Why October 5 Must be Celebrated as ‘Indian English Day’ Every Year

Kancha Ilaiah

In 1817, sometime in the month of October, English teaching was started in Calcutta by gathering together a few Brahmin male children both by British educationalists and Indians. Today, in 2017 we need to celebrate the 200th year of English education in India.
For the last few years we Osmanians at the Osmania University, within the monumental arts college building built by the famous Osman Ali Khan, the last Nizam, celebrate October 5 as the ‘Indian English Day’. Everyone knows that October 5 is ‘International Teachers Day’. Some of us thought that it should also be celebrated as the Indian English Day.

As I said in 1817 the English teaching started by imparting English alphabets to some Brahmin children because in those days there was no scope for the Dalit-Bajujan or even the  upper Shudras to study in any school.  Even persons like Rajarammohan Roy who was associated with that initiative were casteists. Roy thought of reforming Brahmin women’s life but never took any initiative for educating the lower castes.

The first educated modern Shudra in India was Mahatma Jotirao Phule, who studied in a Scottish English medium school in Bombay province. That was much later in the 1840s as Phule was born in 1827. The Calcutta province was in the grip of both Britishers and Brahmins. No caste reform movement was initiated by the Bengali Brahmins. Because of a Shudra ruler like Shivaji  who resisted Brahmin hegemony in the Bombay region some changes began there. 

Subsequently his grandson Sahu Maharaj took a serious step towards the anti-Brahmin mobilisation of Shudras and Dalits. Thus, that land became the land of the Dalit-Bahujan English Education also. If Calcutta province represented the Brahminical English the Bombay province represented the Dalit-Bahujan English.

Dr.B.R.Ambedkar was the first Dalit to get education in an English medium school and later on world class higher education. Even the Muslims of India were pushed back from access to English education because they went in for education in the Persian and Urdu medium. Sir Sayyad Ahmmad Khan pushed the ideology of English education within the Muslim community. Now there are several English educated Muslims in India. But for their English education the Universities like Aligarh Muslim University and Jamia Millia English medium universities would not have existed and because of these institutions there is a modern Muslim community emergent and resilient.

Today the Dalit-Bahujans and Muslims and other minorities have attained their present position because of English education, though they are the least educated among all. If a person like me having come from a totally illiterate shepherd family could challenge mighty Brahminism that controls state power, temple power, even the educational power it was because of my access to ‘their’ English (earlier Sanskrit), though learned under the tree schools, at a very late age in my village.

The celebration of the Indian English Day is also needed to checkmate Hindutva forces from confining the SC/ST/OBCs to regional languages while they educate the rich and the upper castes in private English medium schools with their money power. Our struggle is to establish common medium and syllabus based schools for all children—the rich and poor of any caste.

I appeal to all those lovers of equality to celebrate today, October 5, as the Indian English Day and send a message to the diabolical convent and foreign English educated people: you cannot stop us from accessing good English education in our village schools by selling the bogus theory that English is not Indian language. We declare that ‘English is Indian’. We study in English and preserve our buffalo cultural nationalism as against the unproductive cow nationalism which is for Brahmins alone.



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