© Akhilesh Mithal

Time to Restore India's Heritage


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Continued From the Previous Week

The example Macaulay takes to establish his point is reproduced for the record to illustrate that power can masquerade as knowledge.

"To take a parallel case: suppose that the Pacha of Egypt, a country once superior in knowledge to the countries of Europe, but now sunk far below them, were to appropriate a sum for the purpose ‘of reviving and promoting literature, and encouraging learned natives of Egypt’ would anybody infer that he meant the youth of his Pashalik to the study of hieroglyphics, to search into all the doctrines disguised under the fable Osiris, and ascertain, with all possible accuracy, the ritual with which cats and onions were anciently adored? Would he be justly charged with inconsistency if, instead of employing his young subjects in decyphering obelisks, he were to order them to be instructed in the English and French languages, and in all the sciences to which these languages are the chief keys."

Macaulay forgets, conveniently that the Egyptians of the 19th-century did not relate to the early or Paraonic Egyptians as Indians related to their forbears; that Arabic and Sanskrit were the holy languages of Indians unlike the hieroglyphs on the obelisks and the pyramids which did not form the sacred texts of the Egyptians who are now Muslims.

The Hon’ble T.B. Macaulay continues "...But the admirers of the oriental system of education have used another argument, which if we admit it to be valid is decisive against all change."
"They conclude that the public faith is pledged to the present system, and that to alter the appropriation of any of the funds which have hitherto been spent in encouraging the study of Arabic and Sanscrit would be downright spoliation. The grants from the public purse for the encouragement of literature differ in no respect from grants which are made from the public purse for other objects of real or supposed utility."

The examples speak for themselves. "We found a sanatorium at a spot which we suppose to be healthy. Do we thereby pledge ourselves to keep a sanatorium there if the results do not answer our expectations? We commence the erection of a pier. Is it a violation of the public faith to stop the works if we afterwards see reason to believe that the building will be useless?"

He concludes:

"I hold this lakh of rupees (The reader should note that all the momentous debate is about a sum which was a lakh of rupees then and not more than a hundred crores now —- much less than the amount written off for the buying of a temporary Lok Sabha seat for Inder Kumar Gujral!) to be quite at the disposal of the Governor General in Council for the purpose of promoting learning in any way he thought most advisable." "I told his Lordship to be quite as free to direct that it shall no longer be employed in encouraging Arabic and Sanscrit, as he is to direct that the reward for killing tigers in Mysore shall be diminished, or that no more public money shall be expended in the chanting at the Cathedral."

As can be seen "Tigers in Mysore" were, even in 1835, very much in the minds of the English. The tiger of Mysore, Tipu Sultan had died fighting for independence on May 4, 1799. The first thing the victors did was to reduce the grants for endowments to less than a fifth of what they had been in a free Mysore. As a result the great Maulanas and Pandits, hitherto venerated and respected masters of Sanskrit, Persian and Arabic became dead wood.

The few Indians who acquired literacy in English were there by grace and favour and they quailed and quivered under the pressure of the self-contempt their British masters had taught them. Those Indians who learnt the self-loathing from the British were much more severe in condemning the Indian heritage than even their teachers and masters.

There has been no attempt at reviving the classical languages and the Prakrits, the shastriya music and dance. The Akademis set up in the first flush of Independence and by genuine Indian intellectuals like Maulana Abul Kalam Azad are today in pathetic and parlous state. Urdu has been killed because people in power have regarded it as the language of Pakistan. Its substitute  Hindi was a stillbirth.

The rulers of India since 1947 have been largely illiterate. They neither understand nor appreciate the classical, pre-British past. Thus the end of the British period, 1947, only ended the direct or political rule of the alien British. The ghulaamaanaa zehniyat or slave mentality continues to persist. The pseudo Hindus of the RSS/VHP/BJP have either no concept of the past or at best a diseased pathological view in which even taamboul or paan  cannot come back into formal official use as something offered as greeting and welcome.

We continue to be exposed to the ridiculous spectacle of the Indian Prime Minister offering bouquets to other dignitaries! Perhaps the pseudo Hindus mistakenly associate paan with "Muslims!" The Europeanized Indians who preceded them thought paan chewing a dirty disgusting habit as did their British preceptors.

It is time to address the culture fracture problem as without it being remedied no amount of economic and political development can heal the wounds of alien domination and slavery. The creative urges of the Indian people will remain hobbled by the effects of eight generations of slavery. Time to set things right. The only way to stop blaming the British lies in restoring the classical heritage to its rightful place.

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© Akhilesh Mithal, 1991-1999. All rights reserved.
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