Serajul Islam Choudhury is a lighthouse in the intellectual field of Bangladesh. He has been an inspirer of good and patriotic thoughts and activities to people of all ages in this country. The influence of his writings is widespread. He has written essays mainly on politics, society and literature. For the vastness of his writings, repetition was hardly avoidable. Yet very important and fundamental thoughts regarding our politics, society and literature are unmistakable in there. Thus he has enriched readers of the country day by day and year after year with the sincere presentation of all vital issues in his easy and communicable writing style. Bangalir Jatiotabad (UPL, 2000) written by him is a book quite significant for our future national development.
This book has concisely presented his various thoughts and ideas on many critical and vital issues. The topics he has included here tell a lot about his vast range of dealing with issues, such as language, education, politics, partition of India and Bengal along with it, bureaucracy, secularism, economic control, women's status, etc. He seeks a state founded on the principles of secular, democratic and equality-based nationalism. His fervor for nationalism, however, came down and his political vision became more expanded in his later book entitled Jatiobad, Shamprodaikota O Jonogoner Mukti (Sanghoti, 2015). This article deals with the idea of education reflected so clearly with the potential of a far-reaching effect in these two important books.
Choudhury's idea of nationalism is language-centric, which is secular and more progressive than the prevailing ones, whose inherent power is reflected in the achievement of our independence in 1971. Yet the great potential of the language-based nationalism has remained unfulfilled even for our nation because it was killed before it got the chance of growing into full bloom. The killing of this young plant has a historical legacy and also a method. He wrote, "There is a big chance of building a new society on the basis of language in East Bengal. Language asks us to be united, and language demonstrates how to do it-by building a democratic social system through demolition of the barriers of class and race. (Bangalir Jatiotabad, p. 48)
Instead of the elimination of division among people, it increased in many ways. Surprisingly, education is one of the main causes of these divisions. People are split into different classes, occupations, cultures and communities. How? "Macaulay relied on education. If education could be used to form uprooted men, all problems would be solved and the empire could be made everlasting. ... So British is gone now, but its cultural legacies still dominate. British laws, civil and military bureaucracies, courts, education system, the English language and every other thing they left behind stays as before," writes Choudhury. (Bangalir Jatiotabad, p. 60)
The credit of introducing English in Bengal's education system goes unequivocally to Thomas Babington Macaulay. His objective was very clear. He wanted to create spineless servants instead of full human beings. It is true that even such a bad system of so called education also gave birth to great intellectuals and revolutionaries in the country. The main objective, however, was to create such an English-educated class as failed to notice that "there was poison in the stream of honey from which they drank happily, the poison of surrender." (Bangalir Jatiotabad, p. 58)
The inevitable outcome is that in 1857 when rebellion against the British rule burst out in the Indian army and rapidly spread throughout the country, this struggle for freedom could not draw attention of the Bengali babu-class. "This class of gentlemen then went to the British begging for more education. This educated class born as the fruit of the poison tree planted by Macaulay was the voluntary security guard of the state. (Bangalir Jatiotabad, p. 58) A permanent settlement was laid in the field of mind while the notorious permanent settlement started on the real land. The latter has been abolished long ago, but the former is on the increase in strength day by day.
Capacity of reading and writing in English has been embedded in the colonial concept of education. Serajul Islam Choudhury writes, "One of the direct outcomes of the British reign is the creation of an educated middle class." The results are: "The tragic truth is that the educated people of the two main religious faiths are responsible for communal conflicts in Bengal. They turned their competition for job and representation in public bodies into communal hatred. What education produced in plenty was the class division." (Jatiobad, Shamprodaikota O Jonogoner Mukti, p. 89)
Choudhury demonstrates that the British masters used the word 'instruction' for 'education' because there was no 'education' in their colonial lexicon. They provided instructions to build skills without care about spiritual development. Two of its long-term effects are: One the one hand, increasing class discrimination, and on the other hand, communal mistrust. Education has been the key to making the educated people remarkably creative in creating all sorts division among the population.
Putting aside division in the religious life, divisions have arisen in the form of 'tui/tumi' vs. 'Sir', so called educated vs. illiterate, English-knowing vs. English-unknowing people, etc. English like a sharp iron wedge entering into the whole body of the Bengali society has split people into many pieces. Not only this, Bengali children bear the burden of struggling to learn the English language for around 15 years, without any countable benefit. This bearing the burden is not simply a personal problem, it is a great wastage for the nation as well. Choudhury writes about this in the 'Macaulay, Vidyasagar and Vivekananda' chapter, "The language question is very important for the Bengali middle class. He has achieved and strengthened his middle class position by learning English. But language was also a burden for him. A lot of time has been spent in learning this language and so it was hardly possible to learn other subjects properly. Science learning has been damaged most for this." (Bangalir Jatiotabad, p. 418)
In another place he has written, "The aim of the British education was to create uprooted humans; they fed opium to the Chinese people and education to the Bengalis." (Bangalir Jatiotabad, p. 88) We have been living under this opium effect since then and will be doing so till some unknown time. China has not only got out of the hangover effect from the British opium, they are now competing for the top place in the global market. On the other hand, we are sinking deeper into the muddling effect of the education opium fed by the British. Only education in our mother tongue can save us from this falling to the depth of ignorance and enable us to change society for the betterment of people.
Serajul Islam Choudhury's volume of writing is large. He has not only written on several topics, also expressed bold opinions both to the print and electronic media at the demand of time. Yet, his idea about education expressed here calls for most attention of those who want to be at the helm of state in the future. Without boldly taking this into account, we are doomed to be in the trap of un-development. To build a better state we have to do the hardest tasks identified here. We must drive away the ghost of English language standing on the chest of our education system but must learn it separately and in a better way, not merely as a tool of clerical communication, giving it due respect as other people's mother tongue and a great store of modern knowledge needed for the urgent progress. We must do it to build a state with secular, democratic and equity-centric values.
The author is Editor, Biggan O Snagskriti
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