Tuesday, July 30, 2013
THE LANGUAGE ISSUE
“Knowledge acquired out of English is not harmful but the Anglicization penetrated into the youth is dangerous”, said BJP chief Rajnath Singh as he bemoaned the system of education introduced by the British in India eroding our cultural values and stymieing the growth of Sanskrit in the Country. The ToI report of this news on July 20th, 2013 averred that it was not in keeping with the commitment to “modern social order and dynamic growth” BJP projected. Rational prejudice – the kind of hostility towards certain ideas rooted in a well-defined ideology is very much in display in the newspaper report.
“All that was good and living within us was made, shaped and quickened by…British rule” Nirad C Chaudhuri, the brilliant though controversial writer had opined. Nradbabu, however, found that the anglicised upper-middle class leadership of the ruling Congress party “weak in character, mediocre in intellectual ability, and totally lacking idealism and public spirit”. I am sure those who run the ToI News Network do not want to share that view!
But then there was nothing contrarian in the BJP chef’s opinion. In fact it was something which every second politician, social scientist, educationist and economist in this country has been airing since Independence. Mulayam Singh Yadav had always vowed to work against the use of English in education and even computers and hopes that abolition of "expensive education in English" would create a level playing field for all and less use of computers would generate jobs. The Samajwadi Party is a supporter of the UPA Government, the harbinger of “dynamic growth” in India. The Communists had opposed computers for 25 years!
During the Freedom struggle, most stalwarts of the Independence movement had asserted that free India that is Bharat will have a National Language of its own, and experiment with the educational system Gandhiji envisioned (Nai Talim - Basic Education) and not Macaulay’s system prevalent in the British India. In an interview Gandhiji had said: “To give millions knowledge of English is to enslave them. The foundation that Macaulay laid of education has enslaved us.” In his view, the schools and colleges were only factories for turning out clerks for British Government. He foresaw that in such an educational system Indian children would be alienated from their cultural template and 'career-based thinking' would become dominant. That is what eventually happened! The products of the high-voltage English-medium Convent education come out as arrogant, self-seeking, and self-serving brats who visibly lacked the proverbial Indian tolerance of oddities and broadness of sympathy. I remember somebody writing that English is less of a language than an operating system like Windows. S/He also pointed out that speaking and writing good English ensures 300% higher employment outcomes for entry-level jobs! S/He was not indeed arguing against mother tongues, but presenting a case for being multilingual. Point taken.
It may be relevant to add here that while the Gandhian Basic system was running, it was reported that compared to the English Medium Schools, the children in Basic Schools were more active, cheerful, self-reliant, with well-developed power of self-expression. They were found to be acquiring habits of co-operative work and social prejudices were breaking down.
An honest review of the statements of even the ruling elite of the Nehruvian era and thereafter too will reveal that this was a kind of collective anxiety of the nation – that the uncontrolled invasion by the Western civilization would engulf our cherished values.
The Father of our Nation said once: “I am and I have been a determined opponent of modern civilization. I want you to turn your eyes today upon what is going on in Europe and if you have come to the conclusion that Europe is today groaning under the heels of modern civilization, then you and your elders will have to think twice before you can emulate that civilization in our Motherland. But I have been told: "How can we help it, seeing that our rulers bring that culture to our Motherland?" Do not make any mistake about it at all. I do not for one moment believe that it is for any rulers to bring that culture to you unless you are prepared to accept it, and if it be that the rulers bring that culture before us, I think that we have forces within ourselves to enable us to reject that culture.”(Speeches and Writings of Mahatma Gandhi, pp. 312, 313; 27-4-15) He continues elsewhere: “Of all the superstitions that affect India, none is so great as that a knowledge of the English language is necessary for imbibing ideas of liberty, and developing accuracy of thought.”
Gandhiji’s warnings against the British Education system were prophetic. The educational system his “truant and errant” political disciple allowed to run in India was a continuation of the British one. The results are for everyone to see: It made them see western education as superior and destroyed the pride they in their own languages and culture. Perhaps that is what makes the English language and the British sysstem of education dear to so-called liberal-Left combine who have largely abandoned connections with the nation’s deeper meaning system. Macaulay had openly claimed that the major goal of his system of education was disintegration of the coherent Hindu social ethos…Eventually English education, particularly imparted by the Convents, taught Indians self-contempt. The syllabi and the teaching persuaded native Indians the ideals of Western civilization, and made them despise every other, particularly their own. Particularly, the political left has by and large abandoned Indian history, tradition, and culture, perhaps in pursuit of their lopsided agenda for “fundamentally transforming Indian society”.
Reporting the discovery of several Urdu Gazals Veer Savarkar wrote during his 11-year incarceration in the Andaman Jail, the ToI reporter couldn’t withhold her ‘view’: ….”there is much surprise that Savarkar has written in fluent Urdu, a language considered unlikely for the champion of political Hindutva.” Urdu, was indeed the socio-administrative requirement of Muslim conquerors who plundered, pillaged and looted before deciding to settle down around Delhi. Urdu drew its vocabulary mostly from Turkish, Persian and Arabic. While Persian was the official language of Mughals, it was the British who made Urdu the lingua franca in northern India since 1837. Naturally, the Hindu elite too chose to learn and speak Urdu along with the Muslims then. It is said however, that linguistic supremacy of Urdu, a rootless wonder, imposed over regional languages became a permanent source of irritant for the Hindus. The founder of Aligarh Muslim University, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, was so obsessed with Urdu, that he projected it as a symbol of Muslim domination over the cultural and linguistic identity of India. Savarkar was not against Urdu as a language, but as a symbol of this kind. After the establishment of Pakistan, Urdu was declared as the language of “100 million Muslims”. In hostile symbiosis with this attitude Hindu nationalist began to move towards Sanskritised Hindi which the South Indians happen to grasp easily too. When the Indian Muslim League and all the Communal Muslims speak against our National Language and support Urdu, and Communists and the so-called liberal-Left politicians back them, it becomes difficult for the “Hindu nationalists” to applaud.
It was obviously Rajnath Singh’s reference to the richness of Sanskrit language and about the poor state of affairs of the “Mother of all our languages” in India that is Bharat, which irritated the “secular” ToI News Network. Let me remind them, Sir Monier-Williams (1819-1899) an Orientalist, professor of Sanskrit at Oxford in his book Hinduism, and no pro-Hindu nationalist described Sanskrit as “the only vehicle of Hindu mythology, philosophy, law, the mirror in which all the creeds, opinions, and customs and usages of the Hindus are faithfully reflected and the only quarry whence the requisite materials may be obtained for improving the vernaculars or for expressing important religious and scientific ideas."
Jawaharlal Nehru wrote "The Sanskrit language… is of a wonderful structure; more perfect than the Greek, more copious than the Latin and more exquisitely refined than either: yet bearing to both of them a stronger affinity, both in the roots of verbs, and in the forms of grammar, than could possibly have been produced by accident; so strong indeed, that no philologer could examine them all without believing them to have sprung from some common source which perhaps no longer exists..."(source: Discovery of India - p 165). Prime Minister Nehru said many times that the soul of India resided in this ancient language and its literature. I suppose every Indian could feel proud of this language, and feel sorry that we are unable to do to it what Israel did to a defunct language like Hebrew. Do they not use Hebrew at all levels of teaching and learning? Don’t Russians, Germans, the French, Japanese and Chinese have their own languages as medium of instruction in all educational institutions and still have dynamism in every sphere?
It does not escape the attention of readers of Time of India that this paper for quite some time it has been on BJP-bashing job; almost every day devoting one or two of the 3-piece editorial, and in every news report the paper’s official views interpolated into the text. In the past, BJP’s promise if elected to rule the country, to ensure “progressive and equitable ingredients of all personal laws” to be picked while drawing up a Uniform Civil Code for all Indians was misrepresented an effort to impose the will of Hindus on the Muslims in India. Ridiculous comparative survey reports are released day by day to belittle Gujarat’s economic progress. ToI economist had the gumption to write about the Naroda-Patiya judgement as delivered by Gujarat High Court and get away with it! Unfortunately, such news-views mix are “mainstreamed”; and the perceived effect of such “mainstreaming” is a convergence of political attitudes into a core position that is either anti-nationalist or skewed to Left or anti-national!
I have always thought that The Times Of India was in the “business” of printing news and making money. When did they begin to adopt “Colonel” McCormick’s maxim “its our job to print news and raise hell”? Is it “proprietorial pique” that is reason for the obvious and constant bias?