Decolonization and India


How is colonial mentality hindering India’s success?

Colony is a term derived from Latin word “Colonia” meaning settlement or a farm. It is the settlement of people non-native to the land occupied by them in order to support their livelihood and exploit the nature of the land, and this political process is called “colonization”. Whether it is good or bad, is a different question because all the organisms on this earth have colonised the earth to sustain themselves biologically, but it becomes bad when any alien civilization occupies forcefully a land not belonging to it, but belonging to a different set of people with their own culture and civilization. India, that is Bharat, has been colonised for centuries under European powers, and the colonization that happened here was Imperial in nature. It came with the idea that India and Indians are people who lack civilization and their is a moral superiority for the Europeans to civilize them in exchange of civilizing them, which was beautifully theorised as “White Man’s Burden”.

While talking about decolonisation, we need to keep in mind that it is reversing the process of Imperial Colonisation. It is not wiping out the entire history of colonisation, but to remove the “Imperial” aspects from the colonial imprints on our civilization. We cannot undo the railways, judicial administration or remove the parliamentary form of government in India just because it was given to us by British Raj.

Decolonisation needn’t be from the physical artifacts or demographic change, but be from within the culture. The removal of the mentality of being helpless in front of a superior power is what needs to be dealt with.

The common colonial symbols are the European Style buildings, Centralised form of Government, English Language as an Official and Corporate Language for modus operandi, Judicial system and Police, etc. Some are visible and some are tangible. But all of them have the intangible aspect lurking behind them, which is the idea that the systems which evolved from this land called Bharatvarsha or Hindustan, is not worthy enough to stand the test of time and those who still follow the ancient organic culture of this country are backward and ought to be stereotyped as such in the modern world.

Nicely portrayed in the movie “Purab Aur Paschim” by Manoj Kumar as lead artist, it shows what decolonisation really means for the people. We adapt to the modern world but to upkeep the ancient age-old values which have formed the essence of our civilization in the manner which shape our personality and mannerism and makes us uniquely a national being.

We have always looked at our co-orient partners like Japan and China with awe and admiration for their achievements in economic and social development but have forgotten what made them such. Japan was the country which was not colonised by any European power rather it modernised along the lines of Europe and went ahead of them which resulted in Japan beating up Russia in 1905. So, it’s Shinto and Buddhist heritage was intact and rather flourishes more and more alongwith development in all of its front even after devastation afters 2nd World War. China had Qing dynasty ruling over the mainland till 1911, which didn’t let the colonial powers to take the affairs of the people directly into their hand and that’s why the culture was intact until the Cultural Revolution under Chairman Mao in 1967 but then China reinvented itself on its Confucian Ideology to keep its nationalist sentiments alive in the 21st century.

The things which define India are not simple, and hence we find it difficult to create a narrative in order to decolonise. Ideas are what people hold on to. For decolonisation to take place, there needs to be ideas which capture people’s imagination beyond their internal differences and unite them. Cricket gives India this opportunity to forget all its differences and unite, social and cultural differences gets starkly differentiated. Cricket just gives temporary emotional spark of feeling of belongingness to the nation, but is not a panacea. So the hunt for this nationalist mission will continue till we have already got something to cherish as a nation together which should be purely from the Indian Soil?

In philosophical sense, colonisation is the slavery of our conscience to an alien power or alien person, who doesn’t necessarily have to be someone from another nation or region. It can be slavery of any form, which gives benefit of hacking individual’s conscience to someone else. Self Rule or Swaraj as Indic Intellectuals have put forth, is what decolonisation has the end goal as the objective. Indian spirituality arising out of Dharmic bedrock of its communally diverse population, is what attracts the world. Buddha, Gandhi, Mahaveer, Kabir, Vivekananda, etc. have not been only national figures but internationally acclaimed and revered, and there message has all been to denounce the bondage of slavery of worldly materialist pleasures and free the mind to accept the divinity in all and have mutual respect for each other.

Economically, in this globalised world, it is difficult to have a cut-off from the inter-linkages of the trade and create a national self-sufficiency policy, and after 1991 LPG policy, we can expect India to be more and more dependent on the world market and can only hope to be more prosperous on the gross terms with increasing Capitalism. Capitalism promises freedom of individual to choose his/her livelihood and expands the consumer preferences and this increases the welfare but the fear that foreign neo-imperialism at play hasn’t subsided because of India’s colonial past when Europeans entered India as traders and then took away the governance from Indians.

Socially, driven with linguistic inferiority, there has been looking down upon everything that is Indian by the India’s elite circle. We would accept Machiavelli but not Chanakya, we would accept Pythagoras but not Sulba Sutras. This rampant hatred of ancient Indian knowledge systems are being institutionalised due to intellectual beggary in front of great foreign institutions, and it’s also because of weakened India’s Education System from the times of Macaulay. English has its advantages in being the international language holding command over the largest expanse of population in matters of trade and commerce, but as a matter of fact that language is the carrier of culture, the culture is gradually depleted when the native language gets out of fashion and people forget their mother tongue. And also English being the language for command of instructions in important fields of Natural Sciences, Law, Management, etc. it disincentivize the citizens to take up their mother tongue seriously.
Once a language is cut off from the knowledge system, it gradually dies and colonization has hampered India in this aspect a lot. Take away material from the people, they can create again, but take away their identity/language from them, they are broken and are easy to be enslaved with imperial ideas. They cannot recognise themselves and will get permanently disabled to express themselves in their authentic self, lose the pride of having their roots intact.

Politically, we have adopted the British format of governance, which suits a smaller population of Britain than to a large population in India. The ratio of representation of people’s voice and participation rate are despairing, while Gandhi’s idea of Gram Swaraj doesn’t seem closer to what was envisioned. There has been the creation of two broad classes of people – English educated Digitally Literate Upper Class and the lower class without the two qualification. Waiting for the time when this educational and technological gap will disappear and the class convergence will take place for the betterment of the country.

Yes, colonial mentality hinders India’s progress, not overtly but very subtly and dangerously. It needs to be observed and stemmed before it washes away the civilization that our ancestors had very diligently built for years, for us to nurture it further. Colonisation has happened and it has happened in one or the other form all over the world, but the success lies in how fast we remove the obstacles created by these colonial impressions and reclaim our past and take the past as inspiration to shape our future. We have to be BEE, have to collect the nectar from flowers and discard what cannot help us in the long term.

In Sanskrit Hitopadesha, we have example of the Swans, who are imagined to differentiate between milk and water from the solution and drinks only milk and discard the water. Analogically, Milk is the Good things from Colonial Past, Water is the irrelevant oppressing ideas dominating on us.