ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Sanskrit, English and Dalits

Sanskrit, English and Dalits PROBAL DASGUPTA The intervention by S Anand on

The intervention by S Anand on ‘Sanskrit, English and Dalits’ (EPW, July 24, 1999) makes several points about major languages used in India. One minor aspect of this intervention, making a response necessary, is the engagement with my book The Otherness of English: India’s Auntie Tongue Syndrome (published by Sage, New Delhi in 1993). Anand maintains that this book culpably neglects the specific interests of the dalit-bahujans and misrepresents the nature and tractability of English language learning problems in Indian education. My response to these charges must be contextualised within his larger intervention.

At that level, Anand presents certain views from what he visualises as a dalit-bahujan standpoint. He suggests that to invoke Sanskrit no longer helps us to imagine any Indian unity; rather, it divides us. He sees English as a space where foundations for sustainable solidarities can be built instead, especially by dalit-bahujans pooling together nationally their regional trajectories and strategies. Anand further believes that dalit-bahujans should not try to operate in India’s regional languages in their present form – arenas dominated by ‘savarna’ hegemony. They should instead move into a national base in English where they can establish new credentials in terms of the ‘merit’ they have been excluded from. From this national base, they can and must contest the regional power of these languages.

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