Where RSS and Shashi Tharoor agree on British colonialism

The time has come to decolonise Indian minds completely.

 |  5-minute read |   16-03-2017
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When truth and lies are being blurred, the public may be detached with their own history. India is no exception. That’s what we have seen in the post-British era.

The teaming up of Left-centred intellectuals and British loyalists distorted Indian history in a drastic manner. It had far-reaching consequences in terms of misleading a generation whom they served with unwanted stuff.

The right-wing intellectuals, who enjoy the backing of the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh), have been fighting against the British-sponsored history of India through multiple platforms.

Now, the ideologues of RSS might be impressed with Congress lawmaker Shashi Tharoor for his rational take on pre-Independence India and British colonialism.

In a recent article written for aljazeera.com, the former diplomat once again attacked Britain for its inhuman acts during its imperialist Raj.

“I recently wrote to the government of India to propose that one of India's most renowned heritage buildings, the Victoria Memorial in Kolkata, be converted into a museum that displays the truth of the British Raj - a museum, in other words, to colonial atrocities,” he stated in his piece.

Tharoor’s article is a pointer to explore his incredible nationalistic credentials, which we cannot see in the Congress leaders of this age. He is proud of India’s ancient glory and the world leader status it once held in the good old days, exactly what the RSS has been trying to spread since its inception in 1925.

India was the world leader before the British era, contributing around 27 per cent to world GDP. By conquering one of the richest countries in the world, the British decimated it to a land of illiteracy and backwardness while their rule lasted over two centuries.

History texts tell us that Victoria Memorial symbolises the glorification of British rule in India. That’s why Tharoor has put a strong and relevant argument that it should be converted into a museum to colonial atrocities and imperialist brutalities.

Tharoor’s argument has great significance in the context of analysing British rule in India. Between 1900 and 1950, the Indian economy grew at an average of 0.8 per cent a year. In 1952, India’s share to world income plunged as low as 3.8 per cent.

This should be compared with the magical GDP figures of India in the pre-colonial era. As many unbiased historians stated, it was a golden age of prosperity, and India had a sound financial system to challenge the Europe with.

Like all invaders did in history, the British plundered and looted India's wealth. Eminent British economist Angus Maddison (December 6, 1926- April 24, 2010) did some exceptional studies about GDP figures that go back to 1 AD, which is grand enough to show that British rule took India to a dark age of economic stagnation.

According to Maddison, India and China were the world leaders in the past. His studies show that both countries together contributed 50.5 per cent to world GDP in 1000 AD.

In 1600, the share of India and China to world GDP went up to 51.4 per cent. India’s contribution was 22.4 per cent and China’s was 29 per cent. In 1700, the scenario changed a little bit where India scored well surpassing China. India’s contribution to GDP increased to 24.4 per cent.

Do you know the growth rate of India between 1500 and 1600? It was 22.7 per cent! What a mind-blowing figure when we think of our present GDP growth rate. India had a GDP growth rate of 22.2 per cent in the period of 1600-1700, and 21 per cent between 1700 and 1820.

Great Britain was to blame for the GDP collapse, in making this once wealthy country impoverished in all means. This is what nationalist historians argue. And this is the T-junction where the RSS meets Tharoor.

victoria-embed_031617011115.jpg History texts tell us that Kolkata's Victoria Memorial symbolises the glorification of British rule in India.

“India had GDP figures close to 30 per cent in the Middle Ages and the Narendra Modi-led NDA government will take initiatives to achieve the former glory of the country," Union minister and RSS-BJP leader Harsh Vardhan said in April 2015, a view similar to that of Tharoor.

From the education system to government machinery, we are still following the colonial legacy. And most of us are unaware of the atrocities of the British when they ruled India and the depth of their plunder to make India an impoverished state. With his impeccable skills in writing and oratory, Tharoor has been spearheading this message with great vigour for many years.

The speech he made at an Oxford Union debate in 2015 on the same topic went viral on social media, all for good reasons. He came up with a no-nonsense view on whether Britain owed its former colonies reparations.

As Tharoor pointed out, there prevails a perception that British rule was a blessing in disguise for India, and Nehruvian socialist intellectuals are of the opinion that they gifted India modern services including the railways. But, as the Congress leader states, systems like the railways were basically developed for the benefit of Britishers, not for Indians.

The time has come to decolonise Indian minds completely. Every Indian should know that he/she has a great legacy to espouse. As a leader with strong roots in the RSS, Modi has the chance to mull over the suggestions of Tharoor regarding the establishment of a museum on British colonisation of India.

Also read: Colonial hangover: How we let the Brits still rule us


Dipin Damodharan Dipin Damodharan @dipinbharath

The writer is co-founder of EduQuest and Ex-Editorial Head, DC Media, DC Books.

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