Mahatma Macaulay

Robert Clive founded the British Raj, Lord Macaulay sowed the seeds of its end

Written by Chandra Bhan Prasad | Updated: October 25, 2017 7:53 am
Lord Robert Clive, battle of Plassey, battle of Plassey 1757, Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay, English ruling India, India before freedom, British rule in India, Macaulay on Indian caste system  Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay walked into India, as if pacing into a palanquin. Clad in suits and gleaming shoes that appeared as though they had just been procured. (Source – Wikimedia Commons)

Once in India, Lord Robert Clive, more often than not, would be in uniform and battle ready. He would sport long moonboots, ride horses. Conjectural of sorts, he would flash a gun in one hand, and a sword in the other. Conjectural because, when both hands are armed, what body part held the bridle?

The fact is, in 1757 at the battle of Plassey, Clive won India for England. Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay walked into India, as if pacing into a palanquin. Clad in suits and gleaming shoes that appeared as though they had just been procured. Academic D. Shyam Babu describes Macaulay as a Mahatma. With Lord Macaulay-like simplicity, he dislodges the Crown’s greatest stamp of honour, “Lord”.

India thus turns home to three Mahatmas — Mahatma Macaulay, Mahatma Phule and Mahatma Gandhi. Decades before Gandhiji returned to India in 1915, Macaulay began scripting the path Gandhiji would enact. “Freedom”? Who imagined that enterprise for British India? “It would be. far better for us that the people of India were well governed and independent of us, than ill governed and subject to us,” argued the would-be-Mahatma in his July 10, 1832 speech in the House of Commons.

His regard for India continues: “Are we to keep the people of India ignorant in order that we may keep them submissive? Or do we think that we can give them knowledge without awakening ambition? Or do we mean to awaken ambition and to provide it with no legitimate vent? It may be that the public mind of India may expand under our system till it has outgrown that system; that by good government we may educate our subjects into a capacity for better government; that, having become instructed in European knowledge, they may, in some future age, demand European institutions. Whether such a day will ever come I know not. But never will I attempt to avert or to retard it. Whenever it comes, it will be the proudest day in English history.” Once in India in 1835, seeding ideas of freedom was Macaulay’s mission.

When the British parliament asked the East India Company to set aside one lakh rupees for the education of Indians, the officials were divided: One set insisting to continue with the existing Arabic and Sanskrit education, and the other group, led by the Mahatma-in-making, argued for English education that would be seeped in the sciences. In order to convince his fellow officials who were obsessed with the Arabic/Sanskrit system, Macaulay in his Minute on Education makes fun of 15th century England. “To which I refer is the great revival of letters among the Western nations at the close of the fifteenth and the beginning of the sixteenth century. At that time, almost everything that was worth reading was contained in the writings of the ancient Greeks and Romans. Had our ancestors… neglected the language of Thucydides and Plato, and the language of Cicero and Tacitus. Would England ever have been what she now is?”

Macaulay adds, “What the Greek and Latin were to the contemporaries of More and Ascham, our tongue is to the people of India.” This Mahatma had won for India not only the English language but the sciences as well. But what about the account that paints Macaulay as a mind-slaver? The slave theorists hate the Lord with the pen more than they hate the Lord with swords.

In his 1832 speech, Macaulay spoke thus: “I fully believe that a mild penal code is better than a severe penal code, the worst of all systems was surely that of having a mild code for the Brahmins… while there was a severe code for the Shudras. India has suffered enough already from the distinction of castes, and from the deeply rooted prejudices which that distinction has engendered.” Clive won England an empire but he wouldn’t say a word against the “deeply rooted prejudices” that caste breeds. Mahatma Macaulay set the stage for ending not only those prejudices but the British rule in India itself.

The writer is a Dalit ideologue

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  1. Mango Person
    Oct 27, 2017 at 1:52 pm
    Look at the hypocrisy of this article! You talk about "Mahatma" Macaulay and quote his various statements especially this: "India has suffered enough already from the distinction of castes, and from the deeply rooted prejudices which that distinction has engendered". But then go on to add "The writer is a Dalit ideologue" at the end of the article. Do we really need to know your ideology while reading your article? If it all, it disgusts me! You quote about ending the "distinction of castes" and yet carry the Dalit iden y on your shoulder as if it's a badge of honor. If you truly believed in ending the "distinction of castes" your only ideology would be "Indian". Not "Dalit" or "Brahmin" or anything else. The very fact that you felt the need to add "The writer is a Dalit ideologue" at the end of the article shows your insecurity. As far as Macaulay goes, he wasn't any Mahatma! He had contempt for Indian literature and it's well documented! So stop whitewashing history!
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      V
      Oct 27, 2017 at 5:59 am
      What happened in 1947 was not independence but just a change of power from white sahibs to brown sahibs. The brown sahibs just parroted the fictional history that the British concocted in the 19th century. The brown sahibs never became mentally independent, they are still mentally decolonized. So, we will continue to see such articles for a long time. The English speaking elite living in Delhi and Bombay nurture this decolonized mind.
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        Milind Majmudar
        Oct 26, 2017 at 9:26 am
        Lord Warren Hastings was highly impressed with the Indian culture.He recommended the British government to adopt certain values of the Indian administration . This was a ride shock to the British.They arranged a program to evaluate the influence.They realised that the numbers were not less.The British decided to rewrite the history of India again Two 'experts'were called from England in order to meet the task. They brought unexpected changes by declaring The Ramayana and the Mahabharata as the myths. This was a serious damage to the culture of India. .
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        1. Anil Bharali
          Oct 27, 2017 at 1:47 am
          Where is the truth of his claim ?? The Ramayana and Mahabharat were written in Indian languages apart from Sanskr scripts . How two British expert can do that ?? are you a MI6 agent ?
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          Murthy
          Oct 26, 2017 at 6:36 am
          "Mahatma" Macaulay is WEEPING in his grave over the POLITICS OF EN LEMENT entrenched among the people of India. British Society in his times had NO Social Equality. Working Class English and Scott had to PROVE themselves. The Upper Caste in Britain those days began to accept that their kind would also have to WORK HARDER AND SACRIFICE THEIR LIVES in the British Army and Navy to retain the respect of Society.... A Principle of your Mahatma Macaulay's Britain was: NO ONE OWES YOU A LIVING, YOU MAKE YOUR OWN WAY through HARD WORK and HONESTY.... This was the PROTESTANT ETHICS that MAX WEBER, the German Sociologist highlighted. You will NOT like my saying it,, This was the BELIEF OF THE HINDU SASTRA ALSO. Bhagwan Krishna says in the Great Gita, "You are - Every Vyakthi is - Your own Friend and You are Your own Enemy".. The first piece of advice I had from my Elders was: " A WISE Indian MAN ( and Woman) should NEVER think of his or her Caste, Skin Colour, ugly or handsome,..
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            Murthy
            Oct 26, 2017 at 6:19 am
            Chandra Bhan Bhayee, Would "Mahatma" Macaulay approve of how your Dalit Students are FAILING TO UTILISE such Chances as they have had ?? Would that "Mahatma" approve of the "IDEN Y POLITICS" Dalits are playing even after SEVENTY YEARS of Reservation / Quota in their favour ?? Would the "Lord" think that Indian Politics under the "Dynasty Rule" was along RATIONAL lines commensurate with the "Education" he advocated based on "English" Values of SELF RELIANCE, COMMITMENT to Country and its Cons ution and the DISDAIN for CORRUPTION that is the MAIN CHARACTERISTIC of the ENGLISH ARISTOCRACY of his times ?? Dalits and their Ideologues like you make the MISTAKE of thinking that ALL other Castes in India had it given to them on a Silver Plate. Elders in my wider family, as late as 1930 ate ONLY one meal a day, to ensure that the Children of the Family ate three meals a day. Some migrated to Calcutta to escape STARVATION at our ancestral village, ate "Mori" and Peanuts to save rupees
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