India will be celebrating its 75th year of independence on 15th of August, 2021. While we all are filled with a sense of pride and patriotism for our motherland, let us take a moment to analyse the impact that the Britishers had on India. Back in the 17th century, little did our countrymen know that a group of Europeans who came to our country for practicing trade would change the destiny of this country forever. It was the greed that drove Europeans all the way to India. The Britishers among them were the winners. Not only did they manage to colonise the majority of the country, the impact they had on our history still gives us chills.
The entire scenario revolving around the partition can be traced back to one of the most cruel and brutal policies adopted by the Britishers for India, i.e. ‘Divide and Rule’. During that time, Hindu, Muslims and Sikhs were the dominant religious groups in India. The British’s strategy was to turn these religious groups against each other so that they would be busy fighting against each other rather than revolting against colonial rule. But a few freedom fighters managed to unite the people of India and started their fight for complete Independence from the Britishers. At those times, there were three main political groups in India; Indian National Congress headed by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, All India Muslim League headed by Mohammad Ali Jinnah and various small political groups.
Mohammed Ali Jinnah and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru | Via Open The Magazine
The Britishers passed the Indian Government Act, 1935 which gave a new political structure to the Indian provinces while still under the authority of the British parliament. This act also set up a local government with religious representatives, in which Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs came under the general category. At this time, the violence between Hindus and Muslims were increasing and in the subsequent election. the Indian National Congress won 707 seats, while the All India Muslim League won only 106 seats. Most of the muslims voted for other local parties rather than aligning with their national party.
An increase in violence against muslims in various parts of India along with a low representation of muslims in the parliament made Mohammad Ali Jinnah nervous. He thought in order to safeguard the interest of muslims, who he thought would become a minority and would face oppression under the government, believed that it is important to have their own independent state, thus giving rise to the modern day pakistan. The then Viceroy of India, Lord Mountbatten brokered the deal between Nehru and Jinnah for the partition and Britain’s exit from India. A British lawyer named Cyril Radcliffe, a person who had never visited India, was given the responsibility to draw borders for a muslim majority nation within 40 days! He had to use outdated maps and outdated consensus to draw the borders between two countries.
When the partition was announced and borders were decided, there was a huge surge in refugees and violence. Many Hindus and Sikhs fled from Pakistan to India and many Muslims fled to Pakistan and east Pakistan (modern day Bangladesh) fearing religious persecution. Most of the violence and border crossing was seen in Punjab and West Bengal. Many people had to leave behind their assets and livelihood and shift to a whole new place within a short period of time. The partition in short was a huge mess, thus creating two new nations who would be in a situation of war and enmity for many years to come.
But it was not just the partition which daunts us till this date. It is the British legacy which is still prevalent in modern Indian society. Our society still gives importance to learning and speaking English and people who are ignorant about the language are considered backward or uneducated. Parents force their child to be fluent in the English language, while not teaching or giving less importance to their own mother tongue. In India it is considered that in order to be successful in life it is important to be fluent in English (China, Japan and Germany send their regards!). But it’s not just limited to the language. The britishers also changed the historic documents and facts in order to suit their narrative.
We appreciate the Britishers for introducing railways in India, while in reality they were built using the Indian taxpayers money. The main intention of constructing the railway lines was to facilitate easy transportation of the British goods to different parts of the country and ensure efficient trade. What was in it for the Indians? We studied chapters on Mughal empires and their kings, but we didn’t study in detail about our brave Indian warriors like King Krishnadevaraya of Vijaynagar empire, Raja Man Singh of the Rajputs (general of king Akbar) and many more. The elected parliamentarians in India still say Aye and no while voting. The Britishers stole various artifacts, precious metals from India. They forced Indians to purchase goods manufactured in the UK, charging them a higher price. Some experts estimate that Britain owes nearly $30 Trillion in reparations! Let this number sink in!
These facts and analysis are not supposed to make the world sympathise for us. It should make us proud of what we have achieved in these 75 years of Independence while we faced so many difficulties in the past. We Indians have the ability to face and overcome any situation, irrespective of how difficult it is. Be it India’s independence struggle, the partition, wars with Pakistan and the latest Covid-19 pandemic, our country has a never give up attitude and faces the challenges with utmost courage. We should be proud of our cultures and traditions and promote it on the global stage. This Independence Day, let’s promise ourselves not to be intimidated by foreign forces and work towards making our country proud!
By Nikhilendra Mithanthaya