Macaulay Vs Manu: The Making of Modern India - Revelation Movement

Macaulay Vs Manu:
The Making of Modern India

(i) Macaulay = Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800 – 1859) who drafted India Penal Code, overturning the Hindu Law codified in Manusmriti (The Law of Manu).
(ii) Manuwadi = An upper caste Hindu who prefers some form of casteism or Hindu racism

The Manuwadis have very good reasons for hating Lord Macaulay. It is a fact that the India Penal Code (IPC) that Macaulay drafted in 1837 is not Indian. It may have rescued the downtrodden from Manu’s oppressive law, and together with his Minute on Education (1835) it may have set India on a course that could make us the greatest nation on earth. Yet, the truth is that the IPC is alien to Hindu culture. That is why it is not working very well. It could just be a matter of time before we mess up Macaulay’s Penal Code so badly that it becomes a worthless burden.
Will scraping the IPC be good for India or tragic? That is a question that must be pondered as we celebrate (or loath) this month both the formal passage of the India Penal Code on October 6, 1860 andMacaulay’s birthday (October 25, 1800).
Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay, the first Law Member of the Governor-General’s Council of India (1834-38), admitted that he had crafted the IPC both to protect ordinary Indians from the Law of Manu that had ruined India, and from the arrogance of British rulers who considered themselves the new Brahmins, authorized to exploit. On submitting the draft IPC, Macaulay’s cover letter clearly stated his biblical worldview that overruled both Brahmanism and British racism,

“I fully believe that a mild penal code is better than a severe penal code, the worst of all systems was surely that of having a mild code for the Brahmins, who sprang from the head of the Creator, while there was a severe code for the Sudras, who sprang from his feet. India has suffered enough already from the distinction of castes, and from the deeply rooted prejudices which that distinction has engendered. God forbid that we should inflict on her the curse of a new caste, that we should send her a new breed of [English] Brahmins, authorized to treat all the native population as Pariahs!”

You only fix what is broken. You change what you consider wrong or unsuitable. Just as Macaulay’s Penal Code sought to change India, his Minute on Education accepted Raja Ram Mohan Roy’s 1832 assertion that the five Englishmen, called the Orientalists, who were insisting on using the East India Company’s educational money to promote Sanskrit, Arabic, and Persian were pursuing a course “best calculated to keep this country in darkness.” In his Minute, Macaulay spoke as a surgeon speaks the unpleasant truth when he tells his patient: “You have cancer.”
Macaulay explained that the Orientalists who promoted Sanskrit had assured him that Hindus and Muslims had great works of literary imagination. However, every single Orientalist, without exception, had also conceded that when it comes to scientific and historical facts or practical usefulness, all the wisdom available in Sanskrit or Arabic literature was less than what was available in a single shelf in any good library in Europe. Manuwadis hate Macaulay because his Minute honestly stated India’s need of true and useful knowledge:

“I have no knowledge of either Sanscrit [sic] or Arabic. But I have done what I could to form a correct estimate of their value. I have read translations of the most celebrated Arabic and Sanscrit works. I have conversed both here and at home with men distinguished by their proficiency in the Eastern tongues. I am quite ready to take the Oriental learning at the valuation of the Orientalists themselves. I have never found one among them who could deny that a single shelf of a good European library was worth the whole native literature of India and Arabia. The intrinsic superiority of the Western literature is, indeed, fully admitted by those members of the Committee who support the Oriental plan of education.”

Neither Macaulay’s haters nor most of his defenders actually understand his Minute on Education. He was asked to give his magisterial opinion to the Governor General because the ten member committee on education was unanimous on one point and evenly divided on another. All ten were Protestant Christians: Therefore, along with Lord Macaulay they all agreed with the Protestant reformers and with the Father of Modern India, William Carey (1761–1834) on one point: every child should be able to study Truth in his/her own mother-tongue.
The problem was that for centuries neither Pundits nor Maulvis had shown any sustained interest in developing Indian vernaculars. The Mogul rulers had used Persian to govern India. The British were unanimous that India could not develop without developing the dialects spoken by common people. The disagreement was on which classical language would most effectively enrich the vernaculars.
The Orientalists argued that Sanskrit, Arabic, and Persian were best suited to enrich the vernaculars. These classical languages had already influenced vernacular vocabulary and enough Brahmin and Muslim scholars were available to teach them.
The Anglicists disagreed. They followed Charles Grant’s view that English would better enrich the Indian mind and the vernaculars. Together with Lord Macaulay’s father, Grant was an associate of William Wilberforce and a member of the Clapham Sect. The two-decade long parliamentary battles (1792-1813) by Grant and Wilberforce had forced the East India Company to invest in educating India. In Indian terms, Wilberforce and Grant, were Lord Macaulay’s “uncles.” Charles Grant, Jr. Who grew up with Lord Macaulay in that same closely-knit community was both the head of the East India Company and a fellow Member of Parliament when Macaulay gave his 1833 speech in Parliament. That speech won him the position of the Law Member of India’s Supreme Council and set India on the track for freedom.
Macaulay was neither opposing Sanskrit, nor trying to make English the language of India or of general education. He was advocating that the Company’s educational grant should be used to equip some Indians to access information and knowledge available in the English books so that, in turn, they could enrich Indian vernaculars and uplift the downtrodden.
Macaulay’s admission that Sanskrit scriptures could not teach science or morals to Indians does hurt Brahmins’ pride. But their attack on Macaulay proves him right. On 2 September 2004, The Hindu reported the following story:

“While seated as the chief guest on the dais of the Jamia Millia Islamia’s auditorium and about to deliver his convocation address President A.P.J. Kalam fiddled for a moment with the keyboard and mouse of his laptop. (*) The President quoted Macaulay’s 1835 speech in the British Parliament,  ‘I do not think we would ever conquer this country (India), unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation.’”  {S. Zafar Mahmood, “Learning from the President”, The Hindu).

The Hindu’s report omits the first part of the alleged “quotation from Macaulay.” Macaulay is alleged to have begun his speech before the Britain’s Parliament with amazing praise for Hindu culture and Indian character,

“I have traveled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage . . .” etc.

The former President Kalam is a good and learned man. Someone sent me this “Macaulay quotation” in 2004, asking for my response. I replied that the first problem with the “quotation” is that in 1835, Macaulay was in India and not in British Parliament. Second, he knew that the British had both bribed Indians and already conquered India. The third problem is that the learned President failed to reference Macaulay’s alleged lecture. Every speech before the Parliament is published. I have read practically everything Macaulay said about India to British Parliament. Never have I come across anything like this flattery or conspiratorial scheming. This quotation seems to be a complete fabrication.
Later investigation confirmed that our President was quoting not Macaulay but what was to become the election Manifesto of the BJP. A clever Hindutva intellectual had forged Macaulay’s statement to deceive the BJP and through it the nation.
Such deceitfulness of our character explains why the magnificent Indian Penal Code is working so poorly. Macaulay codified for us a civilized and civilizing law. It was a product not of British genius but of the Bible as it shaped European culture. The legal system informed by the Bible worked in Britain during the centuries when the church, the family, the school, and the media cultivated the fear of God in culture. British citizens believed the testimony that the Ten Commandments had come as a fax from heaven, “printed” on two tablets of stone. It was God who had commanded, “You shall not bear false witness.” Therefore, to bear false witness was to break God’s law, not merely human law.
Bearing false witness, in other words, was both a crime (breaking national law) as well as sin (breaking God’s law). While it is possible to get away with breaking man’s law, the wages of sin were inescapable. Ultimately sin leads to hell, for every human being is an immortal soul. It was this worldview, internalized by the masses, which made it possible for a mild penal code to work in reformed countries.
By contrast, the Hindutva party and the media have no qualms with bearing false witness against Lord Macaulay. They mislead because Hinduism does not and on principle cannot cultivate the kind of character that a civilized legal system requires. That is not to say that there are no moral Hindus. Fortunately, many Hindus believe in the dualism of good and evil. They try to choose good. They reject the Advaitic (non-dualistic) idea that all dualism is illusion (maya). That good and evil are one. That lying about Lord Macaulay is as divine as Truth in journalism. I hold the proposition that Hindutva’s top guns have been lying about Lord Macaulay because on principle Hinduism makes no ultimate distinction between truth and deception. This philosophical weakness in our culture has terrible consequences.
In 1980, the Superintendent of Police (SP) in my district in MP called me to his home. He offered me an easy chair, tea and snacks on his lawn. Then he said to me, “I have read raving reviews of your book, The World of Gurus (Published by Vikas Publishing House). I know that no one is doing for the poor what you are doing. I believe that you are a jewel in our district. But I have called you here to tell you to cancel the [non-sectarian] public prayer meeting that you are organizing in the Gandhi Ashram next week. If you do not cancel it, I will personally kill you.”
I had studied political science in Allahabad University. I had read the Constitution of India. I knew that as an IPS officer, the SP had taken an oath of office to uphold my fundamental right to life and to live by Macaulay’s IPC. I believed in Indian democracy. Therefore, I could not take the SP’s words at face value. When he sensed that I was not taking him seriously, he spent about an hour telling me anecdote after anecdote about the people and the public figures he had murdered. He said that he had never needed a warrant to arrest or try someone. He is an expert in committing plain, cold-blooded murders when demanded by his political bosses – who had also sworn to obey Macaulay’s “mild penal code!”
Was it possible that the SP was bluffing to intimidate me? Was he simply a liar but not a murderer? He may have been like the Hindutva intellectual who invented “Macaulay’s quotation” and deceived even the President of India. When I disregarded the SP’s illegal order, a Sub-Divisional Magistrate threw me in Tikamgarh jail. To facilitate that the SP asked his subordinates to forge lies against me. In prison I met many good Hindus who told me their horror stories. Politically powerful enemies had used the police and Macaulay’s IPC to lock them up, using fabricated, trumped-up charges.
The legal system that Lord Macaulay gave us is indeed alien to our culture. For example, no culture ever invented the European institution of advocate who is paid to defend law-breakers and is honoured for defending criminals! This “crazy” western institution became highly honoured because the Bible said that Jesus was the advocate for sinners. He defends the law-breakers provided they confess to him that they are, in fact, sinners who deserve to be punished.
There is, however, a big difference between Jesus and today’s secular advocates. Jesus is an advocate who saves sinners in order to reform them. He is committed to the Law, for it is his own law. Both the Bible and the Koran say that Jesus is the Supreme Judge, who will uphold God’s Law. He defends law-breakers because sinners are as important to God as the Law. Sinful human beings bear the image of God. They are God’s beloved children. By taking their punishment upon the cross, the Lord Jesus reconciles God’s infinite love with His absolute justice. This model of Christ as our advocate made being a ‘lawyer’ a highly honoured profession. In Christian cultures, a lawyer was a servant of the Law. His job was to ensure that the government was just toward every individual and that citizens were law-abiding. Once this sacred institution, modelled after Jesus himself, was secularized, lawyers became servants of money, not of the law. Now, it does not even occur to most lawyers that their job includes reforming law-breakers, or helping them become law-abiding citizens.
When the government officials are unjust and secularized lawyers are paid and honoured to defend law-breaking . . . then society has a huge social problem. In post-Christian countries such as England and America, rules, regulations, laws, lawyers, and law enforcement agencies have become such an expensive burden that businesses are moving away from the West to less burdensome “Special Industrial Zones” in nations such as China. There can be no doubt that Macaulay’s legal code will work neither in Hindu-Secular India nor in post-Christian secularized England.
Should IPC, therefore, be scrapped?
No! What we need is to recover the genuine Macaulayean education that transforms students’ character. Only that society can be governed by a mild penal code whose citizens receive the spiritual resources to govern their own lives with divine righteousness.
Vishal Mangalwadi can be reached at
This article is being published by Ivan Kostka in FORWARD Press, New Delhi. Contact –
PS. According to the Indian Express (September 22, 2011), “ Twenty five Indian states have favoured striking down IPC Sec 309 that criminalises attempt to commit suicide by making it punishable with imprisonment.” This debate is a good illustration that Macaulay’s “India Penal Code” was based by and large on the Bible.
When a widow chooses to burn herself as a Sati, she committs suicide: should it be illegal? The philosophical issues are: Is the Right to Life a “Fundamental” Right? What does the phrase “Fundamental Right” mean and where do these Rights come from?
Mrs. Indira Gandhi suspended Fundamental Rights during the Emergency (1975-77) arguing that “we” wrote the constitution, therefore we can change it. That is, we – the government – gave Fundamental Rights and therefore the government can suspend or revoke them.
In contrast, the British political and legal philosophy assumed that the Fundamental Rights come from God. Therefore neither the state nor an individual can take them away. I have an inalienable right to life because the Creator commands (in the Ten Commandments), “You shall not kill.” The Creator gave me life. He owns it. Therefore, no one, not even I, can take it away unjustly (i.e., without the due process of law). Everyone, including the state, my neighbours, and I need to hold sacred what belongs to God. Suicide is not always a mental disease. Often it is despair and hopelessness. Giving in to hopelessness is fatalism. The biblical worldview behind British law deemed fatalism (that sometimes leads to suicide) to be false because God is our loving and living heavenly Father. We ought to trust Him, for “faith overcomes the world.”

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