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Mainstream, VOL LVIII No 48, New Delhi, November 14, 2020

Mass Education of Bengal: A critique on bi-centennial Birth Anniversary of Vidyasagar | AK Biswas

Friday 13 November 2020, by A K Biswas

“There is no man, who has not something hateful in him---no man who has not some of the wild beasts in him. But there are few who will honestly tell us how they manage their wild beast.” —Voltaire


The role of Lord William Bentinck (14 September 1774 – 17 June 1839) for restructuring the socio-cultural foundation of the Hindus “debased by three thousand years of despotism and priestcraft” [1] can rarely be exaggerated. His bold move to ban and abolish the cruel practice of suttee, which implied burning of a Hindu widow alive with dead body on her husband’s funeral pyre. Scripture authorized consigning the intending sati in flames even with sandal, slipper, shoes or discarded clothes used by her husband, in absence of dead body, in case of his death in far off land from where convenience did not allow fetching the corpse back to his native place. [2] Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay’s (25 October 1800 – 28 December 1859) Education Minute approved by Lord Bentick replaced Arabic and Sanskrit by English as sole official language. This measure exerted far-reaching repercussions on Indian polity.

Ram Mohan Roy had articulated in a memorandum addressed to Governor-General Lord Amherst the aspirations of new India, urging incorporation of “a more liberal and enlightened system of instruction, embracing mathematics, natural philosophy, chemistry and anatomy and learning educated in Europe, and providing a college furnished with the necessary books, instruments and other apparatus.” [3] Sadly, the country always boasted of people gifted with exclusivist mindset and puerile culture of grabbing everything for self-aggrandisement to the detriment of wellbeing of the rest, though far larger in strength. They were Hindu intelligentsia, dangerously myopic and self-centred, to whom their own kith and kin only were fit for the boon flowing from the alien rulers. They took initiative to suppress, distort or whitewash darkest deeds, mischief, and immorality committed by themselves. No misfortune visited or befell millions in Bengal without blessings of the tiny privileged section. A look at what went wrong in education of Bengal seems relevant in our discourse while the country celebrates Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar’s bi-centennial birth anniversary.

The so-called elite and intelligentsia---one and all--- of colonial Bengal were hell bent in opposing education for the masses. History stands witness that any authority whosoever attempted to promote education for the masses belonging particularly to the lowest in their caste hierarchy, had invited unrestrained public condemnation, scorn and vilification. Their malefic opposition, euphemism for misdemeanour, was eulogized as patriotism.

William Bentinck’s Education Policy was preceded by prolonged and acrimonious public debates between the Orientalists and Anglicists---the former advocating continuation of Arabic and Sanskrit as the medium of instruction for India whereas the latter favoured introduction of English only. Lord Macaulay, outstanding essayist, historian, poet, orator, and statesman as the captain of the Anglicists had trounced the Orientalists. [4] He marshalled startling facts about Arabic and Sanskrit education to silence the opponents. A provision of a lakh for rupees (£10,000) was annually made by the Government Committee of Instruction for printing Arabic and Sanskrit book. But what followed was heart-wrenching.

“These books find no purchasers” observed Macaulay. “It is very rarely that a single copy is disposed of. Twenty-three thousand volumes, most of the folios and quarto, fill the libraries or rather the lumber-rooms, of this body. The Committee continue to get rid of some portion of this vast stock of Oriental literature by giving books away…. About twenty thousand rupees a year are spent in adding fresh masses of wastepaper to a hoard…. During the last three years, sixty thousand rupees have been expended in this manner.” [5]

His Minute made a mention to the effect that in the meantime, “the School Book Society is selling seven or eight thousand English volumes every year, and not only pays the expenses of printing but realizes a profit of twenty per cent. on its outlay.” [6]
William Adam, Special Education Commissioner of Bengal found that pupils “averse to learning Sanskrit and Arabic pupils were bribed into these studies by stipends, tenable for twelve or fifteen year.” He, on the other hand, noted that the “…doors of the English schools were crowded with boys begging for admission.” [7] Decades later while reviewing state of Sanskrit learning in Bengal, Lieutenant Governor Campbell was struck by dwindling lack of interest of undergraduate students in Sanskrit College, Calcutta. Their strength declined from 26 in 1871 to 23 in 1872. And most of them “in some sense were bribed to go there by some special scholarships….in Calcutta there is so little desire for real oriental learning.” Their desire instead was so much to learn English. [8]

Part-II Macaulay’s ‘hermetically sealed’ filter

Law Member of the Supreme Government, Lord Macaulay was appointed the President of the Committee of Public Instruction by Governor-General Bentinck. His scheme aimed at involvement of the upper social strata (upper castes) in translating his policy of educating the countrymen.

“We aim at raising up an educated class who will hereafter, as we hope, be the means of diffusing among their countrymen some portion of the knowledge we have imparted to them.” [9]

His robust confidence in the upper castes for translating his scheme of education into practice led to his disgraceful failure, by benefiting a trusted microscopic minority. The blessed men were interested in cream which they siphoned off as godsent. The upper castes were fanatically against to any idea of enlightenment for the lowest strata of caste structure. It was a surprise that a man of transcendental intelligence, wisdom and foresight, Macaulay did not anticipate the serious snag in the filter. His belief about the educated youth to “be conductors of knowledge to the people” [10] proved out and out a disaster. Distinguished educationist and acclaimed author, Rev. Lal Behari Day pinpointed where Macaulay went grossly wrong in formulating the laudable policy with upper caste occupying the central position to carry education and knowledge down to the masses in lower social orders.

“The theory of ‘the down filtration of education, however, fluttering to the pride of the higher classes, has never been verified in history.” He stressed that in India, “the higher classes, or rather the Brahmans, were an educated class a thousand years before the Christian era, and yet during the last hundred generations, not a drop of knowledge has descended to the millions…In this country knowledge never filtered from higher classes. The fact is, the upper classes filter, in India at any rate, is not a filter, but a jar hermetically sealed.” [11]

The so-called conductors of knowledge turned out to be insulators and defunct. With the departure of the British, the ungrateful beneficiaries of English education received under Macaulay’s scheme, displayed their true colours by launching vilification campaign against him, portraying him as a rank imperialist whose cherished objective was the perpetuation the British occupation of India.

In India the question of educating the masses irrespective of caste, creed and faith is a contentious issue. That a tiny section of Indians, nay, Hindus, should indulge in discrimination in an issue as fundamental as education which is the universal key to human progress, prosperity, happiness and civilisation in every sphere and clime is deplorable. From Manu, Parashar, Annamalai to Vidyasagar, Surendranath Banerjea, Bal Gangadhar Tilak and above all the most celebrated avatar Gandhiji, to note only a few, advocated entitlement of education strictly on caste lines. India for centuries continues to travel under their pernicious shadows. Opposition by such Indians has frustrated universalization of education for India.

Addressing the annual session of Indian National Congress, Calcutta, 1911, President, Bishan Narayan Dhar, had observed:

“…. there are some who object to it (compulsory education) on social and political grounds. Those who are opposed to it because they dread the loss of their menial servants, and desire that millions of poor men may remain steeped in ignorance so that few wealthy magnets may live in luxury.” [12]

Rabindra Nath Tagore too had bemoaned in the same vein that a section of Bengalis opposed education of the low caste because that would deprive them of menial maids/servants.

A look at what Vidyasagar told Nabin Chandra Sen, a poet and Deputy Magistrate of Bengal Government may reveal a deplorable mindset of the most celebrated educationist, whose bicentennial birth anniversary Bengalis have been celebrating with great sobriety. In his Memoirs, the Deputy Magistrate recorded:

[13] Translated by this writer, Vidyasagar’s statement conveys as follows:

It will be a good riddance, if the accursed policy of education got a burial. I have established a school in my village in consequence of which I’ve deserted my native place. As soon as wards of farmers and labourers learn muttering of a few English words, they discard their ancestral occupations. They turn crazy for fashionable clothes, shoes, socks, hats, etc. For them only I am unable to go home. As soon as I reach home (Birsingha), I am invaded by parents of those pupils. They start pestering me, “Oh! My venerable, Lord! what have you done? My ward is totally unconcerned about my farm. Half a bigha of my land remained untilled in the current agricultural season. How shall I meet the requirement of food for the family? Over and above, I have to foot bills for his fashionable dress, hats, etc. Someone says my cattle have died, nonetheless, my son does not care to graze them.

I have committed sin for which I am undergoing penance. I have solemnly sworn that I shall never ever found any other schools in rural areas. In this land, nobody, after receiving education, engages himself in pursuit of his ancestral occupation. No sooner than one starts muttering few English words, he shuns profession of his forefathers, nay, even hates his parents.”

Nabin Chandra Sen synthesized what Vidyasagar told him thus: “even though I had heard him utter this prophetic warning long ago, it reverberates in my ears yet. The legendary educationist foresaw the disaster education was capable of spelling on the society. Today, the farmer, washerman, barber, fisherman, Hari (recruited as “scavenger, palki-bearer, chowkidar, musician, pig-rarer, cultivator” have been enrolling themselves in school with sole or only ambition for seeking a government employment as piyada, (guards) or police constables. Nobody knows how such education would benefit the country.” [14]

How did Nabi Sen, one might question, come so close to Vidyasagar that he shared intimate feelings with the Pandit? After graduation, he solicited Vidyasagar’s help to secured an office of Deputy Magistracy of Bengal Government. In compliance to the Pandit’s advice, Nabin armed himself with letters of recommendation from some very influential men of Calcutta/Bengal and met the Lieutenant Governor’s Private Secretary at Belvedere, Calcutta. On compliance of certain formalities, ultimately, he hit the target and became a Deputy Magistrate. That Vidyasagar could bring his influence to bear on the Lieutenant Governor for appointment of youth he recommended as a Deputy Magistrate was known to the student community. On Vidyasagar’s recommendation, a schoolmaster prior to Nabin Sen was appointed as a Deputy Magistrate by the Lieutenant Governor, who, though was opposed to appoint such a functionary to any administrative post. But nonetheless the L. G. made a solitary exception in the face of Vidyasagar’s “insistence.” [15] Sir Surendranath Banerjea withheld the name of the Lieutenant Governor as well as the schoolmaster.

**** ****

During 1871-72, R. L. Martin, Inspector of Schools, visited the school at Birsingha, established and supported by “the liberality of the late Principal of Sanskrit College, Calcutta.” [16] His cryptic focus reveals that the school “had progressed indifferently though close to the family residence of the great advocate of female education, Pandit Isvar Chandra Vidyasagar.” [17] Synonyms of “indifferent” include words, e. g., heedless of, careless of, regardless of, oblivious to, nonchalant about, etc. Was Vidyasagar’s apathy towards his village school at Birsingha provoked by apprehension that the wards of farmers, agriculturists, labourers, skinners and tanners, sweepers and scavengers with muttering of few English words would crowd job market? We have no material to support or oppose the views. But giving literacy to accursed rustic children was to him a sinful act which he undertook to expiate by penance. He further avowed not to establish any schools in future in villages! The educationist, as the finest flower of nineteenth century renaissance was exclusionary and illiberal in approach and philosophy. Such view might feel offended many who would like to take into account the contemporary sociocultural complexities of the era Vidyasagar lived. In tone and tenor, can we disagree, Vidyasagar resonated very much like the ancient lawgiver Manu, evil genius of most social ills? How come he raised high walls against education of his untouchable friends who were Bagdi, Jalia, cultivators and labourers, who were playmates?

Lord Macaulay, on the other hand, oozed with warmth and large heartedness on the same issue Vidyasagar launched himself to undergo penance.

Macaulay said: -

Are we to keep the people of India ignorant in order that we can 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 with no legitimate vent? Who will answer any of these questions in the affirmative? Yet one of them must be answered in the affirmative, by every person who maintains that we ought permanently to exclude the natives from high office. I have no fears. The path of duty is plain before us; and it is also the path of wisdom, of national prosperity, of national honour. [18]

A different perception was articulated by Scottish soldier, diplomat, administrator, statesman, and historian, Major-General Sir John Malcolm (May 1769-May 1833). He advocated holistic or inclusive progress for India: “…If we do not use the knowledge, we impart it will be employed against us…If these plans are not associated with the creation of duties that will employ their minds which we enlighten, we shall only prepare elements that will hasten the destruction of our Empire.” [19] A powerful advocate for banning practice of widow burning (sati), Malcolm, as Governor of Bombay Presidency (tenure November 1827 to December 1830) succeeded Mountstuart Elphinstone. [20] The British administrator did not desist from spreading light across the Hindudom. Most of the enlightened Indians deprecated the idea of dissemination of knowledge to the Indians they considered less fortunate or not privileged on their yardsticks and excluded vast humanity because they were untouchables. Modern education introduced by the British failed grossly enrich the human qualities of Hindus to make them inclusive of all irrespective of caste, creed, sex or place of birth. Hindudom is constricted and when we hear someone howling “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” they actually indicate or suggest “all men of my caste are my relative wherever they are on the globe.”

In this context, if we consider Vidyasagar taking umbrage at the farmer, washerman, barber, fisherman, Hari aspiring for low paid jobs in the government, we cannot help saying, Macaulay undoubtedly appears, by any standards, generous and far above par than respectable Indians.

Whenever any foreign rulers spoke and advocated the causes of the underprivileged, why did some of our countrymen felt antagonized? Speaking feelingly about millions of unfortunate and illiterate Indians, we hear how Governor-General Lord Northbrook (May 1872-April, 1876) bared his heart:

Illiterate, poor, credulous, weak, helpless from generation to generation pursuing their humble work as hewers of wood and drawers of water, often at the mercy of the grasping priest, rapacious zamindars, cruel planters and vicious police, they never attained that dignity of manhood, which knowledge alone can impart to its possessor. [21]

He undoubtedly warmed hearts and won admirers, who were underprivileged and hence he is rarely recalled in history. Considered Vidyasagar’s statement dispassionately we see him, on the contrary, opposed sternly against universalization of education which would benefit, besides Bagdi, Bagdi, Jalia, cultivators and the entire range of untouchables. The trait of the educationist Vidyasagar emerged before us, by and large, militates against his suave public image!

Part-III Nationalists against education for masses

Wolf in the bhadralok’s clothing?

Surendranath Banerjea addressed a meeting on a topic “Father of English Education in Bengal,” 1st June 1878 to mark the 35th death Anniversary of David Hare. He invited the attention of his audience to observations Sir Robert Anstruther made in the House Commons in England in 1811 on a question of education for natives of India. A surprised and astonished, Anstruther asked, “whether it was intended to educate the people of India, and if it was so intended, whether it was really advisable to educate them?” With a sharp and unsparing dig, Banerjea introduced Anstruther, the “worthy” speaker who was “no other than a late Chief Justice of Bengal.” [22] Adding proportionate toxicity befitting his sarcasm, he asked “whether he (the former Chief Justice) was standing on his head or his feet.” [23] No wonder Banerjea was cheered by the audience.

Many Indians, not excluding Banerjea himself, were so great and glorious that common man was afraid to pose the same question, though they were saboteurs of mass education. Most infatuated with high education, eloquent Banerjea exuded the same. To him “The noblest gift which the British rule has conferred upon India is the boon of high education. It lies at the root of all progress.” He sang the paean for the colonial rulers who had bestowed three great boons---High Education, Free Press and Local Self-Government. Of them “high education is the most prized, the most dearly cherished of the all”, gushed out the speaker with uncontrolled exuberance. [24] We cannot lose sight of the fact that whoever espoused the cause of elementary education, invited unmixed ire of India’s great leaders---though most of them are known as nationalist, patriot, educationist, or social reformer or all rolled in one. But scratch any of them and you may find a different picture contrary to their glamorous public image. It is an unmitigated tragedy. We know for certain that neither of the three boons Surendranath Banerjea eulogized could serve the basic needs of the masses, save and except the elites and privileged. Let us explored how our stalwarts compared in the parameter prescribed by great Greek philosopher Socrates:

“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.”
His wisdom warrants no elaboration.

Surendranath Banerjea told his audience in the aforesaid conference that the “great authority (the former Chief Justice of Bengal) was of opinion that it was “unsafe, perilous to the maintenance of British supremacy that native received the benefit of education.” Banerjea did not recall in the same breath that some of the scriptures Hindus hold as sacred, we cannot be oblivious to the fact, ordained for cutting of tongue, slitting of body, sealing of ears for uttering, listening, or committing their scriptures. The British rulers ultimately did not take Sir Robert Anstruther seriously. He was brushed aside and they went ahead with the mission for educating Indians as Ram Mohan Roy agitated before Lord Amherst in his unorthodox memorandum.

By maintaining stoic silence over the barbarous scriptural ordinances preached by ancient sages like Manu, Parashar, Yajnavalkya, etc. for, Surendranath Banerjea condoned their unpardonable logic and philosophy.

We must not fail to record that Banerjea had hurt and injured causes of education of masses, but nobody articulates or agitates in public discourses. Two illustrations of Bengal’s overrated rashtraguru, teacher/preacher of nationalism, capable of blasting the prospect of mass education are cited to buttress the point. Moreover, following annulment of partition of Bengal in 1911, the Viceroy and Governor General Lord Charles Hardinge (1910-1916) declared establishment of a university at Dacca. Surendranath Banerjea and Ashutosh Mukherjee (June 1864-May 1924) along with others savants of Calcutta launched protests against the proposed scheme for the University. The scheme ultimately fructified in 1921. [25]

UNESCO condemned Bengal’s apathy for elementary education

On 13, November 1926 The Times, London, published Educational Supplement on Primary Education in Bengal. The Supplement was an eyeopener and served a critical purpose of public interest. Miss Katherine Mayo, an American journalist, who suffered abuses of Indians and their friends from home and abroad alike, had quoted the state of primary education from the aforesaid source in Mother India:

The Bengal Legislature passed an Act introducing the principle of compulsory primary education in May 1919.; but it does not appear that a single local authority in the province has availed itself of the option which the Act provides.” [26]

The Times,’ appreciation of the role of the Bengal Education Department shows that nothing was achieved to merit attention of a dispassionate analyst. United Nations’ Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), in addition, conducted in 1952, a study of Compulsory Primary Education in India. Their findings were neither palatable. The International body found and documented that, “…. the local bodies are not taking adequate measures to enforce compulsory attendance.” [27] The blame for the apathetic state of compulsory education must be put at the doorstep of Surendranath Banerjea, the minister in charge of Local Bodies. He was the Minister of Local Self Government under Dyarchy. This Department was charged with the task of enforcing compulsion of primary education. But the authorities were deliberately negligent about expansion primary education. The UNESCO recorded in the aforesaid report:

“The results (of compulsory education) obtained … vary from area to area and there is a world of difference between a State like Bengal where compulsion exists only on paper and a State of Baroda where some remarkable results were obtained.” [28] [Italicized by this writer]

What a condemnation for the rashtraguru as Minister from UNESCO saying that in Bengal ”compulsion exists only on paper.” What did it mean for compulsory education to exist on paper?

Though the Act authorised compulsion in primary education, could the state of its accomplishment in an unfriendly hand be expected to be anything else? In 1921, Knighthood was conferred on Banerjea, besides his appointment as a minister. Prior to joining as minister, he met the Governor of Bengal and demanded the portfolio of “Education and Local Self-government.” Sir Ronaldshay (Governor between 26 March, 1917-March 28, 1922), offered him department of Local Self-Government, which he accepted. [29] In hindsight, we admire the foresighted Governor for preventing the people from graver calamity befalling mass education with Banerjea as its presiding deity. Let me take liberty to explain the reasons behind such view which many might consider as unfair, if not, blasphemous.

A cursory look at the duties of education department transferred to Local Self-Government under Dyarchy may benefit us. By enactment of Local Self-Government Act, 1887-88, control of schools was entrusted for administration of education by District Boards. The educational duties transferred to District Boards, included the management of the Government primary and middle schools---English and vernacular; the control of the grant-in-aid to middle schools under private management to all primary schools; and the conduct of the annual examinations for the award of primary scholarships. [30] Three decades down the line, as the minister Banerjea pushed the District Boards into coma to promote blindly his own agenda for higher education. We cannot forget how eloquently the same leader ‘in making’ had lauded three British boons including Local Self-Government in his speech to mark 35th birth anniversary of David Hare. He trampled one of the boons---Local Self-Government under his boots mindlessly.
Lord Ripon (24 October 1827 – 9 July 1909) interestingly was the Viceroy of India from 1880 to 1884. In response to an address presented in London to Ripon, on the eve of his departure for India to assume the office of Governor General, told the representationists, interalia, “I do not think that I shall be guilty of any indiscretion if I tell you even now how much I sympathize with your desire to promote the expansion of elementary education among the poorer classes. This has been an especial object of interest to me for years in England; it will not be less so in India.” [31] Banerjea, who upgraded the Presidency Institution, a school as a College, which, with “permission obtained” on the eve of the Ripon’s departure, he renamed as “Ripon College.” [32] And, as minister he laid his axe on the roots of elementary education Viceroy Lord Ripon was keen to promote in India.

Banerjea’s negligence towards mass education grew of out of conflict with his personal interests. Following dismissal from the ICS in 1874, he was the earliest to launch nationalist movement. The same Banerjea opposed the Compulsory Education Bill Gopal Krishna Gokhale had tabled in the Central Legislative Council in 1911. The Bill is eulogized by Indian academician without justification. And Banerjea’s vested interest drove him against Gokhale’s Bill. Indian history is replete with allegations that Gokhale’s Education Bill met with stubborn opposition of the colonial masters, leading to its defeat in the Council. This is not true. The fact is that those who vigorously campaigned against the Bill included leaders like Surendranath Banerjea. Gokhale’s biographer writes that “Surendranath Banerjea opposed it (Compulsory Education Bill), fearing that it would divert funds for elementary education from higher education.” No historians took into account Banerjea’s blind opposition in rejection of Education Bill by the Central Legislature. Madan Mohan Malaviya and Mohammad Ali Jinnah, on the contrary, besides many municipalities had supported the Bill supported Gokhale. [33] Blocking and blasting the prospect of education of the illiterate masses, by no standard and logic, enhances wellbeing and prosperity of the nation. Bengal’s rashtraguru, however, suffered no, taint, lot less ignominy.

Acharya Prafulla Chandra Roy, distinguished educationist, social reformer, acclaimed scientist and founder of Bengal Chemicals, had, long later, bemoaned that G. K. Gokhale died, prematurely, not because his Bill was thrown out by the Central Legislative Council on account of bureaucratic opposition, as it is often was made out to be by Indian intelligentsia, but because he could not bear the shock of betrayal of his close friends who had back-stabbed him. Nobody called the bluff of Sir Surendranath Banerjea who was a close friend of Gokhale. [34] The bare fact is that Banerjea---make no mistake--- had betrayed Gokhale brazenly in the interest of the College, pointed out before.

A close look, with benefit, at Gokhale’s Education Scheme will convince everybody that it was not a panacea, nor a radical one. The Bill’s central theme reads:

In any area where 33% of the male population is already at school, there this principle of compulsion should be applied. [35]

On this yardstick alone, the entire Indian subcontinent was to stand disqualified. Tens of thousands of ill-fated rustics would wallow in educational destitution, if the Bill was passed and made into an Act. Had the Central Legislature voted and passed the Bill, few cities, e. g., Calcutta, Bombay, Madras, Karachi, Lahore, and Poona only perhaps would stand to benefit with the stipulation of 33% of the male population already at school.
M. K. Gandhi did not feel ashamed of his brazen hostility against lowest castes acquiring the three R’s. In 1909, he proclaimed,

The ordinary meaning of education is knowledge of letters. To teach boys reading, writing and arithmetic is called primary education. A peasant earns his bread honestly. He has knowledge of the world. He knows fairly well how he should behave towards his parents, his wife, his children and his fellow villages. He cannot write his name. What do you propose to do by giving a knowledge of letters? Will you add an inch to his happiness? It is not necessary to make this education compulsory. Our ancient school system is enough. We consider your modern school as useless. [36]

Gandhiji with his unique orthodoxy was comparable to Gandhiji himself only. He had not parallel nor could he be replicated. Everything nauseating, despicable and repulsive outflow from gutters of ancient school system Hindus are proud. Sir Surendranath Banerjea, Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Gopal Krishna Gokhale, regrettably for the Indian masses were in the company of tyrannical babus indicated by Lord Mayo.

Be it stated that a UNESCO booklet captioned Basic Education and Economic Development in 1990s advocated the importance of elementary education in their drive against illiteracy. According to the UN Body highlighted specifically that “Some of the strongest arguments for basic education is associated with increased agricultural productivity and significant payoffs to added income.” [37] Good that Gandhi’s nonsense was debunked by an international body as the UNESCO.


Lord Mayo Era in Indian Education

The administration of Lord Mayo (1869-1872) added a unique chapter to the annals of education in India. The policy he pursued was without parallel. His perception and philosophy of education merits closer focus for appreciation by academicians. Dwelling on the objectives of the Viceroy to educate the masses, William Hunter noted how Mayo invited condemnation of the conservative elements. And Vidyasagar was in the frontline.
Soon after his arrival, Mayo noticed glaring difference in achievement between various provinces in the field of education. In Bombay, for example, he found schools sown broadcast over the country, and public instruction planted on a wide and popular basis. “In Lower Bengal, he found quite a different system pursued. High- education flourished.…The wealthier section of the community had educational facilities lavished up on them as no other Provinces of India enjoyed. The State tried zealously to discharge its duty in instructing the people and it interpreted this duty to mean a high-education for a small section of them. It devoted a very large proportion of its Education Grant to this object, and it obtained a striking and brilliant success. ‘The Bengali Babu’ had become the recognized type of the educated native of North India.” [38]

Ramifications of Macaulay scheme on the ground were simply calamitous. The masses not were in the focus. The upper castes discovered and instantaneously harvested the benefits by discrimination against the low castes in education. The higher castes never understood the objective and purpose of educating the masses and hence, opposed nonchalantly its necessity though Macauley wanted them to filter knowledge to the hierarchical lower orders. And when denial of education under the policy became impossible, they grudgingly provided education which was imperfect to the core with a clear aim to leave them at a perpetual disadvantage in struggle of their life. The system of educational development in Bengal became two-layered. A small section representing the babudom, hailing from the higher echelons of caste who ensconced themselves in administration, management and control of education and they became the arbiters of entitlement for the masses. The scenario seemed like predator among the hordes of their vulnerable prey.

Lord Mayo broke away from the course charted by Macaulay to consider the upper castes as the engine of translating his educational mission for the masses into reality. In a letter, Mayo wrote:

“I dislike the filtration theory. In Bengal, we are educating few hundred Baboos at great cost to the State...Many…. have no other object in learning than to qualify for government employ. In the meanwhile, we have done nothing towards extending knowledge to the millions.” [39]39

The savage Bengali babu

Viceroy Mayo’s Candid admission of the state of education in Bengal paraded the real image of the savage Bengali babu. The scheme, eulogised as ‘the down filtration’ of education, failed the masses. What did the Viceroy hold out for the millions? Mayo’s observations were unpalatable, if not a public indictment for the wealthy and advanced Babus of Bengal. And, therefore, he became very unpopular among them. The Babus’ attitudinal hostility against education of the masses came out nakedly in the public domain in his letter itself while the Viceroy stated that the baboos would “never do it.” According to him:

The more education you give them, the more they will keep to themselves, and make their increased knowledge a means of tyranny. Let the baboos learn English by all means. But let us also try to do something towards teaching the three R’s to “Rural Bengal”. [39]

Nobody ever noted or highlighted their diabolical and wicked traits. Tyrannical behaviour of the bhadralok was shaped and sharpened under the privilege Macaulay policy had showered on them. The beneficiaries, thus fattened and empowered, turned out to be loudest and uncharitable critics of their benefactor in Independent India. We may claim with confidence that no impartial analyst, save and except the beneficiaries and their camp followers, might find Mayo’s views and appreciation objectionable. The tyrannical attitude made the bhadralok fraternity believe that they represent the entire Bengali speaking people including those they opposed and humiliated, resulting in fissiparous ramifications in social, economic and political spheres. At the cost of state exchequer, the pampered Babus became the weapon of mass destruction without parallel under educational and cultural horizon. It is indeed true that their increased knowledge made them inveterate enemies not only of the illiterate Bengalis but also people in the neighbourhood wherever they migrated and/or lived. The treatment they received [and continue to receive] in Bihar, Orissa, or Assam and above all East Bengal to which they belonged corroborate the truth of the assertion. Today descendants of the tyrannized Bengalis have been paying price for the Babus’ boorish past.


Wages of tyranny - Crusade against Bengalis domiciled in Bihar

In 1935 the same babus from Bengal found themselves caught in the eye of crusade in Bihar. This was the harvest of tyranny of their education and knowledge. In Bihar Legislative Council, Nanda Kumar Ghosh, a Member, agitated a demand on behalf of Bihar Domiciled Bengali Association for 5.6% of reservation in (1) promotion in public services; (2) admission to educational institutions; (3) award of scholarship; and (4) contracts of public works. “Bengali officers” stated the MLC, were “retrenched first” by any department whenever an opportunity presented itself. Some 40-50 years prior to the crusade staring in their face, the educated Biharis used to beg for jobs in their own province before the educated and tyrannical bhadralok dominating in various offices. [40] This was the beginning of Bengali babus to pay to the educated Biharis in their own coin. The entire range of low castes even in Bengal were/are maltreated and deprived by the same arrogant and myopic minority. The bhadralok who constitute 6.5% of total population [1931 census as base] are blissfully ignorant how strongly they are disliked by the majority of Bengalis.

In India, no Viceroy or Provincial Governor ever changed the policy of his predecessor; he only ‘develops’ it. Lord George Campbell was the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal, who was a perfect counterpart to share Lord Mayo’s vision, dynamism and commitment for education of the masses. In consequence, education underwent radical transformation---masses occupying the central stage in administrative attention. In Hunter’s words,

“….in 1870-71 the Department of Public Instruction was educating 163,854 children in Lower Bengal at a cost of £186,598 to the State. In 1874, when Sir George Campbell laid down the Lieutenant-Governorship, he left 400,721 children being educated at a cost to the Government of £228,151.” [42]

The emphasis of Lord Campbell towards education for the masses invited expected uproarious condemnation from the pampered upper caste Hindus, powerful and vocal. But the Lieutenant Governor had discovered the unique ground realities. With uprightness and candour, he recorded: -

“…the Bengal Education Department may be said to be a Hindoo institution. Hindoos have monopolized all the places below the highest, and all the executive management. This undoubtedly places the Muhammadans at some real disadvantage. It is very difficult, almost impossible, to remedy it.” [43]

A look at the actual deployment list of field officers of education, e. g., inspector, deputy inspector etc. would shock anybody how the bhadralok monopolized the administrative machinery to the detriment of education of all others castes and communities. That was the actual and factual import of “Hindoo institution.” Space constraints militates against me from demonstrating names of them who invaded offices in Bihar, Orissa, Assam (all seven sisters) even United Provinces and Oudh, besides Bengal.

The manner of monopolization of offices by bhadralok is instructive. In 1896, a commentator wrote that “The Vaidyas are very clannish, and whenever a Vaidya manages to get into a high office, he is sure to introduce as many of his castemen, as he can into the department.” [44] The title page of his work declares that the author was the President of College of Pandits, Nadia, armed with two high degrees, e. g. M.A., D. L.

Focusing cryptically on the methodology of recruitment resorted to other two castes, Nirad Chandra Chaudhuri, acclaimed author wrote laconically: - “Don’t you know that a Chatterjee takes in a Banerjee and a Bose a Mitra.” [45] The author himself a Bengali, secured an employment in Defence Accounts Department under British Government at Calcutta through the well-oiled system of favouritism. He was not even required to file an application for employment.

The department of education virtually became a grazing ground of the Hindus, by the Hindus and for the Hindus---none beyond them had any opportunity to set foot in that area. So, Mayo reversed diametrically the utter caste centric aims and objectives of the Department much to their chagrin. The credit of turning these aspirations into administrative facts, wrote William Hunter, “belongs to Sir George Campbell, the Lieutenant-Governor who ruled Bengal during the chief part of Lord Mayo’s Viceroyalty.” [46] They together formed a grand combination and ushered in a new lease of administration, unknown to education in Bengal. The beneficiaries of higher education, who, hitherto grabbed the entire attention of the official machineries held a conference in Calcutta Town Hall largely attended by the bhadralok to condemn George Campbell. The meeting, called Rakshashi Sabha (রাক্ষসী সভা), [47] abused and assailed Lieutenant Governor alleging carpingly that he laid axe to the roots of higher education!

George Campbell revised rules of scholarship and arrange a system which enabled clever and deserving boys to climb from the lowest to the highest with scholarship, a privilege open exclusively to upper caste students. The scholarships were. for the first time, awarded to the primary schools. The various stages of schools were established so that “gifted sons of a ryot or labourer may become distinguished engineer, or physician or an agriculturist or administrator of high degree or a judge of the High Court” being educated through the scholarships….By the end of 1873, total grant for primary education had increased to nearly 8 lakh and 10,787 village schools, old and new, with 255,728 scholars had been brought under the government scheme. By the 31st March 18724, there were 12,229 primary schools and 303,737 pupils. [48]

In Maharashtra, Bal Gangadhar Tilak paraded his copious concerns for losses sustainable by parents of low castes if their wards attended classes.

“You take away a farmer’s boy from the plough, the blacksmith’s boy from the bellows and the cobbler’s boy from his awl with the object of giving him education….and the boy learns to condemn the profession of his father, not to speak of the loss to which the latter is put by being deprived of the son’s assistance at the old trade.” [49]

That was indeed the proverbial crocodile’s tears! Let me refer to official report to pinpoint his crass hypocrisy. In 1896, plague broke out in Bombay and soon the dread invaded Poona. A Hindu Plague Hospital, besides Parsi and Mohammadan Hospitals in Poona, was founded on Poona Plague Commissioner, Charles Rand’s suggestion. Bal Gangadhar Tilak and other like-minded men, as moving spirit, were involved establishing the Hindu Plague Hospital. The Hindu Plague Hospital was festered with caste prejudice. According to its rule, the hospital was “opened to all Hindus except members of the low castes.” By 1920, the plague claimed over 10,000,000 lives across India. [50]

Instances of diametrical changes in psychological attitude of man or even ferocious animals during unprecedented natural disasters are not uncommon. But the high priest of patriotism of Poona did not forget the puritanical character of caste to be safeguarded against pollution in the gravest threat India faced from plague. The Mongabay, July 23, 2019, a web journal devoted to nature, published a telling picture showing an adult female tigress, marooned by the devastating floods caused by the Brahmaputra in 2019, resting on bed inside a shop in Bagori Forests Range in Kaziranga National Park, Assam. She did not harm the shop-owner nor created terror there demonstrating her higher sense and need of adaptability and rationality. [51]

Lord Curzon was neither spared by the bhadralok who stridently condemned him for his education policy. He focused on mass education with larger provision of state resources. According to UNESCO “…the old practices in primary education were soon abandoned and more vigorous attempts were begun to be made to educated the masses. Lord Curzon took the lead in this matter and sanctioned larger recurring and non-recurring grants for primary education during his tenure of office (1898-1905)” [52] Partition of Bengal, though carried out on administrative convenience, offered the bhadralok a room for senseless agitation. The tiny threesome---Brahman, Baidya and Kayasth accounting for 6.5% Bengali population---could not predictably sustain the agitation for long. So, swadeshi was added to its agenda to entice and allure, without success, larger crowds. Little do people know that imports of liquors during the swadeshi movement had registered increase by over 30% between 1904-05 and 1911-12. [53] Exports of jute goods in terms of value crashed by 43.56% between 1906-07 and 1910-11. [54] Land under plough for jute cultivation too dwindled sharply. Official communication by chief secretary of Eastern Bengal and Assam suggests that the Muhammadans and Namasudras were agriculturists in the main in East Bengal which was the main theatre of jute cultivation. So, even a child can understand who suffered on account of swadeshi agitation though our conventional academicians do not recognize the financial losses they sustained. [55] Both Muhammadan and Namasudra resolutely remained aloof from anti-partition and swadeshi movement.

According to British journalist, historian and diplomat, Valentine Chirol (28 May 1852– 22 October 1929), Brahmans carried out propaganda amongst “the Namasudras in the district of Jessore and Faridpur” to win by “inducement to the Namasudras” with promise “to relax the rigours of caste” so that they took swadeshi vow. What was on platter to entice the populous untouchable caste? The Brahmans condescended to allow the village barber that they shave the heads of Namasudras who took vow of swadeshism. [56] Did the propagandists really mean what they promised to the Namasudras? Certainly not. On January 21, 1929, however, a joint delegation of All-Bengal Namasudra Association and the Depressed Classes Association waited on the Provincial Committee of the Indian Statutory Commission [Simon Commission] and gave oral evidence. To elicit information regarding various aspect of life of the untouchable population, who comprised 58% of Bengali Hindus, the Committee posed 226 questions to the nine-member delegation. To the question no. 35 ---“do barbers shave you?” from the Committee, Mukunda Behary Mallick, the President of the Namasudra Association who led the delegation, replied, “No; the barbers that shave the high caste Hindus do not shave us.” [57] Postal peons did not deliver their mails in untouchable quarters. Hospitals in Calcutta did not admit untouchable patients. Many revelations involving abominable truths---all with brahminical blessings, wrecked the society though, did not embarrass the upper castes who were keen for swaraj in their hands to the total exclusion of all others. Does anyone need, at all, any further proof to parade lies and deception of the swadeshi Brahman propagandists in Namasudras villages?


Self-help for light of educational destitute

Centuries of educational destitution of Namasudra community of colonial East Bengal, posed an intractable crisis for them as also for the country. Educationists, nationalists and patriots belonging to upper castes were fanatically prejudiced and avowedly against their education. They had no patron to extend a helping hand in their deplorable existence enveloped by blinding darkness. In 1872, the Chandals of Barisal, Faridpur and Jessore launched a “general strike” against the upper caste Hindus, demanding recognition of higher social status. Their agitation paralyzed the normal life of 5.5 million people, Hindus and Muslims, belonging to these districts comprising 10,089 square miles for at least four months. A high-ranking police officer W. L. Owen, Superintendent of Police, Faridpur district, documented in his report to the District Magistrate of Faridpur how the Hindus regarded the Chandals, who in 1911 were rechristened as Namsudra. According to him, “the Hindus of upper castes …considered them only little better than beasts.” [58] In the high noon of self-styled renaissance of Bengal this was how the upper caste Hindus entertained a perception of the Namasudra!
However, twelve decades---precisely 112 years ago fortunately the community charted a unique course of self-help for education. In compliance to certain resolutions adopted at a meeting in Khulna district held in March, 1908, they adopted a pioneering scheme for involvement of every family, rich or poor. Drawing on the deliberations of the Namasudra Conference, attended by their caste men from various districts, e. g. Khulna, the adjoining districts of Eastern Bengal, J. H. F. Garrett, ICS documented in the Nadia District Gazetteers that, “…as a community the Chandals or Namasudras shew considerable aptitude for organization and that the ideals pursued by the better classes among them seem praiseworthy. …From the published reports it appears that its objects were the spread of education, the establishment of a permanent fund, and the removal of social evils.” In pursuance of these objects, the following resolutions were passed: -

(1) That the Namasudra conference be made permanent by yearly meetings to be held in the different districts for discussion of social matters and the spread of education;

(2) that a village committee be formed in every Namasudra village, and unions for 15 such villages, and a district committee in every district.

(3) that for acquiring funds for Namasudra Contribution Fund, village committee, union and district committees be authorized to collect contributions. A handful of rice should be set apart before meals in every family, and collected weekly by the village committee. Every member of the village committee will pay a monthly subscription of one anna, of Union Committee two annas, and district committees four annas. Three percent of the expenses incurred in sraddha, marriage and other occasions must be reserved for this fund; and

(4) that as some active measure should be adopted towards social reform, it is resolved that any Namasudra marrying his son under 20 years and daughter under 10 will be excommunicated. The committee and unions must be especially strict about compliance with these resolutions.” [59]

These resolutions were adopted under the guidance of Guruchand Thakur, who was advised and aided by Dr. Cecil Silas Mead, an Australian Baptist Missionary, working amongst the Namasudras in East Bengal. According to one historian, as many as 3,952 schools sprouted in various districts of Bengal dominated by his followers, called Matua, exhibiting their keen urge and drive for education. Harichand Thakur and his illustrious son Guruchand Thakur served as the beacon light. [60]

Hunter’s telling comment underlined the attitudinal hostility of Bengali upper castes nursed against lower orders getting education at all may be recalled here as proof.

The upper classes are opposed to the lower orders being taught at all. The Brahmans and Kayasthas deem education to be strictly their inheritance; and in losing the co-operation of the wealthy classes...Government unavoidably fails to reach the ordinary cultivator. [61]

The first ever High English School by any of the untouchable castes in Bengal perhaps was established in 1908 at Orakandi, a village of Faridpur in the District of East Bengal under the initiative of crusading Namasudra socio-religious reformer Guru Chand Thakur (1847-1937). Establishment of a high school to spread light amongst the untouchables and others equally hateful considered as an ominous development for the high caste Hindus. The landlords and moneylenders felt that their hegemony over the illiterate peasants and working classes was exposed to a genuine threat as a result. Deception, tricking and falsification in everyday matter of rent and debt-payment receipts would invite genuine challenges from literate Namasudras. So “stiff opposition from high caste Kayasthas” was offered against foundation of the high school at Orakandi as they were “afraid that their sharecropper and servants would no longer work for them if they became educated.” [62]

A case study presented below shows the typical roadblocks the untouchables encountered from Bengali upper castes in their initiative to establish a school for emancipation of their children from illiteracy, ignorance, discrimination, injustice and humiliation in every sphere of life.

An illiterate villager turned torchbearer

A Case Study of a village High School, Agailjhara in Barisal [63]

Bhegai Halder, an illiterate Namasudra of Barisal district of colonial East Bengal was a man of saintly character and sterling qualities. His illiteracy, however, did not militate against his association with contemporary political stalwarts like Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das, Surendranath Banerjea, A. K. Fazlul Haq, Aswini Kumar Datta, etc. Personal ignominy owing to untouchability in the house of a known person in early life persuaded Bhegai to found a high school in his native village Agailjhara so that his succeeding generations were emancipated from the curse of discrimination, dehumanization and injustice. His noble mission took him all over Bengal to collect donations from all and sundry. According to his Collection Book, Barisal District Magistrate, J. R. Blackwood donated a sum of Rs. 450 [July 4, 1919]. Bhegai even succeeded in receiving donation even from the Governor of Bengal during his visit to Barisal. His fellow castemen and co-villagers---Ramcharan Barai, Durgacharan, Abhaycharan and Gangacharan---all siblings--- gifted 4.6 acres of land on which began the odyssey for chasing his dream for educating untouchable children.
On May 31 1930, Madan Mohan Malavya, the founder of Benares Hindu University recorded an appeal in the Collection Book, urging all liberal people for “support to the Agailjhara High School.” He also hoped that “the school will be subscribed by generous people who desire to see the youth of the Namasudra Community educated.” Bhegai had approached C. R. Das in Calcutta for donations. The famous Barrister, practising in Calcutta High Court, promised him to donate a day’s earning from his flourishing practice. Same day in the evening, thus goes legend, Deshbandhu handed over a princely sum of Rs. 1005 to Bhegai Halder for his school.

Founded on 26 January 1919 as a Middle School, with affiliation sanctioned by Calcutta University it ultimately metamorphosed into Agailjhara H. E. School in 1926. Bhegai’s High School functioned smoothly till 1933 when a local conspiracy led the Calcutta University to disaffiliate it. The School epitomized of the founder’s dream which Calcutta University shattered unexpectedly. The illiterate Bhegai could not bear the shock. Heartbroken and grief-stricken, he breathed his last within a year of disaffiliation. The conspiracy that resulted in disaffiliation of his school sprung out of caste hatred and untouchability which pervaded Bengal as a whole.

One Behari Lal Chakraborty founded a High School in village Bakal within a mile of Agailjhara. Prof. (Dr.) Dinesh Chandra Sen, a distinguished don of Calcutta University and a writer and scholar, was classmate of Chakraborty at one stage of life. As a member of Calcutta University Syndicate, Dr. Sen recommended for disaffiliation of Agailjhara High School. Besides close proximity of two High Schools, of course, financial unsoundness, among others, might have been used as factors for the University to take the deplorable decision. Anyone with an iota of experience in educational administration and management knows all too well that such deficiency was widespread in India particularly if the founders hailed from poor and illiterate communities.

Jogendra Nath Mandal, secretary of the school and A. K. Fazlul Haq, at this stage, threw their weight behind Agailjhara School, which ultimately received permanent affiliation granted by Calcutta University in its Syndicate Meeting [Agenda item no. 46 of January 25, 1946]. An interregnum of 13 years had elapsed in the meanwhile. Both Mandal and Haq were shinning stars in the political horizon of contemporary Bengal.

The founder did not survive to see the school which, renamed as Agailjhara Bhegai Halder Public Academy has ultimately become a powerful engine and transformed the entire area into a model of growth and development. A co-education institution, it occupies now a place of pride of Barisal. Many students, passed out of it, have contributed by their accomplishment in various fields as scientists, educationists, administrators, etc. Many of the first-generation students of Ajailjhara High School founded schools in its hinterland to meet the rising expectations of education of the locality. Upgradation of the backward Agailjhara into a Upazila of Barisal district, is a glowing tribute to the dream of Bhegai Halder. The hinterland of Agailjhara Upazila, at present, boasts of 98 Government Primary Schools, 38 High Schools, and 6 Colleges, besides many offices of the Bangladesh Government.


Dark motives and domineering instinct paramount in educationists

Education does not necessarily endow every one with humanism, catholicity, compassion, and liberality. The caste system of Hindus has caused havoc in destroying lives of generations and centuries. Privilege, implying dominant instinct, for light is a Hindu concept determined by shastras, comprising wholly detestable and unjustifiable contents, are nothing but creation of savage men. Knowledge turned Vidyasagar and many others shinning and meritorious ‘tyrannical.’ In a letter of in September 29(?), 1859 addressed by Vidyasagar to Sir John Peter Grant, who took charge May 1, 1859 of Lieutenant Governorship of Bengal, he supervened to say that

An impression appears to have gained ground, both here and in England, that enough has been done for the education of the higher classes and attention now be directed towards the education of the masses….An inquiry into the matter will, however, show a very different state of things. As the best, if not the only practicable means of promoting education in Bengal, the Government should, in my humble opinion, confine itself to the education of the higher classes on a comprehensive scale. [64]

An impression appears to have gained ground, both here and in England, that enough has been done for the education of the higher classes and that attention should now be directed towards the education of the masses... An enquiry into the matter will, however, show a very different state of things. As the best, if not the only practicable means of promoting education in Bengal, the Government should, in my humble opinion, confine itself to the education of the higher classes on a comprehensive scale.” [65]

Vidyasagar simply turned out to be a saboteur of education for the masses? The second great despatch on education [no. 4 of the 7th April, 1859] issued by the Secretary of State reached Sir Peter Grant soon after his assumption of office as the Lieutenant Governor. The Second Despatch, according to Charles Edward Buckland, ICS noted that “the native community have failed to co-operate with Government in promoting elementary vernacular education.” [66] A malcontent Vidyasagar stood a tall witness.
The first education Despatch also popular as the Wood’s Despatch focused on the educational objective and purpose of British authorities. “The main objective of the Despatch of 1854 is to divert the efforts of Government from education of higher classes, upon whom they had up to that date been too exclusively directed, and to turn them to the wider diffusion of education among all classes of people; and especially to the provision of primary instruction for the masses. Such instruction is to be provided by the direct instrumentality of the Government; and a compulsory rate, levied under the direct authority of Government….” [67]

The proof of failure of the native community to extend cooperation to the government in this behalf came cascading in the form of intervention and unreasonable obstruction of educationist Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar who, with Grant, adored the newly-established the Calcutta University as Fellow appointed under the University Act 1857. Act of Incorporation (Act no. II of 1857, pp. 17-22.

The higher classes of native community marshalled a galaxy of men including Sir Surendranath Banerjea, Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, besides Vidyasagar, whom Indians are taught to venerate and eulogize though they made naked efforts to foil and frustrate the key objective focusing promotion of “elementary vernacular education.” In fact, they were all trained on the teachings and philosophy of lawgiver Manu and the likes. Manu says: -

“Those who educate Sudras and women will go to hell.”
(Manu 3.156).

Indian education is the country’s darkest chapter of history, though less suspected and the least anticipated. Largescale conspiracy, sabotage, perjury, forgery, prevarication, deception targeting the masses were the achievements.

When celebrated educationists and leaders behave as wolf in the sheep’s clothing dispelling apprehension of danger, the lower social strata are unsuspectingly exposed to inexorable danger. Their hard luck was predestined.

American journalist Miss Katherine Mayo was prophetic when she underlined boldly that

if Indian self-government were established tomorrow, and if wealth rushed in, succeeding poverty in the land, unless she reversed her own views as to her untouchables and as to her women, must still continue in the frontline of the earth’s illiterates. [68]

Poor Miss Mayo was subjected to savage attack by great men of knowledge and liberal proclivity. The men who abused her to the ordinary countrymen are patriots and nationalist. We failed to notice how foresighted a prophesy lost sight of the most careful minds. The “untouchable” and “women” of India stand glaring proof of Miss Mayo’s prediction.

In 1916, Ambica Charan Majumdar who delivered the Presidential address to the Indian National Congress at Lucknow, declared: -

“Education….is not an indispensable condition or a condition precedent to self-government.” [60]

Dark motives and dirty designs of the greedy minority, who denied education to the masses, came out in the public. His further claim to cause consternation was: -
“Call it Home Rule, call it self-rule, call it Swaraj, it is one and the same thing---it is representative Government.” [70]

A tragedy that 6.5% of bhadralok wanted to enslave 93.5% of Bengal population with power transferred as also concentrated in their hands.

The minority tyranny has kept tens of millions of the nation in abyss of darkness, no enemy could have achieved this impossible task. The rate of average literacy census of India 2011 returned is 73.8%---male literacy 84.13% and female, 65.47%. [71] That census is subjected to mindless manipulation is not a secret any longer. We better keep the high probability of fudging of data of literacy in view to have a realistic situation. In any case, we must learn the distinction between literacy and education. The country need education for every citizen, not literacy. Any talk of literacy is crass deception aimed at the masses. Dr. B. R. Ambedkar had diagnosed what a man without character means to the society.

An educated man without character and humility was more dangerous than a beast. If his education was detrimental to the welfare of the poor, the educated man was a curse to the society. Character is more important than education. [72]

In conclusion let me refer to a speech delivered in New York, by Richard Temple, former Lieutenant Governor of Bengal (tenure 1874-1877). He had said,

“I believe education will produce loyalty.” He favoured the idea of giving India education in those arts and sciences which have made England herself what she is” regardless of “the political consequences.” Asserting further he stated, “Even if certain sort of disloyalty were to be the consequence, we must persevere, for we could not consent to keep the people ignorant in order to keep them loyal.” [73]

I do not compare the large-heartedness and humanism of the colonial masters with the attitudinal makeup of India’s tallest humanist, social reformers, educationist and patrons of education. It is all too evident.
India has a long way to go.

[The writer is grateful for inputs on Agailjhara Bhegai Halder Public Academy to Munim K Barai, PhD, Professor (& Fulbright Scholar, UPenn, USA), Graduate School of Management, Vice- Dean, International Cooperation and Research Department, Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University, Beppu, Oita, Japan. An alumnus of the same Academy, he topped the Secondary School Certificate Examinations of his Secondary Education Board in Bangladesh.]

A retired IAS and former Vice-Chancellor, Dr. B. R. Ambedkar Bihar University, Muzaffarpur is an analyst and commentator of social anthropological issues.


[1] Bengal Administration Report, 1871-72, p. 156.
[2] Charles Edward Buckland, ICS, quoted the eye-witness account of widow burning on the banks of the Hooghly of District Magistrate, Hooghly Sir James Frederick Halliday, who rose to be the first Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal. “It was one of those frequent cases in which the husband’s death has occurred too far off for the body to be brought to the pile, and instead of it a part of his clothing had been laid thereon by the widow’s side.” C. E. Buckland, Bengal under the Lieutenant-Governors, vol. I, Calcutta, 1902 second edition, pp.160-161. Parliamentary Papers presented by Government of India disclose that "...a turban, a dagger, a pair of sandals, a portion of wearing apparel, a roll of beads, a stick, a fiddle." would suffice for an unfortunate widow for consigning to the flames. Parliamentary Paper, p. 254.
[3] An Advanced History of India by R C Majumdar, H C Raychaudhuri & Kalikrishna Datta, Fourth edition, Macmillan & Company, 1991, p. 811.
[4] Rev. Lal Behari Day, Recollections of Alexander Duff, London, 1879, p. 53.
[5] Ibid., pp. 54-55.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Ibid. p. 55.
[8] Bengal Administration Report, 1871-72, p. 228.
[9] Herbert Alick Stark, Vernacular Education in Bengal from 1813 to 1912, Calcutta General Publishing Co., 1916, p. 55.
[10] Ibid. p. 89.
[11] Rev Lal Behari Day, quoted by Herbert Alick Stark, Vernacular Education in Bengal, Calcutta General Publishing Company, 1916, p. 89.
[12] Address at Calcutta Session in 1911 of Bishan Narayan Dhar, President, Indian National Congress compiled by A. M. Zaidi, Vol. I, 1986, p. 499.
[13] The Tribes and Castes of Bengal, Vol I, Calcutta, Bengal Secretariat Press, 1892, H. H. Risley, ICS, pp. 314-315.
[14] Nabin Chandra Sen, Amar Jeevan (Bengali), Memoirs, Vol. I, p. 282.
[15] Sir Surendranath Banerjea, A Nation in Making, Second Impression, Humphrey Milford, Oxford University Press, 1925, p. 339.
[16] General Report on Public Instruction in Bengal, 1871-72, Calcutta Central Press Company Limited, Calcutta, 1873, p. 58.
[17] Ibid., p. 59.
[18] Lord Macaulay quoted by Annie Besant, India: A Nation, Indian Bookshop, George Town, Madras, E, 1923, p. 115.
[19] Ibid., p.117.
[21] Lord Northbrook (22 January 1826 – 15 November 1904), Governor General of India, May 1872 to April 1876. A Lecture delivered before Burrabazar Family Library Club, on the 10th June 1872, by Gosto Behary Mullick, Calcutta, Day & Cousin, 1873, p. 39.
[22] Speeches Babu Surendra Nath Banerjee 1876-80, Vol. 1, ed. 3rd, by Ram Chandra Palit, Calcutta, S. K. Lahiri & Co., 1894, p. 86.
[23] Ibid.
[24] Mani Bagchi, Rashtraguru Surendranath, [A volume in Bengali] jijgnasa, Kolkata, 1959, p. 186.
[25] A. K. Biswas, Centenary of Patna University, Bihar: Patna Gained at Dhaka’s Cost, Mainstream, VOL LVI No 1 New Delhi December 23, 2017 - Annual Number.
[26] Primary Education in Bengal in Educational Supplement, The Times, London, November 13, 1926, p. 484 quoted by Katherine Mayo, Mother India, 1928, New York, p. 189.
[27] UNESCO, Compulsory Education in India, Paris, 1952, p. 70.
[28] UNESCO, op. cit, p. 80-81.
29 Sir Surendranath Banerjea, A Nation in Making, Second Impression, Oxford University Press, 1925, p. 337.
[30] Herbert Alick Stark, Vernacular Education in Bengal from1813 to 1912, Calcutta, Calcutta General Publishing Co., 1916, p. 149.
[31] Herbert Alick Stark, op. cit., p. 105.
[32] Sir Surendranath Banerjea, op. cit., p. 36.
[33] A. K. Biswas, Universalisation of Education: India in a Trap---Bane of Negligence Portends National Disaster, Mainstream, Vol XLVII, No 38, September 5, 2009.
[34] Ibid.
[35] Ibid.
[36] M. K. Gandhi, Indian Home Rule, Ganesh and Co., Madras, 1924, pp. 97-98 & 100.
[37] The UNESCO Local Office, Patna officially circulated the booklet to various concerned authorities including this writer who was the Commissioner, Tirhut Division, Muzaffarpur at the relevant point of time. The writer regrets the Booklet is not with him at the moment for referring to page, year and place of publication and other details.
[38] A Life of Earl Mayo, Fourth Viceroy of India, by W. W. Hunter, Second Edition, Volume II, Smith Elder & Co., 1876, pp. 300-301.
[39] Ibid.
[40] Notes “Bengalis in Bihar” The Modern Review, Vol. 57, No. 1-6, (A Monthly Review & Miscellany, edited by Ramananda Chatterjee, Vol. LVII, Nos. 1 to 6, January to June, 1935, pp. 509-510.
[42] Report by the Director of Public Instruction, LP for 1870-71, pp. 2-3. Administrative Report of Bengal for 1873-74; Statistical Returns cxi-cxiii quoted by W. W. Hunter, W. W. Hunter, A Life of The Earl of Mayo, Fourth Viceroy of India, Volume II, Second Edition, Smith, Elder & Co., London, 1876, pp.304-305.
[43] Bengal Administration Report, 1871-72, p. 255.
[44 ] Jogendra Nath Bhattacharya, Hindu Castes and Sects, Calcutta, Thacker, Spink and Co., 1896, p. 170.
[45] Nirad Chandra Chaudhuri, Bengali article Akshamer Kshamata, (Power of the Vulnerable), sharodiya Desh, Calcutta, 1400 BS, p. 67.
[46] W. W. Hunter, A Life of The Earl of Mayo, Fourth Viceroy of India, Volume II, Second Edition, Smith, Elder & Co., London, 1876, p. 303.
[47] Nabin Chandra Sen, op cit. p. p. 282.
[48] Bengal Under the Lieutenant-Governors, Vol. I, by Charles Edward Buckland, S K Lahiri & Co, Calcutta, 1901, pp. 530-531.
[49] Mahratta, May 15, 1881, pp. 3-4, “Our System of Education-A defect and a cure, quoted by Parimala V Rao in Education & Lose Nationality-Reading Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Critical Quest, New Delhi, 2008, p. 8.
[50] The Statesman’s Year Book, 1923, Macmillan and Limited, London, 1923, p. 136 quoted in Coronavirus from Wuhan in 2019 Reminds catastrophe plague from Manchuria in 1896 wrought in India---Lessons of history by Dr. Atulkrishna Biswas, Mainstream, Vol. LVIII no. 24, New Delhi, May 30, 2020.
[51] Nabarun Guha & Sahana Ghosh, Wildlife and people work together during Assam’s annual tryst with in, MONGABAY, 23 July 2019.
[52] UNESCO, Compulsory Education in India, Paris, 1952, p. 24.
[53] A. K. Biswas, Paradox of Anti-Partition Agitation and Swadeshi Movement in Bengal (1905), Social Scientist, Vol. 23, Nos. 4-6, April-June, 1995, New Delhi.
[54] Ibid.
[55] Ibid.
[56] Valentine Chirol, Indian Unrest, Macmillan & Co. Limited, London, 1910. P. 102.
[57] Dr. A. K. Biswas, The Namasudras of Bengal, Blumoon Books, New Delhi, 2000, p. 80.
[58] W. L. Owen, District Superintendent of Police, Faridpur, no. 66 dated Bhagna, March 18, 1873 to The District Magistrate, Faridpur, quoted in the 1873 Movement for Dignity and Equality before Law, Government of West Bengal, Department of Backward Classes Welfare, June, 2015, Kolkata, para. 3, p. 17.
[59] Nadia District Gazetteer, by J. H. F. Garrett, Bengal Secretariat Book Depot, 1910, p. 46-47; Khulna District Gazetteers by O’Malley, L. S. S., Bengal Secretariat Book Depot, Calcutta, 1908, p. 66. Bengal District Gazetteers—Jessore, Bengal Secretariat Book Depot, Calcutta, 1912, pp. 61-62.
[60] Jiban Mukherjee, Swadesh Parichay O poribesh, Nababharat Prakashani in Bengali, Kolkata, 2015, p. 116.
[61] A Statistical Account of Bengal, Districts of Dacca, Bakarganj, Faridpur and Maimansing, Vol. VI, Trubner & Co., London, 1877, p. 349.
[62] Sumit Sarkar, Beyond Nationalist Frame, Permanent Black, 2002, Delhi, p. 236 quoted in Centenary of Patna University, Bihar: Patna Gained at Dhaka’s Cost by A. K. Biswas, Annual Number, Mainstream, VOL LVI No 1 New Delhi December 23, 2017.
[63] Source materials of the case study are drawn from [a Bengali booklet] Alor Dishari Mahatma Bhegai Halder by Binod Behari Jaydhar, Bandhab Palli, Bira, North 24-Parganas, West Bengal, June 10, 1995 and
[65] A. K. Biswas, op. cit. › article1615
[66] Bengal Under the Lieutenant-Governors of Bengal, Vol. I, Charles Edward Buckland, ICS, R. K. Lahiri & Co., Calcutta, 1901, p. 171.
[67] Herbert Alick Stark, Vernacular Education in Bengal from 1813 to 1912, Calcutta General Publishing Co., 1916, p. 73.
[68] Katherine Mayo, Mother India, Blue Ribbon Books, New York, Thirty-Third Printing, March, 1931, p. 202.
[69] India’s Claim for Self-Rule, Ganesh & Co., Madras, 1917, p. 147.
[70] Ibid, p. 143.
[72] Dr Ambedkar: Life & Vision, by Dhananjay Keer, 1954, Bombay, Popular Prakashan, p. 305.
[73] Richard Temple, Oriental Experience, p. 151 quoted in Social and Cultural Vision of India, by A. K. Biswas, Pragati Publications, Delhi, 1996, p. 214.

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