Social Scientist. v 17, no. 196-97 (Sept-Oct 1989) p. 4.

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Education Old and New—A Perspective

When Dronacharya demanded of the untouchable, Ekiavya, his right hand thumb as Guru Dakshina he was, after all, vindicating the truth of the Marxian maxim that the ruling ideas of any epoch are the ideas of the ruling class. In claiming that the cruel punishment had been visited on Ekiavya not on account of his lowly social position but th^ fact that he had stolen knowledge, the Guru, wittingly or unwittingly, only further reinforced the materialist view of knowledge as privileged though stealable property. In that age of the epic, it was unthinkable that the socially outcast, however endowed, should be so equipped as to offer challenge to the powers of the entrenched. Something similar applies to the story of Kam—the denial to him of the right to call Arjun to account in arms on the legitimising ground of the inequality of station, and his liquidation subsequently by treachery at the politic behest of no less than the Lord himself. Let us also remember that Ram, the quintessence of virtues, did not think twice in decapitating Sambook, the meditating Shudra in Valmikfs Ramayana, and to the consistency of the same Marxian historical truth. Power, then centred in Brahminical Presence and the incantatory magic of Vedic mantras, was not for sharing with the lower orders. And the most numerous among the lower orders, women, had especially to be excluded from Sanskrit learning if hierarchy and division of labour had to be maintained. Recall that as late as the latter half of the nineteenth century Ramabai Pandita's entire Chitpawan Brahmin household in Pune was mercilessly ostracized because her enlightened father took it into his dangerous head to impart Sanskrit learning first to his wife and then to his famous daughter who, after all, had to convert to Christianity to find an emancipatory platform outside the dominant, patriarchal Hindu fold. That the firebrand nationalist Tilak was to be abusive of her, and that even the reformer Ranade was to desert her tells us something instructive about the ways in which education as a supposedly autonomous archive has had to struggle against power-structures that perpetuate the myth of autonomy from time to time but always know better. There is perhaps no better illustration of this than is provided by the sad story of that first

* Kirori Mal College, Delhi University, Delhi

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