Two of my favorite actors have confronted each other. Hindi film action hero Ajay Devgn is concerned about rashtrabhasha, while Kannada actor-producer Kichha Sudeep is worried about his own mother tongue. Not only just languages, but hijab, niqab, tilak, saffron, and even our food, which have been part of Hindustani tehzeeb for centuries, are either embroiled in controversy or have become the cause of controversy. Why are we so divided and dispersed in the 21st Century, when the world dreams of establishing a human colony in space?
Let’s begin with Maharashtra. Raj Thackeray, who is currently undergoing a political exile, raised the issue of Azaan versus Hanuman Chalisa. Independent MP Navneet Rana, who came to politics from the film industry, joined the controversy before even Thackeray could exploit it. She stated that she would go to Matoshree with her supporters and recite the Hanuman Chalisa there. Matoshree is not only the ancestral home of chief minister Uddhav Thackeray, but it also holds a pilgrimage-like significance for Shiv Sainiks. A group of Shiv Sainiks arrived at the home of Navneet and her husband Ravi Rana, a state legislator, and began shouting slogans. The Ranas were arrested on charges of sedition. Was there anything treasonous in their politics? Another question in this controversy is why, if the honorable MP was required to read Hanuman Chalisa, she chose Matoshree for this.
We are at an unfortunate time when the opposing camps are neither entirely true nor entirely false. As a result, every administrative action and announcement is surrounded by unnecessary controversies. Allow me to give you an example. When the ‘Anti Encroachment Squad’ arrived at Delhi’s Jahangirpuri, it was reported as if a bulldozer of a ‘Hindu government’ had reached there to demolish the mosque. However, encroachments by Hindus were also removed. The anti-encroachment campaign in the capital is still ongoing.
Similarly, resentment erupted after three temples in Rajasthan’s Alwar were bulldozed. The Karauli riots in Rajasthan had already heated up the atmosphere, and this incident added fuel to the fire.
As usual, the main issue was buried in the midst of the uproar: how did the government carry out its duties? Why weren’t the necessary precautions taken? May be it happened because elections are coming up in Karnataka and Rajasthan next year. Everyone understands that the tandoor of religion, caste, and language is ideal for baking political bread. Leaders in Rajasthan have been chanting the tune of a BJP vs. Congress battle. Now, leaders in Karnataka have begun chanting the tune of Kichha Sudeep as well. The focus of the next few days will be on party spokespersons, social figures, and actors who use their talents to spread misery. Our politicians should consider the image of the country they are projecting to the rest of the world.
Events of the last few weeks have proven that India has much to be proud of. What does the fact that the world’s top leaders have been arriving in New Delhi since the Russia-Ukraine war show? The entire world is looking to us with hope. This is the first time that Indian external affairs minister S. Jaishankar has been seen publicly using some harsh words against the European Union, the UK and the US. India is unquestionably becoming a strong country under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership. The tone of the US, which was previously groaning and bullying, has shifted. The adoring language used by the Prime Minister of the UK in New Delhi is quite different from previous occasions. Only in April did the top leaders of the three countries return after circumambulating New Delhi.
Furthermore, despite covid and the war in Ukraine, India’s growth rate is expected to be around 8% in FY23, according to the World Bank’s assessment. Its forecast has been reduced by 0.7 percentage points, but even then, our country remains at the top of the list of fastest-growing economies. The entire world is changing its perception of us; when will we change our way? Keep in mind that those who changed themselves are bringing honor to their country around the world.
Take a look at the list of Fortune-500 category companies. There are numerous corporations where people of Indian origin serve as CEOs. In the UK, finance minister Rishi Sunak is tipped to be the next Prime Minister, while Kamala Harris, who has Indian ancestors, is the US vice president. When will we Indians, who go out and make things, learn to care for and protect our home turf?
(Shashi Shekhar is editor-in-chief, Hindustan. The views expressed are personal.)