Wednesday, 9 October 2013
Facing up to our Colonial Heritage Part 1
Our Colonial past is seared into the mind of every educated Indian; most of us do recall with bitterness the sad period between 1757 and 1947. It is difficult to be emotionally detached on this topic – as evidenced by the responses on various online social sites. The difference is only in degree, with some people being more vociferous and emotional, and the others being a lot more practical and sanguine about the entire matter. But most of the spectrum is united in the bitterness that is felt on recalling that horrid period of our history.
And yet, paradoxically, as a nation we seem to be in denial about our own past and what was done to us; just like the rest of Asia and Africa. The fact of the matter is that the developed world is where it is today because of looted and stolen wealth from Asia and Africa, of which a rather large part came from India. They would never have been anywhere near where they are today had it not been for our own stupidity and weaknesses that contributed to our rape – which created a pool of free slave labour and bottomless wealth to invest in their own lands, and conquer new ones. While the world has ostensibly moved on from Colonialism, repression and exploitation continues in myriad forms, usually hidden as business stratagems. Sure, this is not done by the developed world with an objective to repress and exploit; neither is it done to loot. The feelings of “business exigencies, realpolitic, fair business” etc are all too real to them.
Take the case of the UK and the USA. Both were bankrolled by the ill-gotten wealth of Colonialism in their early formative years of the so-called industrial revolution. The USA in addition to access to Wealth, also got abundant natural resources – to which they had no right – as well as free slave labour. Not only that, they then wiped out the native Americans. If this is not Genocide, what is, pray tell? Thus, is it any surprise that the USA is today the most developed nation? Similar is the case of UK, fund flows to whose treasury from its Colonies is a matter of documented record, as I myself put forward in one of my previous posts. That was the wealth that was invested in its factories, in its people and in its infrastructure. Everything the UK is today, it owes largely to India.
One only has to look at the nature of the former colonies of these developed countries, and see the pitiable condition of the people who live therein. From Africa to Asia, it is a horrifying tale of unmitigated disaster and tragedy of a kind not seen before the Colonial World- not on this scale. We are talking about poverty on a continental scale. Outside the developed world, the conditions are pitiable. And it is undeniable that one of the causative factors – should I say, one of the primary causative factors is the Colonial Rape. Every comfort in the west of the day has its origins in the blood, sweat and rape of innocents. This is not a fanciful statement, neither is it inflammatory. It is a statement of simple fact.
I shall take a look at the post colonial policies that contribute to the continuing repression at a later date; in this post I am primarily concerned about the lack of acceptance and knowledge of this simple reality in both the Colonial and the Developed Nations. Speaking about India, I have never heard an official demand from any Government, demanding an official apology from the United Kingdom for the atrocities committed on us. These atrocities are a matter of record; and are exceedingly well documented.
What is wrong in asking for an official apology? Apologies have been tendered before by other nations for their misdeeds – but no one is asking the colonial powers to apologise, let alone do something substantive for the upliftment of the raped people - people whose ancestors were raped by their ancestors. And it is not in the foggy past; it is a matter of a few decades. Instead of that, we have our political class mouthing subservient dialogues like “The British Connection”! And the reward we get? The threat of withdrawing aid when an arms deal wasn’t signed! Excuse me, you threaten to stop giving me what is mine by right?
The shattering inequalities we see all around us today are a direct result of colonialism; and if the world problems have to be solved – then the developed nations will have to chip in, if for no other reason then because their wealth has been built on the rape of the third world. I would go so far as to state that it is their duty. But that is not going to happen unless the constituent citizens of the first world understand and accept that the sins of their forefathers are one of the causes. That is why I insist on an apology; because an apology does not come about from a person who does not understand his culpability; at least, not a sincere apology.
And for that, we are responsible – our fawning over the west, our gentle forget-it- and-move-on approach and our toeing their line without trying to explain the root cause of our problems. And in place of understanding and empathy, the east gets racial taunts, pushy policies in the name of free markets, pressure tactics etc. Unless the world comes to terms with the immediate past and the colonial heritage, problems are not going to go away. They will only be exacerbated… With the status the third world is in, it requires a caring hand and a kind hug from the richer developed world, which is not happening. The west would do well to remember the reality of their own past, and be man enough to say “I am sorry; let us sit across the table and sort it out”.
But why should this happen, when the raped party itself is silent? Not even demanding an apology!