For this generation of Congressmen, ancient history of India begins with Indira Gandhi and the modern history extends up to Rahul Gandhi. For them, philosophy and ideas come only from the US and, to some extent, from UK! To them, the only language is ‘English’ and only role models are Englishmen and Englishmen who migrated to America, exterminated an entire race of the natives there and are now known as Americans. People like Rajnath Singh and billions of others who speak and love their other mother tongues; including Hindi; are medieval minions to this clan of modern ‘secularists’ of India who just hate the terms like Hindi and Hindu. They laboriously attempt to teach their countrymen how dangerous it is the usage of ‘Hindu Nationalist’! If they had their say, they would delete the term Hindu from the dictionary itself. They fear that if they say even a good word about the strength of mother tongues, their ‘secularism’ may get compromised. The Congressmen may not remember but the mother tongue speaking India recognises with gratitude what Mahatma Gandhi did for them on education including language learning. He knew the importance of the mother tongue as it alone helps the child in harmonising with the human and home environment. It alone establishes the continuity between home and school environment. Those who consider English as the only avenue towards superior wisdom may like to recall Tagore who articulated the consequences: “It forcibly snatches away children from a world full of mystery of God’s own handiwork, full of the suggestiveness of personality.” The pro-English Secularist may not like the use of word ‘God’ even by Tagore. Mahatma Gandhi wanted to change and overhaul our education system and everyone knows how dexterously he tried to propagate the idea of Basic Education that was to be rooted deep in Indian soil and at the same time committed to progress. He was very clear that: “Education must be imparted through the mother tongue”. Those who inherited Macaulay’s legacy were vocal and vociferous even in those times though they were far more civil and cultured in their utterances than their counterparts of today. How hurtful was the Mahatma of such persons finds expression in his own words: “It is a pity that that we are required to prove this self-evident truth. If we had not been dazzled by the lure of English, there should have been no need to prove this most obvious truth.” The protagonists of English had the same arguments as they put forward today; only English creates awakening in India, English literature is richest, unity and social cohesion can be achieved only through English which is the window to the world! Now they have an additional driving force for English: It is the main language of internet and ICT! Even our present rulers earnestly want English.
There are numerous examples of the nations which could match the Western world in its scientific and technological advances on equal footing without ignoring their mother tongue and depending on English. Have China, Russia (erstwhile USSR) or Japan lagged behind on any count because of the primacy they give to their own languages? When Russians could send their Sputniks in space ahead of US, Americans were a greatly demoralised lot. Russians had their own journals of high level scientific research. Western world had to arrange to get these translated in English and publish for the benefit of the English (only) knowing scientific community! China is often quoted in Indian media as having launched a massive programme of learning English. No one reports that it has not discarded initial education being given through the medium of the mother tongue. Instead of planning and opening centres for learning spoken English suitable for specific assignments, Indian system is fast discarding the basic pedagogical principle of modern education that no child should be burdened with the dictate of beginning his/her education in an alien language. It is indeed cruel to force children to begin schooling in an alien language whichever it maybe. Children can learn more languages as they move ahead in age and the stage of education. The issue is that of the medium of initial instruction and in fact, even in higher education. Gandhiji, the exceptional communicator in several languages including English had this to say:“The foreign medium has caused brain fag, put an undue strain upon the nerves of our children, made them crammers and imitators, unfitted them for original work and thoughts, and disabled them for filtrating their learning to the family or the masses. The foreign medium has made our children practically foreigners in their own land. It is the greatest tragedy of the existing system. The foreign medium has prevented the growth of our vernaculars. If I had the powers of a despot, I would today stop the tuition of our boys and girls through a foreign medium, and require all the teachers and professors on the pain of dismissal to introduce the change forthwith. I would not wait for the preparation of textbooks. They will follow the change. It is an evil that needs a summary remedy”. (See Young India; September 1, 1921, CW 21 P 40).
Let it be made clear that at no stage anyone ever suggests that English language and literature should be discarded. The chorus of the great unifying mission of English has continuously received vocal support from those who do not believe in an egalitarian society and are keen to maintain the notions of superiority and distinction. Their fears get expression in several ways. Everywhere in the country, there is a race for opening English medium schools. Parents are desperate to get their wards admitted in the English medium schools. They are convinced that good and successful life awaits only the products of English medium schools would be well advised to know that no country has progressed adopting an alien language. Neither can India.
Heritage and culture of every civilisation are transmitted to new generations through education that empowers them to march ahead on the path of further advancements and higher levels of evolution. It appears the spokespersons of the ‘oldest political party’ in India are keen to maintain their colonial loyalties even after sixty-five years. For ready reference, one may like to recall the speech of Badruddin Tyabji who presided over the Congress session held in Madras on December 27, 1887: Tyabji very aptly described the essence of the transplanted model of education that focused on learning of English language only had really achieved: “We, the educated natives, by the mere force of our education, must be the best appreciators of the blessings of a civilised and enlightened government and therefore in our own interest, the best and staunchest supporters of the British Government in India.” This is what Englishmen wanted to achieve through the imposition of English. When Tyabji was rebuked by Sir Syed Ahmed Khan for chairing the Congress Session, he changed his instance and wanted the Congress Party to be prorogued for five years! Today, ‘We, the people’ would like the political party that is still the ‘strongest and staunchest supporter ‘of English Language, the legacy left behind by Englishmen, is prorogued for the next five years, to begin with!
(The writer is former Director, NCERT)
“The English language has caused a great loss to the country. We are losing our language, our culture as there are hardly any people who speak Sanskrit now.”
—BJP president Rajnath Singh at a function in New Delhi
on July 19.
“This is an illusion that English is the only means of progress...this is not true. True education is to develop feeling and dedication for the country.”
—RSS Sarsanghachalak Shri Mohan Bhagwat at a function in Gaya, Bihar on July 20.