Dalits see English as social leveller

Times of India

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court may have touted English as the flagbearer of knowledge economy but the role of the Queen's language as a "social Twitter Facebook Share Email Print Save Comment leveller" is witnessing a renewed push for English education among weaker sections.

Six decades after independence, there is a newfound zeal among intellectuals that English will not only equip SCs/STs for "new economy jobs" but also aid them in breaking free from the pernicious caste system.

The love for English as the new lingua franca is visible. In her fourth tenure as CM of UP, Mayawati made English compulsory in primary education in the state. While importance of foreign language in a globalised world is valid for all, the SC leader's decision could be seen as flowing from her icon Ambedkar's thoughts.

Her move stands out in the face of opposition from well-heeled rivals who see it as "cultural subversion". SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and MNS leader Raj Thackeray have made a strong pitch for mother tongue over English.

Their opposition contrasts with acceptability of English among dalits. "If some people have to join the process of modernity, they have to learn the tricks of the trade. English is one of them," says Vivek Kumar, a faculty in JNU and a keen follower of dalit trends.

Chandrabhan Prasad, who celebrates the birthday of Macaulay on October 25 in respect for the man who introduced English education, plans to put English in the pantheon of dalit gods. "I will build a temple to English in a school of a dalit this year," he told TOI.

The pro-English mood has its roots in Ambedkar who saw "English" and "urban landscape" as the twin tools for social liberation. For him, English was the game changer - before its advent, dalits saw their destinies as "preordained" which later they saw as "man made".

The foreign language is seen as the catalyst in social transition. Educationist Bhalchandra Mungekar says, "Jobs create vertical and horizontal social mobility while caste, which is immobile, played an ascriptive role. With English came new skills and the system is fast becoming achievement-oriented."



Posts a comment

© Indian Dalit Muslims' Voice
Back to top