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Urdu Politics (fwd)

Editorial: India Today, October 31, 1994

   The ham-handed way in which the Congress(I), the ruling party in Karnataka,
decided to suddenly include a half hour bulletin in Urdu in a state - and a
region - which has a bloody record of reacting with chauvinstic violence to
anything resembling linguistic impositions, had a predictable result: riots,
killing, mayhem.

   Even the political considerations behind the move were inane. The assumption
that this would appeal to Karnataka's 11% Muslims, who incidently are Kannada
speaking, and influence them to vote for the Congress(I) in November's assembly
elections was ludicrous. There was no demand from Muslims for including an
Urdu bulletin on the state's TV. And in any case, to assume that Muslims would
vote for the Congress(I) herd-like because of the inclusion of a half-hour
bulletin is not only an insult to their intelligence but also the demonstration
of a communal mindset that equates Urdu with a religion. And to stoke such
passions at a time when easily-provoked Kannadiga sentiments (as witnessed
during the Cauvery riots) are already running high against "intruders" such as
the Tamils, who comprise 25% of Bangalore's population, was sheer folly.

   But the Congress(I) simply refuses to learn from its past mistakes. Every
time it has tried to please somebody with blatant communal posturing under a
secular garb, it has ended up offending practically everybody, with one event
snowballing into the next, and continually pressing the party into corners
that it finds increasingly dificult to get out of.

   In 1986, the Congress(I) angered both moderate Muslims and Hindus when it
backtracked on the Shah Bano judgement. Then it angered Muslims with the
cynically-timed Ayodhya shilanyas in November 1989. With its Ayodhya stand in
1992, it ended up alienating both Muslims and Hindus. One could argue that the
Congress(I) perhaps has a tougher job than most parties - its secular stand
and avowed middle-of-the-road principles means that it has to please everyone,
everywhere, unlike, say, the BJP, the BSP or Muslim fundamentalists who aim to
please only a particular group.

   But every time the Congress(I) dangles an ill thoughtout overture as a
communal carrot, it ends up doing three things. One: it inevitably creates a
backlash. Two: it backtracks, making the party look weak. And three: it ends
up feeding the same forces it started out to conquer.

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