Thursday, January 31, 2013

Reginald Reynolds on the impact of the British

"“Ronald Ross, “ writes Mr. Brailford, “has drawn a mordant picture of a class of children, all with enlarged spleens, struggling to learn by rote a table of the Plantagenet Kings.”

Reginald Reynolds, The White Sahibs in India, 1937:

Culturally the net effect of the British occupation has been aptly summed up by Graham Wallas in Human Society:

“Athens, during the last quarter of the fifth century B.C., was not well governed; and if the British Empire had then existed, and if Athens had been brought within it, the administration would undoubtedly have been improved in some important aspects.   But one does not like to imagine the effect on the intellectual output of the fifth century B.C., if even the best of Mr. Rudyard Kipling’s public school subalterns had stalked daily through the agora, snubbing, as he passed, that intolerable bounder, Euripides, or clearing out of his way the probably seditious group that were gathered around Socrates.” [34]

Footnote [34] Even J. R. Seeley in his Expansion of England expressed his doubt as to whether British rule over the Indian people was not “sinking them lower in misery”.   It was his view that “subjection for a long time to a foreign yoke is one of the most potent causes of national deterioration.”  Ramsey MacDonald expressed a similar view in The Awakening of India.  {Wiki: Seeley's defense of the Empire consists largely of the claim that British rule is in India's best interest. … The book contains the much-quoted statement that "the British Empire was acquired in a fit of absence of mind".}

Education itself is largely an emasculating process in India.  Its origin was not the indigenous system to which we have referred in a previous chapter, but the needs of the East India Company.  Speaking of India ninety-five years ago Sir Claude Hill said: “A prime necessity at that time was the furnishing of clerks capable of doing the work in a manner which would be satisfactory to the English Board of Directors.” [35] More grandiloquently the contemporary sponsor of this policy explained himself in words which every educated Indian remembers:

“We must at present do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions we govern; a class of persons Indian in blood and colour but English in taste, in opinions, in morals and in intellect.” [36]

The ultimate effect of this policy, as we have observed, was the creation of a class of unemployed intellectuals which formed the original nucleus of the nationalist movement. [37] Its more immediate results were entirely disastrous.  While the primary education of the millions were completely neglected, a de-nationalised minority was brought into being, for which secondary schools and colleges were provided; and here the culture and political prejudices of the ruling race were carefully fostered.  The control of the Press and the banning of enlightened literature completed the process.

Footnote [35] Speech to Douglas Rotary Club, as reported in The Listener, Dec. 30th, 1931.

Footnote [36] Macaulay’s evidence before the Parliamentary Commission of 1853.  In the words of Sir William Hunter, “the conquest of the land was followed by the conquest of the mind.”

Footnote [37] It may be noted that even Macaulay’s program was progressive by comparison with that of the East India Company before his time. Speaking in the House on June 3rd, 1853, John Bright mentioned the dissatisfaction of the Court of Directors when four Indian students came to London to study medicine.

The English language is the basis of this educational system, and while the history and literature of his own country are largely forgotten the Indian school-boy of fed on Shakespeare and taught to glory in British military achievements. [38]  “Ronald Ross, “ writes Mr. Brailford, “has drawn a mordant picture of a class of children, all with enlarged spleens, struggling to learn by rote a table of the Plantagenet Kings.” [39] Of the schools among the primitive tribes Mr. Verrier Elwin writes:

“When the aboriginal does go to school, and that is seldom, he all to often is made obsequious and servile.  His spirit is crushed.  He learns to respect Brahmins and policemen, but he is not taught how to hold his head high.” [40]

Footnote [38] In the Civil Service examinations Indians must, of course, compete with Englishmen in their knowledge of the English language, English literature and English history.

Footnote [39] Rebel India, by H. N. Brailsford, p. 107.  Indian history in the textbooks means the Delhi Durbar and the achievements of the British rulers.

Footnote [40] Leaves from the Jungle, p. 51.  How this policy of emasculation is systematically carried out has been demonstrated by Sir Henry Cotton in Indian and Home Memories.  Mrs. Besant has analysed it with special reference to education in India: Bound or Free?

It is no wonder that the Census Report should say of these same people that there is “no sign among the peasants of the Central Provinces of a love of education for the sheer pleasure it brings.”  Commenting upon this statement Mr. Elwin tells us that “wherever education is made pleasurable, the peasants love it.” [41] Yet when Elwin attempted to bring this sort of education to the Gonds he found himself barred on every side by a united front consisting of the Government of an Indian State, the local landlords and the British Government’s Forest Department. [42] In all the villages controlled by three authorities Elwin was forbidden to open schools, though the Census figures showed that only four out of every 1,000 Gonds are literate.   Had he been a money-lender, as he points out, he would have been “given every possible facility by everyone.”

Footnote [41] Leaves from the Jungle, p. 195

Footnote [42] In February 1934, the Forest Department even issued an order under Section 26 (2) (a) of the Indian Forest Act warning Mr. Elwin against so much as entering any forest village without written permission.   This was done in full knowledge of the fact that his work was confined to educational and medical services.

Since 1921 education has been under the control of Indian ministers and a small advance has been made [43] The Simon Report mentions that these Indian Ministers “succeeded to a heritage by no means inspiring” and refers to their “impetuous advances” occasioned by “their almost feverish anxiety to improve it.”  But the propertied classes enfranchised by the Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms had neither the will to create a real system of popular education nor the control of adequate funds, most of the Budget being ear-marked by the Government for better purposes, such as the army. [44] In the four Provinces where resolutions demanding compulsory education were passed in the legislatures the funds placed at their disposal by the Provincial Governments provide inadequate to implement this intention. [45]

Footnote [43] The Simon Report went so far as to comment on the “notable improvement that has attended the well-directed efforts in individual provinces like the Punjab.”

Footnote [44] Another insuperable obstacle under the present regime is the fact that for eighty years the medium of instruction in schools has been English.  Until this system can be radically changed real popular education is an impossibility.

Footnote [45] This shortage of money did not prevent the Government, which retained control of European education, from spending annually in Bengal over £7 for every European student in contrast with 4s. 6d. spent annually on each Indian student.

There has even been a decline between 1921 and 1931 in the proportion of pupils at primary schools as compared with those at secondary schools; and the Census Report of 1931 points out that nearly 9½ crores of rupees are spent annually on secondary education compared with less than 7 crores on the primary schools [46] The Census Commissioner estimates that two-thirds of the Indian villages to-day have no schools, and his explanation for this state of affairs is completely unconvincing when it is compared to the pre-British state of education or the condition of some of the better governed Indian States, where the more enlightened princes have shown the possibilities of popular education.

Burma, as the Census demonstrates, is the exception to the rule.  Out of every 1,000 Burmese over the age of five years, 368 are literate—that is to say, nearly 37 per cent of the population, compared with the average of 10 per cent in British India.  Comparative Provincial figures are: 11.1 per cent in Bengal, 10.8 per cent in Bombay, 5.5 per cent in the United Provinces and 5.3 per cent in Bihar and Orissa.  But, as the Census Commissioner points out:

“Burma is, of course, exceptional, as most of her literacy is obtained in her village monasteries and not through the Education Department.” [47]

Footnote [46] 1931 Census, Part I, p. 334-5.  The Simon Report will be more accessible to the average reader and will be found to contain interesting comparative figures, including those which illustrate the relative backwardness of British India (already mentioned) as compared with Travancore, Cochin and Baroda. (See Simon Report, Vol I, p. 382.)  Mr. Brailsford in Rebel India (p. 98) mentions the contrast of Calcutta, which succeeded under its socialist Mayor (Mr. Subhas Bose) in educating 60 per cent of the children in the municipality “in spite of dire poverty, without compulsory powers.”

Footnote [47] These are, of course, Buddhist monasteries, the native education system having been less interfered with in Burma than in India owing to its different character and the more recent conquest of the country. {In other words, Burma was not blessed with Macaulay.}

With these facts in mind it is interesting to read an article which appeared in a recent number of Great Britain and the East.   The author notes the discrepancy between the present state of India and the description of India in the early nineteenth century, as given by Sir Thomas Munro.  He finds “a consensus of well-informed opinion that will that in many respects India enjoyed then a greater measure of prosperity that she can now lay claim to.”  Of the education system he says that it

“is completely divorced from national life . . . Its end is a clerkship and for this is required an automatic man . . . . The lot of the primary school teacher is not an enviable one.  He is wretchedly paid, often with a coolie’s wage; he is closely circumscribed with government restrictions” [48]

Footnote [48] “India’s return to Pre-British Standards,” by W. E. Lucas, (Great Britain and the East, Oct. 22nd, 1936) {Volume 47}

This writer is of the opinion that “since Indian ministers have been responsible for education in the Provinces notable strides have been made.” But he also realizes that

“there must be a return, certainly in the primary stages, to education based upon Indian vernacular inspiration.”

The new educational system which this article puts forward as an ideal “must take, as its pattern, the village school of the pre-British era.”  It is to be a system “in which is fostered the idea of the welfare of the panchayat.”  But it is precisely such a system which has become impossible under a centralized bureaucracy and will be equally unattainable under the new constitution. {of 1935}.  Nor is this an accident; for it is an integral part of the psychological basis of empire that the mass of people should be ignorant and apathetic.  And this principle, as we have already seen, applies equally to those who are governed and to the great majority of the “ruling race.”