ENGLISH LANGUAGE: HER UNDISCUSSED CONTRIBUTION TO INDIA’S FREEDOM

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s hint to Knighthood for Sachin Tendulkar got a ready test of Indian taste in a debate on CNN-IBN show: Face the Nation, where desirability of English language in India also influenced the discussion.

A panel comprising historian Ramachandra Guha, former BBC correspondent Sam Miller and senior journalist Swapan Dasgupta enriched the debate on whether or not the knighthood to Sachin could be interpreted in the light of imperial / colonial hangover.

But the debate eventually went beyond the knighthood issue and embarked upon English elitism.

The show promoter’s website, IBNLive.com, reported on Jan.22, 2008 that the question on importance of English language became so hot that Guha had to admit that elite Indian’s anglicized manners and over-dependance on English as principal medium of expression rather expose its inferiority complex, though, he said, “we should recognize that no relationship between a former empire and a former colony has been as harmonious as ours with Britain”. Miller preferred to observe, “The issue probably is not about colonial hangover anymore, but it is much more about a wider Western hangover, if you want to call it that”, even as Dasgupta, concluding the discussion, had to comment that the “importance of English may have begun something as colonial but today the language is linked to economic advancement and opportunity. And that is something, which is very practical”.

This prompts us to observe that the panel has totally failed to focus on the real importance of English in Indian life.

We, in The NEWS Syndicate, had cogitated deeply as to whether publication of orissamatters.com in English would not adversely affect our commitment to everything Oriya; and, deliberately had decided that Oriya nationalism would not be affected by expression in English as thereby we would be duly acknowledging the invaluable contribution of English language to our freedom from English yoke.

Expression in English is neither indicative of our colonial hangover nor inferiority complex. It refurbishes our recollection that we had used this language to convince the majority of English speaking people as on why the English must leave our land.

If the British crown had to quit India notwithstanding knowing that thereby the Sun of its Empire would set forever, it was because of three principal factors: (one) methods of non-cooperation and non-violence as used by Gandhiji as weapons of his movement for freedom, (two) more and more of Indian commons and intelligentsia accepting Marxism as their creed and rise of matching communist militancy addressed to supplement Gandhiji’s movement in progressive prospective and (three) use of English language against the English Empire.

But had we not used English language as our medium to apprise the commons and lords of the English land of our determination for self-rule, despite the active role of the first two factors, British Parliament would not have decided to quit India so soon. Had that not happened, the freedom movement would have been further prolonged. We would not have unfurled our free Flag in 1947. And, what could have happened after Gandhiji, had the British not quit in 1947 cannot be said for certain at this point of time. So, to say the least we owe our freedom from the British yoke to a large extent to English language.

This is why I had decided to admit my son to an English medium School. This is why The NEWS Syndicate, in deciding to float Orissa’s first online portal, had decided to make English the medium of expression in orissamatters.com.

So, English to us is not a foreign language; but is a friend. The British PM’s offer of Knighthood to Tendulkar may be refused by him or rebuked by Indians in the light of perception over imperial / colonial hangover. But, role of English language in India’s life should be kept above all questions.

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