Monday, September 24, 2007

A celebration of British colonialism in India !

I have no objection to descendants of Genghis Khan deciding to hold a quiet, prayerful ceremony to commemorate their ancestor.

I have no objection to some British going quietly to Lucknow and other parts of India and paying homage at graves of some of their colonialist ancestors, as a private visit from close relations.

But I object to them making an excursion of it, coming in large numbers to make a spectacle, to commemorate 150 years of a colonial war against the Indians.

Because then they will be walking rough-shod over the sentiments of the people of India, whose ancestors were the victims of these British soldiers.

The decision of some British soldiers and civilians to go to Lucknow to honor soldiers that were involved in suppressing the 1857 Sepoy Mutiny, which Indians regard as the first war of independence, has created a furor in India.

The visitors from the UK even “ hoped to install a plaque in a church in Meerut commemorating the bravery of British soldiers at the site of another key flashpoint during the 1857 rebellion”, according to a report by Reuters.

If the British visitors were moved by respect for their ancestors, over 150 years later at that, they could have gone to Lucknow in smaller numbers and paid their discreet homage. They could have done it every year, and nobody would have objected.

Instead they are planning a well-choreographed event. Would the Indians be entirely wrong if they apprehend that this visit is less about homage and more about revisionism in British thinking about its colonial role ?

The history of the West as colonizers is a part of their history that they should do their best to help others to forget. It was a period of untold brutality, and exploitation which people in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East are still trying to come to terms with. It is a period that the British, the French, the Portuguese and other colonialists should also come to terms with in humility and contrition.

Today the West is horrified by the cruelty and massacre of people in the Africa and Asia. They hold their kerchiefs to their noses, figuratively, when referring to people like Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe or President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran. They forget that less than a 100 years ago, the Western colonialists were the butchers of Asia and Africa.

A public commemoration in Lucknow, India would be a celebration of that butchery !

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