Foreign universities: the forgotten question of language

The question of language is neither being raised nor answered; a fatal assumption is being made.

Kapil Sibal's latest antic move to allow setting up of foreign universities in India has attracted both support and opposition. But it is extremely disappointing that both supporters and opponents have forgotten the most important angle from which to view this whole development: that of the language(s) in which these universities, if and when setup, are going to operate.

Kapil Sibal himself, his supporters as well as opponents have forgotten to ask themselves as to how the whole of India, in which 93% of the population is not proficient in English, is going to benefit from universities from abroad which can offer education in no language other than English. How can one be certain that they're going to offer education only in English? Simple: our own universities are fallen in this respect.

The question of language is neither being raised, nor being answered. Instead, a deathly silence surrounds both supporters and opponents. And therein lies a fatal problem which threatens to destroy the whole of India.

If you're following what Kapil Sibal is doing, you'll realize that he's got his attention fixed on the insignificant other: the rest 7% which is proficient in English. That's his focus segment, that's the people for whom he's toiling day in and day out, and that's the poorest and weakest man from Gandhi's Talisman for whom he's contemplating his step. But what about the 93%, minister?

It's high time the Government of India disinvests from minority aggrandizement. It's high time we set up and strengthen universities which work in the modern Indian languages such as Kannada, Tamil, Telugu, Hindi, Bengali, etc.

Kapil Sibal may not even have the ability to enumerate these languages; but that does not grant him a license to eliminate them. This is yet another example of how un-federal India is, and how un-caring of diversity a strong center can be for India. This is also an example of how a strong center can act to amplify the errors of a few a billion times over.

Whether it's private or public, Indian or foreign, a university which operates in a language which continues to alienate and exclude 93% of the people around it on average is not acting in the best interest of India.

Hence, existing universities must first be fixed, must be made to understand their social responsibilities in post-Macaulay India. They must first be made to understand that it is their responsibility to elevate Indian languages to the status which English enjoys today, and not to complain that they aren't already developed. They must be made to understand that they are supposed to be societal change-agents, not spineless creatures which feed on the filth which thrives in stagnant water.

If, and only if foreign universities can help elevate the status of Indian languages in education, are they of any help to India. Then, and only then, do they pass Gandhi's litmus test.

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