Why Ambedkar supported Sanskrit as national language: A response to Murli Manohar Joshi

If Dr Joshi says Brahmins and Dalits belong to the same race, will he call for inter-marriage between the two groups?
Why Ambedkar supported Sanskrit as national language: A response to Murli Manohar Joshi
Why Ambedkar supported Sanskrit as national language: A response to Murli Manohar Joshi
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By Kancha Ilaiah

The Bharatiya Janatha Party leaders are attempting to look for reasons to support Ambedkar now. Quite surprisingly, each leader is looking for a pet area in which he/she could find common cause with Ambedkar.  

Dr. Murali Manohar Joshi looked for such a pet theme of his own in Sanskrit. In his recent opinion piece in The Times of India (25 April, 2016) “Ambedkar wanted Sanskrit as national language”, Dr. Joshi said that it was a little known fact that Ambedkar wanted “Sanskrit as Rastrabhasha”.

In fact, it was well-known that in the Constituent Assembly, Ambedkar supported Sanskrit as national language, but with a rider that English should be the official language, at least for 15 years until Sanskrit became acceptable and was also learnt by the governing agencies in the states. 

When this proposition in the Constituent Assembly came from some of the traditional Brahmin members, hardly one percent of Indians could read and write Sanskrit. Even among the Indian Brahmin families, it was only a ritual language – a memorising and reciting language, but not a language of regular reading and writing. In no house in India Sanskrit was/is a kitchen language. Even then, why did some members propose it and why did Ambedkar support it? 

Ambedkar knew that when he wanted to learn Sanskrit no Brahmin teacher was willing to teach him in Maharashtra. He had to go all the way to Bonn University in Germany to learn the language. Why then, did Ambedkar think that the whole nation would learn Sanskrit?

Understanding Ambedkar’s position

What Dr. Joshi did not grasp was that the original proposal for Sanskrit being the national language was not moved by Ambedkar. The proposal came from LK Maitra, a conservative Sanskritist. Ambedkar, perhaps, must have taken a tactical position, knowing fully well that it was not a workable proposal. The real choice was between Hindi and English. It is known that in the entire Constituent Assembly, Ambedkar and Nehru were the most prominent English writers who also spoke English with more ease than any other person. Though Maulana Azad was a good communicator in English, he did not write much in that language.  

In my view, on both Hindu Code Bill and National Language, Ambedkar and Nehru held very similar views. They wanted English to be the National Language but were very cautious in putting forth the idea because the entire Hindu conservative lobby would accuse them of being British (English) agents. Even the Muslim members of the Constituent Assembly were not willing to support them on some of these critical issues. 

Ambedkar was opposed to the formation of linguistic states as he feared that it would lead to the assertion of autonomy by the states. And as a scholar who studied European history very carefully, he was of the view that perhaps, linguistic sentiment, even in one religious continent, could lead to formation of many nations and also to World Wars. Hence, he wanted Indians to speak, write and run the administration in one language. That was the reason he wanted a strong Centre and weaker States.

Questions for Dr. Joshi 

Returning to Joshi’s arguments, one could ask him some questions. Why has Dr. Joshi proposed that Sanskrit should be made the National Language at this juncture? Does he want to put his proposal before his own party’s government now? If that is the case, why has the Rastriya Swayamsevak Sangh not taught Sanskrit to all the so-called Hindu children in its Saraswathi Shishu Mandirs?  

Even Ambedkar must not have imagined how the entire Brahmin community of India left its own Sanskrit language to its temples but chose English education in real worldly life. Unfortunately, the south Indian – mainly the Kerala Christian – Brahminism established good English medium schools and colleges and taught English to the upper castes, mainly to Brahmins, but not to the Dalit-Bahujan people. But even now, they are not willing to teach the temple-based Sanskrit to any lower caste person and allow them to become priests in any mainline Hindu temple. What does Dr Joshi have to say about this duplicity of post-Independence Brahminic nationalists?

In his piece for The Times of India, Dr. Joshi says: “Dr Ambedkar's engagement with Sanskrit was inspired by his keen desire to find out the truth about Aryan invasion. For this, he studied sources like the Vedas and Zend-Avesta with an open and critical mind.”

What Dr. Joshi does not accept, is that having studied the Vedas and Shastras, Ambedkar came to the conclusion that Brahminical forces destroyed the country with their self-interest and duplicity.  

To further their argument, Sangh Parivar theoreticians are also trying to use Ambedkar’s position that Aryans were not outsiders and they never invaded India. We know that Mahatma Phule and Periyar Ramasami strongly argued that the Aryan invasion was a historical fact and that the Varna Vyavastha originated in Aryan-Dravidian racial and cultural division. Later research has proved beyond doubt that the Aryan race came from outside. But today, nobody is saying that Aryans do not belong to this nation. However, the Sangh Parivar forces continue to say that Muslims and Christians do not belong to this nation. They confuse religion with people. As religions, Islam and Christianity came from outside India but the people who live that religious life are Indians. Hindutva forces must understand that the notion of God and Religion are universal; they do not belong to any nation.   

Dr. Joshi approvingly quotes Ambedkar to say “If anthropometry is a science which can be depended upon to determine the race of a people, then...the measurements establish that the Brahmin and the untouchables belong to the same race.” I am glad that Dr Joshi, as a conservative RSS man, agreed with Ambedkar on this issue. Now, he has a responsibility to convince his RSS ideologues to take up a campaign for regular inter-dining between Brahmins and Dalits (still untouchables), as they belong to once race. They must take up a campaign for equal spiritual Sanskrit education rights and priesthood rights for Dalits as they belong to the same race as Brahmins. They should also take up an open public campaign to advocate inter-marriage system between Dalits and Brahmins.

In my view such appeals should come from the RSS and the BJP in newspapers and TV advertisements. Once the unity of Brahmins and Dalits is achieved, the roots of caste will be destroyed. I can assure this nation, that if Brahmins and Dalit unite and live like “one race and one caste”, there will be no caste system in India. If he advocates this within the RSS, Dr. Joshi will be carrying the caravan of Ambedkar towards “Annihilation of Caste” having been born in Banaras Brahmin family.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this articles are the personal opinions of the author. The News Minute is not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, suitability or validity of any information in this article.

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