English ditched in war on colonial culture

August 15, 1997

"No English, please, we are Bengalis." That is the new dictum at Calcutta's Rabindra Bharati University, named after India's national poet and Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore, writes Hasan Suroor.

The university's new vice chancellor, Subhankar Chakraborty, has declared "war" on the English language, saying he would replace it with Bengali "at all levels".

In his first official statement after taking up his post, he said that a university dedicated to Tagore should reflect Bengali rather than a "colonial" culture. "Look at the question papers here. Even the Bengali question papers are so framed that the instructions on top are in English. Why this slavery to the English language? Students seem to have lost touch with their mother tongue, but I will restore that in my own way," he promised.

His remarks have been criticised by academics and intellectuals. They have said they are not against popularising Bengali, but not at the cost of an international language like English which serves as India's "window to the outside world".

"Imposition of Bengali would not work. English is the language through which you get jobs. You cannot ignore that," said a Bengali writer, Shankar, in a newspaper interview.

Professor Chakraborty is no stranger to controversy. As principal of a south Calcutta college a few years ago, he came under fire for making it mandatory for girls to wear only the traditional Bengali dress, the "saree". But he eventually backed down on his ruling.

Academics are hoping his latest outburst will prove to be another storm in a tea cup.

Please login or register to read this article

Register to continue

Get a month's unlimited access to THE content online. Just register and complete your career summary.

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments