THE HINDU EDITORIAL : September 25,2017

 

i) A fight against prejudice

Last week the British government concluded a consultation on whether measures against caste discrimination should be included in equality law, to ensure there is “appropriate and proportionate legal protection” against unlawful discrimination because of a person’s origins. The consultation has been inviting submissions from late March and attracted substantial interest from Britain’s sizeable South Asian diaspora within which the debate on this issue has been raging for years.

Focussing on such practices

In June 2009, the first World Conference on Untouchability took place in London, to explore versions of untouchability in all its forms, bringing together experts and activists from across the globe — from India to Japan and Nigeria. At the conclusion of the conference, delegates issued what has come to be known as the Conway Hall Declaration on Untouchability, calling on all states where such practices were prevalent to introduce legislation to outlaw the practice and undertake programmes of education. “Untouchability is the most widespread, pernicious and intractable form of discrimination affecting the lives of millions of men and women and with a negative impact on the lives of untold millions of children and their potential for growth and development…yet many of the states concerned deny that such discrimination exists in their territories,” they urged. The initiative and also evidence of those who had suffered from abuse and discrimination attracted the attention of some legislators in Britain, particularly members of the House of Lords who were already debating issues around equality as the government sought to streamline and simplify Britain’s legislation on equality into a single act of Parliament, now the Equality Act 2010. Following a tough battle with the House of Commons, members of the House of Lords succeeded in bringing in a provision that stated that secondary legislation on this could be passed by a ministerial order. Following another heated political battle three years later, an amendment tabled by Lord Harries, a crossbench peer, required that the government “must by order… provide for caste to be an aspect of race”. Since then, the government has dragged its heels on the issue, highly divisive within the Indian community in Britain, finally announcing late last year that they would consult on the issue. “This will be an open consultation,” insisted Justine Greening, the Minister responsible, last year. However, the consultation has done little to quell concern about the issue. Campaigners who are pushing for the legislative protections to be introduced are fearful the consultation is a ploy to sweep the issue under the carpet amid heavy lobbying from religious groups. They point to the highly legalistic consultation document, which has made it opaque to many of those who want to contribute, and argue that the whole direction of the questioning is tilted in favour of pushing for a solution within existing legislation. A 2014 legal case, Chandhok and Anor v Tirkey, had suggested that caste discrimination could be considered unlawful under existing legislation but only under very particular circumstances, which the government has repeatedly referred to. Moreover they argue, there is already ample evidence of such discrimination taking place, dating back to a comprehensive study in 2010 by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, which identified evidence of caste discrimination in the workplace, in the provision of services and in education. They have also expressed concern about some of the tactics used by the anti-legislation lobby, largely comprising religious organisations, which have sought to shift the focus of the debate away from questions around whether or not discrimination takes place to accusations that the efforts to bring the legislation itself were reflective of colonial ambitions and entrenched racism against South Asian communities. “The legislation is part of a wider campaign conducted through EU institutions and UN human rights organs aimed at putting pressure on India to extend caste based reservations… to Christians also… Proponents hope that such interference in India’s internal affairs will augment the number of converts, a chief target of churches and Western governments,” wrote Prakash Shah, a reader at Queen Mary University of London in a blog posting for the London School of Economics.

A political hue

“Hindu organisations’ response to an international mobilisation of Dalits rights activism has brought the Indian Hindu nationalist agenda into U.K. politics including the frankly eccentric imagination of U.K. anti-caste discrimination as being all about driving Indian reservation policy and Christian religious conversion,” noted David Mosse, a professor of social anthropology, in a lecture last year. Indeed the message that protecting against caste discrimination could somehow do more harm than good and could be disrespectful of South Asian communities has impacted the tone of the government’s approach. The consultation document insists it wants to ensure measures do not “create or entrench any notion of caste consciousness or caste-based practices into British society, which may prove counterproductive or divisive”. The issue has perhaps unsurprisingly played out in the political arena: in the build-up to the 2015 general election, one Hindu organisation sought to urge traditionally Labour voters to switch their allegiances to the Conservatives, arguing voting for Labour by Hindus, Sikhs and Jains was akin to “turkeys voting for Christmas”. While the charitable organisation was forced to withdraw its statements, the fear that a party’s stance on the issue could alienate it from certain sections of the influential South Asian community has persisted. It is notable that the issue of caste was entirely absent from the Labour party’s election manifesto in June, with only the Liberal Democrats committing to supporting the introduction of legislation outright. Where things will go remains to be seen. With the government focussed on Brexit-related legislation, both sides are eager for change. While those against the legislation want reference to obligations relating to it removed, those who believe such practices are endemic within South Asian society in Britain are equally determined to ensure the long-standing legislative mandate is finally acted upon, even if it could require legal action to ensure it.

ii) The idea that used to be Bangalore

A city is more than a place to live, it embodies a dream and the possibilities of a dream. Sometimes a city acquires the status of a myth, becomes a character in a novel. Many great cities have been characters in novels. Moscow, Paris, London, Delhi have all shared the sense of being novelesque, capturing in their character a sense of hope, a sense of the future. Their decay signals in a sense a death of a world, a paradise lost. Bombay and Calcutta have smelt of that slow decay, a period where the city grows like a cancer, explodes like an epidemic corroding the dreams of millions of its migrants. Yet if one city showed hope in India, expressed its cosmopolitan dreams and its intellectual inventiveness, it was Bangalore. Bangalore was myth and metaphor for modern India, a flag we could wave in the global world. Yet today one senses the myth is dying. There is a sense of loss, a silence of mourning which no amount of political bluster and brand bravura can conceal. One senses that the myth of Bangalore as the cutting edge Indian city is dying. Myths are like signs that have to be read like symptoms by the shamans of the city. Today Bangalore is a desiccated myth. This essay is written as an almost futuristic plea asking for the renewal of the myth. Myth has to be restored symbolically. One needs an event that creates a new grammar, a new vision of storytelling.

Back to Visvesvaraya

Modern Bangalore as a creation myth goes back to the iconicity of one man, the dewan of development, the patriarch of Indian planning, M. Visvesvaraya. No technocrat is as much a part of folklore, subject to immediate recall and celebration as the ectomorphic Visvesvaraya. He conveyed a sense of hybridity, of being Indian and more, a man who believed that character building, dam building and nation building went together. His iconicity stands up to Gandhi. If one wrote, “industrialise and perish”, the other replied, “industrialise or perish”. Their contrasts were stark but each was home grown. Visvesvaraya was one of the great icons of modernity and his style, his integrity invoked the myth of Bangalore. His urge to create the motor car industry, his vision of planning, his ideas of dam building, his integrity were all the stuff of legend. He balanced in himself, the public and private, the national and vernacular, the scientific and the managerial. His life helped create the mythic Bangalore. The institutions established in the fifties and sixties, the aircraft and space industries, the biotechnology labs, supplemented the legend of the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) and Raman Research Institute. Bangalore was India’s premier science city and the scientific leadership of Satish Dhawan, Sivaraj Ramaseshan, Amulya Reddy, Roddam Narasimha nursed this image with care. They were outstanding scientists who had a wider vision of society. They were institution builders who conveyed the idea that this city worked and innovated, yet there was a complementarity we must recognise. Bangalore was not only a modern city, a haven for science. It was also the seat of a great creative imagination, where a Bangalorean could be as proud of Kannada literature as of Bangalore’s science. The vernacular and the cosmopolitan combined in a miraculous way in the lives of Shivaram Karanth, A.K. Ramanujan, U.R. Ananthamurthy and others. It was a world where ‘Hindustan’ aircraft and the literary world of Hegudu, with its visions of theatre, could combine creatively. There was no sense of dualism because dualism had become dialectic, a dizzy list of creative combinations. Anchoring all this were shrewd politicians like Devaraj Urs and Ramakrishna Hegde, who made electoral democracy a part of Bangalore’s creativity. Bangalore was modern, hopeful, liveable, scientific, local, cosmopolitan, a retired person’s dream and a professional’s first choice. IT added to the lustre and created the myth of Bangalore as India’s Silicon Valley. Firms like Infosys attracted other firms and Bangalore had its new legends of technocracy and entrepreneurship in N.R. Narayana Murthy, Nandan Nilekani and in Biocon’s Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw. Yet it was IT as it tended to outgrow itself that created the first cracks in the myth.

Onward to IT

IT reasserted the dualism between science and technology and created a tension between playful freedom and technological productivity. A C.V. Raman in his heyday could assert that he was more interested in the properties of a diamond than worry about its industrial uses. But decades later, Mr. Narayana Murthy was challenging IISc to name one its inventions that had made a difference. The technocrat, the manager and the entrepreneur were edging out a more cosmopolitan world of science. Earlier, the pursuit of science was seen as a public good, an attempt to create a public culture. Today scientific research without a technological catchment was seen as unproductive. What Narayana Murthy mounted as a challenge was read as obvious by the Modi government which wanted Big Science to be a money spinning enterprise, what in business folklore was called a paisa vasool regime. Worse, IT became cocky, overconfident about its powers convinced that what was good for IT should be good for Bangalore. It tried to substitute technocratic ideas for the creativity of politics. There was a managerial hubris at the centre of it, symptomised in the tragedy of the Aadhaar card, which not only created a split between technocracy and politics but a fissure between the formal and informal economy destroying a sense of the openness and availability of citizenship, confusing identity with identification. The halo around such half-thought-out projects ate into the imagination of democracy, where those who battle for the Right to Information now struggled against the hubris of the Aadhaar card. Suddenly the wisdom of the whole seemed less than the creativity of the parts. IT lacked the wisdom of institutions like IISc which were nursed by leaders who had a sense of the state, the polity, the people.

Civic issues, civil society

Democratic politics too has suffered as the city faces a host of civic problems. But here one senses the sadness of civil society and the opening breach between the vernacular and cosmopolitan styles. The Karnataka of today is becoming more local and parochial in its manifestations. There is a desperate need for rethinking the imagination of Bangalore as a city. Today’s protest movements are a gasp of survival than a creative attempt to heal the polity. One has to rework the alchemy, the grammar of the myth that made Bangalore, Bengaluru. The imagination of the city as diverse, open, wise to the ways of the world needs to be reworked and mere technocratic projects cannot be the quick fix for the problem. They, in fact, might be the source of the problem. Oddly, the death of Gauri Lankesh, and the responses, showed that a lot of civil society is sheer nostalgia. It triggered this essay and its list of questions. How does a city revive its dynamism which goes beyond the hype of start-ups? Bangalore has to come up with answers because it embodied a sense of hope of what India could be and should be. The city has to desperately reinvent itself because the idea of India needs an idea of a re-inventive Bengaluru.


WORDS/ VOCABULARY:

1) Substantial

Meaning: concerning the essentials of something.

Example: There was substantial agreement on changing policies.

Synonyms: Fundamental, Essential

2) Raging

Meaning: Continuing with great force or intensity.

Example: The stream could become a raging torrent in wet weather.

Synonyms: Stormy, Violent

Antonyms: Calm

3) Prevalent

Meaning: Widespread in a particular area or at a particular time.

Example: The social ills prevalent in society today.

Synonyms: Widespread, Prevailing

Antonyms: Uncommon, Rare

4) Pernicious

Meaning: Having a harmful effect, especially in a gradual or subtle way.

Example: The pernicious influences of the mass media.

Synonyms: Harmful, Damaging

Antonyms: Beneficial, Benign

5) Crossbench peer

Meaning: A crossbencher is an independent or minor party member of some legislatures, such as the British House of Lords and in the Parliament of Australia.

6) Divisive

Meaning: Tending to cause disagreement or hostility between people.

Example: The highly divisive issue of abortion.

Synonyms: Isolating, Schismatic

Antonyms: Unifying

7) Quell

Meaning: Put an end to (a rebellion or other disorder), typically by the use of force.

Example: Extra police were called to quell the disturbance.

Synonyms: End, Finish

Antonyms: Prompt

8) Ploy

Meaning: A cunning plan or action designed to turn a situation to one’s own advantage.

Example: The president has dismissed the referendum as a ploy to buy time.

9) Amid

Meaning: Surrounded by; in the middle of.

Example: Our dream home, set amid magnificent rolling countryside.

Synonyms: Among, Between

10) Lobbying

Meaning: Seek to influence (a legislator) on an issue.

Example: They insist on their right to lobby Congress.

Synonyms: Importune, Persuade

11) Opaque

Meaning: (especially of language) hard or impossible to understand.

Example: Technical jargon that was opaque to her.

Synonyms: Obscure, Unclear

Antonyms: Limpid, clear

12) Entrenched

Meaning: Establish (an attitude, habit, or belief) so firmly that change is very difficult or unlikely.

Example: Ageism is entrenched in our society.

Synonyms: Establish, settle

Antonyms: Dislodge, Superficial

13) Hue

Meaning: Character or aspect.

Example: Men of all political hues submerged their feuds.

Synonyms: Kind, sort

14) Mobilisation

Meaning: The action of organizing and encouraging a group of people to take collective action in pursuit of a particular objective.

Example: Mobilization of the working class against big business.

15) Eccentric

Meaning: (of a person or their behaviour) unconventional and slightly strange.

Example: He noted her eccentric appearance.

Synonyms: Unconventional, Uncommon

Antonyms: Ordinary, Conventional

16) Allegiances

Meaning: Loyalty or commitment to a superior or to a group or cause.

Example: Those wishing to receive citizenship must swear allegiance to the republic.

Synonyms: Loyalty, Faithfulness

Antonyms: disloyalty, Treachery

17) Alienate

Meaning: Make (someone) feel isolated or estranged.

Example: The association does not wish to alienate its members.

Synonyms: Estrange, Isolate

Antonyms: Unite

18) Persisted

Meaning: Continue to exist; be prolonged.

Example: If the symptoms persist for more than a few days, then contact your doctor.

Synonyms: Continue, Hold

19) Manifesto

Meaning: A public declaration of policy and aims, especially one issued before an election by a political party or candidate.

Example: He may fudge key issues in the Labour manifesto.

Synonyms: Platform, Declaration

20) Long-standing

Meaning: Having existed or continued for a long time.

Example: A long-standing tradition.

Synonyms: Well established, Long established

Antonyms:  New, Recent

21) Embodies

Meaning: Be an expression of or give a tangible or visible form to (an idea, quality, or feeling).

Example: A national team that embodies competitive spirit and skill.

Synonyms: Personify, Incorporate

22) Corroding

Meaning: Destroy or weaken (something) gradually.

Example: The self-centred climate corrodes ideals and concerns about social justice.

Synonyms: Erode, Abrade

23) Inventiveness

Meaning: The quality of being inventive; creativity.

Example: The inventiveness of the staging.

Synonyms: Creativity, Originality

Antonyms: Unoriginality, Unimaginativeness

24) Metaphor

Meaning: A thing regarded as representative or symbolic of something else.

Example: The amounts of money being lost by the company were enough to make it a metaphor for an industry that was teetering.

25) Bravura

Meaning: Great technical skill and brilliance shown in a performance or activity.

Example: The recital ended with a blazing display of bravura.

Synonyms: Virtuoso, Magnificent

26) Conceal

Meaning: Prevent (something) from being known; keep secret.

Example: They were at great pains to conceal that information from the public.

Synonyms: Hide, Disguise

Antonyms: Show, Disclose

27) Desiccated

Meaning: Lacking interest, passion, or energy.

Example: A desiccated history of ideas.

28) Futuristic

Meaning: (of a film or book) set in the future, typically in a world of advanced or menacing technology.

Example: His blackly comic futuristic fantasy.

29) Iconicity

Meaning: Iconicity is a relationship of resemblance or similarity between the two aspects of a sign.

30) Folklore

Meaning: The traditional beliefs, customs, and stories of a community, passed through the generations by word of mouth.

Example: Hollywood folklore

Synonyms: Mythology, Lore

31) Perish

Meaning: Suffer complete ruin or destruction.

Example: Must these noble hopes perish so soon.

Synonyms: Disappear, Vanish

Antonyms: Live, Survive

32) Vernacular

Meaning: The language or dialect spoken by the ordinary people of a country or region.

Example: He wrote in the vernacular to reach a larger audience.

Synonyms: Slang, Idiom

Antonyms: formal language

33) Complementarity

Meaning: A relationship or situation in which two or more different things improve or emphasize each other’s qualities.

Example: A culture based on the complementarity of men and women.

34) Anchoring

Meaning: Provide with a firm basis or foundation.

Example: It is important that policy be anchored to some acceptable theoretical basis.

35) Shrewd

Meaning: Having or showing sharp powers of judgement.

Example: She was shrewd enough to guess the motive behind his gesture.

Synonyms: Astute, sharp-witted

Antonyms: Stupid, Unwise

36) Onward

Meaning: (of a journey) continuing or moving forward.

Example: Informing passengers where to change for their onward journey.

37) Regime

Meaning: A system or ordered way of doing things.

Example: Detention centres with a very tough physical regime.

Synonyms: System, Arrangement

38) Fissure

Meaning: A state of incompatibility or disagreement.

Example: A fissure between philosophy and reality.

39) Alchemy

Meaning: A seemingly magical process of transformation, creation, or combination.

Example: Finding the person who’s right for you requires a very subtle alchemy.

40) Dynamism

Meaning: The quality of being dynamic and positive in attitude.

Example: He was known for his dynamism and strong views.

Synonyms: Energy, Spirit

41) Desperately

Meaning: In a way that shows despair; Used to emphasize the extreme degree of something.

Example: He looked around desperately.

Synonyms: Seriously, Gravely

Antonyms: Slightly

 


 

 

 

 

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