BPF chief Hagrama Mahilary and Himanta Biswa Sarma.

Language is a marvel. It is the art of naming and communicating. Its fundamentals are nouns and verbs. It is a reflection of reality and as well as an interpretative tool. It expresses our emotions and conveys our intentions. “Emotions” and “intentions” are serious things. One is closely related to the other.

“Emotion” indicates a state and the “intention” means agency. With the passage of time, things have so changed that it has now become difficult to trace the original objectives of language. Then, there are the adjectives.

The ubiquitous adjectives can create havoc in the use of a language. Which are the most prominent fields where the use of language is most dubious? Sorry, it is not literature that is entirely a subjective enterprise. It is undoubtedly in the field of corporate advertising and politics.

Nowhere language is so misused as in the field of politics by almost all the present generation of politicians today. Politics is deeply connected with power. There have been detailed studies on connections of politics with media and other cultural components. Culture industries are an essential part of corporates and globalization.

Noam Chomsky has shown how consent is manufactured. There was a great essay titled “Cultural Imperialism in Late 20th Century” by James Petras published in 1994 in the Economic and Political Weekly.

These and many such studies have broadly outlined the ideological and theoretical frameworks of appropriating and misusing language for coercive political purposes.

Let us now see how we have been witnessing the misuse of language in the spectacle of political debates at the moment. We have been witnessing a bizarre thing in Assam’s politics now. BPF is a part of the NDA government in Assam. But have you seen the verbal duel between BJP leader and minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and BPF chief Hagrama Mahilary?

Minister Sarma is saying that BJP’s alliance with BPF will end when this government completes its tenure in 2021. But when both the BJP and BPF are engaged in a fierce electoral battle against each other in the BTR, they are very much in the alliance.

The question is can a very senior cabinet minister bring a serious allegation of corruption against its alliance partner and still the alliance can work perfectly? Is it not against the cabinet system of working? But, nothing is happening. Sarma is saying all sorts of things against the BTC chief and Mahilary is doing the same. But still, the alliance between them is intact.

And see the language each one is using against the other. When people in power say certain things publicly and still nobody says anything against him or her or what they say sort of accepted publicly that gives credence to their utterances.

This ‘free for all’ kind of a situation is dangerous. It is dangerous in the sense that it affects the political etiquette and norms and functioning of parliamentary democracy and rule of law. Though some may view it lightly and consider it as an entertainment enterprise. But we pay a price for their recklessness. By saying such things publicly they loosen the existing moral standard in politics.

Once public credence is earned that becomes the norm. That allows politicians to indulge in anything to remain in power. That is what we have been witnessing in Indian politics of late. We should remember that the politicians do all such things with a design. They want to break all barriers and norms in politics and public life so that they could stay in power.

One can easily understand how that will affect the common man when political debates or for that matter politics denigrate to such a level. That paves the path of political anarchy.

That is why at the beginning of this piece we mentioned the ideological and theoretical frameworks of appropriating and misusing language. Such political parlance not only encourages the politics of dominance it also belittles politics itself which is so vital for protecting the rights of the common man.

There is also a sober version of it. In this regard, we can refer to what Sarma and the AASU said about former chief minister Tarun Gogoi. Sarma paid a glowing tribute to his erstwhile political patron after his death. It was good that he tried to make an unbiased appraisal of Gogoi. But the sad thing is we still remember how he lampooned and criticized Gogoi till the other day.

Forget about Sarma what the ASSU leadership said about Gogoi was quite interesting. They admitted that the veteran Congress leader ushered in an era of peace and normality in Assam and paved the way for the state’s development. Most importantly they said that he used democratic means to resolve any contentious issue and his approach was always humane.

What could be a better tribute to the memory of the departed leader than this?  But how did the ASSU treat Gogoi when he was alive? No, they didn’t treat him charitably. Why was it? Or were they all motivated earlier?

Here I just want to mention one thing. If we read Gandhi we shall know how careful he was in his use of words–spoken or written. He was criticized for not using harsh words against his political adversaries. But he was truthful in his use of language. He always treated his opponents with utmost civility and honor. That was his strength and beauty.

Paresh Malakar

Paresh Malakar is a commentator based in Guwahati. He can be reached at: malakarparesh@gmail.com