Raja Ram Mohan Roy-A Social Reformer nay Deformer? Part 1

Prasun Sonwalkar, HT Correspondent, Bristol, writes as follows in the WORLD on Sep 24, 2017 under the caption– Bristol pays tributes to Ram Mohan Roy, the great Indian social reformer – “Keeping with tradition going back more than 180 years, the city of Bristol
paid tributes to the legacy of Indian social reformer Ram Mohan Roy, who visited England in the 19th century and died of meningitis in this city on September 27, 1833.

Standing in the shadow of the historic tomb in the Arnos Vale Cemetery, built in his memory by his aide Dwarkanath Tagore, a group of people from various parts of Britain and elsewhere gathered to remember the life and times of the leader widely considered to be the maker of modern India.

The gathering included local historian Carla Contractor, who has worked over the years to preserve Roy’s legacy in Bristol; AS Rajan, minister (coordination) in the Indian high
commission; members of the Brahmo Samaj and the Unitarian church; Bristolians and others. Lord Mayor of Bristol Lesley Alexander, who attended the event in traditional attire, recalled Roy’s association with the leading Bristolians of the time, Lant Carpenter and his daughter,Mary. The city, she said, cherished its links with Roy, whose life-size statue was installed in the city centre in 1997. Roy’s tomb in Bristol has been an important centre for many visitors from India over the decades.”

Some facts on Raja Rammohan :
During the British rule or in the eighteenth to nineteenth century, left leaning historians
painted Raja Ram Mohan Roy as a great social reformer in fields of education, industries,
religion and credited for helping in passing the Sati act. But if we closely go through the pages of history, unbiased observations provide facts which are in the contrary, both revealing and disheartening.

Raja Rammohan Roy was born in Bengal on 22nd May, 1772 at Radhanagar, Hooghly
near Arambag. Incidentally in the same year Warren Hastings was appointed by the East
India Company as the Governor General of Bengal and by Pitt’s Indian Act, the Governor
General of Bengal was declared the Chief Ruler of British Territories of India.After the battle of Plassey, the British regime was started in India (1757). The British rulers
were surprised to find that Hindus including both rich and poor would always avoid close contact with English people. They also observed that even after a handshake, natives later undertake a thorough bath for the unavoidable touch. Rich jamindars often arrange sumptuous feast for the British rulers for official decency, but invariably avoid dinning with them, as per injunctions laid down by illustrious Brahmin pundits. Hindu women were virtuous and maintained a superb moral character. They were protected by their father before marriage, by the husband after marriage, and later in old
age by their son.

As per ancient Hindu tradition, women are called Shakti (the source of energy) and
honoured in the society. The Hindu’s Caste system is so designed and perfected, that all
enjoy internal unity in spite of outward diversity. There is no unemployment in the
country because in their respective castes they are engaged in their own caste profession
by virtue of birth consideration. The British never found an angry face, nor ever any
expression of hatred, which is impossible in the West.

The qualities of kindness, beauty and simplicity are innate in Indian nature that offers
a real feeling of brotherhood. Sustainable peace and well being prevails in the well
ordered society and the British found nothing new to teach them. Any interference by the British would simply cause introduction of mischief inviting their disgrace.

The British Empire had scant interest in social and educational reforms. Ram Mohun Roy’s biggest “reform” was to reject polytheism, traditional Hindu education system, and to push monotheism. His Persian and Arabic education had influenced his monotheistic
idea of god, even before he learnt a word of English.His aim was to replace Sanskrit based education by English, through schools that he built….Even then the British adopted a tactical move to introduce English Culture through education to a few Brahmin and rich Zamindar families of Bengal.

The policy of education was later formulated by Mr. Macaulay (1800-1859) probably in
1828, by the then President of the East India Company’s education committee. We prefer
to quote Thomas Macaulay–”In one point I fully agree with the gentlemen to whose
general views I am opposed. I feel with them, that it is impossible for us, with our
limited means, to attempt to educate the body of the people. We must at present
do our best 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”.

He himself thus expressed– that the ultimate result would be, “Indians remain Indians only in blood and colour, but in ideas and opinions they will become Europeans, and hate their own religion and forefathers. But the real transformation of Raja Ram Mohan Roy took place after his association with William Carrey in 1795.

Ram Mohan came from a Kulin (of high descent) Rarhi Brahmin family. In 1787
when he was just 15 years, his father Ramakanta Roy a small Jamindar sent him from
their village Radhanagar to Patna for learning Persian and Arabic languages. He was well versed in both the subjects within a short period. He was a clever boy, knew Sanskrit and Bengali as his father was a Vaishnavite, who taught him at his home in his childhood. His father wanted his son to grow up as Sanskrit pundit. At the age of 18 in 1790, Ram Mohan was sent to Varanasi to a Sanskrit Scholar for learning of Vedanta and Upanisad.

Transformation : In 1792 William Carrey a British Baptist landed in lndia with the ulterior motive to translate and publish the Bible in Indian language and to propagate Christianity in India. He was searching for a Brahmin Pundit who could help
him. In 1795 Carrey contacted a Sanskrit Scholar and tantric Hariharananda Vidyavagish, who later introduced him to Ram Mohan Roy. Ram Mohan Roy wished to learn English very quickly at the age of 23 years.The trio– Carrey,  Vidyavagish and Roy formed a spurious religious work but the British Magistrate found it against Hindoo Law and quickly deprecated the organization.

Frankly, the English men came to India as merchants, their conquest was fortuitous and not as proselytizers. They never dared directly to encourage the activities of the Christian
missionaries. The number of converts to Christianity during British rule was few. As
William Carrey did not get enough help from the East India Company to promote proselytization, Ram Mohan was chosen by Carrey to agitate and launch attack against the bastions of Hinduism– his own Kulin Brahmin (high pedigree) priestly clan and their priestly excesses.

To weaken the Brahmin class, especially the younger generation, he induced them
to align towards the East India Company. He challenged the traditional Hindu culture as
advised by William Carrey and revolted against 5000 years old (modern estimate) Sanatan Dharma. He founded the Brahmo Sava in 1828 with Dwaraka Nath Thakur. Within 190 years, the Brahmo Samaj is now reduced to a society of microscopic feature.
At the age of 61 years, Raja died at Bristol, U.K. on 27th Sept., 1834. He was suffering from meningitis and buried in Arnos Vale Cemetery in Southern Bristol. He acquired fame
even after death, for having promoted British Culture in Bengal, and remaining in good book of the East India Company. However, as a nationalist, his contribution was zero. He failed to show any love and respect for the grand old culture and the country’s ethos.

Seristidar : Ram Mohan Roy served as a Seristidar from 1803-1815 at Dinajpur Collectorate. Since he was not confirmed in that post in spite of strong recommendation from Mr. Digby to whom he was privately employed, it is wrong to state that he worked under East India Company. The salary of Seristidar was not a very large
amount, yet he was very rich. His Annual income was Rs. 10000/-. Besides, he was
an owner of an extensive property whose annual rent was also nearly Rs. 10000/-. Ram
Mohan used to earn money by buying and purchasing government papers and also by
money lending.Kishori Chad Mitra said, he had a huge wealth by accepting bribes as diwans of those days were accustomed to accept. Those ways of acquiring money made him so affluent which was enough to be fit for the title Raja.

Shri Jivan Rao Kulkarni, a student of History and Sociology and a representative of institute for Rewriting of Indian History, New Delhi says that he must bring to light the true picture of Raja Ram Mohan Ray who is trumpeted with to be a great reformer and emancipator in the fields of Education, politics, public administration as well
as in religion and industries. Unfortunately much is being trumpeted against abolition of Hindu widow’s ‘Voluntary immolation’. But history speaks otherwise. He had no relation with voluntary immolation of Hindu Widow or in passing the Sati Act.

a) English Education :- Great demand was generated among the orthodox Hindus of
Calcutta for English education. This was in progress, long before Ram Mohan’s initiative and resulted in the establishment of Hindu College in 1817. The meeting towards this was held in the house of Chief Justice of Calcutta Sir Hyde East in 1816. For establishing the Hindu College, subscription was not accepted from Ram Mohan Ray. It would be ridiculous to believe that Ram Mohan Ray had any hand in favour of English Education in Bengal.

Nowadays many acknowledge it for a fact that Thomas Babington Macaulay, whose passionate, long-drawn and scathing attack on Hindu knowledge systems in particular and the Hindu culture in general – popularly known as “Macaulay’s Minute on Education”– was the ultimate instrument that sealed the fate of India as an essentially westernized nation and society in its post-independent republican avatar.As a member of the Council of India, Macaulay had presented his minute on education before the Committee on Public Instruction, on February 2, 1835, decisively altering the mood of the Council and Committee members in his favor and clearing the path for
the English Education Act 1835.

So far the story of the paradigm change in Indian education systems is quite a common
knowledge. However, what many may not know is that even before Macaulay could present his infamous Minute, Raja Ram Mohun Roy had already written a lengthy memorial to Lord Amherst, the then Governor-General of India on December 11, 1823 (12 years before Macaulay’s Minute made its appearance in the scene), launching a vicious attack on the traditional Sanskrit education system prevalent at that time in India.

b) Bengali Prose:- He has been hailed as the father of Bengali Prose. Two Bengali prose books of Ram Mohan were the translation from two Vedanta treatises published in 1815. But a pundit of Fort William College had published the prose books in Bengali before that. Mritunjay Bhattacharya published three books, the first two in 1802 and the third in 1808. Ramram Basu published one book in 1801, Rajib Lochan Mukhopadhay in 1804, William Carrey translated Bible in Bengali in 1801, and composed a grammar in Bengali in 1812. The book ‘Probodh Chayanika’ was written as a text book by Mritunjay Vidyalankar in 1813, two years before Ram Mohan.
(To be continued)

 

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