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Friday, August 20, 2010

The Times Of India

Thursday,05 August 2010

The empire continues - II

Tarun Vijay

Prologue: The sting

India belongs to us all, rising above the peripheries of religion, ideology and caste. But do we belong to her? How much of the Indian memory has a space in our minds and souls? Do we share our motherland's pains, historical posts of victory and defeats? And do we care about what has been done to her by those who are now preaching us to be 'fair and just'? Do we have the commonality in our friends and foes? If someone is good to me individually but bad to my nation, what should I do? Say, so what? I am OK with the enemies of my nation so why should it influence my behaviour? A nation can't be just a conglomeration of a few people crowding offices, homes and roads. The pride for the national flag and the national anthem is rooted in a collective will of the people to survive under one identity and shared aspirations. What hurts me the most that the neo-literates of the rich, or closer to that variety, class have developed an attitude of self-flagellation bordering on the sadistic pleasures of a slave people who take pride and derive pleasure in getting booted by the invading authority. This is a medically proven psychological, behavioral pattern. If a society and a people are continuously subjected to unspeakable atrocities and barbarism for long, a section of them develops a habit to accept all that as an unavoidable eventuality and begins its advocacy so vigorously that it rewards them from the enemy quarters to a great extent, if rai bahadurs were in vogue during British rule, now it's state largesse and committee memberships, invitations to PM's banquets and high tea at Viceroy's Palace now renamed Rashtrapati Bhavan. They would complain at any instance of the revival of past memories to apprise the new generation of the joys and pains of their motherland: "Hey, you are spreading hatred. Why should we ever get into this? What has happened has happened. Let's move ahead."
Can there be any more arrogantly foolish naivety? There can't be any future without a past, and those who fear to know their past do not belong anywhere, they are like boat people, whoever provides bread and shelter they belong to that corner.

But we are different. Bharat that is India is not a piece of land, but mother to us all, whether we are Hindus or Muslims or Christians. We all are bound by one identity: Indian. Hence the Cameron visit prompted me to urge everyone to remind ourselves and our children of what has happened to our common ancestors at the hands of the ancestors of Cameron and Thatcher and Queen Elizabeth. And while we are gracious enough to have normal, friendly relations with these people, they not only continue to have a weird policy on our Kashmir but we, as a result of a shared memory loss, remain entangled in a memorial to our slavery called Commonwealth, which is just a burden on our nation without any positive gains for our people. It's anybody's guess that the kind of mind-boggling corruption and senseless expenditure has marked these games; this money could have changed the profile of at least one Naxalism-Maoism-affected region, bringing happiness and relief to the entire nation.

A nation lives on the collective reservoir of memory and dies when memory is lost. With memory deleted, good, bad or worse, what difference will there be between India and Saudi Arabia or Ecuador and Nepal? One of the main reasons of the present sorry state of national affairs is a collective memory loss that provides an enemy's invasion basic support through deculturized people.

The empire of the enemy seems to be living ideologically still when a state of our nation is almost declared de facto an 'enemy nation', just because it helps the ruling party to garner minority votes in Bihar and UP, the empire of the invader lives in an education system which prescribes memory loss as a way to attain a misinterpreted secular health.

It's the memory loss that makes the villain of Kargil, Musharraf, get a warm welcome in Delhi and the media's admiring attention.

It's the memory loss helping the empire of the aliens thrive that makes the rulers destroy a bridge Rama built and be silent on the unspeakable pains of their own flesh and blood, the exiled Hindus of Kashmir and the Muslim mothers of Srinagar who want their children to be raised in a peaceful progressive Indian spring.

It's the empire's continuity through memory loss that makes people condemn any effort to remind the new generation of British atrocities. They forget that if India is not reminded how all of us, our ancestors, got united under Bahadur Shah Zafar, used "roti" and "kamal" as a powerful instrument of war on firang terror, heroically resisted British barbarism and gained independence through the collective struggle of the Indian people, how can we carve a road for an Indian future?

Epilogue: The invader's delight

India was never a poor country in her entire history. We were enterprising, rich and brave. And we influenced the world though our character, scholarship and compassion. But the new race of invaders changed the rules of war and administration - deceit, barbarism and cruelty was their hall mark. Will Durant says in his book, The Case for India: "Robert Clive defeated the Bengal forces at Plassey with the loss of only twenty-two British killed, and thereupon declared his Company the owner of the richest province in India. He added further territory by forging and violating treaties, by playing one native prince against another, and by generous bribes given and received. Four million dollars were sent down the river to Calcutta in one shipment. He accepted 'presents' amounting to $1,170,000 from Hindu rulers dependent upon his favour and his guns; pocketed from them, in addition, an annual tribute of $140,000; took to opium, was investigated and exonerated by Parliament, and killed himself. 'When I think', he said, 'of the marvelous riches of that country, and the comparatively small part which I took away, I am astonished at my own moderation.' Such were the morals of the men who proposed to bring civilization to India. (8). His successors in the management of the Company now began a century of unmitigated rape on the resources of India. They profiteered without hindrance: goods which they sold in England for $10,000,000 they bought for $2,000,000 in India. They engaged, corporately and individually, in inland trade, and by refusing to pay the tolls exacted of Hindu traders, acquired a lucrative monopoly. The Company paid such fabulous dividends that its stock rose to $32,000 a share. Its agents deposed and set up Hindu rulers according to bribes refused or received; in ten years they took in, through such presents, $30,000,000. They forged documents as circumstances required, and hanged Hindus for forging documents. Clive had set up Mir Jafar as ruler of Bengal for $6,192,875; Clive's successors deposed him and set up Mir Kasim on payment of $1, 151,780. They taxed the provinces under the Company so exorbitantly that two-thirds of the population fled; defaulters were confined in cages, and exposed to the burning sun; fathers sold their children to meet the rising rates. It was usual to demand 50% of the net produce of the land. 'Every effort, lawful and unlawful,' says a Bombay Administration report, written by Englishmen, 'was made to get the utmost out of the wretched peasantry, who were subjected to torture, in some instances cruel and revolting beyond all description, if they would not or could not yield what was demanded'."

Excluding Indian scholars from taking up appropriate positions was one of the main features of the British. "Every year the Indian colleges graduate 12,000 students; every year hundreds of Hindus graduate from universities in Europe of America, and return to their native land. But only the lowest places in the civil service are open to them. Not more than four per cent of positions bringing over $4,000 per year are held by Hindus."(61).

And "Eminent Hindu physicians and surgeons," says Ramanand Chatterjee, "are compelled to spend the best years of their lives in subordinate positions as 'assistant' surgeons, while raw and callow youths lord it over them and draw four to five times their pay."(67) Sir Thomas Munro, British Governor of Madras, said, almost a century ago: "Under the sway of every Mohammedan conqueror, the natives of India have been admitted to all the highest dignities of the State. It is only under the British Government that they have been excluded from this advantage, and held in a condition, even when employed in a public department, little superior to that of menial servants."(68).

The same set of mentally colonized people, who rule us today create Commonwealth Games in honour of our slavery to the British, recognizing the Queen as the permanent head of the organization, while still loud-mouthing our sovereignty. The same colonized people rule us from the buildings the British built scandalously with corruption at every nook and corner squandering public money like we are witnessing in the shoddy preparations of the CWG in 2010.

Surely, we have a democratic system that elects lawmakers. But expressly it's the attitude and the behaviour of such people, whom Durant describes as "de-Indianized", holding distinguished positions of decision making that forms the principal perception. They didn't declare freedom from the British but it was merely recorded as transfer of power. Most of the laws pertaining to taxes, administration, policing and managing military organizations are still very British. The entire Constitution is a feeble reflection of the Govt. of India Act 1935, as was also accepted by BR Ambedkar.

Still our forces - all the three wings observe and celebrate the raising days of various battalions when they were established by the British in the name of some sort of an apolitical continuity. They don't consider the dichotomy inherent in it that the colonial masters had raised those battalions to suppress the Indian spirit of freedom.

In Rashtrapati Bhavan the best-kept portraits and marble statues are of the British viceroys, governors, kings and queens. One would be really shocked to see an absence of Indian freedom fighters and revolutionaries' portraits displayed with same esteem and appropriate honour befitting an Indian. The hall where awards are presented and new government is sworn in doesn't have a portrait of Shivaji's regal durbar or Maharaja Ranjit Singh's majestic throne. It doesn't have a portrait of Vikramaditya or the Pandavas, who ruled Indraprashtha, the predecessor to the present Delhi. Not even Akbar.

It shows an Iranian carpet on the roof depicting an Iranian prince.

Like the British , the present dispensation of secular variety puts the majority Hindus to shame for defending their way of life and religious assertions, whether its banning cow slaughter, rebuilding Ayodhya temple or protecting poor Hindus from the onslaughts of aggressive proselytizers.

Politicians are tamed to fall in line through bribes and threats exactly the way the British did and not only Hindu-Muslim divide and casteist fault lines are strengthened to garner votes but even foreigners are facilitated to enter India in lieu of their votes creating a situation that at least in one northeastern province soon we may have a chief minister of Bangladeshi origin.

We love to preserve with utmost care the relics of the British slavery that, in fact should have been kept in a Holocaust Museum telling the new generation about the real nature of the empire. We love to pay obeisance to the jawans, at a memorial built to honour those who fought for the empire and not for India's independence, and fail to build a war memorial. We love to spend thousands of crores to renovate the area and the buildings in Delhi named after the colonial servant, Sir Connaught. We want to show, still, to the firangs, how much we adore their left-overs. Any wonder we still rule our own people with the contempt of a British sergeant and make atrocious amount of money emasculating the peasants and poor, forcing them to commit suicide? It's the continuity of the spirit of the colonial empire that keeps the lawmakers insensitive to the plight of common Indians eking out a living at Rs 20 a day even after six decades of independence and finding it comfortable to enjoy chicken masala thalis and other delicacies at Rs 12, Rs 2 and Re 1 in Parliament while getting fat allowances and salaries.

The Empire, in a varied form, still continues.

To break the hangover of this colonialism, rejuvenate the indigenous political system of a consensual approach, without any hate for the differing view and write a new Indian story strengthening patriotism and intolerance to terrorism and corruption. Let health, literacy and prosperity to the people be our new gods. Bring reforming laws like Hindu code bill pertaining to Muslim and other communities too that brings women in the mainstream of progress and revive a pride in our shared, collective heritage of civilization that soothingly touches us all. The rest will follow.

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