Stating that English education and ideas originating from Europe “enslaved” discourse in India,MP Rakesh Sinha Friday moved a resolution in the Rajya Sabha requesting the government to set up research foundations at the state and district levels to revive the “Indian knowledge tradition”.
The discussion on Sinha’s private member’s resolution saw spirited participation by Opposition MPs from the TMC, Congress, DMK, CPI(M), BJD, RJD, among others, for over three-and-a-half hours, with many arguing that issues like casteism should not be glossed over while reflecting on past glories.
Initiating the discussion, Sinha said that “decolonisation of imagination is the need of the hour”. He spoke extensively on the role played by the “Western education system” introduced by British historian Thomas Babington Macaulay in “alienating” Indians from their knowledge tradition and the destruction of seats of education like.
“The Indian knowledge tradition had to face neglect due to long years of slavery as the colonial culture tried to create a sense of inferiority towards it; India’s renowned knowledge centres faced political, military and cultural attacks during the colonial period and even before that, the burning down of the world-famous Nalanda University being such an instance, which many generations did not even know…English education and ideas originating from Europe enslaved ideas and discourses along with political slavery and this sentiment also prevailed after Independence,” read the resolution.
TMC MP Jawhar Sircar said while all Indians must take pride in its past achievements, for centuries, knowledge was controlled by one particular caste and was not disseminated. “When you talk of universities and the brilliance of learning, for centuries after centuries, for two-and-a-half millennia, it was centered on one caste. Would you like to go back to one caste? It was not a knowledge that was widespread.”
DMK’s TKS Elangovan said while Indian culture has to be preserved, one should avoid a monolithic projection and be mindful of the diversity in the country. “When somebody says that Manudharma is your dharma, how can I accept it? My dharma is not Manudharma. I don’t say that Manudharma is wrong. That is for them to keep. Whoever wants to follow Manudharma, they can follow. But, I don’t want to follow Manudharma because in my area, South of Vindhyas, there is no Manudharma in force,” he said.
BJD MP Amar Patnaik said ethnographic studies need to be promoted. “While doing research and recapturing our history, our traditions, our knowledge traditions, our culture, we have to also banish the pernicious practices and, for example, the most important, the caste system. We cannot recapture something which was definitely responsible for division in the society and which was used by the Colonial powers to regain and destroy our culture.”
RJD’s Manoj Jha said the fact that Bahujan thinkers like Babasaheb Ambedkar and Savitribai Phule had a different take on the impact of the tradition of education introduced by Macaulay should be reflected upon. “Have we ever thought why Bahujan thinkers don’t deride Macaulay? Why do they believe that Macaulay also opened some doors?”
Meanwhile, participating in the discussion, AAP MP Sanjay Singh suggested that all MPs should contribute Rs 5 crore each from their MPLADS funds to help rehabilitate Kashmiri Pandits and attacked the BJP over the plight of the community. The members of the treasury benches accused Singh of digressing from the topic.