Build a museum that educates people on British Empire's murderous rule over India, says acclaimed author

Britain reduced it 'over two centuries of looting and exploitation, one of the poorest, most diseased and most illiterate countries on Earth,' says Sashi Tharoor

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A world-renowned author is calling for museums in London and India to demonstrate Britain's role in reducing the country to one of the "poorest, illiterate and diseased places on earth".

Shashi Tharoor wants and “enduring reminder” to educate school children about how the British Empire killed millions, created famine and orchestrated a “divide and rule” campaign.

In an article for Al Jazeera, he said that India was one of the world’s richest countries before British rule, producing 27 per cent of the world's gross domestic product in 1700.

Britain reduced it “over two centuries of looting and exploitation, one of the poorest, most diseased and most illiterate countries on Earth,” added the 61-year-old MP, who chairs the Indian parliament’s foreign affairs committee. 

“An enduring reminder is needed, both for Indian schoolchildren to educate themselves and for British tourists to visit for their own enlightenment,” he said. “As I say to young Indians: if you don't know where you have come from, how will you appreciate where you are going?”

The London-born author notes that there is no museum devoted to Britain’s imperial conquest in India.

So the former United Nations secretary asked for the Victoria Memorial in Kolkata to be converted into a museum remembering the British Raj atrocities.

Five of the worst atrocities carried out by the British Empire

Among the incidents that need documenting are the Amritsar massacre, which saw colonial soldiers kill between 379 and 1,000 people who were peacefully protesting against British rule. 

Another 1,100 were injured in just 10 minutes, under the orders of Brigadier Reginald Dyer, who was later lauded a hero by the British public, which raised £26,000 for him as a thank you.

Mr Tharoor added that there was also no memorial for "the deaths of 35 million Indians in totally unnecessary famines caused by British policy, or the 'divide and rule' policy that culminated in the horrors of Partition in 1947 when the British made their shambolic and tragic Brexit from the subcontinent."

He said the "lack of such a museum is striking.”

Between 12 and 29 million Indians died of starvation during British rule.

Mr Tharoor also claimed that the Indian railway was a “colonial scam” designed to reap further British benefits.

“And at the end of it all, they went home to enjoy their retirements in damp little cottages with Indian names,” he added.

He also wrote how homosexuality is outlawed in India only because Britain suppressed the country’s ancient Hindu texts, which he believes were more liberal.

India, the world’s largest democracy, still allows Gay Pride marches in major cities however.

A YouGov poll last year found 44 per cent were proud of the British Empire and 43 per cent believed it a “good thing”.

The empire governed a fifth of the world’s population at its height in 1922.

The Independent has contacted the Department for Culture Media and Sport for comment but none was available at the time of publication. 

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