“The spirit of English literature, on the other hand, cannot but be favourable to the English connection. Familiarly acquainted with us by means of our literature, the Indian youth almost cease to regard us as foreigners, They speak of our great men with the same enthusiasm as we do, educated in the same way, interested in the same objects, engaged in the same pursuits with ourselves, they become more English than Hindus, just as the Roman provincials became more Romans than Gauls or Italians.”
— Sir Charles Trevelyan, On The Education of the People of India: 1938, London: Longman, Pp 189-190
This year, we are completing 70 years of our political Independence. There is also an ongoing celebration of 75 years of ‘Quit India Movement’. Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has given a call to the common masses for Sankalp to Siddhi (from Resolution to Attainment) for the next five years as we did during 1942-47. He has suggested many issues on which we can take a resolve but one area where we really need to work on collectively is to get rid of our colonial mindset and strive for ‘Swaraj in Ideas’ in the coming years.
After Independence, there are certainly many achievements to our credit as a nation. We proved the British and their prodigies in Bharat wrong by successfully stabilising the vibrant democratic institutions. Still, we are fighting on the issue of language which was unheard of in Bharat. Our education is still imparted in a colonial language and perspective denigrating whatever that is Bharatiya, foreign degrees continued to be a required tag to get us a recognition in intellectual or scientific field, the legal system inspired by the West is used or misused for manipulation and the bureaucracy created by the British to further its own interests is still running the system as athetically as the Colonial rulers. The hope for change gets electorally converted but not in terms of systemic change and core reason for this is the colonial hangover.
The character of the British colonialism was entirely different from the earlier invasions we faced which failed to address in the post-Independence period. Though Islam was also about political and cultural hegemony, it did not have enough potential to damage our civilisational wisdom. It is clear from the objectives set by the British administration to create the ‘slavery of spirit’ as Prof Krishna Chandra Bhattacharya has termed in his seminal speech, ‘Swaraj in Ideas’. The educational and cultural instruments were created by the people like Macaulay and Trevelyan, who were not just administrators but known Evangelical Anglicists. Though the pain of political subjugation and economic exploitation was obvious, the cultural and intellectual suppression of indigenous population by colonial powers was tacit and more damaging than that. Perfectly in tune with the trajectory set by the colonial masters, the prodigies of Marx, Mill, Macaulay and Max Mueller etc, still steer our intellectual space.
Thanks to this colonisation of minds, self-abandonment, self-denial, self-reproachfulness and all this resulting in lack of self-confidence has become the typical characteristic of our eminent elites in almost all fields. Talking anything Bharatiya is conservative, regressive and communal, is the typical approach they nurture in the English language discourse. The importance of Bharatiya languages and their natural connect with the education has been missing in our education policy since Independence. Higher education cannot be acquired in any of the Bharatiya languages is our national mindset, while world over the mother tongue is the natural medium for imparting education.
This colonised psyche is not limited to education and language but our entire political discourse, strategic thinking, development discourse, laws, issues related to religious practices and even our understanding of social institution like family or temple trusts is controlled and managed by the colonial outlook. The evolution of the nation-state system in Europe is completely different from the Bharatiya concept of Rashtra, so understanding our linguistic identities on European lines, as most of the intellectuals do, is not going to help. Sanskrit was language of intellectuals but the knowledge generated in that Mother language was always percolated to the other national
languages; interestingly all of them carried the same meaning for Bharat as a Rashtra – the one that is stretched from Himalayas to Hindu Sagar.
Seeing, believing and nurturing inherent unity in apparent diversity is the Bharatiya thinking. This integral and holistic approach towards life is missing in our intellectual realm. It does not necessarily mean discarding anything that is foreign or opposing English, as it will be also against our national thinking. Reconciliation and continuity is the Bharatiya approach. While challenging the foreign ideas incongruent with our national ethos and reinvigorating civilisational wisdom with present context is the process of
decolonising our minds. It is perhaps the most painful process still utmost necessary to realise the dream of a ‘New Resurgent Bharat’ in the coming years.