Macaulay’s children

Thomas Babington Macaulay, a British Lord or something of that nature, in the mid 19th century had this to say on the question of the British educational effort in occupied India:

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. [emph. mine]

The resulting program, which involved the establishment of English-based education in India has succeeded beyond Macaulay’s wildest dreams. Today almost the entire ruling establishment of the Indian republic can rightly be referred to as “Macaulay’s Children”. There views and actions are completely in accord with those of a select sub-species which considers itself exalted over all the other cultures and peoples it rules over. Macaulay is long dead and gone, but his philosophy continues to effectively enslave the 1 billion Indians for whom English is as alien a language as Klingon would be to the United Kingdom.

This is not be taken as an anti-British screed. The British are also long gone. They played their best hand sometime in the early 20th century and have since been content with their diminishing role in world affairs. In other words they have returned to the real world and have embraced sanity.

Their intellectual descendants, on the other hands, continue to populate the highest ranks of India’s political, bureaucratic and cultural establishment. The greatest concentration of these are to be found in the Indian National Congress (INC). A correct history of modern Indian should mark August 15, 1947 not as the date Indians gained independence from the British empire, but as the date when the burden of colonial rule was handed over from the British crown to the leaders of the INC and their allies.

The clearest manifestation of the Macaulay syndrome is to be found in English newspapers and on English news channels as they report on the political movement currently sending tremors of fear and disbelief through the ruling Indian elite. The complete documentation of the lies, misinformation and propaganda being advocated by the English news media against the present anti-corruption movement spearheaded by Baba Ramdev and Anna Hazare will take an army of researchers and historians. Here, we need mention only a few illustrative examples.

A blog post on this topic by C. P. Surendran, who is “a senior editor at The Times of India” contains the following statement:

Ram Dev has a disciple base whose core is the naive, intellectually challenged lower middle class masses of rural India, and they run into their mystic millions, as illustrated by the 60 lakh and counting missed calls to volunteer for the Ram Dev movement … This is the cattle brigade, which actually believes there are goddesses wafting about in the high pavilions of heaven wearing silk blouses and Joy Alukkas jewellery. [emph. mine]

He goes on to refer to Kapil Sibal and Pranab Mukherjee as “UPA government’s sophisticates” and to Ramdev as “an 8th standard drop out from a remote Haryana village“. This paean to the Sonia Gandhi lead government’s efforts to dislodge a popular mass movement, from someone who is supposed to be a standard-bearer for free speech and democracy, amounts to nothing less than a confession of the deeply held prejudices of those we call Macaulay’s children.

Exhibit 2: A snippet of a debate on the channel “Times Now”, where the question being asked is: Are fasts undemocratic?

Exhibit 3: An editorial penned by Sagarika Ghose in the Hindustan Times. Normally I think Ms. Ghose is a balanced and skilled writer and I enjoy reading her pieces. Here however she makes the following whopper:

The Ramdev phenomenon and, to some extent, the Anna Hazare campaign are part of India’s right-wing nationalist revolution. It is right-wing because it is based on national pride and individual entitlement.

To anyone who has the slightest familiarity with right-wing movements and philosophy in the past century this sounds like complete hogwash. Right-wing movements are almost without exception bankrolled by rich corporate factions whose interests are best served by a prevailing fascistic environment. Such movements are always couched in the language of “national pride” but are no such thing. Witness the “Tea Party” movement in the United States which waves the flag of patriotism but whose tenets are written by the Koch brothers and their oil empire. Or consider the Berlusconi brigade in Italy which fosters anti-Roma sentiment on his bidding. The anti-immigrant youth brigades presently being grown in Russia are Putin’s tools of right-wing terror meant to keep compliant the Russian population as it is systematically looted by the oligarchs in the Kremlin. I could go on and on.

What Ms. Ghose is doing here is a favored tactic of those wishing to preserve the status quo: paint the opponents and violent extremists or ultra-nationalists. However, as George Bush II once said : “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice … won’t get fooled again”. The INC has been fooling the Indian middle class for 70 years now by feeding us scary visions of a fascist Hindu government. It is time we threw off these shackles and stopped being afraid of our own culture and started taking control of our own density.

Ms. Ghose does get one fact right, inadvertantly. She reminds us how critics of the BJP’s “Ram Janmbhoomi” movement were “described as ‘pseudo-secularists’ or ‘Macaulay’s children’“. I will not go into the merits of the BJP’s actions in the early 1990s here. But if the label of “Macaulay’s children” was ill-deserved for those critics, today they have earned it by attempting to paint with a broad brush all supporters of this anti-corruption crusade as extremists and terrorists.

Even now, it is not too late for the INC and members of the political establishment in general to come clean. Forgiveness is plentiful and easy to come by if those who have amasssed huge amounts of ill-gotten gains come forward voluntarily and return the loot to the national treasury. If they do so now they will get away with little more penalty than the loss of their power and some amount of public humiliation. Given the magnitude of their crimes, such a punishment would be a bargain. However, given historical precendent one can guess that these crooks and liars are only determined to dig in deeper into their trenches.

Even as Ramdev has made public assets worth 1,177 crore with audited balance sheets going as far back and 1995 on his website, the media refuses to ask Sibal, Digvijay and company to reciprocate this act of transparency. Their concern remains whether or not Ramdev has declared all his assets. This as he goes into the 6th day of his fast against corruption, having lost 6 kgs. of weight and with a rapidly weakning constitution.

The Mahabharata of Kalyug has begun in earnest.

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