Author’s Note: In my previous article Coloniality and Bharatiya Drishti: #NEP2020 is COLONIZED, I discussed about why the MHRD is important and why the keepers of Dharma need to understand the larger intellectual battles. They are far behind the strategies and tactics of the opposition. Here I discuss something that is very critical for an Indian Grand Narrative. Bharatiya Sanskriti – for it to spread authentically in the global mind space, so that this can be the basis of soft power of Bharat – needs Sanskrit. The #NEP2020 was an opportunity to set things right for Dharma and Sanskriti, it now looks to be an opportunity lost. I analyze the NEP2020 from the perspective of Sanskrit , and suggest that the approach of the SNT is possibly a very important tool in the hands of policy makers.
Sanskritising the NEP
The Introduction to the #NEP 2020, part is very well drafted. Accepts some of the well-established facts – the world is undergoing rapid changes in the knowledge landscape, quickly changing employment landscape and global ecosystem. The gap between learning outcomes and what is required to overcome these challenges is acknowledged. The rich heritage of ancient and eternal Indian knowledge and thoughts is mentioned. Some of our ancient universities are named. Around 18 important scholars’ names are mentioned, a tribute paid to their contribution in producing huge knowledge bank. The Introduction looks very attractive, it briefly talks about where we want to go, what the challenges are and also talks about our rich ancient heritage with confidence and pride.
NEP had very extensively talked about language under the sub heading of “Multilingualism and the power of language” From Para 4.11-22. NEP 2020 gives preference to the Home language/Mother tongue. Challenges were directly addressed by assuring High-quality text books in science, mathematics will be made available in home language/ mother tongue. It had also talked about investing on appointment of large number of language teachers specifically for local languages. Extensive use of technology will be utilized for teaching and learning different languages. Three language formula will continue. No “single” language will be imposed. Students can also have the option to choose foreign languages at a Secondary level. This section reads like a Diplomatic agreement, very wary of the political ramifications these policies tend to provoke.
Para 4.16 & 4.17 Extensively discussed on Sanskrit language. In Grades 6-8 an initiative project named as “Ek Bharat Shrestha Bharat” specifically to teach students links, unity commonality of words between different classical languages which are derived from Sanskrit. At the end of the paragraph it mentions that this project/activity would be a joyful activity and would not involve any form of assessment.
This is tailor-made for policy makers to introduce the thinking and approach of the “SanskritNonTranslatable”
There are hundreds of words in English language which completely distort meaning or minimize meaning and truth-value of the associated concept in Sanskrit. We could have launched a program on its further study and could have engaged with the rest of the world on our own terms. The SNT approach, creates engagement which causes natural strengthening of civilizational identity and forces reversing of the gaze implicitly, because of directly engaging with the English language, a carrier of Western thought systems. SNT is possibly the best method to build the soft power of Bharat. Have we missed an opportunity to engage with the world on our terms? In introductory parts the policy document did not hesitate to mention great civilizational inheritance and all of that but did not carry it further into the policy.
Sanskrit non-Translatables takes fifty-four indisputably foundational concepts, arranges them in a fourfold typology that moves from terra firma to terra cognita to the cosmos, and contests the irrationality, the untenability and the ‘design’ of their widely employed English equivalents. With its well-thought out prefatory essays, this is a book that every English-educated Indian must read to further ‘decolonise’ his mind and stand up to the hegemony of Western thought.– Kapil Kapoor, Chairman, Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla
If you carefully analyse section of Language choice and option, there is no resolution. A crystal clear message – that Sanskrit (either as a language option , or via an activity approach) is missing. The policy should have added somewhere between Preparatory or in Middle grade, that learning of Sanskrit is mandatory at least for every student. It appears that the Govt has avoided controversy, by hiding behind confusing policy language. To say we will promote Sanskrit and we will do it as a link language, is neither here nor there. In Para 22.15, it clearly says “Sanskrit will become a natural part of a holistic multidisciplinary higher education if a student so chooses”.
The current ranking of Sanskrit Departments, indicates that non-Indian departments are ranked much higher. The Introduction mentioned the aim must be for India to have an education system by 2040 that is second to none. We cannot even get our own “sanskrit” language departments ranked as the World’s best – what of the rest of the areas.This is a very a sad situation.
We are not saying Home/Mother language or any other language should be sidelined. Linking all of India’s languages is possible only through promotion of Sanskrit. We can take Rangoli as metaphor, if we properly connect the dots then only a correct pattern surface and a proper meaning can be drawn from that pattern. If we say different mother tongues of Bharat as dots and link is Sanskrit language imagine how beautiful a pattern may result. NEP 2020 must have said clearly that Sanskrit is mandatory at least for two years in the schooling system. This is in my opinion a serious flaw.
The so-called Mother of all our legal books , “Constitution of India” Part XVII Official Language Article 351 on language, says It shall be the duty of the Union to promote the spread of the Hindi language and further says at the end of the sentence by drawing, wherever necessary or desirable, for its vocabulary, primarily on Sanskrit and secondarily on other language. It’s a well- established fact in last 70 years we may not have added even a single Sanskrit word in Hindi by govt in official communication or in school curriculum.
The new #NEP2020 must have laid much stronger foundational bricks for decolonizing education. If we utilize this opportunity, the civilization is safe , else we are all heading toward a cultural genocide. The NEP2020 effort has exposed lack of unity, organizational ability of the community at large. Short term thinking and half baked policy mediocrity rules our legislative class.