ICCR to expand Indian cultural promotion across the globe

By Fakir Hassen, IANS,

Chennai : The Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) has been given an expanded budget to promote centres overseas in order to popularise aspects of Indian culture, according to parliamentarian Kanimozhi Karunanidhi.

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Kanimozhi was chairing a panel discussion on the preservation of language and culture at the annual Pravasi Bharatiya Divas meeting here Friday.

“But we have to take into consideration what people want there, not just thrust on them one language and say that that is India,” she added.

P.C. Alexander, former governor of Maharashthra, lauded the Indian diaspora as he distinguished between survival of language and culture. “People living outside India maintain Indian culture better than those of us who live in the country.

“There is no problem of retaining culture among Pravasis, although they have been away from their mother country for generations. They have understood the true meaning of the word culture. The real problem is in language.”

K. Shanmugan, minister of law and second minister for home affairs in Singapore; as well as Rajesh Chandra, vice chancellor of the University of South Pacific in Fiji, shared their countries’ visions of ensuring the survival of Indian languages.

“It’s an issue for policy makers at the macro level and parents at micro levels,” Shanmugan said as he explained how Singapore had opted to create national integration between the Chinese, Indian and Malay communities and viewed this diversity as a strength.

“We take great pains to ensure that each group maintains its ethnicity and culture through compulsory languages such as Tamil at schools. More and more young Singaporeans are seeing the rationale for preserving their heritage.”

Chandra said Hindi was required to be taught alongside English at primary and secondary schools in Fiji. “Indian languages and culture are in good shape in Fiji, and can be seen as a model and inspiration for the diaspora.”

The Hindu’s Editor-in-Chief N. Ram called for the revival of centres of excellence in literature and languages, not necessarily in India, to break the myth of Indian culture being about dance and music only.

South African community leader T.P. Naidoo bolstered this view saying: “We need the establishment of a worldwide forum for the promotion and preservation of Indian culture in the diaspora, with its own economic power base free from political influence.”