The Times of India is fast becoming one of my favorite papers. Even the most serious stories are written in a loose, conversational style; when they can’t get a photographer out to an event, like a gang fight or a city council meeting, in time, they have the cartoonist provide a light hearted imagination of the scene; and when the society page publishes photos of the gliterati out at some shiny new lounge, they don’t tell you the name of the venue our its location, leaving you to simply envy the better heeled without providing the opportunity to actually rub shoulders with them. Here are some headlines from yesterday’s paper, and a quick summary of the stories behind them, as best as I can work out.
This article is accompanied by a picture of a police officer getting ready to beat the hell out of a kid who is cowering and looking directly at the camera, which seems to capture what’s going on in the capital pretty well. Evidently, the Indian Supreme Court ruled that Delhi had to crack down on unlicensed businesses. So the city started shutting down, or ‘sealing,’ many businesses, largely in poorer residential neighborhoods. This lead to riots against the police, who claim they couldn’t control the protests with tear gas and water cannons, so they opened fire on the crowd with live ammunition, killing at least three, including one minor, as of press time.
These headlines are literally side by side on this morning’s Bangalore addition. The ‘fever convulsing’ in Delhi is in fact a major set of riots and police-on-citizen violence, which might make you think that the ‘Panic in schools’ could be nothing less than total war in the hallways of Bangalore’s educational institutions. Fortunately, it is nothing quite so severe, but it is a strange and troubling story none the less. From what I can gather, the state’s education minister is angry that many local schools are teaching too much English. That is a problem, presumably, because any instruction of or in English comes at the expense of of instruction of or in Kannada, the local language which the state goes to great lengths to preserve. The remedy to this perceived problem from the education ministry is to shut down these schools, several hundred at least, and presumably move the students to other schools where the instruction will focus more on Kannada. The ‘panic’ is over where, exactly, all these students and teachers are to go and whether the shutterings are really going to happen or whether it’s just a political threat to bring the school Principals in line with the central authority. Compounding the problem is the fact that these are state schools serving the children of the poor, and often illiterate, who want their children to receive instruction in English so that they might find better lives, but who are too politically disenfranchised to do anything about it.