Letter from New Delhi
Forgive but do not forget
Very pertinent for Indian Republic Day
“Forgive but do not forget,” said Kenya’s first President Jomo Kenyatta referring to atrocities by the colonial British rulers.
This is worth remembering on India’s Republic Day, 26 January.
Now an accomplished Indian author, Shashi Tharoor, made the same observation about the horrendous facts about the loot, killings and exploitation of India over 200 years detailed in his recent book, ‘Era of Darkness; The British Empire in India’ (Aleph) published a couple of months ago.
Those of us educated in the colonial era have been brainwashed about how the British ‘civilized’ not colonized India and other countries like Kenya. How the British introduced schooling and education for the natives; applied ‘fair play’ with English law; built roads, railways, postal services to develop their colonies; developed farming and industries; bestowed the parliamentary system of government and so on and on were all drilled into our brains to thanks the rulers.
On the contrary, the British ruthlessly exploited, oppressed and tortured their subjects and bled the colonies white! Tharoor presents the stark facts with passion, sarcasm and dark humour. And every statement is well documented and referenced. Here are a few:
– India was a prosperous nation in the 18th century as documented by even the East India Company’s own men like Robert Clive, Macaulay and others. India’s share then of the world economy was 23%, as large as all of Europe put together. By the time the British left India in 1947, it was 3%.
– When Britain left India in 1947, India had a literacy of 16%; an average longevity of just 27 years and 90% of the population were in poverty.
– Between 1757 and 1900, the British per capita GDP increased in real terms by 347% while that of the Indian by a mere 14%.
– India experienced recurrent devastating famines due to the ruthless economic policies enforced by Britain. At least eleven major famines were recorded in different parts of India between 1770 and 1944. About 30-35 million Indians died in these famines.
– India exported to Britain £13m worth of goods each year from 1835 to 1872 with no corresponding return of money.
– The salary of the British Secretary of State for India in 1901, paid for by Indian taxes, was equivalent of the average salary of 90,000 Indians.
– Tharoor deals with the destruction of India’s textile industry and the ruin of its agriculture. India was also a great manufacturing nation before the British arrived. Its de-industrialization was systematically engineered by the British to capture the markets for its own producers.
– Tharoor shows how India’s vibrant steel and ship-building industries were also destroyed by colonialism. In the early 17th century, 4000 to 5000 ships were built at 400 to 500 tonnes each in Bengal for the Bengal fleet. Between 1801 and 1839, a further 327 ships were built there, but all British-owned. Gradually, by late 19th century, both industries were only a memory.
And what about the great British statesman Sir Winston Churchill? He was a vicious India hater. When he read a report about millions of Indians dying in Bengal due to famine, he wrote in the margin, “Is Gandhi among them?”
Does the book end by demanding Britain to repay the value of their loot? It would run into trillions of pounds, beyond the ability of a weakening Britain of today, much more than UK’s GDP. But UK must at least make a full and unconditional apology as in the case of Chancellor Willy Brandt to Polish Jews, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to Aborigines and Canadian Prime Minister Justine Trudeau for the Komagata Maru incident.
So what should Britain do to atone? Apologize, of course but also educate its children to how the Raj exploited India and other colonies.
Readers who wish to know more about the subject may watch the following videos:
Tharoor at Oxford
Launch of Era of Darkness
About the book
* * *
Mindfulness: A Modern Term But 2,500 Years Old!
The modern term for meditation is mindfulness but has been well known to spiritual seekers since the time of Gautama Buddha, over 2,500 years ago. Meditating, living each moment in total awareness has been the core message of the enlightened master Osho.
One of Osho’s dedicated disciples, Swami Chaitanya Keerti, has titled his latest book as ‘Mindfulness: The Master Key’ containing his published articles on diverse topics. However, mindfulness remains the central theme in these observations ranging from love to loneliness, beards to laughter, anger to celebration, among many others.
Although Swami Keerti is the author, he is the medium for Osho as this book presents the stimulating and spicy insights of Osho all the way. Osho is literally the unlimited ocean for his inspiration and observations. He quotes Osho in every article. Sometimes Osho’s words constitute the majority of the piece as in ‘The Spiritual Friendship’.
In the ‘Dhammapada, the Way of the Buddha’, Osho makes provides a fresh take on friendship: “Friendship is not something of the marketplace. Friendship is one of those rare things which belong to the temple and not to the shop. But you are not aware of that kind of friendship; you will have to learn it. Friendship is great art. Love has natural instincts behind it; friendship has no natural instinct behind it. Friendship is something conscious, love is unconscious.”
Swami Keerti is fully steeped in Osho’s vision after he was initiated by the enlightened master in 1971. Since then, he has been touring India and more recently abroad to share Osho’s vision by conducting meditation camps, workshops, delivering talks and writing articles. Even before he was invited to live in Pune’s Osho Commune in 1974, he had launched a publication in north India to share Osho.
While in the Pune commune, he was spokesperson for the Osho Commune International. Today, he contributes articles in Hindi and English to a number of mainstream publications. Thus, he is always brimming with positive energy of Osho reflected in his ever-present smile and laughter. His total dedication to his master shines on every page of this book.
Full of anecdotes, the handy book makes pleasant reading about so-called serious topics of spirituality. And this is the core message of meditation and celebration from Osho. Seriousness is a disease, says Osho. You will not find it in this book! Enjoy reading it!
Mindfulness: The Master Key by Swami Chaitanya Keerti (Wisdom Tree) Rs 245.
Kul Bhushan worked as a newspaper Editor in Nairobi for over three decades and now lives in New Delhi