As highlighted in the fourth instalment of this India series, Dickensian imagery of Victorian slums, mass squalor and destitution, as well as the institutionalised corruption, gender crimes and territorial conflicts that define the reality of the developing world, are seldom truthfully explained for what they really are: the devastating legacies of our Imperial forefathers.
"British rule in India is the most sordid and criminal exploitation of one nation by another in all recorded human history." William Durant, American Historian.
The final instalments of this India series build on the interconnected histories of my fatherland, Great Britain, and my motherland, India. Because of the sheer breadth of this subject, the concluding sections will be delivered in three separate posts, extending this series to a total of seven articles, not five, as previously intended.
The list of the misdeeds perpetrated by our forefathers in Britain's former colonies is as comprehensive as the subsequent efforts to cover them up, as well as our collective ignorance about our own history.
The root of the disinformation that still lives with us in the 21st Century dates back largely to the 19th Century. Our Imperial ancestors sought to justify their presence in vast swathes of the world, whilst preaching democracy and liberty at home in Britain. Most of them (but by no means all) were also consumed with a sense of racial superiority.
"We did not conquer India for the benefit of the Indians. I know that it is said at missionary meetings that we have conquered India to raise the level of the Indians. That is cant. We conquered India as the outlet for the goods of Great Britain. We conquered India by the sword and by the sword we should hold it. We hold it as the finest outlet for British goods in general." Sir William Joynson-Hicks, Former British Home Secretary and Conservative Politician.
Thus was concocted the fundamentally illogical premise (given the relative contexts of a civilised India and a backward Britain) of the 'paternalistic' master race, and the arrogantly deluded romanticism of 'The White Man's Burden'. Our supposed master race, it must be noted, threw household wastewater out of windows onto London's streets, packed African slaves like sardines into the decks of ships, and forgave British men for raping women because they may have 'erred', whilst, in the words of one of Britain's most respected political figures of the modern era:
"[Indians were] a people for ages civilised and cultivated; cultivated by all the arts of polished life, whilst we were yet in the woods. There is to be found an ancient and venerable priesthood, the depository of their laws, learning, and history, the guides of the people whilst living, and their consolation in death; a nobility of great antiquity and renown; a multitude of cities; millions of ingenious manufacturers and mechanics; millions of the most diligent, and not the least intelligent, tillers of the earth. Here are to be found almost all the religions professed by men, the [Hindu], the [Muslim], the Eastern and the Western Christians." Edmund Burke, British Statesman & Founding Father of English Conservative Philosophy.
A desperate James Mill's ridiculous 19th Century The History of British India, written with virtually no reliable knowledge of his subject, became one of the fountainheads of supremacist literature that was sought for, sanctioned and promoted by Imperial Britain. Mill's farcical, racist views, mirrored by evangelicals such as Charles Grant, provide textbook depictions of the stereotypes that astonishingly still shape the prism of modern education and popular culture.
The Godfather, Star Wars and Tom & Jerry contain less fictional content than that postulated by Imperial Britain's schizophrenic propagandists. Shockingly, it is that psychotic propaganda that still shapes our views of India, Africa, China and the Islamic World today.
Thugs like the despicable Robert Clive, hated at home in Britain as well as in India, and fellow Imperialist plunderers like Warren Hastings thus became - and remain for many - heroes of the good old British 'spirit' of adventure and enterprise. Repeated holocausts, the lost lives of hundreds of millions, the destitution of billions more, and the systematic and spiteful decimation of great civilisations, however, is worthy of only a cursory, occasional mention.
"The British conquest of India was the destruction of a high civilization by a trading company utterly without scruple or principle, overrunning with fire, sword, bribery, murder a country temporarily disordered and helpless." William Durant.
Charles Trevelyan and Thomas Babington Macaulay, two glorified giants of Imperial bigotry, did to India what the Nazis wished to - and what some religious fanatics now want to do to us in Britain, yet we still deify these monomaniacs as British heroes. That's not just an insult to India, but to Britain itself.
Their green-eyed wiping out of Sanskrit - a linguistic, social and cultural bedrock of India for millennia - and their subsequent projection of it as a barbarian language, flies in the face of scholastic opinion throughout the world.
"The Sanskrit language [is of] wonderful structure, more perfect than Greek, more copious than Latin and more exquisitely refined than either." Sir William Jones, British Orientalist.
A 'momentous' Battle of Plassey, which may never even have occurred in the first place, is lauded as a watermark British victory over a barbaric land; 'eye witness' accounts of non-existent 'native' atrocities during the 1857 rebellion were concocted to justify the violent entrenchment of British rule; and India's long line of civilisational achievements, as accounted for by honest British, European and American scholars, and which reflected Europe's fascination with India, was discredited and removed from the annals of history.
"[India] ranks with the highest civilizations of history, and some would place it at the head and summit of all." William Durant.
The multi-faceted systems of 'varna' and 'jathi', which were lead-headedly viewed through the Victorian prism of class and caste (both European words), were not only vastly misrepresented as tools of indoctrination against 'backward natives', but also entrenched as a policy of divide and rule.
"In the great teaching of the Vedas, there is no touch of sectarianism." Henry David Thoreau, American Scholar.
Similar divisions were also deliberately fostered between Hindus, Muslims, Christians and Sikhs, and similar myths and distortions propagated about other 'native' traditions and practices such as dowry (a European practice), which - as we know it today - was yet another by-product of Imperial policy in India.
This tired and gradually unravelling colonial narrative, epitomised by the uncouth, absurd and delusional symbology of 'The White Man's Burden', is so replete with deceit and brazen audacity, that it extends to the rose-tinted views of Imperial railways and administrative systems that we still peddle today, the real stories of which will be covered in next week's penultimate instalment of this Indian Independence Day series.
If there is any 'burden' carried by our forefathers in Britain and Europe, it is that of having decimated modern India, Africa, China, the Middle East and Latin America, and then not only having covered that up, but also audaciously duping the rest of us with the sham soliloquy of Imperial 'benevolence'.Suggest a correction