India's 'untouchables' to build temple to 'Goddess of the English language'
India's downtrodden "untouchables" are to open a temple to a "Goddess
of the English language" in honour of Lord Macaulay, an architect of
the British Empire.
By Dean Nelson in New Delhi
Published: 9:00PM BST 27 Oct 2010
They believe learning English will open up new opportunities for
India's 160 million Dalits in higher education and high-status
Dalits are India's most persecuted caste and its members suffer
violence and discrimination throughout the country. There are regular
reports of Dalit boys being murdered for illicit relationships with
higher caste girls.
Leaders of the influential Dalit movement in Uttar Pradesh state,
where the pro-dalit Bahujan Samaj Party is in power, believe more
could escape the worst aspects of "untouchability" if they master the
A foundation stone was laid in April and a 30 inch brass statue of the
'goddess' was dispatched from New Delhi to Lakimpuri Kheri village in
Uttar Pradesh where campaigners are hoping to open the temple formally
in honour of Lord Macauley, the 19th Century colonial official who
sought to create an English-speaking Indian middle-class elite.
"The idea is to make English a matter of faith among Dalits because we
believe it is an empowering language. If a Dalit woman starts
worshipping English as a goddess, there is no way her kids would
escape the 'ABC' from their childhood," said Chandra Bhan Prasad, the
Dalit author behind the plan.
He believes speaking English will help Dalits make better marriages.
He said the temple, which will cost around £14,000, will include
carvings of famous quotes by English authors and an icon of Lord
He is now planning to build more 'Macaulay temples' throughout India.
Lord Macaulay wanted to "form a class who may be interpreters between
us and the millions whom we govern; a class of persons, Indian in
blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals, and in
intellect". Today his name is reviled by nationalists and the word
'Macaulayite' is still used as a term of abuse for the Anglicised
The plan to celebrate his role in spreading English in India was
denounced yesterday by a spokesman for the nationalist opposition
Bharatiya Janata Party.
"A language can be a source of increasing knowledge but cannot be a
source of worship. If people say that it is a godlike symbol, that's
unacceptable," said Siddarth Nath Singh.
Pavane K Varma, author of "Being Indian", said while he supports the
teaching of English in Indian schools, it must not be at the expense
of children mastering their own language and culture.
"If you start teaching English in first grade and Baa Baa Black Sheep
before your own language, you're making a big mistake," he said.
"Losing your linguistic roots and saying that's the best way [for
Dalit] upward mobility is a false argument."
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