In Indian society, proficiency in English is considered a prerequisite for being cultured and well educated. We ourselves, perhaps, have played the biggest role in undermining our indigenous languages by taking to English with a desire to mingle with the supposedly superior western world.
A number of factors are currently responsible for ensuring that revival of indigenous languages remains a complex task. NewsGram brings you some of them.
Our immense love for English medium schools
Schools using indigenous languages as the medium of instruction are looked down upon by society. Even the poor villagers are ready to spend their precious savings just to ensure that their child gets an ‘English education,’ because apparently that’s what will secure a good future for them! This is a classic example of culture degeneration.
Lack of literature in Indian languages
There have been widespread demands for the introduction of higher education in indigenous languages on a wider scale. While a number of stakeholders agree to these demands, lack of credible literature in indigenous languages is a major roadblock in this aspect. And unfortunately, the government doesn’t seem to be doing anything in this regard.
10% Anglophone master ruling over 90% Indians
The Anglophonic ruling class, well versed in English, makes the national policies for the rest of the 90% Indians, without taking into cognizance their comfort levels and their needs. Until this equation changes, there is little hope for the revival of indigenous languages in the country.
Our blind affection for anything ‘western’
We started wearing skinny jeans because the western nations kicked off the trend, without realizing that it serves their purpose at 10 degrees temperature while we have to endure rashes on our skin for aping this fashion sense in 40 degrees temperature. This is why ‘O God!’ seems more fashionable than ‘Arre bhagwaan!’
English as a common language is acceptable, but not Hindi
South Indian states’ dislike for the Hindi language is no secret. The official language of the courts has been kept English due to this reason only. It is amusing that these states prefer using a foreign language as the common medium over an Indian language.
Because the government doesn’t seem to care enough
In October, when Modi and Merkel met during the latter’s visit to India, it was decided that German will be taught in Kendriya Vidyalayas as an additional foreign language. In return, Indian languages will be taught in Germany. But which Indian language from the thousands prevalent in the country, no one knew! And there was no further clarification on this from the Government.
Because we consider English as a prerequisite for jobs which don’t need English
Why should an Indian working in an Indian restaurant take orders from an Indian guest in English? Apparently because conversing in English makes us feel more cultured and sophisticated?
Because we think that speaking in Indian languages won’t get us a job in multinationals coming to India
Multinational companies launching their offices in countries like Germany and France are bound to hire people with proficiency and German and French respectively and alter their operations accordingly. But when they come to India, they know that they will easily find English speaking staff and hence, English continues its dominance in India.
New Delhi, Apr 25, 2017: Aiming to bring a billion people online and make the web more useful for them, Google India on Tuesday unveiled new products on advancement in machine learning for Indian languages.
Google also announced that the neural machine translation is now available for nine Indian languages — Hindi, Bengali, Punjabi, Marathi, Gujarati, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada.
“Google wants to extend internet for every Indian. We have identified gaps that bar Indians from accessing the internet. There are 400 million internet users in India and the number is expected to reach 600 million by 2020,” Rajan Anandan, Vice President, India and SouthEast Asia, Google, told reporters here.
New Delhi: A group of 132 eminent Indian academicians, including many well-known Sanskrit scholars, have expressed strong reservations regarding Columbian University Professor Sheldon Pollock, a scholar of philology presiding over the historical project of Murthy Classical library as the general editor.
The Murty Classical Library of India was established by Rohan Murthy, the son of Infosys co-founder N. R. Narayana Murthy, with an aim to publish modern English translations of classical Indian works present in various Indian languages, including Sanskrit, Bangla, Hindi, Kannada, Marathi, Pali, Panjabi, Persian, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu, and Urdu.
The Library started publishing translations in 2015 and since its inception, Professor Pollock has been serving as its ‘general editor’. Professor Pollock is known for his controversial views on Sanskrit language and Indian philosophy.
The petition contends that “While Pollock has been a well-known scholar of philology, it is also well-known that he has deep antipathy towards many of the ideals and values cherished and practiced in our civilization. He echoes the views of Macaulay and Max Weber that the shastras generated in India serve no contemporary purpose except for the study of how Indians express themselves.”
The signatories further state in their petition that Professor Pollock is not politically neutral and has been a “prominent signatory of several statements which are of a purely political nature and devoid of any academic merit; those statements have condemned various policies and actions of the Government of India,” including two “recent statements released by US academicians condemning the actions of the JNU authorities and the Government of India against separatist groups who are calling for the independence of Kashmir, and for India’s breakup.”
Calling the Murthy Classical Library as a “historical project”, the petitioners have stated that such a project must be “guided and carried out by a team of scholars who not only have proven mastery in the relevant Indian languages, but are also deeply rooted and steeped in the intellectual traditions of India. They also need to be imbued with a sense of respect and empathy for the greatness of Indian civilization.”
They have further appealed the Murthy duo to “invite critics of Sheldon Pollock and the approaches being followed in his project, for open and frank discussions.”
We the undersigned would like to convey our deep appreciation for your good intentions and financial commitment to establish the Murty Classical Library of India, a landmark project to translate 500 volumes of traditional Indian literature into English. We appreciate the motives of making our civilization’s great literature available to the modern youth who are educated in English, and who are unfortunately not trained in Indian languages.
However, such a historical project would have to be guided and carried out by a team of scholars who not only have proven mastery in the relevant Indian languages, but are also deeply rooted and steeped in the intellectual traditions of India. They also need to be imbued with a sense of respect and empathy for the greatness of Indian civilization.
We would like to bring to your notice the views of the mentor and Chief Editor of this program, Professor Sheldon Pollock. While Pollock has been a well-known scholar of philology, it is also well-known that he has deep antipathy towards many of the ideals and values cherished and practiced in our civilization. He echoes the views of Macaulay and Max Weber that the shastras generated in India serve no contemporary purpose except for the study of how Indians express themselves. He has forcefully articulated this view in his career, starting with his 1985 paper, “The Theory of Practice and the Practice of Theory in Intellectual Tradition” (Journal of the American Oriental Society). He sees all shastras as flawed because he finds them frozen in Vedic metaphysics, which he considers irrational and a source of social oppression. Even as recently as 2012, he echoed this view at a talk at Heidelberg titled, “What is South Asian Knowledge Good For?”). He said:
“Are there any decision makers, as they refer to themselves, at universities and foundations who would not agree that, in the cognitive sweepstakes of human history, Western knowledge has won and South Asian knowledge has lost? …That, accordingly, the South Asian knowledge South Asians themselves have produced can no longer be held to have any significant consequences for the future of the human species?”
Therefore, we are dismayed that Pollock has been appointed the Chief Editor and mentor of the entire program.
In his recent book, “The Battle for Sanskrit”, Shri Rajiv Malhotra has articulated that many of the writings of Pollock are deeply flawed and misrepresent our cultural heritage.
Furthermore, Pollock does not claim to be politically neutral. In recent years, Pollock has been a prominent signatory of several statements which are of a purely political nature and devoid of any academic merit; those statements have condemned various policies and actions of the Government of India. He has shown utter indifference and disrespect for democratic values and even the international norms of non-interference in the internal functioning of constitutional representative institutions in other countries.
In addition, we now find that Pollock is a prominent signatory of two recent statements released by US academicians condemning the actions of the JNU authorities and the Government of India against separatist groups who are calling for the independence of Kashmir, and for India’s breakup.
“काश्मीर की आजादी तक जंग रहेगी, भारत की बरबादी तक जंग रहेगी, भारत तेरे टुकडे होङ्गे,
इनशा अल्लाह इनशा अल्लाह”.
“The fight will continue till Kashmir is freed; The fight will continue till India is destroyed; O India, you are going to get shattered by the will of Allah.”
Beside these slogans, the disgruntled youth also went on to condemn the highest court of India by way of hoarding posters and banners describing the action of court as “judicial killing” of a terrorist.
To add fuel to the fire, Pollock by way of signing petitions has demanded that the Government of India should end its “authoritative menace”. However, we do not find him petitioning against his own USA government’s authoritative policies within its borders and around the world.
Thus, it is crystal clear that Pollock has shown disrespect for the unity and integrity of India. We submit that such an individual cannot be considered objective and neutral enough to be in charge of your historic translation project.
We petition you to reconstitute the editorial group of your project with the following ideals in mind:
There must be a fair representation of the lineages and traditional groups that teach and practice the traditions described in the texts being translated. This would ensure that the sentiments and understanding of the millions of Indians who practice these traditions are not violated.
The project must be part of the “Make in India” ethos and not outsourced wholesale to American Ivy Leagues. Just as your visionary role in Infosys showed the world that Indians can be the top producers of IT, so also we urge you to champion the development of Swadeshi Indology. This would entail developing an entire ecosystem of India-based research, translations, journals and conferences. These would be run by leading Indian academicians as well as traditional practitioners.
There must be a written set of standards and policies for the entire project, pertaining to the translation methodologies, historical assumptions and philosophical interpretations that would be used consistently in all volumes.
How will certain Sanskrit words that are non-translatable be treated?
What will be the posture adopted towards the “Foreign Aryan Theory” and other such controversial theories including chronologies?
What will be assumed concerning the links between ancient texts and present-day social and political problems?
Will the theoretical methods developed in Europe in the context of the history of ancient Europe, be used to interpret Indian texts, or will there first be open discussions with Indians on the use of Indian systems of interpretations?
We urge you to invite critics of Sheldon Pollock and the approaches being followed in his project, for open and frank discussions. We are convinced that this would lead to a dramatic improvement in your project and also avoid any adverse outcome.
Scholars and Intellectuals
Prof. K. Ramasubramanian, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT Bombay.
Prof. Ramesh C. Bhardwaj , Professor and Head, Department of Sanskrit, Delhi University
Dr. Kapil Kapoor , Former Pro Vice Chancellor, JNU, New Delhi.
Dr. Girish Nath Jha, Professor of Computational Linguistics and Chairperson, Special Center for Sanskrit Studies, JNU, New Delhi. Professor & Concurrent Faculty, Center for Linguistics, School of Language Literature & Culture Studies, JNU, New Delhi.
Prof. V. Kutumba Sastry, President, International Association of Sanskrit Studies, Former Vice Chancellor, Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan, New Delhi
Dr. C. Upender Rao, Professor and Chairperson, Special centre for Sanskrit Studies, JNU, New Delhi.
Prof. Madhu Kishwar, Senior Fellow, CSDS, New Delhi
Prof. R. Vaidyanathan, IIM Bangalore, Finance & Control UTI Chair Professor
Shri N. Gopalaswami, Former Chief Election Commisioner of India, Head of the HRD ministry’s committee on Sanskrit Promotion, Chairman, Kalakshetra, Chennai
Prof. Ramesh Kumar Pandey, Vice Chancellor, Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapeeth, New Delhi.
The author’s prescription of a remedy for the plight of Dalits is “Fight for their kids to Learn English”. Why? So that they can speak to judges in court and courts in India operate in English. The New Indian Express apparently finds such articles fit for publication in their media. It is amusing to conjecture whether same media would publish an article arguing in favor of using the mother tongue as medium of instruction (English as a second language) at all levels of education in India, which is a common practice in countries having a keen sense of self-respect and national dignity.
National development is induced not by foreign investment and showy infrastructure, but by participation of the general population in inclusive growth, which is only possible through use of people’s language. Hence Dalits would not remain Dalits if during the last 68 years they had access to all levels of education in their mother tongue or in a closely related language. Since 1947- it is not just the Dalits but common masses remained isolated from the source of all technical knowledge since it can’t be accessed in mother tongue. Hence India remains underdeveloped despite limited economic progress. Whatever economic progress has come about, not because of but in spite of a brand of Governance; both at the center and state level. Progress made can only be ascribed to the incredible talent, tenacity, perseverance, and entrepreneurship of common Indians that has little to do with English. India’s contribution to world GDP – before she came in contact with ENGLISH- was between 23-35% and was reduced to 2% by the grace of ENGLISH. India’s high GDP coincided with the influx of foreign students in pursuit of higher education in one of the fifteen thousand higher institutes of education spread all over present day India, where mother tongue or a closely related language was used as a medium of instruction.
Back in sixties Vinoba Vhabe the Gandhian and the bearer of the Sarvodaya Movement, once asked Prime Minister Nehru- “Will Anglophonic Education improve agriculture? If yes, then why not teach English to the bulls?” Alas, he is not around to see that net result of 68 years of English Education is a degraded schooling that breeds uncultured Anglophonic Indian ruling class having no sense of self-respect, no sense of pride in self-identity, and no sense of identity crisis. They are in fact looked down upon by the very elements whom they are schooled to imitate and serve and who in turn considers India as “Appendage of the West”.
Just recently someone observed that over 68 years India has not made any new contribution in any field whatsoever. That such Anglophonic higher technical education in so called “prestigious” institutes like IIT and AIIMS are nothing but scavengers of Anglo-American leftovers is not an accident. That “Make in India” has failed to induce transfer and indigenization of technology through foreign collaboration is a natural outcome of exclusively Anglophonic “Education”.
Of course the author – as a product of the Anglophonic school – is not likely to be aware of what India was and what Anglophonic education has done to the nation. Hence he recommends Anglophonic education to Dalits so that they understand the language of judges, which is other than people’s language. Schooling of Anglophonic Indians has conditioned them to think that courts should not use peoples language. It is the people who should learn the court’s language. A condition enforced by the victor over the vanquished.
It is not by chance that middle class Indians have been culturally conditioned to send their kids to English medium schools for “Good Education” where students learn to look down upon anything indigenous and adore everything that belongs to those whose mother tongue is English, including their feature and skin color.
But that such ideas are given a platform by the Anglophonic media is by no means an accident. Because media needs their “freedom of press” to breed naïve of this kind. Why? Because they are here to protect the interest of their Anglo-American patrons whose focus is not on the welfare of Dalits but what is under the ground, in the forest and hills, and in the rivers of India. So the media is all out to use all kinds of technology to manipulate and control public opinion and make them act against their own interest. Because media knows- people fight for something they love, they love something they respect, and they respect something that they at least know. So English schooling will make sure that Dalits like all other masses of India do not know who they actually are and English can be effectively used to make sure that Dalits and masses of Indians who are in fact tigers of the nature can be converted to the tigers of the circus.
Kallol Guha, Ph D is the President and CEO of St James School of Medicine, headquartered in Chicago area, IL, USA.