Niall Ferguson, an imperialism apologist, has written, without an iota of embarrassment, that “(there is) plausible case that Empire enhanced global welfare — in other words, [Imperialism] was a Good Thing.” He is not alone. Many Hindus also think that British Colonial intervention in India was good for India. They gave India the railways, the postal system, democracy, universities, judiciary, British Law, English, Cricket, etc. So, we are grateful that the British successfully colonized India. Hindus would have remained barbaric and savage, primitive and superstitious, if not for them. The other side of the story, i.e., what the British did to India, is rarely entirely told. And recently, many Western scholars have begun re-evaluating the net positive effects of colonialism. Here is an article that reviews Shashi Tharoor’s book and presents an evaluation of what the British did to India that is not included in our history textbooks.
This post is based on Omer Aziz’s article ‘Blighted by Empire: What the British Did to India.’ Aziz’s article appeared in the Los Angeles Review of Book on September 1, 2018. Here are some excerpts from this article:
“After two centuries of imperial rule, the proximate cause of India’s independence was the economic damage Britain suffered after World War II — a war, it should be remembered, in which 2.5 million Indians also fought. When the time came to pack up and return home, Britain tasked a London barrister named Sir Cyril Radcliffe with drawing the lines on the map that would partition the colony into two dominions, India and Pakistan, and settle the fate of hundreds of millions of people. Radcliffe, who had never been to India before, showed little interest in the people living there and was given just 40 days to complete his work.”
“What followed this irresponsible and careless partition was murder, rape, and mob lynching on a scale never before seen in South Asia.”
“Between one and two million people were killed in the span of this homicidal fury, and over 15 million people were uprooted. It was one of the most harrowing human migrations in all of recorded history.”
“W. H. Auden memorialized the image of an unprepared lawyer amputating an entire subcontinent:
In seven weeks it was done, the frontiers decided
A continent for better or worse divided
The next day he sailed for England, where he could quickly forget
The case, as a good lawyer must. Return he would not
Afraid, as he told his Club, that he might get shot.”
“One person, at least, knew where to lay blame for this violence. Louis Mountbatten, the last Viceroy and first Governor-General of independent India, would later bluntly tell a BBC reporter: “I f-—d it up.”
Yes, you did, Dickey, yes you did! But, then, this was neither yours nor your country’s first such f—up, was it?