Sanskrit was originally the language of the gods the their beloved people. Manu stipulated a terrible fate for the lower caste people who dared to listen to the Vedas or utter the shlokas. “If the Sudra intentionally listens for committing to memory the Veda, then his ears should be filled with (molten) lead; if he utters the Veda, then his tongue should be cut off.”
Now some 3000 years after those glorious days, the language is struggling to find learners. Hence the BJP government has decided to make it compulsory in certain schools.
A language is ineluctably associated with a culture. When the culture evolves, the language has to evolve too. Conversely, the death of a language implies the death of a culture. The ancient Brahminical tradition with its neat and convenient hierarchy which ensured that power remained concentrated in a few hands died as the civilisation evolved and democratic ideas overtook it.
By the time India became independent the Brahminical system was quite dead. The Nehruvian concept of secularism (which has been pooh-poohed for quite some time now) and the Gandhian ideals which promoted the rights of the erstwhile subaltern people gained vitality. But the various governments that came to power in Indraprastha after the days of the nation’s founding fathers diluted the concepts and ideals for the sake of vote banks.
Victors and vanquished change places in history quite often. Indian history is entering a new phase of evolution with some such displacements and replacements. Some of those ancient victors who were vanquished at the turn of the 20th century are now capturing back their lost powers. The return of Sanskrit is a symbol. That some people who were originally subalterns are the present agents of the dislocations may be an interesting irony.
There is nothing wrong in teaching and learning the classical language of the country. In fact, there are more Sanskrit scholars outside India now than inside. The problem, however, is when it is imposed with political motives. Why not leave it as an optional subject which those interested can choose? Why not encourage students to choose it rather than ram it down their throats?
Some things in history change naturally and gracefully; Enlightenment in Europe, for instance. Some changes are forced upon and they distort civilisation; Nazism, for example. Only those changes last which merge meaningfully into the current condition of the civilisation. Indian civilisation is at an advanced status and hence may not absorb all the things being imposed on it by the current regime in Indraprastha. All saffron is not necessarily holy, Indians have learnt that already.