Raja Rammohon Roy, The Imperialist
By Chandrabhan Prasad
03 November, 2004
Was Raja Rammohon Roy an imperialist? Well, if we read him the way Lord Macaulay is read and understood by mainstream Indians, then we may well find Roy in the British camp.
So upset had Roy been with the Company's decision to set up a new Sanskrit school in Calcutta that he petitioned William Pitt, and requested his memorandum be placed before the Governor-General of India. In fact, Lord Macaulay refers to this petition in his "Minutes" while arguing for a British type, science based education for India. Roy submitted his petition on December 11, 1823, 12 years before Macaulay wrote his famous "Minutes".
Excerpts from Rajaram Mohan Roy's petition:
"We understood that the Government in England had ordered a considerable sum of money to be annually devoted to the instruction of its Indian Subjects. We were filled with sanguine hopes that this sum would be laid out in employing European Gentlemen of talents and education to instruct the natives of India in Mathematics, Natural Philosophy, Chemistry, Anatomy and other useful Sciences, which the Nations of Europe have carried to a degree of perfection that has raised them above the inhabitants of other parts of the world".
"We already offered up thanks to Providence for inspiring the most generous and enlightened of the Nations of the West with the glorious ambitions of planting in Asia the Arts and Sciences of modern Europe".
"From these considerations, as the sum set apart for the instruction of the Natives of India was intended by the Government in England, for the improvement of its Indian subjects, I beg leave to state, with due deference to your Lordship's exalted situation, that if the plan now adopted be followed, it will completely defeat the object proposed; since no improvement can be expected from inducing young men to consume a dozen of years of the most valuable period of their lives in acquiring the niceties of the Byakurun or Sangscrit Grammar".
"We now find that the Government are establishing a Sangscrit school under Hindoo Pundits to impart such knowledge as is already current in India. This Seminary (similar in character to those which existed in Europe before the time of Lord Bacon) can only be expected to load the minds of youth with grammatical niceties and metaphysical distinctions of little or no practicable use to the possessors or to society. The pupils will there acquire what was known two thousand years ago, with the addition of vain and empty subtleties since produced by speculative men, such as is already commonly taught in all parts of India".
"The Sangscrit language, so difficult that almost a lifetime is necessary for its perfect acquisition, is well-known to have been for ages a lamentable check on the diffusion of knowledge."
"Neither can much improvement arise from such speculations as the following, which are the themes suggested by the Vedant: In what manner is the soul absorbed into the deity? What relation does it bear to the divine essence? Nor will youths be fitted to be better members of society by the Vedantic doctrines,which teach them to believe that all visible things have no real existence."
"Again, no essential benefit can be derived by the student of the Meemansa from knowing what it is that makes the killer of a goat sinless on pronouncing certain passages of the Veds, and what is the real nature and operative influence of passages of the Ved, etc."
"Again the student of the Nyaya Shastra cannot be said to have improved his mind after he has learned from it into how many ideal classes the objects in the Universe are divided, and what speculative relation the soul bears to the body, the body to the soul, the eye to the ear, etc."
"In order to enable your Lordship to appreciate the utility of encouraging such imaginary learning as above characterised, I beg your Lordship will be pleased to compare the state of science and literature in Europe before the time of Lord Bacon, with the progress of knowledge made since he wrote".
"If it had been intended to keep the British nation in ignorance of real knowledge the Baconian philosophy would not have been allowed to displace the system of the schoolmen, which was the best calculated to perpetuate ignorance".
"In the same manner the Sangscrit system of education would be the best calculated to keep this country in darkness".