7th September 2012
Introduction of English in India was inevitable for decades. Macaulay merely confirmed it.
I chanced upon an article today by R. K. Kochhar, entitled, "English Education in India: Hindu Anamnesis versus Muslim Torpor" (Economic and Political Weekly, Nov. 28, 1992), which clarifies the strategic British interests behind the introduction of English in India.
I'm not sure that the introduction of English has been a bad thing for India in the long run. It is behind the massively wealthy Indian migrant population in USA, UK and Australia – all trained in English. It is behind the huge growth in IT (even China is desperately trying to learn English). And it underpins the geographical unity of India (had anyone tried to impose Hindi on India it would have splintered into pieces long ago).
Yes, I'm not an expert in Hindi (or rather, Panjabi). I should be. What English has done is to give me the tool to discover the far reaches of the world. With my accumulated knowledge, nothing prevents me from furthering Indian language and culture, should I choose to. We don't need to think in terms of Either English Or Hindi. We can have both.
Charles Grant’s (1746-1823) well meaning treatise “Observations on the state of Society among the Asiatic Subjects of Great Britain, particularly with respect to Morals; and on the means of improving it” advocating he cause of missions and education and written during 1792-97 was ahead of its time and ‘anticipatory’. It was only in 1830 that the court of directors wrote “we learn with extreme pleasure… that ‘the time has arrived when English tuition will be widely acceptable to the Natives in the Upper Provinces’“. It is tempting to reduce history to glorification or condemnation of individuals and events. Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay’s (1800-59) flamboyant minute of February 2, 1835 belongs to this category. Crediting Macaulay with introducing English education in India will be like crediting victory in a cricket match to the batsman who scores the winning run.The native initiative for English education came from Ram Mohun Roy (1772/74-1833). Following a May 1816 meeting of ‘English gentlemen and influential natives’ a substantial sum of Its 113,179 was collected and an Anglo-Indian College or vidyalaya opened on January 27, 1817 with less than 20 students. Earlier, Hindu and Muslim boys were hired by the British to learn traditional things from their elders and pass them on to the company. Now, Hindu boys from upper classes paid money from their own pocket to receive English education.The main aim of English education was to prepare Indians for government jobs. The response to English education therefore was on predictable caste lines. For the upper castes that had traditionally depended on government jobs and patronage, English was the new bread-and‑butter language in place of Persian; they therefore filled the new class-rooms with alacrity. At Cawnpore of 1820 “the native children flocked to the school in pursuit of the English language”. Thirty years later, “In Lahore as well as Umritsur, the anxiety to acquire English is remarkable”.