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British Colonization to India

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The first European power to arrive in India was the army of Alexander the Great in 327-326 BC. The satraps he established in the northwest quickly crumbled after he left. Later, commercial trade was carried between Indian states and the Roman Empire by Greco-Roman sailors that reached India by sailing on the Red and Arabian Seas. ?The Portuguese sailor, Vasco da Gama, was the first European to arrive in India solely by navigating the sea, at the end of the 15th century.

Having arrived in Calicut, which by then was one of the major trading ports of the eastern world, he obtained permission by Manavikraman Raja to trade in the city from Saamoothiri Rajah. (http://en. wikipedia.

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org/wiki/British_Empire). British empire has been in India since the early 1600’s, when the East India Company started trading and British missionaries first began their efforts. A large number of Christian schools providing English education were set up trough out India by the early 1800’s. The process of producing English-speaking natives in India began with the “Minute” of 1835, which officially endorsed T. B.

Macaulay’s goal of forming “a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern – a class of persons, Indians in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinion, in morals and in intellect” (quoted in Kachru 1983, p. 22). English became the official and academic language of India by the early twentieth century. Direct administration by the British, which began in 1858, effected a political and economic unification of the subcontinent. The rising of the nationalist movement in the 1920’s brought some anti-English sentiment with it — even though the movement itself used English as its medium.

Once independence was gained and the English were gone, the perception of English as having an alien power base changed; however, the controversy about English has continued to this day. Kachru notes that “English now has national and international functions that are both distinct and complementary. English has thus acquired a new power base and a new elitism” (Kachru 1986, p. 12). Only about three percent of India’s population speak English, but they are the individuals who lead India’s economic, industrial, professional, political, and social life.

Even though English is primarily a second language for these persons, it is the medium in which a great number of the interactions in the above domains are carried out. Having such important information moving in English conduits is often not appreciated by Indians who do not speak it, but they are relatively powerless to change that. Its inertia is such that it cannot be easily given up. This is particularly true in South India, where English serves as a universal language in the way that Hindi does in the North. Despite being a three percent minority, the English speaking population in India is quite large.

With India’s massive population, that three percent puts India among the top four countries in the world with the highest number of English speakers. English confers many advantages to the influential people who speak it — which has allowed it to retain its prominence despite the strong opposition to English which rises periodically. When British rule came to an end in 1947, the subcontinent was partitioned along religious lines into two separate countries—India, with a majority of Hindus, and Pakistan, with a majority of Muslims; the eastern portion of Pakistan later split off to form Bangladesh.

Many British institutions stayed in place (such as the parliamentary system of government); English continued to be a widely used lingua franca; and India remained within the Commonwealth. Hindi became the official language (and a number of other local languages achieved official status), while a vibrant English-language intelligentsia thrived.

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