An Elegy to Sanskrit Pride

 

Reju George Mathew

reju george latestWhen external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj declares that Sanskrit has to be promoted to purify the minds and sanctify the world, one wonders what this 'purity' means and what the 'impure minds' will have to endure in our nation if they do not conform.

The pride or alleged pride that one has about Sanskrit in India has always troubled me for years. Initially, it was because of curiosity about the unknown language and its politics; now, it has become a disgust towards the respect it demands. This has forced me to put down a few ideas on Sanskrit pride, as celebrated by the right wing groups in India.

When the 2014 Jnanpith award winner, Bhalchandra Nemade, demands that English be banned from the Indian education system and banishes V.S. Naipaul and Salman Rushdie from any consideration of literary merit, he takes pride in Sanskrit. While discussions on Indian English writing might take us to questions of postcolonialism, the attempts to celebrate Sanskrit, especially in the manner that it happened recently in the Kendriya Vidyalayas where it replaced German, needs to be scrutinised at a deeper level.

* Sanskrit was not the language of the lower castes or even most of the upper castes, except the Brahmins. So, when there is any campaign or plea that asks you to be proud of something that you never owned, it becomes ridiculous.

* Sanskrit is a symbol of oppression for those people who had their ancestors tortured for using the language. Vedic texts and chants in Sanskrit were prohibited to the lower castes and if one happened to use it, her/his tongue was severed or molten lead was poured into the person's ears for hearing the language. So, one would actually want her/his mother tongue (NOT the regional language, but mother tongue, which may not even have a script) to be introduced into the education system.

* Sanskrit as an ancient language does hold much water as we also had Pali, which has been deliberately forgotten, probably for its Buddhist connections. Nobody seems worried about Pali texts or language. If it is just the age of the language and not its practical use that matters, Pali might have an upper hand.

* Why is it that Sanskrit is being forcefully fed into the public education system when the elite castes have probably shifted to more profitable ones? Kanch Ilaiah, while speaking for English education, argued that in the ancient times Sanskrit was a language of power and the lower castes were kept away from it by all means. Now, English is emerging as an international language and the same elite castes and classes are asking for only vernacular medium in public education so that the lower castes will not prosper. I would like to extend the same argument to the Sanskrit question in Kendriya Vidyalayas as well.

When the elite castes and classes of our society send their children to international schools with Cambridge syllabus and two or three foreign languages, it does open up a lot of opportunities for their children. But, we want the national education policy to shift to Sanskrit etc so that the lower strata of the society will not have these opportunities.

* By learning Sanskrit, can you read the ancient Indian texts? Maybe you can. You can read the Hindu holy scriptures and understand the caste system in a better way, like what Dr. B.R. Ambedkar did. And what happens if you learn German instead in KVs? You might get better job and education opportunities abroad. Remember the almost-free-education policy in Germany. Also, it is interesting the way we are dealing with Sanskrit, as an instrument of nationalist propaganda, akin to what Hitler did with German.

* When a nation tries to create/force nationalism amongst its citizens, certain symbols are essential for this purpose. Sanskrit has become one of those symbols. And these symbols would definitely need substantial 'others' to fight against. I fear that many of the minor languages and even languages like Urdu and Arabic (especially due to the religious othering involved) would suffer in due course.

* For the many castes and tribes who were kept away from Sanskrit, this force feeding of the same is not going to be an enjoyable experience. When I'm being fed Sanskrit, I am also being asked to forget my food, my culture and my memories as they are inferior. I am told that there is no pride in my beef or my Pali. There is no pride in my minor religions or my Buddhism.

Fall into the nationalist framework or perish! They would define your life, your tastes and your nationalism. They will have you read their national books...

~~~

 

Reju George Mathew is Assistant Professor at Department of English, Christ University, Bangalore.

Other Articles from the Author

Other Related Articles

Dalit Bahujan Missionary Efforts in North Karnataka
Friday, 19 May 2017
  Rohan Arthur And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. - Matthew 19:24 Religion is for man and... Read More...
Bahubali: Celebrating the grandchildren of Nehru and Savarkar
Monday, 15 May 2017
  Kuffir ~ Social and individual efficiency requires us to develop the capacity of an individual to the point of competency to choose and to make his own career. This principle is violated in... Read More...
The Rise of the Bheem Army
Saturday, 13 May 2017
  Vinay Shende Exclusive details on the recent caste incidents in Saharanpur, Uttar Pradesh, and the role of the Bheem Army. This report is based on a member speaking to Round Table India on the... Read More...
बुद्ध पूर्णिमा पर बुद्ध के दुश्मनों को पहचानिए
Tuesday, 09 May 2017
  संजय जोठे (Sanjay Jothe) बुद्ध पूर्णिमा के अवसर पर बुद्ध के सबसे पुराने और सबसे... Read More...
Romancing the Caste Violence
Tuesday, 09 May 2017
  Dr. N. Sukumar Mr. Venkaiah Naidu in the Indian Express dated 1st May 2017 (Romancing the Maoists) took umbrage at the human rights activists maintaining silence over the killing of security... Read More...

Recent Popular Articles

Fight against the Misogyny & Casteism of 'Best Indian Memes for Creamy Teens', FB page
Friday, 06 January 2017
  Vinay Shende "My final words of advice to you are Educate, Agitate and Organize; have faith in yourself. With justice on our side I do not see how we can lose our battle. The battle to me is a... Read More...
Gangrape and Murder of a 16 year old Dalit girl in Sendurai, Tamil Nadu
Saturday, 21 January 2017
  (A condensed translation, by Trevor Jeyaraj, of Mr. Venpura Saravanan's Facebook post in Tamil ) N (16), daughter of Rajendran R of Sendurai taluk in Ariyalur district, Tamil Nadu, who... Read More...
Revoke the Arbitrary Suspension of JNU Students Fighting for Social Justice
Wednesday, 28 December 2016
  BAPSA BAPSA's President, Bhupali Vitthal Magare and two other BAPSA activists, Rahul Sonpimple and Praveen Thallapelli have been academically suspended and debarred from hostels by the JNU... Read More...
The curious case of Indian psychoanalysis
Saturday, 11 February 2017
 Umar Nizar  Marxism has been critiqued variously for its occasional elitism and casteism. But the Freudian establishment in India, a flourishing one at that, has escaped criticism. Ashis... Read More...
The Battle of Bhima Koregaon: An Unending Journey
Wednesday, 01 February 2017
  Somnath Waghamare I am Somnath Waghamare, a Graduate in Sociology and Post Graduate in Media studies from Sangli, Maharashtra, India. The past few years I have been working... Read More...

Recent Articles in Hindi

पेरियार से हम क्या सीखें?

पेरियार से हम क्या सीखें?

  संजय जोठे  इस देश में भेदभाव और शोषण से भरी परम्पराओं का विरोध करने वाले अनेक विचारक और क्रांतिकारी हुए हैं जिनके बारे में हमें बार-बार पढ़ना और समझना चाहिए. दुर्भाग्य से इस देश के शोषक वर्गों के षड्यंत्र के कारण इन क्रांतिकारियों का जीवन परिचय और समग्र कर्तृत्व छुपाकर रखा जाता है. हमारी अनेकों पीढियां इसी षड्यंत्र में जीती आयीं हैं. किसी देश के उद्भट विचारकों और क्रान्तिकारियों को इस...

Read more

कृष्ण: भारतीय मर्द का एक आम चेहरा...!

कृष्ण: भारतीय मर्द का एक आम चेहरा...!

(कृष्ण की लोक लुभावन छवि का पुनर्पाठ!)मानुषी आखिर ये मिथकीय कहानियां किस तरह की परवरिश और शिक्षा देती हैं, जहां पुरुषों को सारे अधिकार हैं, चाहे वह स्त्री को अपमानित करे या दंडित, उसे स्त्री पलट कर कुछ नहीं कहती। फिर आज हम रोना रोते हैं कि हमारे बच्चे इतने हिंसक और कुंठित क्यों हो रहे हैं। सारा दोष हम इंटरनेट और टेलीविजन को देकर मुक्त होना चाहते हैं। जबकि स्त्री...

Read more

राष्ट्रवाद और देशभक्ति

राष्ट्रवाद और देशभक्ति

संजय जोठे धर्म जो काम शास्त्र लिखकर करता है वही काम राष्ट्र अब फ़िल्में और विडिओ गेम्स बनाकर बनाकर करते हैं. इसी के साथ सुविधाभोगी पीढ़ी को मौत से बचाने के लिए टेक्नालाजी पर भयानक खर्च भी करना पड़ता है ताकि दूर बैठकर ही देशों का सफाया किया जा सके, और यही असल में उस तथाकथित “स्पेस रिसर्च” और “अक्षय ऊर्जा की खोज” की मूल प्रेरणा है, यूं तो सबको...

Read more