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Reinventing Lord Macaulay

By Chandrabhan Prasad

27 October, 2004

The Big-Mac, with potato instead, is there to stay. Let us prepare ourselves, lest Middle Kingdom steal all the splendor. To begin with, toss the ros-gullas in the Bay of that Bengal. Let seeds of renaissance sprout. Let us clear all the hurdles. Let us battle with the self, and win over as well. Let us unlearn all we were taught so far. Let us break free from the falsehood we are condemned in trust. Let us take a chance, and relish truthfulness. Let refreshing winds of reason excavate our degenerated, malodorous existence. We are born as false people, with false indices of reasoning, with false languages, false spirituality, with false histories. Our consciousness too, therefore, is false. We are victims of civilisational faults, as we missed, by civilisational disgrace, any standard of ethics, morality, and hence, we are historically programmed in living with falsehood. Worse still, we, as a civilization, find it almost pathologically, constrained to live as honest people. Our intellectual insolvency, therefore, is civilisational.

The fundamental challenge before all of us, therefore, is as how to create conditions where we can turn intellectually honest, and still, exist. This one challenge once clinched, it can unleash a renaissance in India where ethics, morality, and reason can gain a germinating ground. In this new age where Patparganj is in a real danger of getting drowned, our 'self' ought to be given a jerk. And the jerk can be caused, like sex the first time in life, by speaking the most fundamental truth hitherto unpronounced.

This October 25 provides us that historic opportunity, where we can in a reasonably discreet manner, turn honest for few hours. The sure blissfulness in those few hours, may reprogramme our "Self" wherein, intellectual honesty can be a welcome interlude, deleting the space the falsehood has occupied for ages.

Isn't India 'modern' in some spheres, only if in the personality of "modernity" is defined by "Independence", "Rule of Law", "Sciences", and English as a language in place of Sanskrit, Arabic and Persian! The Parliament owes its birth to the basic principle of modern system of governance, i.e. "Rule of Law", with attendant feature of the doctrine of "Every one Equal before Law". The independence from the foreign rule is one fundamental legacy, one fundamental struggle, we all cherish.

India, on its own, never had, in at least our known history, the notion of the "Independence from foreign Rule", "Rule of Law", or " Every one Equal before Law". The India's indigenous system of education never dealt with sciences, the sciences that we possess today. It would probably never have been possible to understand modern sciences in Sanskrit, Arabic or Persian.

Who conceived the first sperm of India's independence? Consider the following: "It would be, on the most selfish view of the case, far better for us that the people of India were well governed and independent of us, than ill governed and subject to us; that they were ruled by their own kings, but wearing our broadcloth, and working with our cutlery, than that they were performing their salams to English collectors and English magistrates, but were too ignorant to value, or too poor to buy, English manufactures. To trade with civilized men is infinitely more profitable than to govern savages. That would, indeed, be a doting wisdom, which, in order that India might remain a dependency, would make it an useless and costly dependency, which would keep a hundred millions of men from being our customers in order that they might continue to be our slaves". July 10, 1833 [25 years before India officially became a British Colony]

Further; [July 10, 1833] "The laws which regulate its growth and its decay are still unknown to us. It may be that the public mind of India may expand under our system till it has outgrown that system; that by good government we may educate our subjects into a capacity for better government; that, having become instructed in European knowledge, they may, in some future age, demand European institutions. Whether such a day will ever come I know not. But never will I attempt to avert or to retard it. Whenever it comes, it will be the proudest day in English history".

On the question of "Equality before Law": On July 10, 1833... "The power of arbitrary deportation is withdrawn. Unless, therefore, we mean to leave the natives exposed to the tyranny and insolence of every profligate adventurer who may visit the East, we must place the European under the same power which legislates for the Hindoo. No man loves political freedom more than I. But a privilege enjoyed by a few individuals, in the midst of a vast population who do not enjoy it, ought not to be called freedom. It is tyranny. In the West Indies I have not the least doubt that the existence of the Trial by Jury and of Legislative Assemblies has tended to make the condition of the slaves worse than it would otherwise have been".

"Or, to go to India itself for an instance, though I fully believe that a mild penal code is better than a severe penal code, the worst of all systems was surely that of having a mild code for the Brahmins, who sprang from the head of the Creator, while there was a severe code for the Sudras, who sprang from his feet. India has suffered enough already from the distinction of castes, and from the deeply rooted prejudices which that distinction has engendered. God forbid that we should inflict on her the curse of a new caste, that we should send her a new breed of Brahmins, authorised to treat all the native population as Parias"! Should Native Indians Hold High Offices...? July 10, 1833 "We are told that the time can never come when the natives of India can be admitted to high civil and military office. We are told that this is the condition on which we hold our power. We are told that we are bound to confer on our subjects every benefit--which they are capable of enjoying?--No;--which it is in our power to confer on them?--No;--but which we can confer on them without hazard to the perpetuity of our own domination. Against that proposition I solemnly protest as inconsistent alike with sound policy and sound morality". On Equality... "I allude to that wise, that benevolent, that noble clause which enacts that no native of our Indian empire shall, by reason of his colour, his descent, or his religion, be incapable of holding office".

The above quotes are from Lord Macaulay's Speech in the British House of Commons. The House was debating the Bill, which was enacted as The Charter Act 1833, or, The Government of India Act 1833, which sought for the establishment of a Law Commission for consolidation and codification of Indian Laws. Lord Macaulay eventually became President of India's First Law Commission, and drafted the IPC. While submitting the draft of the IPC, Lord Macaulay maintains in his covering letter; "It is an evil that any man should be above the law, that it is still a greater evil that the public mind should be taught to regard as a high and venerable distinction the privilege of being above the law". Our Lies about Macaulay: Was Macaulay attempting to create 'Intellectual slaves' for the British Empire? Yes, if we just read the following: "We must at present do our best to form a class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals, and in intellect". We, in a most mischievous manner, present the above quote, twisted, taken out of context, and thus, present Lord Macaulay as a villain. No, if we read the full paragraph as originally available in his February 1835 "Minutes" on Indian education. "It is impossible for us, with our limited means, to attempt to educate the body of the people. We must at present do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern; a class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals, and in intellect. To that class we may leave it to refine the vernacular dialects of the country, to enrich those dialects with terms of science borrowed from the Western nomenclature, and to render them by degrees fit vehicles for conveying knowledge to the great mass of the population. " Our Caste-Hindu Racism at work: We practice our Caste-Hindu racism against Macaulay by using his following quotes taken from his "Minutes": "A single shelf of a good European library was worth the whole native literature of India and Arabia. It is, I believe, no exaggeration to say, that all the historical information which has been collected from all the books written may be found in the most paltry abridgments used at preparatory schools in England".

Consider the Macaulay's Rationalism! This is what he says about England in the same "Minutes": "The first instance to which I refer, is the great revival of letters among the Western nations at the close of the fifteenth and the beginning of the sixteenth century. At that time almost everything that was worth reading was contained in the writings of the ancient Greeks and Romans. Had our ancestors acted as the Committee of Public Instruction has hitherto acted; had they neglected the language of Cicero and Tacitus; had they confined their attention to the old dialects of our own island; had they printed nothing and taught nothing at the universities but Chronicles in Anglo-Saxon, and Romances in Norman-French, would England have been what she now is? What the Greek and Latin were to the contemporaries of More and Ascham, our tongue is to the people of India".

Macaulay held similar view about India and England. He wanted change and modernity. Isn't he, then, a finest rationalist of his time, nay all time? Aren't we racists?

Was Lord Macaulay wrong when he argued the following in his "Minute": "I would at once stop the printing of Arabic and Sanscrit books, I would abolish the Madrassa and the Sanscrit college at Calcutta". What would have been India's fate, had Lord Macaulay been defeated?

In 1813, the British parliament made it mandatory that the East India Company spend at least Rs. One Lakh annually on the education of native Indians. The British officials were divided in two camps: One the powerful Orientalists, who wanted the indigenous system of education to continue, with Sanskrit, Arabic and Persian as media of instruction. The Anglicist camp, led by Lord Macaulay, argued for the European kind of modern education, with focus on modern sciences. Macaulay won, and the British-type of modern educational system was introduced in India.

What if the indigenous education continued, with Sanskrit, Arabic and Persian as media of instruction?

Well, to most Indians, it may be a matter of conjecture. To some of us, India would have been most probably like Afghanistan, or at best, the present day Nepal, where few Indians would have been doing "Bahadur-griri" in Europe or America, and not as IT professionals in Silicon valley.

Come on my scholar friends, wake up and arise. Time has come to shed shamelessness, and set into a reasonably virtuous mode. Remember, Lord Macaulay was India's earliest Gandhi, if GandhiJi epitomized freedom movement as it was he who conceived independent India when Gandhi was not even born. The Lord Macaulay, one of the greatest mind born in the past millenium, was the latest Jawaharlal Nehru, if Nehru epitomized modernity.

The greatest celestial spirit for India, code named Thomas Babington Macaulay, was born on October 25, 1800. We must be enlightened enough to take his anti-Hindu, anti-Caste views, in correct spirit. Let us celebrate the birth anniversary of one of the greatest philosophers this planet has produced, not for the Lord, but for the India shinning. There is a shinning India, in words of my scholar colleague, D Shyam Babu, "India is NOT Shining, but the British India is Indeed Shining".

Chandrabhan Prasad is a columnist in The Pioneer and he can be reached at [email protected]











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