KARACHI, May 16: The British colonial rule has left a host of influences on the polity and social behaviours in subcontinent that are mostly adverse but which have hitherto proved to be indelible. Important among these are those that affected our judicial and educational institutions.

A feudal class, and a mindset, was created specially by the colonial masters which to this day bedevils our political system. It was because of this mindset, and ideology, that various dividers were created which ultimately separated the peoples of the subcontinent.

So said speakers at the one-day National History Conference which was organized on Sunday by the general history department of Urdu University, Badalti Duniya magazine and Fiction House. The event was entitled "The effects of colonial rule on South Asia".

Presenting his paper on the occasion, Saud-ul-Hasan Khan, a PhD scholar, described in detail how various laws were formulated by the British to strengthen and lengthen their rule. After independence these laws were embraced by the Pakistan government as its own even though doing so perpetuated the influence of the British.

Before colonial rule, the judicial system was fairly straightforward. Neither the complainant nor the person against whom the complaint was made required lawyers to present their cases before a court of law. They usually did so themselves.

But the British changed the system. They made it mandatory for the complainants and the accused to engage lawyers, making the acquisition of justice both expensive and time-consuming.

Rarely, if ever, did the British judges give rulings that went against the British monarchy or the British government. The reason was obvious: the judges were both appointed and promoted by royal decree. This practice in one form or the other continues to this day in Pakistan, though it has been discontinued in India.

Dr Mohammad Ali Siddiqui said the British designed the local educational system in such a manner that reasoning and logic were given perhaps too much importance. This was done primarily because the colonial rules looked down upon the natives as 'savages' who attached too much importance to 'fantasies'.

Charles Grant, he said, was one 'thinker' who subscribed to this view and who once exclaimed that all the specimens of local literature could be collected on one bookshelf. Mr Grant also thought that the natives did not speak the truth.

The British, therefore, thought that it was the 'white man's burden or responsibility' to teach logic to the natives and to make them speak the truth. Dryden, Pope, Shakespeare and Wordsworth were among the writers whose works were taught in the universities and colleges established by the British. The number of universities in the whole of subcontinent was only 19 at that time.

Dr Siddiqui said the educational system promoted the unity of India because doing so was in the interest of the British. As influence of the British increased in the subcontinent, their colonial ideology took a concrete shape, said Dr Mubarak Ali in his paper.

In the initial stages of their rule, the British started to collate information about their history, arts and crafts and customs.

However, the information that was collected was used in a manner which benefited the British only. Similarly, a view was promoted under which even though the Indians belonged to the race of Aryans, to which the British also belonged, local influences had 'polluted' them.

This was why the Indian society had decayed. A myth was deliberately created which held that the natives were a lazy people. All this had been done to maintain the European supremacy in India and throughout the world.

Dr Ali concluded by saying that it was because of colonial ideology that when the British rule ended in the subcontinent the society had been badly divided and several distortions had crept into their history.

In his paper on the political strategy of the colonial rulers, Dr S. Jaffer Ahmed of Karachi University said it was wrong to say that they only divided people to rule effectively.

On occasions they did resort to divisive tactics, but also tried to unite the people in certain areas of governance. Four factors remained important throughout in their scheme of things, he said. They had realized that without local participation, they would not get their policies implemented.

That is why they created a new class, comprising feudals, which provided ample backing and support to them. Also, in an effort to stop the natives from being alienated, the British also organized a political system which catered to the needs of people at the council, district and provincial levels.

Some of the British went a step further and established political parties as well. The creation of the Indian National Congress is a case in point. In his address Dr Jamiluddin Aali said Urdu University was going to keep holding seminar and conferences on vital issues and subjects.

He announced that a scientific conference would be held soon by the university. Aftab Ahmed Khan, Prof Zafar Ali Khan, Nadeem Umar, Dr Tahira Shahid, Hilal Ahmed, Hussain A. Khan and Dr Tahir Kamran also spoke.

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