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  Henry Louis Vivian Derozio  

Henry Louis Vivian Derozio born in 1809was a Eurasian poet, rationalist thinker and teacher. He was appointed a teacher of the Calcutta Hindu College in May 1826 at the young age of seventeen. The subjects he taught were English literature and history.His mode of teaching was as unconventional as were his

 
 

ideas. In fact, Derozio's activities as a teacher were not confined to the classrooms. His discourses covered a wide range of subjects- literature, history, philosophy and science.

 
 

Soon he was able to arouse in his students so much enthusiasm that in 1828 he helped them in establishing a literary and debating club of their own known as the Academic Association. The Academic Association was a successful venture and its fortnightly meetings, which were held at a garde liberal-minded and philanthropic Europeans. Its success encouraged students to establish similar societies in various parts of Calcutta. Although Derozio was president of the Academic Association, he was also connected with most of the other societies as a member and took active interest in their activities.

 
 

Derozio's teachings promoted a critical outlook among his students who began to express doubt and dissatisfaction with the existing order. This young radical thinkers came to be known as Young Bengal and started the phase of Young Bengal Movement in Indian history. Influenced by the rationalist philosophy of David Hume and Jeremy Bentham and radical thinkers like Thomas Paine, they had begun to measure

 
 

everything with the yardstick of reason. Towards religion their attitude was Voltairean. They did not hesitate to denounce openly the Hindu religion.

 
 

Derozio's teachings produced great commotion in the Hindu society. He was accused of promoting heresy among his students most of whom came from orthodox Hindu families. The matter was brought to the notice of the Managing Committee of the Hindu College, which was dominated by conservative Hindus led by Raja Radhakanta Deb. Derozio was dismissed from the Hindu College in April 1831. His dismissal, however, did not curb the radical movement. In fact, Derozio had now more freedom than before to express his ideas. Nor did he loose contact with his students.

 
 

Derozio was also actively involved in promoting the welfare of his Eurasian community, and had begun editing a daily English newspaper,The East Indian. He now encouraged some of his young Hindu disciples to take to journalism and disseminate their radical ideas through this important medium. Thus, Krishnamohan Benerji had started in May 1831 an English weekly newspaper, The Enquirer, and in the following month Dakshinaranjan Mukherji and Rasik Krishna Mallick began to publish a Bengali (later also English) newspaper, the Jnananvesan. Through these journals, apparently conducted under Derozio's guidance, the young radicals launched bitter attacks upon Hindu conservatism.

 
 

The sudden death of Derozio in December 1831 , which was supposed due to slow poisoning, gave a severe blow to the cause of the radicals. Nevertheless, the spirit of enlightenment which this remarkable teacher had kindled in the minds of his young Hindu students continued to inspire succeeding generations and left a permanent impact on the social outlook of the Bengali Hindu community.

 
     
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