DURING the recently concluded platinum jubilee celebrations of Queen Elizabeth’s reign in England, there was one aspect which was quite blatantly self-contradictory to the larger Indian narrative. The presence of a huge contingent of Indian artists in the processions, performing to express their pleasure and appreciation of the queen, negated the Hindutva nationalism the Indian government is propagating internally.
Of course, the contingent was sent by the government itself to please the colonial masters, which is like taking a summersault because it simply ignored the British era of colonial rule over India. It ignored the huge sacrifices made by the Indians of the subcontinent during the great freedom struggle of 1857.
The Indian government forgot the great 1941 famine of Bengal for which many vocal Indians have held Winston Churchill responsible. Shashi Tharoor in his book, Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India, has clearly held Churchill culpable, calling him the worst genocidal dictator of the 20th century. Another Indian journalist, Madhusree Mukerjee, in her book, Churchill’s Secret War: The British Empire and the Ravaging of India during World War II, has talked about how Churchill would send food shipments to war-stricken Britain and other countries, denying access to Bengal.
Actually Churchill was behind the deaths of more than three million people in Bengal, because as famine ravaged through the region, Churchill diverted food rations to Greece and other countries to feed allied soldiers. Then there was the notorious massacre at Jallianwala Bagh, on April 13, 1919, where British soldiers massacred hundreds of unarmed Indians.
Now, if we compare British colonial rule with the Muslim rule of Mughals, one observes that during the Mughal rule, the subcontinent was among the richest places across the world, and that is why it was called the ‘jewel in the crown’. When the British came here, they started loot and plunder, and siphoned off every bit of wealth they could to their country of origin.
That is the reason that when the British left India, the country was among the poorest of the poor countries of the world, where 33 per cent of the world’s poor were living in subhuman, filthy slums visible in and around New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, to mention but a few.
The present ultra-right government in India has been trying unsuccessfully to befool the public at large across the region. By sending a large contingent to celebrate an event of British monarchy, the Indian government stands exposed in its efforts to please and appease the colonial masters.
Abid Mahmud Ansari
Published in Dawn, June 15th, 2022