That’s what one Mr. Aakar Patel wants us to do. Or at least, wishes they hadn’t left India quite so soon. Check out this phenomenally shortsighted article in the Mint. Or must I say, blindingly Anglophile? I really don’t know how to classify this article. It is one thing to point out that there are problems with governance in India. It is quite another to wish an alien government had stayed sixty years longer than it actually did. Before you read on, read this article by the same person in the International News, a Pakistani site. Also, read this rebuttal by Rohit on his NationalInterest blog.
The problem is that Patel really seems to believe what he says: that the British were benevolent rulers, with India’s best interests at heart; that we could have been better off if the British had stayed another sixty years. I do not dispute the fact the British brought a number of good things to India. Think about the railways, the administrative services, the English language, and you will see what I mean. I agree. We owe much of what we see in India today to the fact that we were ruled for over 400 years by a foreign government.
But think about this. The same government threw our people into prison for the crime of questioning their authority over a country and is, arguably, not theirs. The same government skinned our people alive with the imposing burden of taxes, and denied basic human rights to about one-fifth of humanity. Let us not forget that the British government that gave us a decent system of education also founded whites-only clubs and cricket grounds were boards proudly bore the words, “Dogs and Indians not allowed.” Let us also not forget that, by Patel’s own admission millions of people died in several famines across the country during the rule of the British. And, we would also do well to remember that in the last sixty-two years, the country has not faced a single famine.
This is not to eulogise the Indian government and claim it has done its best. No. It simply means that the government listens to the people who brought it to power, not because governments are inherently noble, but because they know they can be thrown out in the next elections by the same people who elected them. It is this kind of control that gives us the right to express ourselves freely. It is precisely this freedom that has today allowed Patel to even publish something as inherently anti-establishment as this article.
The point here is not to rubbish the contribution of the British to infrastructure development or education in India. But, in acknowledging their positive influences, we must not become so blind to their faults that we wish they had stayed longer. That is extremely dangerous. Blind adoration is never good.
Yes, we Indians are corrupt, inefficient and nepotistic. But, however inefficient we may be, we still hold the right to rule ourselves. Don’t judge us because we are imperfect. Let us make our mistakes, pick ourselves up, and continue on our path to discovering the best way to govern ourselves. Don’t assume someone else knows better because they come from the west of the Caucasus. It would do well for us to remember that the British, the French, the Americans and every other developed country has travelled the path we are treading today. They have made their mistakes, learnt from them and are governing themselves reasonably well today. That might take another century in India. But, let us be. We will learn. Sooner or later.