Friday, 8 May 2015

Visionary Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay and India

Thomas Babington
 That, Lord Macaulay introduced the English language to India during the colonial period, is a well known fact.  Equally, it is also not so well-known that he  introduced it, because,

“I have  traveled  across  the  length  and  breadth  of India  and  I  have  not  seen  one  person  who  is a beggar,  who  is  a  thief. Such wealth  I  have seen in this country,  such  high  moral  values, people  of such caliber,  that  I  do  not  think  we  would  ever conquer  this  country,  unless  we  break  the  very backbone  of  this  nation, which  is  her  spiritual and  cultural  heritage, and, therefore, I propose  that we  replace  her  old  and  ancient  education system, her  culture,  for  if  the Indians  think  that  all that is  foreign  and  English  is good  and  greater than their own, they  will  lose  their  self-esteem, their native  self-culture  and  they  will  become what we want them, a truly dominated nation.”
       ........Lord Macaulay’s speech in the British   Parliament on 2nd February 1835.
Macaulay on India.png

Lord  Macaulay came to India  as its  supreme council member.  With a view to  creating an Anglicized English-speaking  elite to act as a link between  India's British rulers and the Indian masses, Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800-1859), member of the governing  council of  the  East  India  Company  from 1834 to 1838,  successfully  advocated  the  replacement  of  the native  languages - Persian and Sanskrit  as  the  medium  of  education  in  schools  from  grade  six onwards  with English  as  the  medium of education.  He formulated  his  policy  proposal, a subjective matter, in his  Minute  on Indian Education,  delivered  in Kolkata on  2 February, 1835.  The Governor-General  of  India, William Bentinck, an equally competent man, at last  approved the proposal on 7th March, 1835. Thus had begun  a  new  British-Indian educational  policy until Independence.

 To many hardcore  patriotic Indians, the very name of  Macaulay is  synonymous  with  cultural annihilation  of  Indian civilization  and  heritage, masking  dubious  linguistic  assimilation  into global English-speaking community. The  interpretations  of the  above  speech  may  vary. However, the crux of the  matter  is  the  British,  who have a distinctive class  system  back in  England  did  divide India which  had  already  been  torn  apart  by numerous caste  systems,  squeezed India on all sides  and converted  into  a poor, sick country  before leaving the  Indian  shores  for  good. However, introduction of  the  English  language, to   smart  Indians, was more a boon than a curse.  The  English  language united  the multilingual  society  and  the united Indians  fought  for  their  Independence  with  more vigor than ever before.  

Lord  Macaulay  was  instrumental  in drafting  the Indian Penal Code,  which became  a model  for the courts  through out the  British colonies. In India, the Indian  judiciary system still  follows  the legal works  of Macaulay. If the English language has become a  potential  global  language  of  communication, it is because of the timely introduction of the English language in  India  which served  as  his   successful  experiment base.


From Thomas Babington Macaulay, “Speech in Parliament on the Government of India Bill, 10 July 1833,” Macaulay, Prose and Poetry, selected by G.M. Young (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1957), pp. 716-18