Vantage point

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Propaganda About Macaulay's Speech

Recently, I received an email forward which I have received dozens of times over the last few years. The supposed speech of Lord Macaulay to the English Parliament in 1835 which basically says that Indians are such amazing people, that to break them and rule them, it is necessary to force upon them the English education system. Here's the jpeg file -

The problem is, this smells too much like propaganda mixed with a dash of conspiracy theory. Why would Macaulay be stupid enough to go on the record saying that Indians are the salt of the earth, and hence need to be broken? The whole thing stunk so I emailed a few people even as I was googling the test. Salil Tripathi replied back pointing out something I had missed - the fact that "calibre" is spelt as "caliber", the way an American would spell it. He also sent the link to the full text of "Macaulay's Minute" dated 2nd February 1835, which is reproduced on a Columbia University page.

Here is the full text.

If you go through the page, you will notice that the supposed paragraph does not appear anywhere. Additionally, Macaulay's tone is extremely condescending and disrespectful towards Indian people, Indian culture, traditions and literature. He is making a case for imposing an English-based education system. But his whole argument is that the existing system, and existing literature in Arabic, Sanskrit and other regional languages is inferior and even false.

So the aforementioned paragraph is obviously a fabrication. A piece of propaganda to be used while decrying Macaulayism. Who concocted this paragraph? Rudimentary googling does not tell me that. But it would be safe to assume it would be someone with an RSS-ist ideological bent.

It would also be safe to conclude that whoever felt the need to concoct this must have been stupid beyond belief. The actual text itself is damning and offensive enough to be used in arguments against Macaulayism. It shows that the education system which we have in place today is the remnant of a system put in place at the behest of a man who, by his own admission, was at the very least ignorant about the existing Indian body of knowledge, and at the most was hostile towards it. Our education system is a remnant of a system designed only to produce "intermediaries" who could act as agents of the British government while ruling the country. A system built to create an army of brown sahibs.

Yet our friend the concocter felt the need to fabricate a para which praises Indian people and Indian culture, and paint Macaulay as a scheming colonialist who was hell-bent upon causing the downfall of this great culture. If this piece of propaganda weren't so willy-nilly swallowed by everyone with an email address, it would be extremely hilarious.