In recent times suddenly there is a cry that our history has been distorted by historians who are more leftist. Unfortunately I find it’s now another set of so called Historians who are hell bent on discrediting our freedom fighters and reformers of that era in the name of “Discovering new facts of true History”. Today I am going to take up one issue and show how distorted their views are as it’s time we come out strongly and make sure these mischievous people don’t get away with such mudslinging. Yes the article would be a long one, but then don’t we know how history and its explanations are never in short. Still remember filling pages after pages when it came to History exam in school.
Check this LINK to know about the man Raja Ram Mohan Roy so that you realise how great a reformer he was!
Raja Ram Mohan Roy has been charged by few as “Stooge” of British govt. Sole reason being his support to Macaulay’s education reforms for India. According to them, Raja Ram Mohan Roy had written to the British govt asking for scrapping of a Sanskrit college and in turn also supported Macaulay’s plans to reform the education system of India by introducing English. I’ll show how Raja Ram Mohan Roy was so correct in supporting him by proving what exactly Macaulay’s plan was and that he had no malicious intentions against Indians, by touching upon both his Minutes and also his speech in British parliament before coming to India. These reforms were necessary then considering the socio economic conditions and to uplift Indian education.
Recently in the social media we have seen Macaulay has been projected as a villain and all because of one of his quotes.
“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 calibre, 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.”
It is said this was during his address to British Parliament in Feb, 1835. That this quote is a hoax is evident from the fact that Macaulay was in India during that period. He stayed in India from 1834 to 1838. His address to Parliament was in 1833 and again he cannot have said about travelling across India as 1834 was the first time he visited this country. This quote first appeared in a Hindutva magazine, The Awakening Ray. And the quote was written like this in the magazine “His words were to this effect: I have traveled….” So you see, Macaulay never said this. It’s simply a paraphrase which was copy pasted and distributed. Every other Hindu nationalist sites/magazines, including even BJP’s website, carry this quote. This proves how fraudulent text can get around in this age of internet and create a wrong impression!
Let me now come to what is popularly known as Minutes on Education, the reform points as made by Macaulay. Check this LINK to read through the minutes. I’ll discuss few of these points to make my point as to what exactly he meant to do and why Raja Ram Mohan Roy decided to support him.
At the very starting of the Minutes, he explains beautifully why educations’ haul up and modernization is needed in India.
“Suppose that the Pacha of Egypt, a country once superior in knowledge to the nations of Europe, but now sunk far below them, were to appropriate a sum for the purpose “of reviving and promoting literature, and encouraging learned natives of Egypt,” would any body infer that he meant the youth of his Pachalik to give years to the study of hieroglyphics, to search into all the doctrines disguised under the fable of Osiris, and to ascertain with all possible accuracy the ritual with which cats and onions were anciently adored? Would he be justly charged with inconsistency if, instead of employing his young subjects in deciphering obelisks, he were to order them to be instructed in the English and French languages, and in all the sciences to which those languages are the chief keys?”
He explained it very logically and I fully agree, the modernization was needed and not with Sanskrit. It had to be with the use of English. Raja Ram Mohan Roy realized how sound his logic was hence agreed for this change. Sanskrit education going on in our country was the age old one and new modern science and philosophy was the need. Hence Ram Mohan supported Macaulay in giving more importance to English and sideline Sanskrit. No malicious design can be deduced looking at his intentions.
Another quote from his minutes is referred by many to prove he did carry malicious designs against Indians.
“In one point I fully agree with the gentlemen to whose general views I am opposed. I feel with them, that 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.”
In a most mischievous manner these elements, hindutva-historians as I call them, take a partial portion of the quote and try showing the bad side of Macaulay. The quote does not end here. To continue with it beyond the word 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.”
These mischievous elements always give the incomplete version but when read in whole; you realize his intentions were not bad. When you read this part and his Minutes, you get to know that he is actually asking to introduce English but at the same time modernize the native languages and make them fit as English. Unnecessarily he is projected as a villain by quoting something taken out of context. It’s clear he was not imperialistic even with native language and wanted it to modernize and get a new lease of life. If Raja Ram Mohan Roy, considering the socio economic condition of that era, decided to support him by choosing English to be the main subject, he did the correct thing. Sanskrit was no way an easy language for general public to learn, to modernize and be at par with international standards, English was the need of time. Macaulay had no malicious designs and was infact talking sense. To agree to a sensible and logical idea does not amount to be called as British stooge!
Let go through the points   and  of the Minutes. Yes these do sound arrogant on part of Macaulay. Every Sanskrit lover or as matter of fact nationalist would say he is showing disrespect to our language. How can he say English was better than Sanskrit? I would in turn question these people, what about you all who make it a point to say our Sanskrit collections are far richer than any other language! Macaulay did carry a colonial mindset, no second question but like us he too has love for his own language. English literature no doubt is also rich yet we do put it down while comparing it with Sanskrit. So why look at Macaulay and Ram Mohan’s view with disdain when they said English was the richest language!
Now read what he had to say about England.
“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.”
So you see he had the same views for both India and England. He is not being arrogant exactly in true sense but trying to bring in a change by making the language modern and this thought process is not limited to just India. Even for England he has the same feelings. Here Macaulay provides a proof of how England changed itself by embracing other foreign languages and grew better. With such proof provided, it was natural anyone with intelligence would realize how prudent this step would be. And Raja Ram Mohan Roy was no fool. He grasped the chance and decided to modernize the education system with English. This was the era when we had all major discoveries being made and new theories in science formed. Neil Bohr, Louis Pasteur, Einstein and so many others were all from West. All their work were in English and so to fill this gap so as to be at par with this international education system and science, Ram Mohan Roy decided Macaulay’s minutes to be perfect. I would say the same as Macaulay; would India have been what she is now if Ram Mohan Roy and his likes had not made it possible to embrace English? Definitely not, this helped in filling the gap between West and Indian education system at a fast rate.
There is another charge that falls upon Macaulay and this possibly is the main reason behind the hatred for this Englishman. And in turn possibly the reason for the antagonism against Raja Ram Mohan Roy too. These hindutva-historians paint him to be evangelizer. They connect his mission for this English education system as a means to conversion. Is there any proof for the same? No, infact the proof shows just the different. Here’s another quote from the Minutes:
“We abstain, and I trust shall always abstain, from giving any public encouragement to those who are engaged in the work of converting the natives to Christianity. And while we act thus, can we reasonably or decently bribe men, out of the revenues of the State, to waste their youth in learning how they are to purify themselves after touching an ass or what texts of the Vedas they are to repeat to expiate the crime of killing a goat? ”
Yes he might not have liked Indian language, some Indian cultures being followed and was ready to throw it out of the window as he considered that more as obscurant to modern education. But above quote shows he was in no way an evangelist. Also the second part of the quote is a blatant truth, superstitious behavior had to be stopped which we Indians followed then (still do so). Yes Britishers did carry this mission of converting people to Christianity. But Macaulay was definitely not among them. To ballast Ram Mohan Roy for supporting Macaulay by indicating he as indirectly supporting evangelism, is utterly wrong. Infact Ram Mohan Roy was the one who founded the Brahmo Samaj. Too many well educated people were turning to Christianity during that time as they found that monotheism better than what was being then followed in Hinduism. In order to stop that Brahmo Samaj was constituted. So to say Raja Ram Mohan Roy was supporting Macaulay and in turn supporting evangelism is ridiculous. Facts show Macaulay had no such intentions. And logic says Ram Mohan was himself worried with the conversions hence formed the Brahmo Samaj.
All the logics behind the mudslinging of Raja Ram Mohan Roy for supporting English education over Sankrit language, sounds so farce when we read about a petition British govt received. This petition was from the ex-students of Sanskrit college and Macaulay has quoted the same in point  and is as follows:
“The petitioners stated that they had studied in the college ten or twelve years, that they had made themselves acquainted with Hindoo literature and science, that they had received certificates of proficiency. And what is the fruit of all this? “Notwithstanding such testimonials,” they say, “we have but little prospect of bettering our condition without the kind assistance of your honourable committee, the indifference with which we are generally looked upon by our countrymen leaving no hope of encouragement and assistance from them.” They therefore beg that they may be recommended to the Governor-General for places under the Government– not places of high dignity or emolument, but such as may just enable them to exist. “We want means,” they say, “for a decent living, and for our progressive improvement, which, however, we cannot obtain without the assistance of Government, by whom we have been educated and maintained from childhood.” They conclude by representing very pathetically that they are sure that it was never the intention of Government, after behaving so liberally to them during their education, to abandon them to destitution and neglect.”
This particular point is clearly showing how pathetic our education system had turned. Knowing how much Raja Ram Mohan Roy was involved with the education part of the nation, he must have been also aware of this state of affairs. Maybe thousands of Indians were getting education. Maybe British data then showed how we had hundreds of schools even in villages. But what really was happening to the students after they passed out? The petition is a proof how that education was in reality not helping the natives to even lead a respectable life.
Now let me show you how this man actually helped Indians indirectly and that he had no malicious intentions as far as Indians were concerned. I’ll quote some passages from his speech in British Parliament before coming to India.
What exactly did Macaulay say about equality of Law?
“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 Hindu. 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”.
His disdain on the caste system with regards to Equality:
“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”
And now the final quote:
“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”
Read the above quote carefully and you’ll realize this was probably the first brick laid towards our Independence Movement. This Englishman gave Indians an instrument which they used effectively to learn and then turn back on the rulers themselves!
After going through all the quotes I had concluded one thing, he definitely was colonial, he had a high level of dislike for Indian languages but he genuinely wanted to uplift the natives of this country. His intentions were not malicious as projected by hindutva-Historians. Yes he was working for British monarchy and had their benefit in mind. But for Indians he definitely had good intentions. He wanted to give the best Indian mind the best modern education.
I too agree that this western modern education was the need for the youth in that era especially keeping in view the socio-economic structure then and also the pitiable condition our education system had come down to. It was needed to bridge the gap that got created with Indian and Western education system. And when I see how Macaulay tried to bring the change, I realize how correct Raja Ram Mohan Roy was to have supported this idea and agreeing to keep aside Sanskrit while embrace English. If he had supported the idea of making Sanskrit the first language, I personally feel we might have been left behind today. When it comes to language and culture, I believe in one permanent truth – only those languages and cultures survive who keep on constantly changing, adapting, and interacting with other languages and cultures. Any static language/culture is like a static pond. So what was wrong in accepting Macaulay’s views and make sure to add English to our culture and modernize it! Macaulay and Raja Ram Mohan Roy and many other reformers, were trying to change people’s outlook and modernize it. Isn’t it true that most of us believe strongly that Madrasa education needs change and that it needs to turn more scientific? Scientific outlook need to be incorporated in their education system and not limited to the Quranic version. That is just what these reformers were trying to do in our language and education system. They made sure our education system change with the changing times and the result is in front of us today; we have bridged the gap and are now at par with the International education system.
I feel instead of blaming Raja Ram Mohan Roy or Macaulay, it’s the govt that came into being just after independence which should be blamed. They could have easily made an education policy where English was the main language while Sanskrit being immediate second. Why did they have to give importance to Hindi above Sanskrit. It’s Nehurian policy that needs to be slammed and not the reformers of that era.
Interestingly, most of these so called History experts masquerading as hyper-nationalists themselves have taken advantage of Macaulay’s policy to empower themselves today!!! Yet they have the audacity to call likes of Raja Ram Mohan Roy as British Stooge just because he supported Macaulay’s education policy! Even going to the level of comparing them to the likes of Kejriwal, well nothing could be more ridiculous!!! More so when you realise even Swami Vivekananda admired Raja Ram Mohan Roy. (Notes of some wanderings with the Swami Vivekananda by Sister Nivedita). Or is it now fingers would be pointed at even Swamiji by these Hindutva-Historians!