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English Worship
November 5, 2010 - By: - In: Language - Comments Off on English Worship

I do not propose the worship of our British cousins, but what of the worship of a language, or the gods thereof? And if English is to be thy faith, then who shall be thy saint and prophet? Shakespeare? Johnson? Milton? Berl? Macaulay! Of course Macaulay, serving on the Supreme Council of India between 1834 and 1838, instrumental in creating the bilingual India, with English as the medium of instruction from the sixth grade on, rather than the Sanskrit or Persian formerly used.

Lord Macaulay wanted to “form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern; a class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals, and in intellect.”

Wikipedia says that the term Macaulay’s Children is used to refer to people born of Indian ancestry who adopt Western culture as a lifestyle, or display attitudes influenced by colonisers. It is used as a pejorative term, and the connotation is one of disloyalty to one’s country and one’s heritage.

Today Macaulay’s name is reviled by nationalists and “Macaulayite” is still used as a derogatory term for anglicized Indians.

But to the abused, abuse is a badge of honor. So, what to others is an object of score, to the Dalits, India’s untouchable cast, is a matter of deliverance. Dalits believe learning English will open up new opportunities for India’s 160 million Dalits in higher education and high-status government careers.

Dalits are India’s most persecuted caste and, despite the law, suffer violence and discrimination throughout the country. There are regular reports of Dalit boys being murdered for illicit relationships with higher caste girls.

“The idea is to make English a matter of faith among Dalits because we believe it is an empowering language. If a Dalit woman starts worshipping English as a goddess, there is no way her kids would escape the ‘ABC’ from their childhood,” said Chandra Bhan Prasad, the Dalit author behind the plan.

He believes speaking English will help Dalits make better marriages. He said the temple, which will cost around £14,000, will include carvings of famous quotes by English authors and an icon of Lord Macaulay.

He is now planning to build more “Macaulay temples” throughout India.

There are more than 230 million speakers of English in India today―that’s more than 1 out of 5 people. For all but a small minority of a quarter million, the rest of Indian English speakers speak English as a second or third language.

For the 60% of Indians who don’t’ speak Hindi, and even for some who do, English is an important element in preserving an Indian identity distinct from the dominant Hindi language and culture that are perceived by some to be “All India.”

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