Decolonization: After All, The Raj Is Dead

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Source: The post is based on the article “After All, The Raj Is Dead” published in The Times of India on 21st September 2022.

Syllabus: GS 1: Colonization and decolonization.

Relevance: India and decolonisation debate.

News: At present, there is an intense debate on decolonisation all over the world. But India should move past the decolonisation debate.

What India learnt from Britain?

India has imbibed much from Britain including the Westminster-style democracy. The 19th-century Bengal ‘renaissance’ or cultural rebirth or the campaigns against sati and untouchability were born from the constructive synthesis of the ideas of the European Enlightenment and Indian reformism.

Several early Congressmen were England-educated, deploying the ideas of Western liberal democracy against the British empire.

Many Dalit-bahujan thinkers see the Raj’s education system as a liberating influence from Brahmanical dominance. Writer-activist Chandra Bhan Prasad had even created a temple to “Goddess English” in Banka village in UP.

How did Britons and British universities criticised the British Empire?

a) British author William Dalrymple has talked about the rampant exploitation of India by the East India Company, b) Several Indian-origin academics who have written knowledgeably on imperialist oppression carry out their work supported by British universities and publishers.

What colonial legacy does India need to root out?

1) Governments in all states use the colonial sedition law of 1870, a provision used against freedom fighters like Nehru and Netaji. Recently, the Supreme Court put a one-year moratorium on using the law.

Note: The UK abolished its sedition laws in 2009 because of their “chilling effect” on free speech.

2) India’s police forces are guided by the 1861 Police Act and several laws from the 1862 Indian Penal Code still remain, 3) India’s elaborate VIP convoys that politicians of all parties prefer are relics of the colonial past. On the other hand, British politicians use public transport and prefer simplicity.

English language, a colonial legacy and India’s strength

Competency in English is one of India’s most valuable assets. It is spoken widely, and English language coaching centres are also present in many states. Globally, English is a language of aspiration and a language that many highly accomplished and globally renowned NRIs speak.

In 2022, as many as 1,18,000 Indians received student visas to study in the UK. At present, Indian nationals are the second-largest group, after British nationals, working in Britain’s National Health Service.

Indian-origin Rishi Sunak almost became the UK’s prime minister and Indian-origin Suella Braverman is Britain’s current home secretary.

What should be done?

India’s Parliament has very few minority community MPs. On the other hand, Britain has impressive diversity in the Parliament. India should learn from them.

India and Britain should confidently learn from each other how to improve modern democracy and work together to promote mutual economic advantages. Instead of calling for decolonisation, the real need is bridge-building with each other.

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