Mainstream, VOL LIV No 43 New Delhi October 15, 2016
Why we should Celebrate October 5 as the ‘Indian English Day’
Sunday 16 October 2016
by Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd
All lovers of equality should celebrate October 5 as the Indian English Day. We declare that ‘English is Indian’. We study in English and preserve our buffalo cultural nationalism as against the unproductive forces of cow nationalism.
English teaching started in Calcutta sometime in October 1817 by gathering a few Brahmin male children both by British educationalists and Indians. In 2017 we need to celebrate the 200th year of English education in India. In the last few years we, the Osmanians at the Osmania University’s Monumental Arts College, built by the famous Osman Ali Khan, the last Nizam, celebrate October 5 as the ‘Indian English Day’. Everyone knows that October 5 is the ‘Inter-national Teachers Day’. Some of us thought that it should also be celebrated as the ‘Indian English Day’.
In 1817 English teaching started by imparting English alphabets to some Brahmin children because in those days there was no scope for the Dalit bahujan or even the upper Shudras to study in any school. Even persons like Raja Rammohan Roy, who were associated with these initiatives, were casteists. Roy thought of reforming the Brahmin women’s life but never took any initiative for educating the lower castes.
The first educated modern Shudra in India was Mahatma Jotirao Phule, in a Scottish English medium school in Bombay province. That was much later in the 1840s as Phule was born in 1827. The Calcutta province was in the grip of the Britishers and Brahmins. No caste reform movement was initiated by the Bengali Brahmins. A shudra ruler like Shivaji resisted Brahmin hegemony in the Bombay region and initiated some changes there.
Subsequently, his grandson, Sahumaharaj, took a serious step of anti-Brahmin mobilisation of Shudras and Dalits. Thus, English education began in the land of the Dalit bahujan. If Calcutta province represented the Brahmin English, the Bombay province represented the Dalit bahujan English.
Dr B.R. Ambedkar was the first Dalit to get the English medium education and later on a world-class higher education. Even the Muslims of India were pushed back in English education because they were for Persian and Urdu education. Sir Sayyad Ahmmad Khan pushed the ideology of English education into the Muslim community. Now there are several English-educated Muslims in India due to Universities like Aligarh Muslim University and Jamia Millia.
Today the Dalit bahujans and Muslims and other minorities are in the present position because of English education, though they are the least educated. If a person like me, having come from a totally illiterate shepherd family, could challenge the mighty Brahminism that controls the state power, temple power, even the educational power structure, it is because of English (earlier Sanskrit), though learnt under a tree, at a very later age in my village.
The celebration of the Indian English Day is to checkmate the Hindutva forces from confining the SC/ST/OBCs to regional languages and to educate the rich and upper castes in private English medium schools with their money power. Our struggle is to establish common medium and syllabus-based schools for all children—the rich, poor of any caste.
I appeal to all those lovers of equality to cele-brate October 5 as the Indian English Day and tell the diabolical convent and foreign English educated people—you cannot stop us from learning good English education in our village schools with the bogus theory that English is not an Indian language. We declare that ‘English is Indian’. We study in English and preserve our buffalo cultural nationalism as against the unproductive forces of cow nationalism.
Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd is the Director, Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy, at Maulana Azad National Urdu University, Hyderabad. The views expressed here are his own.