July 03, 2009

Education could no more be divorced from politics than it could be divorced from religion and morals


Arabinda Ghosh. To this movement, Indian Nationalism owes the emerging into prominence of a quiet, unostentatious, young Hindu, who was till then comparatively obscure, holding his soul in patience and waiting for opportunities to send currents of the greatest strength into the nation's system. He was gathering energy. His name was Arabinda Ghosh. Arabinda had received first class education in England. The headmaster of the school, where he studied before joining the university, is reported to have said that during the 25 to 30 years he had been in charge of the school, Arabinda Ghosh was by far the most richly endowed in intellectual capacity of any of the students that had come under his charge.

At Cambridge he distinguished himself in European classics and took first class honours. He passed the Indian Civil Service examinations with credit, but failed in the test for horsemanship. Never did a failure prove more a blessing than in his case.

He was in the service of His Highness, the Maharaja of Baroda, 5 drawing a salary of about 500 pounds sterling, when his country's call came to him. He listened to it readily, gave up his post and agreed to be the principal of the National College on ten pounds a month. We are told by one who worked with him for some time that he did not support the "declaration of the National Council of Education" about their non-political attitude. He could not appreciate this needless dread, as they thought, of offending official susceptibilities. He, however, accepted the verdict of the majority and began his work. But his position as " the nominal head of the National College, controlled by men " who " differed from him in their political views and opinions, became almost from the very beginning anomalous."

This was rather unfortunate. Arabinda Ghosh had received the best modern education that any man of his country and generation could expect to have. He had for some years been a teacher of youth in Baroda and had acquired considerable experience in his art. He had clearly realised the spirit and actualities of the life of his nation, and knew how the most advanced principles of pedagogy could be successfully worked into a thoroughly national system of education in India. He knew that the foundations of national independence and national greatness must be laid in a strong and advanced system of national education. He had a political ideal, no doubt ; but politics meant to him much more than is ordinarily understood by the term. It was not a game of expediency, but a "school of human character" which acted and reacted on the life of the nation. "Education could no more be divorced from politics," in his opinion, " than it could be divorced from religion and morals. Any system of education that helps such isolation and division between the various organic relations of life is mediaeval and not modern."

The monied leaders of the National Council of Education movement, however, could not accept Arabinda's principles. "They were not free from the fear of possible official opposition, which, if once aroused, would make their work, they thought, absolutely impossible. They had a real dread of the bureaucracy" whom they were not prepared to defy. Experience has shown that they were quite mistaken if they thought they could develop their scheme of education without rousing the fears and the bitterest opposition of the bureaucracy, even after declaring the non-political character of their scheme.

Never before in the history of the human race was it so well realised as now that the school is the nursery of the man and the citizen. Lord Curzon realised it in full and it was his aim to curtail or, if possible, crush the nationalist influences in the schools and colleges managed and conducted by Indian agencies. It was his desire to introduce the English element in all these institutions and to put them under English control. He had invited European missionaries to the Secret Educational Conference at Simla, but not a single Indian, Hindu or Mohammedan. He could not trust them (i. e., the Indians) with his ideas. Hence the need of secrecy.

The National Council of Education was supposed to be working against the spirit of his policy. He was gone, but the bureaucracy who were identified with his wishes, views and schemes, were there. It was impossible that they would let the Bengalees, whoever they might be, build up a system of education and a network of educational institutions, that not only would owe nothing to the Government but were also to be quite free of official or English control and of English influence.

Then, the very circumstances under which the National College was born and the National Schools affiliated to it were opened, gave them a political character. The Government and the bureaucracy were opposed to the students taking any part in the boycott movement; the Bengalee leaders wanted them to do so, and hence the National College and the National Schools. It was an open challenge — a revolt. Arabinda Ghosh was identified with this revolt, and with him were associated a whole group of powerful writers and speakers, all men of high individuality and lofty ideals and of pure character. They accepted the decision of the majority about the non-political character of the college, but no one could deprive them of the use of their pen and tongue. Any attempt to do that might have been fatal to the scheme. They started journals and preached the gospel of political and economic and educational independence in the clearest language.

They were all men of education and knew their history well. They fully realised what the consequences were likely to be, and they were prepared for it. They were prepared to suffer for their propaganda, but they were not yet prepared for violence.

The Nationalist Press. They started a number of papers in Bengalee and also in English, in which they gave their ideas to the people. The Sandhya and the Bande Mataram, as two of the new papers were called, became their classrooms. In a few months the face and the spirit of Bengal was changed. The press, the pulpit, the platform, the writers of prose and poetry, composers of music and playwrights, all were filled with the spirit of nationalism. Bande Mataram (Hail Motherland) was the cry of the day. It was chanted in schools, in colleges, in streets, in houses, in public squares, almost everywhere. Even the government offices and the compounds of the private residences of European officials resounded with it. [...]

Arabinda Ghosh — Vedantist and Sivarajist. It is difficult to say to which of these classes, if to either at all, Arabinda Ghosh belonged or still belongs. At one time it was believed that he belonged to the first class, to which most of the other Bengalee extremists belonged, but whether that belief was right and whether he still thinks on the same lines, it is difficult to say. One thing is certain, that he was and is quite unlike Har Dayal in his line of thought. In intellectual acumen and in scholastic accomplishments he is perhaps superior to Har Dayal, but above all he is deeply religious and spiritual. He is a worshipper of Krishna and is a high-souled Vedantist.

Even simpler and more ascetic in his life and habits than Har Dayal, he is for an all-around development of Indian Nationalism. His notions of life and morality are pre-eminently Hindu and he believes in the spiritual mission of his people. His views may better be gathered from an interview, which he recently gave to a correspondent of The Hindu, of Madras. We quote the interview almost bodily and in the words of the interviewer. 1915

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