The British Raj

There isn’t any forthcoming day to commemorate the arrival of the British in India and neither am I trying to appease Mr. Brown and his acolytes. But an article on the use of contraceptive jabs to contain teenage pregnancy among British girls led me to recapitulate the influence of British imperialism on India and why we could be thankful to them.

History has revealed the scars the British inflicted on the mind and body of the Indian masses through macabre acts and disdainful activities carried out sans any respect. But, if we may dare to look beside the atrocities committed, the British made substantial contributions to Indian society, though inadvertently. Imparting the language of English to the multi lingual country, teaching its subjects the game of cricket, sharing its judicial system with its colony, the introduction of locomotives in the hinterland and the establishment of educational institutions were valuable inheritances for India from the British.

Our Prime Minister today represents and addresses the Indian populace speaking as many as 32 languages in one language, thanks to our ex-imperialist rulers. Without the English language the fusion of different cultures and inter-community relations seems improbable. It has helped us overcome language barriers and rise as a united nation despite the differences. Today, Indian labour and its skills are widely sought after and the Indian diaspora is one of the most venerated communities abroad primarily because of their English education. If not for English we may have still thrived as a nation but the differences could have been overbearing and stark, laying the diffusion of the panoply of communities a massive challenge. If not for English I would have made a worse writer and you a bad judge!

If language binds the masses, the judiciary ensures its well being. Our judicial system was directly borrowed from the English. Now this may seem as the most evident of the contributions but was served on a platter for our nascent leaders and legislators. These laws and rules are applicable even today and define court proceedings and judgments.

Language to bind the masses, laws to govern them and trains to mobilize them. It was under the British rule that trains were first introduced in India. It was evidently never a walk in the park to cover the colossal territory of Mother India and the advent of railways empowered the people, granting them freedom of movement and trade. The Indian railways cover every nook and cranny of our land reaching out to obscure villages and bustling towns alike.

Another important contribution was the establishment of educational institutions. It was imperative for them to establish educational institutions not just to cater to the needs of the huge contingent of British but also to educate its subject. These institutions liberalized the youth helping them come into their own Schools and colleges were established under the British aegis, and even after a century, today, rank among the best in society. They are morphing today’s youngsters into socially aware and awakened citizens of this country.

Probably the most inconsequential yet apotheosized was the inheritance of the game of cricket. Cricket- another eulogy would be otiose but none shall cease anyway. The national religion requires no analogy for its ubiquity. Played and followed by adolescents and septuagenarians alike, if it was a faith it would have found a billion takers. From those early days when only the elite could pad up, cricket today has evolved to be the first love of the archetypal Indian.

Seems like the British impinged on our society more than we thought. For I have proved beyond doubt that these were gifts of British munificence. Then why do we still consider them mercenaries and blood suckers? Good riddance to my masquerade.

It is true that most of their establishments and contributions to society were to cater to their selfish needs as a conduit for harsher governance and greater gains. Also, it would not be unwise to believe that as most gains are tangible most of their preposterousness was intangible and is thus not topical [except for history books]. But our forefathers, barring the sycophants, were the ones who bore the brunt of British brazenness and sado-masochism. It was them who were tortured and brutalized. Thus, the gains were easily outnumbered by the losses Indian society faced due to British rule.

Nilesh Lodha

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