Saturday, July 16, 2005

The Prime Minister in U.K. - Much Obliged



The Indian Political Leaders seem to be developing a penchant for suddenly discovering points to praise those who, as history has recognized, have been responsible for many of the miseries that have befallen India, that is Bharat. In doing so, they are turning Indian history, as we know it, on it head and creating confusion in the minds of the generation that has come of age post-independence.

First, it was L. K. Advani who, by quoting from a speech of Jinnah, created such a strong reaction that it is now costing him his status and position in his own party.

The Prime Minister did not lose much time in following suit. His Address in Oxford eulogizing the British for so much good they did to the country, has rightly culminated in a controversy. Nehru it was, who always had a soft corner for the British. No one would have, however, expected Manmohan Singh, believed to be a levelheaded person to say the things he did say to praise the British.

Perhaps, the learned Prime Minister was overwhelmed by the Honorary Degree awarded by Oxford University coupled with nostalgia of his time in the U.K. What the newspapers have reported of the Address is only part of what he said. If the entire content is read, some parts of it indeed sound like a panegyric for British Rule in India.

It is surprising that persons like Somnath Chatterjee find nothing wrong in praising the British. No one can deny the ill effects of the British Rule in India, which left the country impoverished, and its people completely subjugated. Those who made the great sacrifices during the freedom struggle and those who have witnessed the same have a right to be shocked at the praise showered by no less than the Prime Minister of the country. If the British have left a legacy, which is considered ‘beneficial consequences’, let us not forget that a large part of their administrative systems were put in place precisely to tighten and retain their control over the country. These were by no means established with any philanthropic notions. The Empire was ruthless in ensuring absolute control over the peoples they ruled. If any benefits have flowed, they are only incidental and the country has already paid a heavy price for such ‘benefits’ over the long period of their rule. It is also wrong to assume even by implication that had the British not left behind these systems and infrastructure, the country would be still languishing in the Middle Ages. On the other hand, if one were to stretch the debate to the other absurd extreme, it could be said that had they not been forced by the Freedom Struggle to leave, they would have been continuing with the exploitation much longer with the help of the same systems.

All this said, the main issue is not whether the British did some good or were always evil. The issue is that there is absolutely no need now to keep living in the past and make references to the good or bad that happened in the colonial past. In particular, there was no need for the Head of the Country to shower encomium or show a sense of being obligated by the British. It is just as well that he omitted a part of his written speech referring to the British Empire as “an act of adventure, enterprise and creativity”. Indeed, the other two speeches given by the Prime Minister in UK rightly dwelt more upon the present and the future.

It does seem that in the Oxford speech, he got carried away either by his speechwriter – a Sudheendra Kulkarni of PMO - or by his own sentiments. But that can scarcely be an excuse.

5 Comments:

At July 16, 2005, Anonymous shruti said...

Why are we always sounding so slavish?

 
At July 17, 2005, Anonymous Young-gen said...

reading what the PM said, I almost felt sorry that we kicked them out!! They might have ruled us better than the present crop of leaders who also extract their pound of flesh much like the British.

 
At July 31, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

White skin can be very awe-inspiring. That was so when the British were ruling us Natives. That is so when USA is trying to rule the world.

 
At August 31, 2005, Anonymous Pandian said...

It just boils down to the sentimental fools that rule India who just cannot be tough negotiators when it comes to diplomacy. We always end up giving more than what we get.

 
At October 29, 2005, Anonymous RK. said...

stop bashing the PM look at Sonia Gandhi!

 

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