Many Indians have different thoughts about the British and what they did for us. Some say that the British actually did a lot for us. But Shashi Tharoor shares his views that they did what they did for themselves and not for us. The wealth of thousands of Indians was consumed completely by a few British families.
For example, you might think they cared about us enough to open institutions just to educate us. The British educated Indians not because they cared about our literacy, but because they found it too expensive to bring clerks from England, so they wanted Indians to do the job for them. They did not let Indians rise above a certain rank in all fields, no matter how educated they were. All the white collar jobs were reserved for the British.
As Tharoor says, Britain’s Industrial Revolution was premised upon the deindustrialization of India. He also tells us the sad story of the Indian weavers who used to weave some of the best cloth in the world. It was said that muslin from India was as fine as woven air! But the British came in and broke all their looms. They also smashed their thumbs so that they could not weave even if they got their looms repaired.
Tharoor mentions the Great Bengal Famine. Although the main cause for this was the taxes imposed by the British, they did nothing to fix it. He claims that Churchill deliberately diverted the necessary supplies for the dying Bengalis elsewhere. Churchill is believed to have said that important supplies shouldn’t be wasted on “anyways underfed Bengalis.” When a few British men who sympathized with the Indians wrote to Churchill about the worsening conditions, he wrote in the margins of the files, “Why hasn’t Gandhi died yet?” And yet many worship this man as one of the greatest rulers of all time.
The British simply ruled India for themselves and not for us. Shashi Tharoor’s beautifully put speech elaborates on this theme with a touch of humor. This is a must-watch video for all those other proud Indians out there!
An Era of Darkness – The British Empire in India by Shashi Tharoor