Sunday, September 13, 2015

BJP/RSS, Sanskrit and Raja Rammohan Roy

Since Narendra Modi and his BJP party's Hindu nationalist government has come to power in Delhi last year, there is a relentless onslaught of Sanskrit language education and India's glorious past's propaganda. Modi government's education minister Smriti Irani has, so far, forced Sanskrit language teaching on the Kendriya Vidyalaya schools displacing the learning of German language (see here, and here) against the wishes of many parents (see here). BJP's home minister Rajnath Singh said that, Sanskrit is most useful for science, technology! (see here) In this speech he can be seen disparaging English language. BJP/RSS Hindu nationalist also hijacked the recent 102nd Indian Science Congress (see here). In a Science Congree, they presented a paper titled ' ‘Ancient Science Through Sanskrit’ with other papers on mythical planes capable of inter-planetary travel and unproven claims of scientific breakthroughs in pre-history!

So, is Sanskrit language and education based on it are very important for India's progress? I am recently reading a book edited by eminent Indologist A L Basham, A Cultural History of India. While reading a chapter on Modern Literature by Krishan Kriplani, I came across a letter written - in 1823 - by Raja Rammohan Roy to the Governor-General Lord Amherst opposing the opening of a Sanskrit college in Calcutta. The fact that a leading social reformer like Raja Rammohan Roy opposed the Sanskrit language education piqued my interest in this letter, and I immediately downloaded it. It is a fascinating read. It totally exposes the present BJP/RSS government's Sanskrit language propaganda. The history behind this letter is also very fascinating and extremely important today. I briefly discuss both this letter and its history below.

I am sure all Indians know the name of Raja Rammohan Roy very well. He is known as the "Father of Modern India". He also carries a title of "The Father of the Indian Renaissance".

So why did the father of modern India, Raja Rammohan Roy, opposed the imposition of Sanskrit language education in India by the British government? The answer lies in the letter written by Roy himself, but before I reporduce that letter, here is the brief history of the circumstances which led Roy to write that letter to Governor-General Lord Amherst. I quote:

The share of Raja Rammohun Roy in inducing the Government to interest itself in the introduction of English education in India is well known. We have already mentioned that in 1813 the Director of the East India Company  decided to set apart a lakh of rupees from the revenues of the  country for educational purposes, when the question of the  utilisation of this amount came up for discussion, there arose  a difference of opinion among the high officials, including  the members of the Council of the Governor-General ; one  party wished to devote the Government grant to giving  stipends to Pandits and Moulvis and scholarships to Arabic  and Sanskrit students and to publishing oriental manuscripts  for the revival of classical learning, and were called the  Orientalists. The other party were for establishing schools and colleges on the model of English public schools for the  spread of western scientific and literary education and were  called the Anglicists. The battle raged for several years, till it was finally settled by the memorable decree of Lord Bentink's Council of the 7th March 1835. Rammohun Roy had a large share in bringing about this momentous decision. At first the Orientalists were in the ascendant and succeeded in securing the Government grant for their purpose. In 1823 Raja Rammohun Roy addressed to Lord Amherst, then Governor General, a long letter which would alone immortalise his name. In it he advocated by unanswerable arguments the introduction of western education after the English model.  The story has been told in full detail by Miss Collet. All we need point out here is that, but for Rammohun Roy's seasonable intervention, the introduction of English education in India might have been indefinitly, at least for a long time, postponed. Though no immediate satisfactory reply was given to his letter, the success of the cause of the Anglicists now become assured ; for when Rammohun Roy wrote on behalf of  the dumb millions of India, demanding modern scientific  education, it was felt that the ultimate triumph of the plea  could not be far off. (source: The Life and Letters of Raja Rammohun Roy). 

Isn't this fascinating? Nobody taught me, or I am sure others too, in the classroom Rammohan Roy's fierce battle against the Sanskrit language indoctrination in favor of English language Western scientific education! Thanks to Rammohan Roy and his struggle against Sanskrit language education that India could progress in the following centuries and catch-up fast with the modern world.

Now I reproduce his letter in entirety below.

The letter is absolutely fascinating and important too just like its history. I quote some important lines from this letter below:
When this Seminary of learning was proposed, we understood that the Government in England had ordered a considerable sum of money to be annually devoted to the instruction of its Indian Subjects. We were filled with sanguine hopes that this sum would be laid out in employing European Gentlemen of talents and education to instruct the natives of India in Mathematics, Natural Philosophy, Chemistry, Anatomy and other useful Sciences, which the Nations of Europe have carried to a degree of perfection that has raised them above the inhabitants of other parts of the world.
This shows that Raja Rammohan Roy very well understood the importance of English language western scientific education for progress. He also understood how Sanskrit language kept the vast Indian populace in darkness for ages! I quote him again:
We now find that the Government are establishing a Sangscrit school under Hindoo Pundits to impart such knowledge as is already current in India. This Seminary (similar in character to those which existed in Europe before the time of Lord Bacon) can only be expected to load the minds of youth with grammatical niceties and metaphysical distinctions of little or no practicable use to the possessors or to society. The pupils will there acquire what was known two thousand years ago, with the addition of vain and empty subtilties [sic] since produced by speculative men, such as is already commonly taught in all parts of India. 
The Sangscrit language, so difficult that almost a life time is necessary for its perfect acquisition, is well known to have been for ages a lamentable check on the diffusion of knowledge; and the learning concealed under this almost impervious veil is far from sufficient to reward the labour of acquiring it.
If it had been intended to keep the British nation in ignorance of real knowledge the Baconian philosophy would not have been allowed to displace the system of the schoolmen, which was the best calculated to perpetuate ignorance. In the same manner the Sangscrit system of education would be the best calculated to keep this country in darkness, if such had been the policy of the British Legislature. But as the improvement of the native population is the object of the Government, it will consequently promote a more liberal and enlightened system of instruction, embracing mathematics, natural philosophy, chemistry and anatomy, with other useful sciences which may be accomplished with the sum proposed by employing a few gentlemen of talents and learning educated in Europe, and providing a college furnished with the necessary books, instruments and other apparatus. (emphasize mine)

 Roy, very rightly, saw that how the Sanskrit language education will be retrogressive for India and its millions of poor citizens. This shows how dangerous the effects can be of present BJP government's efforts of promoting Sanskrit again at the cost of more liberal and enlightened system of education. If allowed to implement their Hindu plans, the present government will sure take India back to Jungle and its Vedic rituals!!! Raja Rammohan Roy saw this danger of Sanskrit monopoly coming and opposed it in his time, which resulted in India progressing under more liberal enlightened system of education. If we will not see this same danger and do something about it then last centuries all progress will be in vain as we will be back in 1500 BC Vedic age!!!

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