because there is any natural antipathy between the two. The hatred is due to the fact that they are put in juxtaposition and forced to take part in a common cycle of participation, such as Government. There is no other answer. So long as this enforced juxtaposition remains, there will be no peace between the two.

Rabindranath Tagore wrote profusely about how India’s task from time immemorial had been to make social adjustments to deal with racial differences between Aryans, Dravidians, Greeks, Persians, Mohammedans of the West and Mohammedans of Central Asia. In an environment charged with fervent Indian nationalism and Gandhian claims of ‘oneness’ in everything that mattered all over India, Tagore was deeply conscious of India’s diversity and deeply worried about its rising neglect. India was ‘naturally many, yet adventitiously one’, and therefore, a reconciliation of race differences was central to India’s mission on earth:

Races ethnologically different have in this country come into close contact. This fact has been and still continues to be the most important one in our history. It is our mission to face it and prove our humanity by dealing with it in the fullest truth. Until we fulfil our mission all other benefits will be denied us.

Clearly, nobody cares for the words of caution issued by these three great Indian thinkers any more.

Today, it has become stupid – even antinational – to think like this in India. How can a patriotic Indian think pan-Indian trade is evil? How can travelling on the Indian Railways be evil? How can someone even think Tamils and Andhras are in any sense different? They’re both Indians! And how can someone talk of different races on Indian soil? And finally, how can someone talk as if international trade is evil? It’s the crown gem of humanity!

(For the sources of the above quotes, please refer The Pyramid of Corruption)

Digital India: ‘Stronger than death-dealing war-ships…’

Digital India’s Narendra Modis will talk to every illiterate farmer more than his actual, flesh-and-blood neighbors. When that happens, the idea that India’s racial and linguistic diversity should be taken into account in India’s political system will be all but dead. If the different parts of India cannot communicate with the Centre at break-neck speed, the case for more regional autonomy becomes all the more clear as time rolls on. But with the kind of communication links Digital India is expected to bring in, the case is weakened. Or so the Centre thinks.

In 1887, a British MP by name Sir John Henniker Heaton told the Royal Colonial Institute something remarkable. It’s worth revisiting it amidst all the Digital India noise today:

Stronger than death-dealing war-ships, stronger than the might of devoted legions, stronger than wealth and genius of administration, stronger than even unswerving justice of Queen Victoria’s rule, are the scraps of paper that are borne in myriads over the seas, and the two or three slender wires that connect the scattered parts of her realm.

Heaton’s argument was that ‘in the postal and telegraphic services the Empire of our Queen possesses a cohesive force which was utterly lacking’ in ‘the Greek, the Roman, the Spanish, the Napoleonic Empires’. While these other empires collapsed, the British Empire would continue on and on because of the cohesive force of the post and telegraph system introduced in India.

What were the ‘parts’ that came together due to this cohesive force? Very clearly, Heaton meant the British imperial officers spread all over India. They could now communicate as fast as possible with higher-ups in the British Raj, going all the way up to the Governor General.

The quotes above are from The Tentacles of Progress by Daniel R. Headrick. He makes my point here better than I could:

The lines of communication that hold empires together never seem strong enough to those whose power and security depend on them.

That is, the post and telegraph system was basically intended to increase the power and security of the Indian Empire. Perhaps no more proof is required for this than this exclamation by John Lawrence, Chief Commissioner of Punjab:

The telegraph saved India.

For whom? For Britain, of course. From whom? From Indians! Sounds confusing?

Lawrence observed this after the British had successfully used telegraph “to re-establish control over Punjab and rebel-held Lucknow” during the Rebellion of 1857-58 (also called India’s First War of Independence).

I rest my case that fast communication is used by the political and economic powers-that-be to increase their own power and security.

Digital India is the latest example of this ancient secret, and we have a new and improved version of Lord Dalhousie at the helm of affairs now. “Look ma, no wires!”

Using this flagship project, the Government of India wants to link up all its departments in a tight communication link so that communication can happen lightning fast. So that those at the apex of the pyramid of corruption in this Aryan nation can appear like neighbors to everyone all over India.

Digital India’s Narendra Modis will talk to every illiterate farmer more than his actual, flesh-and-blood neighbors. When that happens, the idea that India’s racial and linguistic diversity should be taken into account in India’s political system will be all but dead.

If the different parts of India cannot communicate with the Centre at break-neck speed, the case for more regional autonomy becomes all the more clear as time rolls on. But with the kind of communication links Digital India is expected to bring in, the case is weakened.

Or so the Centre thinks.

In actual fact, a Gujarati or Hindi speaking politician in New Delhi doesn’t suddenly become a local in Bengaluru or Chennai or Guwahati or Mumbai just because there’s a fast communication link.

The farmer in Karnataka or Tamil Nadu or Assam realizes, sooner or later, that Digital India’s Narendra Modis aren’t doing him any good in the real sense of the term.

It will strike him, sooner or later, that everyone who is on a fast communication link with him isn’t his friend. It will strike him, too, that he’s not doing any of the talking. And then, regional autonomy shall rain.

I only hope it’s not the kind that India achieved in 1947.

An Alternate Way To Run India’s Finances

Neither the own money nor the aid money of the States needs to be collected by the Centre. It can simply get out of this whole business of collecting and distributing money. Each State can collect all the money it needs from its own people, and we can call this as state money. In case there are States that send in any aid, it can simply be added to this and utilized with thanks.

The Government of India is under the impression that the States are fundamentally incapable of dealing with money. The idea has stuck that they can neither make money nor spend it in the right way. One can see this in the sermons the Centre gives the States on how to spend the money it gives them, both tied and untied. While it is true that the Centre collects the money in question, we must not forget that it actually comes from the people of the States. The Centre doesn’t have people of its own.

The funds that a State gets from the Centre is of two types. The first is money that originally went from the State to the Centre and returned, which we can call as the State’s own money. The second is money coming in from the wealthy states via the Centre, which we can call as aid money. Every State gets its own money back, although the wealthy States get only a fraction thereof. And then, of course, it’s only the poorer States which get any aid money.

As far as own money is concerned, it takes simple commonsense to conclude that the States can collect the necessary tax from the people directly instead of looping the Centre into the affair. This requires a reduction in the Centre’s powers, not any sort of ‘growing up’ or ‘evolution’ on the part of the States.

As far as aid money is concerned, the whole concept is based on the theory that it is good for everyone concerned. But it is important to note that this theory, right or wrong, assumes one society which the rich and the poor are part of. But this is not the case here. It is nonsensical to talk of, say, the Kannadigas and the Biharis being part of one society. They are part of one political unit, yes, but that doesn’t make them one society however much one might pretend they do.

In fact, Indian states can be called nations going by the universal understanding of the term. When a rich nation supports a poor one, it is not out of any compulsion by some sort of Central Government of the world, but out of its own self-interest. Even in the case of one State supporting another in India, there is no fundamental reason why the Centre should collect aid money and decide how to distribute it.

There are some who are concerned that if the Centre gets out of the loop, the wealthy states will no longer support the poorer ones. Opinion is divided on whether aid money to entire States is useful at all, but the worst way to address the concern is to use Central coercion. Although coercion can appear to be the ideal solution till the last moment, it can ultimately lead to the secession of the wealthy States, as has happened elsewhere in the world.

Nor is it true that if States stop giving or receiving aid money the idea of India simply dies. What dies is the thinking that aid money is central to the idea of India. It helps to note that this aid money didn’t feature in Mahatma Gandhi’s idea of India. He wanted Gram Swaraj or the independence or self-sufficiency of the village, which ruled it out.

Thus, neither the own money nor the aid money of the States needs to be collected by the Centre. It can simply get out of this whole business of collecting and distributing money. Each State can collect all the money it needs from its own people, and we can call this as state money. In case there are States that send in any aid, it can simply be added to this and utilized with thanks.

The Centre needs funds to do things the States don’t need to. As I see it, the Centre should hold only defence and external affairs portfolios and leave everything else to the States. The funds to run these portfolios, too, need not be collected by the Centre directly from the people. Over and above state money, the States can collect federal money  (money to run the Federation of India) and pass it on to the Centre.

[Photo credit: livemint.com]

Colonialism and the Question of Medium of Instruction

In 2009, I had written a review of Prof. James Tooley‘s book The Beautiful Tree on my English blog, Karnatique. My basic critique of the book was, and is, that Tooley is so focused on looking at education as a market, and private as God, that he fails to see that his favorite low-cost private schools openly defy the principle that mother-tongue based education is the best scientific choice for children. Let me make a few comments on the topic here, since an interaction with the author on Twitter earlier this week has provided me new insights that I think are worth sharing.

Tooley thinks the market is making an independent decision in choosing English as the medium of instruction in India. But he seems not to see that it is basically an effect of colonization – a word I haven’t seen him use. World over, the low-cost private schools he visits are run in the language of the colonial power, current or past. He hardly advertises this fact but makes a big deal of the privateness of the said schools. Because he sees no coercion in the ‘market transaction’ of admitting children to these schools, he claims, everything is in order. But many things are not in order, and the open neglect of the mother-tongue is foremost among them.

When I began the Twitter discussion on language with him, Tooley asked me whether I tweet in my mother tongue. I told him I do, and also the other things I do related to Kannada. But what I want to dissect here is the nature of Tooley’s argument. He seems to want to prove, if possible, that I myself don’t respect my mother tongue, and claim that, therefore, I had better give up this line of argument. It’s not disrespect for my own language, if it exists, that he is interested in criticizing, but a possible hypocrisy or inconsistency in my argument.

Indians have not yet come out of their colonial experience. In fact, places like Bengaluru are facing their second colonization, this time from what calls itself as India. Due to the reckless fetish of including diverse peoples under one administration, the British could not give patronage to education in Indian languages. T.B. Macaulay has stated this very clearly in his arguments for English as the medium of instruction in the education system he helped erect. The independent Indian nation, which continued that colonial fetish, also treats Indian languages as necessary evils, not more, and this is most visible in large cities like Bengaluru. Now, if Indians use English and dump their mother tongues, it does not illustrate a free choice made in the Utopia of pure liberty but the effect of these historical assaults on liberty.

I must admit that I am fortunate not to appear hypocritical in this whole argument. My family, especially my wife, has stood by me in my decision to continue my non-paying Kannada work and in my decision to get my son admitted to a Kannada medium school by choice. Unfortunately, I see that every educated Indian cannot claim to be this fortunate. But that does not take away the merit of the argument that mother-tongue education is best for children. Circumstances force them to send their children to English medium schools; it would be folly to think pure liberty is at play here, as Tooley seems to think. It is a case of pure coercion, with the subtle detail that the coercion has occurred in the past.

Tooley is not worried about any of this. His view is rather myopic, unfortunately, and the basic line of his argument is that the choice of language of instruction is an inexplicable market phenomenon that we had better respect. His first response to my question regarding the medium of instruction betrays the feeling that any inconsistency between the walk and the talk of the questioner, with regard to language use, can be used to defeat him in the argument. But even such an inconsistency, where present, is itself a result of colonization. Colonization makes the colonized individual a mess of inconsistencies and contradictions. It is a similar inconsistency that led Mahatma Gandhi to hate the Indian Railways on the one hand but use it to travel all over India on the other. I write in English, and Indians want to send their children to English medium schools, because history coerces us to do so. Those whom I have to call away from English are today immersed in it, and I have no option but to use a thorn to remove this thorn.

In short, by neglecting the medium of instruction and dedicating his book to the privateness of the low-cost schools, Tooley proves to be not so much of an educationist in the first place. His arguments are ethics-free and education-theory agnostic, and threaten to make the world forget, even celebrate, the gory history of colonialism and its adverse impact on education. His are arguments that legitimize the neglect of the world’s linguistic diversity and thereby the true education and liberty of the people of the world, all in the name of a strange thing that has come to be known as liberty in some Western scholarly circles.

But the Indian who is truly concerned about the future of his children, as of India in general, has no option but to recognize the importance of mother-tongue education. He might not be able to send his own children to mother-tongue schools for various reasons today, but that neither diminishes the truth nor relieves him of his duty to tell his children why they are being sent to English medium schools. They’re not being sent because of an inexplicable and sacred market phenomenon, but because of our colonial history.

If children are told this truth, a day will dawn on which we can claim to have fully reversed the effect of that history, a day on which Tooley’s favorite low-cost private schools will fall head over heels to offer education in the mother-tongue (not that he particularly cares). Indian children will not take too long to recognize that the phase of English-medium craze we’re going through is a temporary one which they can stop in their own lifetime, even if they have themselves had to undergo English education.

Only, most of us will have to stop hiding the truth from them or think we’d be hypocritical to use English at work and send children to English medium schools but advocate for mother-tongue education. This is not hypocrisy but one of the many contradictions introduced by colonialism. I see no reason for Indians to feel guilty for using English at work or sending our children to English medium schools. But at the same time, we must not downplay the importance of the mother tongue in education. The apparent contradiction is put in place by our colonial past, not by us. At no cost must we let our thought side with untruth, however much we may be forced to act against our will. It will take time and effort, but the truth will ultimately triumph.