The of “white”[3] ignorance and imperial hubris.

The
harsh and arrogant words penned by Thomas Macaulay have stirred debates ever
since they first appeared.1
Macaulay made it clear that the purpose of the introduction of an English
education system in India would not just be an indoctrination of Indians
through textbooks, but would also bring about a cultural transmission among the
educated Indians. 2
Although, the words used by Macaulay are
unpleasant and severe, the stance he chose to take is not a surprise. Many
people today hold the same views. In the modern world, English has indeed
become a means of progression. Its users are considered intellectual human
beings, capable of succeeding in every walk of life.

Macaulay’s
claims regarding Sanskrit and Arabic being languages of the past with no
significance to the modern world are a prime example of “white”3
ignorance and imperial hubris. It was the users of Arabic language who came
forth with the common paper on which the ”superior” language is written and
distributed.4
This was one of the many unspoken achievements of the Arabs from the Islamic
Golden Age. It was in those times that the Muslim

 

communities
in the Middle East, that spoke Arabic, put forward breakthroughs in different
departments of mathematics, astronomy and every facet of science, which lay the
very foundation of modern science that English language is said to teach in the
most excellent of ways. 5
For
example, the basic laws of trigonometry were derived by Ibn Mu’adh al-Jayyani6
and explained in his native language, Arabic.

The
first thing a ruler does when he conquers a land is not learn their language
and speak to them in it, rather, he introduces the land to his own and that is
what was done in the subcontinent. Had Macaulay not put forth his harsh views
through his speech, someone else would have. It was bound to happen that Arabic
and Sanskrit languages were to be suppressed, and English was to be made the
symbol of prosperity, as it gave the British the control they wanted over the
nation.

The
aim Macaulay set out for his speech was not to promote the need of English
language and the necessity of it being taught to the population of the
subcontinent, for their own betterment and increasing chances of prosperity in
the economy of the world, all the while maintaining the existing values and
norms of the land. It was to promote the idea of adopting a dictatorial
approach and forcing it upon the people. He was careful to stress that existing
interests should be respected, however, his propositions that institutes such
as the Calcutta Madrasa and Sanskrit College be abolished, the printing of
Arabic and Sanskrit books be discontinued, and that no further stipends be
awarded to students wishing to pursue Oriental studies at the Delhi Madrasa and
Sanskrit College goes to show that his remorse was false. It can be seen that
he truly

 

resented
the native languages. His words and approach can be considered nothing short of
resembling those of a dictator with a thirst for true control and power.

Macaulay’s
speech not only represented his own sentiments but that of the entire British
supremacy being formed in the country.

“Macaulay
doubted that India could be transformed into an English-speaking country but
insisted that the required use of the English language in all Indian higher
education would inevitably promote Indian loyalty to British rule.”7To
this day, the parts that the British had once ruled remain a prisoner of imperial
ideology. People have forgotten the significance of their native languages
whether it is Arabic, Sanskrit, or Hindi. This is due to the misconception that
the English language is the most excellent. However, there are several
countries doing otherwise. China does not opt to educate the public in English
but chooses to do so in Chinese. Neither does England’s neighbor France, where
the general public is known to be illiterate in the English language. Both are
amongst the most educated, civilized and advanced countries in the world. In international
meetings, several leaders from renowned countries have translators by their
sides, who translate their native language to English. These leaders do not
think that their language is inferior and should not be used to address an
international conference. However, we, sadly, are surrounded by people with
mindsets like Macaulay’s. We consider those who cannot speak the English language
illiterate and incapable of advancing in the world. We hold today the same perspectives
Thomas Macaulay did when presenting his speech. We are inspired by the western
culture, and many today from amongst our own society would salute Macaulay for
his words.

 

“History
is written by the victors” is a very famous quote by the former war time
British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. The British were aware of this fact
well before he said it, and did everything in their power to make themselves
the victors and rewrite history. However, it also cannot be denied that by providing
access to the knowledge and techniques of the West, the British offered the
means by which the indigenous peoples of India could throw off the British
yoke.8