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Thursday, April 16, 2009

VALUE OF ENGLISH

Victims of “Angrezi Hatao”
By Syed Nooruzzaman

SAMAJWADI Party leader Mulayam Singh Tadav’s opposition to the learning of English reminds one of the days when the “Angrezi hatao” movement in the late sixties had made the then UP government introduce changes in the school curriculum.
One of the socialist leaders of those days, Raj Narain (better known for filing a case against Indira Gandhi in the Allahabad High Court after the 1971 elections which led to the declaration of the 1975 Emergency), was among the most vocal opponents of the English language.
The sadistic pleasure of the socialists knew no bounds when the UP School Education Board announced that English would not be taught as a compulsory subject in all the government and government-aided schools and intermediate colleges. The teaching in general English as a compulsory subject at the graduation level was also done away with in the state universities.
While these enemies of the language rejoiced at their “achievement”, thousands of the victims suffered silently. This writer, in the 11th lass at that time in Azamgarh, was one of the victims. Being a student of agriculture science, I cam to know that the board had issued instructions that, instead of English, we would have to study mathematics as an elementary subject. Three precious months had already elapsed after the beginning of the new academic session when the change in the curriculum came about.
An idea about our predicament could be had from the fact that those of us who later on shifted to places like Delhi were refused admission to a graduation course. I cannot forget the shock I suffered when my admission form was given back to me, saying that a person who had not studied elementary English at the higher secondary or intermediate level was barred from getting admission to any course in Delhi University.
By that time I was aware that English was the language of growth. We were told by our elders that the primary reason for the Muslims’ backwardness was their rejection of English education, including this language. Muslim religious leaders, in particular, wanted the community to remain away from the language of the “Firangis” (the British) who had “deprived them of power”.
Had there been no Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, the founder of Aligarh Muslim University, who vehemently fought against the negative thinking, the condition of the community would have been worse.
My elders told me that Sir Syed tried to eliminate the pathological hatred among the Muslims against English by describing it as the language of science and technology. It opened the window on knowledge and progress, he would say. Ye he was slapped with a “fatwa” (religious decree), declaring him a “kafir”.
The elders’ sermon opened our eyes, but our problem was how to pursue our studies. We saw light at the end of the tunnel when one fine morning somebody suggested that we could realize our dream of higher education by taking admission to a graduation course in nearby college in UP. A four year struggle of daily commuting from Delhi to Gaziabad (UP) where our college was located, bore fruit. But, more than that, it was the love for English that ultimately changed the destiny of the victims of “Angrezi hatao.”
(Source: The Tribune of 16th April, 2009)

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