The Independent’s journalism is supported by our readers. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn commission.

Think India should be grateful for colonialism? Here are five reasons why you're unbelievably ignorant

To suggest that Britain was a benevolent colonial power, as the historian Andrew Roberts has done, is an offensive myth that must be de-bunked

Amit Singh
Tuesday 10 November 2015 16:20
Comments
Left: A family of semi-starved Indians who have arrived in Calcutta in search of food, during the famine of 1943. Right: The Koh-i-Noor stone in the Queen Mother's crown Rex Features
Left: A family of semi-starved Indians who have arrived in Calcutta in search of food, during the famine of 1943. Right: The Koh-i-Noor stone in the Queen Mother's crown Rex Features

The Koh-i-Noor diamond, otherwise known as the Mountain of Light, is worth around £100 million, and according to the British Monarchy has "legendary" status within their collection of Crown jewels. Set in the Queen Mother's platinum crown for her 1937 coronation, it's a dazzling symbol of the Royal Family and its history. But there's a catch – India wants it back. A collection of Indian businessmen and Bollywood actors have begun legal proceedings to have the diamond returned home.

Such news has been met with outcry in some quarters. Responding to the legal proceedings, the historian Andrew Roberts defended Britain's right to keep the diamond. "Those involved in this ludicrous case should recognise that the British Crown Jewels is precisely the right place for the Koh-i-Noor diamond to reside, in grateful recognition for over three centuries of British involvement in India," he said. "[This period] led to the modernisation, development, protection, agrarian advance, linguistic unification and ultimately the democratisation of the sub-continent.”

Robert's argument is borne out of colonial apologism and ignorance. To suggest that Britain was a benevolent colonial power is an offensive myth that must be de-bunked.

Here are five things Britain did that show why Indians have nothing to be grateful for:

1) Partition

Britain's most lasting and damaging colonial legacy in the sub-continent was the partition of India into three countries: India, Pakistan and (eventually) Bangladesh. Relations between these countries have been fraught ever since.

The partition led to one of the largest migrations in history, as many moved from India to Pakistan and vice-versa. It displaced 15 million people, and killed more than one million. When tensions boiled over in 1971, and Bangladesh fought for it's Independence from Pakistan, 500,000 people died.

The legacies of colonialism can still be felt today, as Pakistan and India remain at loggerheads, despite a shared history which was shattered by British divide and rule policies.

2) The Bengal Famine

Rather than benevolently ruling India as Roberts suggests, Britain oversaw some of the worst famines in human history. The famine of Bengal on 1943 was so bad that it's been likened to a genocide. Three million Indians starved to death. The policies of Winston Churchill, who was prime minister at the time, were largely to blame for the suffering. Britain exported huge amounts of food from India, all for its own consumption. 70,000 tonnes of rice left the sub-continent between January and July 1943.

Still not convinced? Churchill said this about the Bengal famine of 1943: “I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion. The famine was their own fault for breeding like rabbits.”

3) The Amritsar Massacre

In April 1919 thousands of peaceful protesters demonstrated against British colonial rule in Amritsar. They ended up being blocked into the walled Jallianwala Gardens. Once there, British troops led by General Dyer opened fire indiscriminately on the crowds, killing up to 1000 protesters. General Dyer was later lauded a hero by the British public, which afterwords raised £26,000 for him as a thank you.

4) British assistance in Operation Blue Star

Britain's negative impact on India didn't end after colonialism. Presenting itself as a great ally of the region, Britain continued to meddle in Indian politics. The most significant example of this was in 1984, when the British government advised the Indian government over Operation Blue Star. The operation saw the Indian government raid the Golden Temple – a holy site for Sikhs – which left hundreds dead. Such an attack would be the equivalent of the Britain advising the Italian government on attacking the Vatican.

The aftermath of this led to Indira Gandhi's assassination, and subsequent backlashes against the Sikh populations of India that led to 2,000 Sikhs being killed in Delhi. Only last year did Britain admit its role in it all.

5) The British seizure of Delhi in 1857

Britain's bloody rule of India was best encapsulated by the September 1857 seizure of Delhi during the now infamous Sepoy Mutiny. The British troops murdered sepoy troops, as well as indiscriminately massacring civilians. One young officer was apparently recorded as saying "the orders were to shoot every soul... it was literally murder."

Amit Singh is the co-editor of Consented. To follow: @Consenteduk

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in