Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Eleven Jinping

A few days ago, i came across a news-item saying that Door Darshan, India's public television channel, had dismissed an English newsreader for mispronouncing the name of the Chinese President who was on an official visit to India. The name of the Chinese President is Xi Jinping. She mistook 'Xi' as the Roman number XI, presumably thinking that there was a small mistake in punctuation and read the name as 'Eleven Jinping'. She must have presumed that like King George VI or Queen Elizabeth II, he must be the eleventh ruler with the same name.

Poor lady! News readers are trained to pronounce foreign names correctly but why and how this happened, can be a matter of conjecture. However i feel, the guilt lies not in her but in the English language. Human beings use about 50 sounds to express themselves in words but the English alphabet has only 26 letters to express them. Indian languages are much better in this aspect. The Odia alphabet has 49 letters. The faux pas of the lady might not have happened, were she reading the news in an Indian language. 

This weakness of English language was highlighted by George Bernard Shaw who coined the word 'ghoti' and said that it could be read as 'fish'- 'gh' as in 'rough', 'o' as in 'women' and 'ti' as in 'nation'!

Remember my post 'Ghoti as Fish' dated 14.10.2010?


The Indian Prime Minister's current visit to the U S of A has brought into circulation a new acronym: ABCDEFGHI - American-Born-Confused-Desi-Emigrated-From-Gujarat-with a House in India.  

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Not a Surgeon's Scalpel but a Butcher's Hatchet

It is said that in 1947 India was partitioned and the new State of Pakistan, comprising two wings – West and East – was created by the departing British Rulers by using not a doctor’s scalpel but a butcher’s knife. 

British barrister Sir Cyril Radcliffe, who was given the responsibility of drawing the boundaries between the independent States of India and Pakistan, arrived in British India for the first time on July 8, 1947. He had exactly five weeks to draw the borders. He chaired two boundary commissions, one for Punjab and one for Bengal.

Here is a 1966-poem on Indian Partition of 1947 by the Anglo-American poet W H Auden (1907-1973):

Unbiased at least he was when he arrived on his mission,
Having never set eyes on this land he was called to partition
Between two peoples fanatically at odds,
With their different diets and incompatible gods.

'Time,' they had briefed him in London, 'is short. It's too late
For mutual reconciliation or rational debate:
The only solution now lies in separation.

The Viceroy thinks, as you will see from his letter,
That the less you are seen in his company the better,
So we've arranged to provide you with other accommodation.
We can give you four judges, two Moslem and two Hindu,
To consult with, but the final decision must rest with you.'

Shut up in a lonely mansion, with police night and day
Patrolling the gardens to keep assassins away,
He got down to work, to the task of settling the fate
Of millions. The maps at his disposal were out of date
And the Census Returns almost certainly incorrect,
But there was no time to check them, no time to inspect
Contested areas. The weather was frightfully hot,
And a bout of dysentery kept him constantly on the trot,
But in seven weeks it was done, the frontiers decided,
A continent for better or worse divided.

The last British Viceroy Mountbatten had asked Radcliffe to split the country along Muslim and Hindu lines and not to bother about the military angle – the artificial boundaries were not expected to be indefensible anyway.

There were two Commissions both headed by Mountbatten. Each Commission had two members nominated by Congress Party and 2 nominated by Muslim League. Radcliffe could consult them but the final decision was to be his. The members in the Bengal Boundary Commission were C C Bishwas, B K Mukherjee, S A Rahman and Abu Salem Mohammad. The Punjab Commission had Mehar Chand Mahajan, Teja Singh, Din Mohammad and Mohammad Munir. All of them were Judges of High Courts. There were sharp differences among the members regarding boundaries.

Unlike the Western border whose contour was relatively linear, the Eastern boundary proved to be horribly complex. The Partition carved out 197 so-called enclaves in India and East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). It left 123 Indian enclaves inside East Pakistan and 74 Pakistani enclaves inside India. Each enclave became an orphan; neither India nor Pakistan could provide education, water, electricity or any other amenity to their territories inside the other country.   
The Reports were ready by the 9th and the 12th August. However, to create a perceptual distance between the independence of India and Pakistan and the riots that preceded and followed – and especially to deflect blame to the British for the riots – Mountbatten postponed publication of the Radcliffe Award to the 17th August, 1947. Pakistan came to existence on the 14th August and India became independent on 15th August. For these 3 and 2 days, India and Pakistan were like conjoined twins. With borders undefined, some towns raised the flags of both India and Pakistan!

These conjoined twins, joined together till then as parts of a single body, were separated as if by using a butcher's knife. As a result, there was a lot of blood-shed. Horrified by the riots in which more that 1 million people died and more than 12 million people moved one way or the other across the border, Radcliffe burned all the related papers with him and refused to accept his remuneration of Rs 40,000 for his labours. He left for Britain on the 15th August. 

Gandhiji never accepted partition as he was for Hind-Muslim unity. On the 15th August, 1947, he was fasting at Calcutta (now Kolkata) to stop the riots and killings and did not participate in the celebrations for independence. 

Incidentally, a question arises as to why the 15th August was chosen for Indian independence. One version is that Mountbatten considered it as 'Lucky Day' for him because, exactly two years before, on the 15th August, 1945, the Japanese Army had surrendered before him, as the Commander of Allied Forces, during World War II.    

India-China Border

Radcliffe also drew India's border with China. China was in complete turmoil at that time due to the Communist revolution and it was not clear who was in control. The colonial Govt. of India while leaving India, did  not consult China on the border with India. Much earlier, in 1914 at a meeting in Shimla, the British had got China and Tibet agree on their border. The British and Tibetans signed on this agreement but the Chinese representatives said they would consult their Emperor and come back. They never came back. Sir Henry McMahon, British Foreign Secretary, was the chief negotiator from the British side. The line drawn in this agreement is called McMahon Line. In World War II, the world turned upside down;  the British hurried to leave India. The British authorities consulted the old maps (which imperial China had not signed) and drew India-China border. 

The armies of Mao and Chiang Kai Shek were in fierce internal struggle which ended in Mao's army taking control of mainland China and Chiang Kai Shek's forces retreating to Taiwan in 1949. China says that it never accepted the border drawn by the British and claims India's Arunachal Pradesh as its territory. Since 1962, China has been occupying Aksai Chin and some Areas in Kashmir. Pakistan has handed over some areas of Pakistani-occupied Kashmir (POK) to China. So the border dispute between India and China continues.  


To solve the problems of enclaves, the Prime Ministers of India and Bangladesh, Indira Gandhi and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman signed an agreement in 1974 to exchange them, giving an option to the residents to stay there or to migrate to the other country. Its implementation required amendment to the Constitution. The Opposition Parties in India vehemently opposed it as it meant that India would be a net loser in the area of territories to be exchanged. Hence the implementation hangs in air even now. The Bharatiya Janata Party, which opposed it while in Opposition, is now supporting it after coming to power in May, 2014. It is hoped the Agreement will be finally implemented shortly bringing to end long and vexed problem. 

Saturday, 6 September 2014

One Plus One Equals Eleven

All of us know that unity is strength. When two persons join as a team, their combined output exceeds the total output of the two working separately.

 A group need not be a team. In team-work, all the members have to be inspired by one goal. The performance of each member depends on the contribution of each of other members. The faculty of a university is not a team; the group of players in the game of football is a team. Even if the forward players play very well, if the goal-keeper’s contribution is weak, the team will lose.

 In team-work, one plus one makes three or more. Here is a graphic demonstration:

We can learn this by observing ants. I came across a piece by Mukul Sharma in The Economic Times of 28.08.2014 referring to such wonderful acts by ants.  We must have noticed how ants in a group get close to each other on water and float away to safety. Fire ants fashion a raft made of themselves.  This ‘raft’ can, not only float but carry up to a million of other ants are over it!

Army ants can build bridges, made of themselves, to move from one tree to another. At the outset, some of them hold on to each other and hang from a branch like a small curtain. They wait for wind to waft this ‘curtain’ to touch a branch of the other tree. The ants at the loose end grab a branch of the other tree and thus a ‘bridge’ is formed. The other ants walk on this bridge to move to the other tree!

The interesting point here is that no individual ant knows what is happening but jointly, they make it happen!

So let us be a team!