Dr Shashi Tharoor - Looking Back at the British Raj in India

Dr Shashi Tharoor - Looking Back at the British Raj in India

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[Applause] we have much to celebrate in the relationship between India and the University of Edinburgh and I'm delighted that this year our speaker in this headline event on India Day is dr. Shashi Tharoor dr. Thoreau is a globally recognized speaker and author on the economics and politics of India as well as on freedom of the press human rights Indian culture and international affairs dr. Thoreau is
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currently serving as a member of parliament in India a role he has held since 2009 previously he was Minister of State in the Government of India for External Affairs and for Human Resource Development dr. Thoreau also has an outstanding record of service internationally through his work for the United Nations between 1978 and 2007 where he rose to the rank of undersecretary general for communication
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and public information an acclaimed writer he has authored 16 best-selling works of fiction and nonfiction since 1981 all of which are centred on India and its history culture politics society and foreign policy he's also the author of hundreds of columns and articles in publications such as the New York Times The Washington Post Time magazine Newsweek and The Times of India his is a
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strong clear and articulate voice and his analysis and the debate more generally about a fraught period of history are at the heart of many of my colleagues teaching programs in the Social Sciences here at Edinburgh his talk today looking back at the British Raj in India will explore how the British Raj has spent the narrative around India UK relations in his most recent monograph in glorious Empire what the British did to India dr. Thoreau provides a bold and incisive
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reassessment of colonialism he stresses how important it is for us to reflect on history and in his analysis he draws out important essence on how we might best move forward whether or not we agree with all of dr. Thor's ideas he's played an invaluable role in stimulating an important debate worldwide on post-colonial relations dr. Shashi Tharoor is one of those rare people who can be genuinely seen as a polymath he has such outstanding credentials as a
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scholar a politician an international civil servant a novelist and so much more it's a real honor and pleasure to welcome him to the lectern to deliver his talk today [Applause] thank you so much professor meal and principal Shay distinguished members of the faculty students friends I hope that covers everybody very good to be with
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you and in this magnificent all that I haven't stopped admiring since I stepped into it a few minutes ago it really is a wonderful setting to be able to speak about issues that go back as old as this building out here but I do want to acknowledge as principal O'Shea has just mentioned the extraordinary connection of this university to India the work of one of your early principals one of his
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distinguished predecessors William Robertson in the late 18th century in writing one of the very first books about Indian Commerce the fact that the oldest Indian Students Association in the UK is yours and that goes back 140 years this is a remarkable legacy and it's it's it's wonderful to be here and in a small way to participate in that legacy looking back on the British Raj
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in India at this time which is of course the 70th anniversary of India's independence he is really about looking back at a tumultuous period of history on which of course there are various opinions I have done so in my still relatively new book in glorious Empire what the British did to Indian and it's a book which emerges unusually enough
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from a speech I hadn't really planned to write this book I did do a PhD very many years ago the hard way not the shadowkhan way back so but now he's somebody I know and like a great deal and and don't get me wrong I think it's I think it's it's a pleasure that he was here a couple of years before me but just to say that then I did I did the PhD the hard way but then I went into
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the United Nations and and have really not kept up with the academic rigor that would be required of somebody writing a work of serious history but I was invited by the Oxford Union to participate in a debate a debate on topic the student said which was Britain owes reparations to her former colonies and though I was never particularly keen on the idea of reparations for the simple reason that I think the damage
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done by colonialism was so immense that it is essentially unquantifiable how do you put a value on the literally millions of lives lost for example just the 35 million Indians who died totally unnecessary deaths in British created famines and and and then you say well all right so any sum of reparations that is payable would not be credible and any sum that is credible would not be payable so why bother with the reparations route at all but I agreed to
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speak nonetheless because I felt it might be a good opportunity to lay out some of the basics about British colonialism in India that were in danger of being forgotten and eclipsed with a lot of the revisionist popular history that had reached the bestseller charts in the last decade and a half or so so I spoken on the question of reparations I said we'll look since this is about reparations a symbolic one pound here for the next 200 years would
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do it because what I'm really interested in is atonement not not money but when I made this speech it seemed to have an impact on the audience because we won the debate rather handily so many members of the audience went into the yes lobbies that the post debate reception had to be delayed for half an hour I think we're counting the results was very great but I forgot about it and then three or four weeks later the Oxford Union posted the debater individual speeches in the
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debate on YouTube and my speech went viral we suddenly had an enormous frenzy with some 3 million people downloading it in the first 24 hours alone and amid all the hubbub the speaker of Indian Parliament had some kind words to say the Prime Minister of India no less said and this is somebody who after all I am a member of the Opposition in Parliament he said this is an example of somebody saying the right thing at the right place which as you can imagine set some
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of the of the pigeons in British Chancellor is fluttering because he was 2 months away from his maiden visit to London but anyway there was all this excitement my publisher rang me up and said look you've got to turn this into a book and I said why bother surely everyone knows this already and he said no they don't know this already because if they did your speech wouldn't have gone viral and that seemed to be irrefutable logic and so I decided to to write this book and this book therefore emerged from that speech but it's
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somewhat perhaps more forcefully considered more structured and certainly bear bears the imprint of of considerably more research than a speech largely delivered off-the-cuff could have done now what is the the central argument to make about the the British Raj I state a sense that the British came to a country which was one of the richest countries in the world in fact
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in 1700 India was the single richest country in the world with a GDP that accounted for 27% of global GDP as late as 1800 India's GDP was 23% of global GDP these are figures established by the the famous now late I cannot econometrician and historian Angus Medicine a society which was a fairly sophisticated and thriving society the world's leading exporter of textiles for
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the preceding two thousand years major country and shipbuilding and steel making complex society of merchants artisans bankers many thriving cities urban developments it came to this country and in 200 years of plunder devastation and loot a Hindi word which the British took into their dictionaries as well as their habits it reduced this
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country to a poster child for third-world poverty so that when the British left in 1947 this country was now not just poor but ninety percent of its population was living below the poverty line it left a country with a life expectancy of twenty-seven and a literacy rate below seventeen percent so the story of these two hundred years of devastation needed to be told and told whole and that's that's what I've tried to do but
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equally I felt I had to take into account the various apologia for the empire that had been articulated by otherwise thoughtful historians like Professor Fergusson and others more popular writers like Lawrence James and Andrew Roberts and so on who argued that the British Empire was in Neil Ferguson's memorable words a jolly good thing with a capital J a capital G and a
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capital T and that had laid the foundations for the globalization from which India was so greatly benefiting at the time that he was writing so III do I decided therefore to take up the specific claims made for the benefits of empire and to refute them one by one I can't obviously give you all of that in the time available to us I'll try and give you a reasonably quick summary of the main points so that we can have an exchange
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in the Q&A to follow and then if your curiosity is still not satisfied to pick up the book which I'll be signing at the end of the talk and and which has something like 30 pages of endnotes that point you to my sources for further for further clarification so broadly what did the British do they came to this country and they the East India Company which in its charter by the way explicitly was given by the British Queen the right to use force in pursuit
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of its economic aims came to India and and the British has all we have always had a great gift of timing the Mughal Empire at that point was at its peak there was a great deal of wealth about the emperor Aurangzeb in 1700 had revenues that exceeded those of all the crowned heads of Europe put together his revenues alone were greater than those were ten times greater than those of louis xiv in versailles that's how
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wealthy and optimal he was but in the early 18th century after Aurangzeb the Empire began to disintegrate it took a couple of body blows from a pair of invasions most famously or notoriously that of the person team that is shy in 1713 who so completely looted and devastated the Mughal capital Delhi that it said that nobody in Persia had to pay any taxes for the next three years so much were the riches that they had taken out of India and this weakened Mughal
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Empire the various governors of the of the of the provinces around the country had essentially then become because of the central government's weakness had become potentates semi independent rulers in their own right which meant that the British as they began to establish themselves by force of arms never had to take on the entire might of India but rather could sort of expand gradually by defeating one prince after
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another one one navab or Maharaja after another and gradually spread the red stain of British rule across the subcontinent this they did and and what they did essentially then was to proceed to D industrialize this economy I'll just give you a couple of examples the textile industry was India's greatest triumph because going right back to the days of the Roman Empire India was a world-renowned
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exporter of textiles particularly fine Cotton's muslins gauzes linens and there are accounts by Pliny the Elder of debates in the Roman Senate in which senators decry that vast quantities of Roman gold were being sent off to India because of the taste of their women folk for these fine Indian thoughts not only that in the Roman Empire but I found accounts in British
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writings English writings of the 17th and 18th centuries of English shopkeepers trying to pass off shoddily made European cloth as made in India because made in India was what had the cachet of being highly desirable hiring high quality cloth sought after by the aristocracy of Europe as well as of course England there were the darker causes for example said to be as light
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as woven air so fine that you could pull an entire sari through a ring and and these these wonderful textiles essentially could not be competed against so the the British proceeded to destroy them smash the loos drive the weavers arts of employment in one notorious incident I'm careful to say one according to oral law there were hundreds of such incidents but they've not all been documented as British
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historians like to point out but there is one that was documented by a contemporary Dutch observer in one notorious incident the British chopped off the thumbs of the weavers so that even if the looms were rebuilt they couldn't weave again and and and the textile industry was essentially essentially destroyed we had the first major urban centers in the world to be to reduce in population Murshidabad and taka the statistics show how these
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places lost people as the textile industry collapsed and the weavers were driven out of these cities into a countryside that couldn't support them and of course the British then impose punitive duties and tariffs on the remaining cloth that Indians were exporting essentially destroying the export industry there were various other restrictions including on shipping and so on and lifted duties in tariffs so since they control the ports didn't have
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any duties and tariffs on British cloth coming in to India thereby acquiring a vast captive market through through force majeure that was the textile story in short shipbuilding similar story India had two major shipbuilding industries on the East Coast in the West Indian wood teak and mahogany in particular highly sought after lasted much longer an average Indian ship lasted about 25 to 26 years
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of sailing Ally seas whereas the average European ship made of fur or pine never lasted more than six or seven years and the craftsmanship I've made sure to quote British sources about the high quality of Indian craftsmanship so the British then initially when they came said well this is wonderful why don't we make our own ships here and they started making ships in India but that suddenly meant large numbers of ship rights and fitters and carpenter has been thrown out of work in the London dock yards so the British Parliament promptly passed
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an act that for bad ships made in India from plying the lucrative trade routes across to England and in international waters that pretty much killed the indian shipbuilding industry and giving you short summaries there are somewhat linear versions of all of this in the book or the steel industry India had invented an extraordinary steelmaking technology called acoustical the Europeans can pronounce that so they called it would steal wot Zed you could look it up but it wasn't an East European word as it sounds from the
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spelling it was mangling of an Indian name the technology was so highly sought after the Arabs came and learned it to make what was known as Damascus steel and when the English soldiers first killed Indians they in their early battles they made sure to dismount and steel the Indian swords because the quality of the steel was so much superior to anything they could actually get in Europe well that industry was destroyed again and and with various restrictions and what could be made Indians were simply
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not allowed to make steel under either the old technology or the new techniques that came into into being in the mid 19th century and I do tell briefly the story of how in the late 19th century when the Indian industrialist attempt a gtasa tried to to manufacture steel through setting up a modern steel factory he ran to such implacable British opposition to doing so that he spent about 20 years running around trying to get the various permissions required was being denied throughout
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every stage finally he did succeed in getting the permission but by that time he was so old that the the first steel ingots were produced under the stewardship of his son but anyway at that time a senior Imperial official the then chairman of the Railway Board sneered that he would personally eat every ounce of steel that an Indian was capable of producing I only regret the gentleman didn't live long enough to see the descendants of Sir Jamshedji Tata buy the remnants of British steel when
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they bought Corus a few years ago might have given him a bad case of indigestion but I mentioned these not to belabor the point but just to say that India was systematically industrialized since of course the counter-argument that is often made is look it's not our fault you know your textiles were all handloom your steel was an old-fashioned technology your shipbuilding was all wood you just miss the bus for the Industrial Revolution well I'm sorry we missed the bus because you threw us
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under its wheels the fact is that that grain you are the world leaders in the prevailing technology of the time you are able to do well enough to buy in whatever new technology is invented thereafter and there is no question that India would have been able as other countries did to buy into the Industrial Revolution had it been free and allowed to do so that some day on the deindustrialization argument but what else you had rapacious taxation so
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rapacious that contemporary comes and in all fairness the historical record has been meticulously maintained by the British you've got the House of Commons testimony and repeated hearings in the late 18th century all the way up the mid 19th century in which you can read detail the cons of how the East India Company's officials behaved and by the way they don't buy the myth that this was just a corporation ruling India and not Britain it was very much shall we
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say a mask for the British government first of all from 1774 onwards East India Company operated under a board of supervision of the houses of parliament secondly from 28% of the shareholders of this India Company were MPs and thirdly all the top officials were not only part of the British establishment but were appointed with the knowledge and consent of the British government so for example Lord Cornwallis after surrendering to George Washington in Yorktown was deployed to Bengal to be governor of
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Bengal so there's no real distance between British colonial imperial governmental authority and the so called corporate authority of East India Company it was British rule by in another form of wearing another mask so anyway you can you can read the accounts of their of their taxation policies for example not only with their tax there was their taxation more onerous than that of the most rapacious of those that preceded them so owner is in fact that there are
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innumerable accounts and British sources of Indian peasants fleeing the lands controlled by the British into the still remaining Indian rule states where they'd lead a more decent life but what was worse was the taxation was exacted pitilessly with ruthless means of enforcement including torture as well as with absolutely no exceptions made because of course the British did everything by the book so whereas Indian rulers could be pretty
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nasty too and in Libya taxes on people if there was a drought for example or if there was a death in the peasants family or a wedding in the business family what would happen is that the taxes would be reduced or waived or delayed or postponed that kind of flexibility was always implicit in Indian culture there was no room for that kind of flexibility in British culture everything had to be literally by the book you will pay 85% of your crop as tax or whatever and indeed the rates were often as high as
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that and and if you didn't some of the the torches and exactions were so severe that when they in a come to what was done to people who couldn't pay the tax was read out in the House of Commons in one famous incident the playwright Sheridan's wife Sharon was a member of the House Commons swooned in the gallery on hearing how horrible our countrymen were in India and had to be carried out bodily and this was reported in the papers of the time so you're looking at some some pretty awful behavior but
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taxation was just one aspect of it look for example at felons now India had droughts before but people had rallied around to save those who were starving or help prevent them from starving or give them charity they were starving a long tradition of helping those who needed food which is why for example for 2,000 recorded years of Indian history before the British came you have no 3000 a bigger pardon you have accounts of monks where the Buddhist Jain or Hindu
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monks going from door to door with a begging bowl asking for food and routinely being fed this was the the normal custom in the culture but what happened in this particular instance was that when the British came they operated weather in India or indeed in Ireland on four sets of principles the first was do not give charity because charity encourages idleness so there was simply no question of helping people just like that you all remember Charles Dickens's work
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houses for the poor you had to work for your money it was no charity given second principle was the free-market must prevail so if you're buying grain to fill the bread baskets of London from places where there is a drought and there isn't enough grain to go to go around and buy your Bry buying the grain you're driving up the price of the scarce grain there is beyond the capacity of those who need it who are starving to buy it for tough that's the law of the market you buy the grain and take it off to London third principle
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was the Malthusian one that is as Malthus said that if the land cannot sustain the population that's trying to live off it then people must die that's how the natural population balance will be reasserted let them die and the fourth principle was Victorian fiscal prudence that is do not spend money you haven't budgeted for and never budget for a famine so the result was an appalling situation when in these 200 years of British rule you have recorded evidence
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for at least 35 million people dying systematically as a result of British policy and it bookends the entire British Raj in the the first famous famine of the British Raj the Bengal famine of the 1770s one-third of the entire population the province of six million people died in the last major famine of the British Raj which was the 1943-44 great Bengal famine 4.3 million
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people died entirely because of decisions taken by a certain Winston Churchill now when you look at this and you look at the record in between it is as you can imagine proceed is made what striking is I'm sure the English people in this audience are saying but how we let that happen well initially these principles applied in fact these principles applied as I said across the board so in Ireland during the potato blight of 1840s this is precisely what occurred the Irish died because these
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same four principles were applied to them except that many Irish were able to hop on two boats and sail off to New York and Indians didn't have that option they just had to stay in India and die that was essentially their the alternative in the second half of the 19th century the Enlightenment had progressed sufficiently that British people had a public opinion had a conscience had a free press their articles about this and people were appalled to read accounts dispatches from India even it became weeks afterwards of people dying Lord
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Salisbury the Secretary of State for India later famous prime minister talked about having sleepless nights because of the 2 million people who died on his watch in the ERISA famine of 1866 because he had agreed that these four principles should be applied and age should not be given indeed not that not just that age should not be given but I have recorded in my book one instance of some poor kind-hearted gentleman and mr. McMinn perhaps a good Scot who tried to help try to help a person starving to
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death and was sternly warned by the British authorities on pain of deportation that he must stop offering charity because it was against British policy so this is as late as the 1860s but but this had begun to create a bit of a backlash and British public opinion so in the 1870s they decided alright we still won't give charity but we'll set up work camps so that Indians can work for food instead of starving to death and when they did that as Professor Mike DVS recorded in his in his marvelously
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and painful book late Victorian Holocaust the rations given to the inhabitants of the occupants of these work camps people who had to work and toil in order to keep body and soul together the rations given was less than half of what Hitler's Nazis gave the inmates of the Buchenwald concentration camp before sending them off to the gas chambers so that was British colonialism methods at its peak and what about the great Bengal famine
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I should tell the story if a new other reason then that he drooled shocked some of you the great big old famine occurred because indeed there was a drought in bingo land and supplies of grain but not not available people started starving but Churchill had ordered that food should be procured from Bengal and shipped off to Europe not just to aid the war if in fact not to aid the war effort immediately but to increase reserve stocks in Europe in the event of a future possible invasion of
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Greece and Yugoslavia so grain was sent off from Bengal prices became unaffordable people start to die the British official is the 1940s after all wrote to the Prime Minister mr. Churchill saying your decisions are causing people to die Churchill's response was I hate Indians there are beastly people with a beastly religion it's all their fault anyway for breeding like rabbits now these are exact quotes by the way word for word more people continue to that the death
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toll started mounting ships laden with reached from Australia were docking at Calcutta port and the British officials wanted to disembark the week to save lives Churchill said no the ships would sail on to Europe for these buffer stocks these reserve stocks more people died that figure kept mounting it reached 4.3 million when conscience-stricken British officials in Calcutta sent a memorandum to the Prime Minister and Downing Street about the consequences of his actions that
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literally millions were dying Churchill wrote on the margin of the file why hasn't Gandhi died yet and this is the man whom the British expect us to hail as some sort of apostle of freedom and democracy as you can imagine the very thought sticks in my craw so that is the British record on famines and there's more in the book but I won't belabor too many points because I do want to leave time for an exchange with you that's the best part of being in a
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university but let me talk briefly about some of the arguments that I made for what the British did for India rather than to India one example that is often cited is that India was unified because of the British that there wouldn't be in India today except for British rule first of all the very premise is is laughable because there had been an idea of India Bharat Varsha the land from the Himalayas to the oceans going back to
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the Rig Veda which is about 1500 BC a good 3,000 years or more before the British got there but what is more important was that successive Indian rulers had tried to consolidate the entire territory of today's India and indeed more including what's today Pakistan and Afghanistan in their empires and to had pretty much succeeded the Maurya Empire and a Chandragupta Maurya Ashoka controlled about 95 percent 90 percent of the entire subcontinent in the 4th century and
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third century before Christ and the Mughals under Akbar and up to Ahrens Abe in the 16th 17th centuries controlled about 95% of the subcontinent it speaks so the the desire to control all of India as one preceded the British by a long chalk secondly there was always a sense of civilizational unity in India well before the British there was for example Adi Shankara Shankar Acharya from my state of Kerala and extreme south travelling all the way to Kashmir
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in the north to Dwarka and the West to Puri in the east and establishing his temples his seats of religious learning as much as they're called and and many many other examples the Harvard scholar Diana Eck writes of the sacred geography of India MIT together she says by countless tracts of pilgrimage and if that seems a purely Hindu idea let me mention that the Muslims felt the same way Maulana Azad there's written of how Indian Muslims going on the Hajj were
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received by and greeted by other Muslims Arabs in particular as all being from a common civilization of space whether there were patterns from the northwest or thumbs from the southeast these Indian Muslims were all called as Hindi's people from Olinda so the world saw India as one before the British can claim credit for having knitted together but what the British actually did was to divide it because what they did was to essentially create
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the seeds of what became the destruction of this 3,000 year old idea of India in a policy that was explicitly minuted wonderful thing as I said about British oppression is all these things are always written down Lord elphinston after seeing Hindu and Muslim soldiers fighting side-by-side and and and each other's command under the banner of the enfeebled Mughal monarch against the foreign oppressor in the so called mutiny of 1857 the Indian revolt he
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wrote a memo in 1858 saying DVD at impera was the old roman maxim and it shall be ours and of course all of you good scholars in Edinburgh I know it wasn't just a room and Maxim it goes before the Romans to the Macedonians in the philip ii of macedon came up with a macedonia who came up with the DBD attempt at a phrase but the british were the first to apply it in India and they did it very systematically divide and rule became their ruling credo and they decided that the basis of divide and rule must be religious and they must be a conscious deliberate attempt made to
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foment separate religious consciousness amongst the communities of India to prevent a united opposition to them and they did this systematically they did it as I've documented it in great detail in the book sometimes through intimidation sometimes the granting of favors and sometimes through outright bribery one of the more amusing episodes was how when they partition Bengal in 1905 to create a muslim-majority province in the eastern part of Bengal the Muslim
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noblemen of Dhaka Nawab of Dhaka who was an oxonium absolutely refused and said certainly not this is a beastly idea I shall stand for it so they slipped him a hundred thousand pounds and he changed his tune so that was the way in which these advance these ideas were advanced they went right through when the British grudgingly granted very limited franchise in elections for a limited number of people to limit the number of seats in the Viceroy Council
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and provinces certain limits it in fact there's only one out of every 250 Indians had the vote they still did so on the basis of separate religiously separate of communal electorates while England would never a thought of say giving the gookju's of Golders Green their own electoral lists in India Muslims could only vote for Muslim candidates for seats reserved for Muslims so this is a way of ensuring that people force of their interests and religious grounds and thought of their political identity and religious grounds
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so when the Indian National Congress established in 1885 tried to represent all Indians in fact if you look at a list of their first twenty odd presidents first twenty years you'll find Christians Parsees Muslims and Hindus all presiding over the Indian National Congress and these were the lastly genteel Anglophile lawyers who were writing decorous petitions seeking the rights of Englishmen for the Indians nonetheless what the British did was was was to actually set up and encourage the
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setting up of a rival body the Muslim League organized on religious lines rather than co-opting the one body there was if they were serious about any notions of responsible self-government I've been given the signal that it's time for me to begin to start wrapping up so I won't go into the other examples until we get to our Q&A but if any of you is interested in for example some of the other alleged benefits of British rule and I will give one more the fact
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is that in every single case anything you can point to that India can claim as a benefit it is without exception something brought into India in order to serve British interests enhance British profits or improve British control no other purpose there is not one thing that was actually given to India to benefit Indians are very happy to explain that in more detail when the time comes up I'll give you one example which is too often cited to left out of this talk unless the
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railways won things they always find people falling back upon us well at least we gave them the railways well yes him you couldn't really take the all the tracks out of the ground could you and take them off but anyway the fact is that the railways were brought in explicitly for two purposes one was to extract resources from the inter land and ship them to the ports to take them off to England and the second was to send troops into the interior to fill any popular quell any popular unrest remember what's more striking is that even the building of the railways was a
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gigantic colonial scam what happened was that the British guaranteed to investors in the Indian Railways double the the dividends double the profits that they could make on any other British government investment at that time in other words you got double the rate of return on the highest returning British government securities it's the most profitable thing you can invest money in with in the 1840s and 1870s was the Indian Railways so you got the British making big profits and all the costs
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were paid for by Indian taxpayers without exception it was described at the time as private profit and public risk except there was the private profit was all British and the public risk was all Indian so lavishly did they spend on this because they were making money out of it at every stage that one mile of British railway at that time cost of a British Indian Railway bigger part not in Britain but India cost nine times what the same mile was costing at the same time in the US or Canada that was how much how extortion that even the
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construction of railways was and as I've described in the book in greater detail and I have time for now it was also run as a completely racist enterprise right down to the fact that when passenger wagons were eventually headed with wooden slats for benches for the Indians to to sit and travel on the Indian passengers paid the highest passenger rates of any railway in the world whereas the British companies paid the lowest freight rates of any of any companies in the world of any railways in the world to ship their goods on these railways I was only after
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independence that India India reversed this pattern and made it now the cheapest form of railway travel in the world anywhere though unfortunately also amongst the most expensive ways of shipping Freight but let me end by answering a question that many ask but what's the point of all this now it's been 70 years they're gone you know what you want out of this and as I said I'm not really looking for for reparations but I am looking for for atonement I think there is a moral debt
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that needs to be paid far more than a financial one and to my mind that can take a couple of fairly obvious forms the first is as I say through my British friends for God's sake teach unvarnished colonial history in your schools it is shocking that you can do a levels in history in England today without learning a line of colonial history the week my book came out in India by coincidence there was an article by a Pakistani journalist in The Guardian about raising two children one
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of the best and most expensive public schools in London had both done a levels in history and hadn't heard a thing about colonial history that's got to change and I think that must really change in the interests of Britain as well I recount for example a passage in the book about Horace Walpole taking a carriage down a London Street and describing building after building that has been built by Indian money he calls London the sinkhole of Indian wealth nobody in London today has any idea that
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much of so much of London's of the grand mansions were built by money extracted from the colonies you have undoubtedly the the big concerns about the way in which history is remembered all you've got now is is either historical amnesia no teaching of history or I mean in the school I know you can study Indian history in universities if that's your subject but obviously for a lot of people it won't be but you don't actually learn all this there and so there's no sense of the colonial connectivity
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I remember being struck by a wonderful protest by a number of black and brown Britons objecting to all the anti-immigrant language in the political space a few years ago and the photograph I saw in the newspapers was at least and black and brown people holding up placards that read in London this is holding a placard saying we are here because you were there and it's shocking it was surprising to me that the Britons actually needed to be reminded of that that that is something that perhaps is
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worth talking about the other thing worth worth talking about is the fact that in a country overflowing with museums I mean London is a capital littered with museums one thieves market after another and every single thing practically in all these museums was purloined from some colony over the over the last few centuries there's even an Imperial War Museum but there is no museum to colonialism there is nothing where a school child or a tourist or a visitor can go and see
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the whole story of what Britain did and gained from the various parts of the world it ruled as I said in the oxford debate yes the Sun never set on the British Empire because even God couldn't trust the Englishmen in the dark but that's because they were there helping themselves to everything they could find in all these places around the world and and it would be good if a museum were constructed to show it'd be good if there were monuments it's striking that in the heart of London there is a statue to the animals that fought for the
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Allies in the two world wars but there is no statue to the Indian soldiers who fought in the two world wars 1.3 million Indians fought in the First World War 1.7 million in the Second World War over a hundred and fifty thousand Indians perished in defense of Britain's freedoms and no statue I mean it's it's it's it's really quite remarkable actually when you think about it I think in the First World War more Victoria Crosses were won by
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Indians and by British soldiers they were they the famous Battle of Ypres which stopped the German advance the very beginning of the war when Britain was otherwise unprepared to resist the advance here you have Indian soldiers sailing to Egypt who were suddenly diverted on to Belgium because had been declared and we were able to stop the German advance and even live chappelle's you've got all these stories that are essentially unknown in Britain today and I think again that needs to be told but it's not just about remembering
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the remembering is important I'm I'm always saying to two young Indians if you don't know where you've come from how will you appreciate where you're going and I think that's true too for British young people too but it's something more and that's the perhaps the difficult part which I'll conclude I think that one essential form of atonement is an apology now I know many Britons will say but why should we apologize we haven't done anything to the Indians what's more there's nobody really alive today who profited much
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from the British Raj did anything to to the Indians and in any case of nobody alive in India today could directly you know suffer to the point of a British bayonet or whatever so why should we apologise to which I will point to to counter-examples first the German Chancellor really brought sinking to his knees on the Warsaw Ghetto in the 1970s in apology for what the German Nazis had done to the Polish Jews now Willy Brandt was a social democrat people like him had been persecuted by the Nazis he was completely innocent of
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any taint of Nazi wrongdoing but he felt as the embodiment of the German state that it's never too late to do the right thing that he needed to apologize on behalf of the German people and the second example I would point to is from somebody you honored in this University just a year or two ago Justin Trudeau the Prime Minister of Canada apologized to the people of India in the Canadian Parliament for one incident the so-called Komagata Maru incident where the Japanese ship the Komagata Maru
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laden with Indian refugees fleeing British rule was turned away at gunpoint from the Port of Vancouver and pretty much everybody on board later perished either on the high seas or a British Ann's when they landed and and and that was not a direct crime in that Canada didn't actually kill people but because they contribute indirectly to their deaths and they turned away asylum seekers Trudeau felt it was right to apologize that's something that Britain has never done and I have the perfect
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occasion to suggest because on the 13th of April 2019 you will have the centenary of the single worst atrocity of the British Raj in India not the worst in terms of numbers of people killed the British killed some hundred thousand people in Delhi alone in 1857 58 in putting down the so called mutiny but in terms of everything that happened around it and I'll take five minutes to tell you that story and I'll end to take your questions what the British did was
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as I said India supported them of the First World War and they said that they would accept this support which by the way it wasn't just the 1.3 million soldiers it was vast sums of money from a starving country money paid for not just by the Treasuries of the Maharajah's but by poor Indian taxpayers at the time when the Spanish Flu had taken a larger toll in India than any other country because public health under British rule was in such bad shape but India also supplied food clothing uniforms carts pack animals and even
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rail lines ripped out of the ground to go and aid the aid the war effort in Europe and Mesopotamia and they did so because the British promised them responsible self-governance at the end of the war and Indian leaders including Mahatma Gandhi who called for support for the war effort assumed this meant Dominion status which was what the so called white Commonwealth countries like Canada New Zealand Australia and South Africa enjoyed at the time well perfidious
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Albion broke its word won the war and didn't keep its promise not only no responsible self-government but in fact Britain chose to reimpose the wartime era prohibitions on freedom of the press freedom of assembly freedom of speech and so on whereupon protests immediately broke out across British India the British responded by declaring Martial Law they didn't use the word but they sent British generals and soldiers to quell unrest throughout British India and a man called Brigadier General Reginald Dyer showed up in the Punjab town of Amritsar
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to keep the peace there declare that people could not assemble in groups of more than five but he didn't realize that he'd overlooked that this was the Punjabi Spring Festival of besakih and in fact large numbers of people both Amritsar and from the surrounding villages had gathered to commemorate besakih in a walled garden jelly and wala bug just one gate one entrance to it and these were men women and children fed large numbers of women and children there was song and dance and speechifying and maybe some of the
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speeches were hostile to Britain but there certainly wasn't a single weapon inside now I heard these people had gathered he marched there with his soldiers didn't ask them why they were there did not order them to disperse did not even fire a warning shot he just ordered his soldiers to assemble at the gates for sole entrance and exit to the garden and to open fire on these unarmed civilians one hundred one thousand six
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hundred and fifty bullets were fired and I proudly boasted not a single bullet was wasted as the wailing screaming crowd rushed to the exits as daya proudly told requiring Commission later they made easier targets that's why I put my soldiers at the gate every bullet struck somebody the British acknowledged 379 dead the Indian claim the Indians claim the figure was over a thousand but certainly the bullet marks still stand it was a horrendous massacre but worse was to follow not only were these people killed others deeply wounded and maimed
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but died have barricaded the gates and left the dead the dying and the wounded to rot for 24 hours in the hot April Sun those still alive or wailing piteously for water and their families standing at the gate couldn't go in and help them Dyer ordered Indians to crawl on their bellies on a side lane and if there's so much as lifted their heads they had to bashed in by British stares after all this as you can imagine there was an uproar there was a commission of inquiry the House of Commons censured him the
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House of Lords however not only exonerated him but praised him that flatulent voice of Victorian imperialism Rudyard call him the man who saved India a collection was raised for him amongst the British in India and in London and the princely sum in today's money of a quarter of a million pounds was given to him together with a bejewel sword this entire package of events the in gratitude for the support and the war
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the betrayal of promises the cruelty of the massacre the indifference to Indians suffering afterwards the racism that accompanied it and then the self-justification and exoneration of the man all of this put together makes jelly and wallah about the single worst atrocity of the British Raj in India now can you imagine if on the centenary of that event a member of the British royal family because everything a floor was done in the name of the crown and no politician from Britain is likely to do
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this but if a member of the British royal family were to come to Amritsar and ideally like Willy Brandt sink to their knees and beg forgiveness or express remorse and seek or even apologize for the horrendous wrong that was done in that incident 100 years earlier on that spot and by extension for all the wrongs of 200 years of British rule think what an extraordinary message that would send and what a cleansing effect it would have on the
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indelible stain of 200 years of British colonialism and India I rest my case thank you very much I'll take your questions [Applause] and what we'd like to do is take your
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questions one by one and and as you ask your questions please keep your questions ask questions identify yourself and your affiliation thank you very much there's a mic coming to you good afternoon mr. Tarrou my name is Osama comer and I'm from Pakistan you've argued Chi Minh again that Britain has a moral debt to pay reparations to India but in 1948
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RBI owed 75 crore rupees to Pakistan which Gandhi whose birthday is today went on a hunger strike for and only the first installment of that has been paid by India attended don't you think that India is actually following the footsteps of its colonizers right well in fact as you know Gandhiji thoughts that's the entire amount ought to be paid and that was his the the theme of his last hunger strike but as you probably also know narrow and Patel
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did agree and did pay the amount so I'm a little curious as to where you get the impression that the full amount is not paid but know that we both have to check our sources to the best of my knowledge it was all paid in 1948 yeah 55 crores was the exact amount my name is I'm from Delhi India and I have this question what is your view regarding the post-colonial mindset with regards to the English language to give a bit of
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context I studied English Literature at the top arts college of India led Sri Ram and I'm over here studying creative writing in English because my ultimate aim is to be a published author in the English language which sadly I'm now most comfortable with as opposed to Hindi which is my mother tongue so what is your view regarding it well it's a very interesting question because of course we're both in the same boat and I've just addressed you in English so I'm not quite sure that any of us could get off the hook to begin with the British had no
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intention of teaching English to the entire Indian masses that was simply not their plan in fact they had no intention of spending that kind of money to begin with on Indian education will durant the american historian visiting India as late as 1930 was appalled to discover that the entire expenditure of the British government in India on education from the lowest levels to the highest university amounted to less than half the high school budget of the state of New York so it really which had one-tenth the
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population so very clearly the British were not interested in massive education but what they did want was two things they wanted to create a small class of Indians who would serve as interpreters between them and the masses they ruled Lord Macaulay in his famous Minotaur is notorious menace on education in 1835 famously said that we need to create a class of people Indians in blood and color buff English in taste in opinions and morals and an intellect quote
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unquote now this objective was to be met by educating just enough Indians to serve British purposes and giving them just enough education that wouldn't create any trouble for the village now the fact is that as it turns out the the Indians decided to take this language that the English had brought and to use it for subversive purposes they learned English to explore new ideas ideas that went
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perhaps beyond the ones that British would have been intended them to acquire and to use them for purposes beyond that of facilitating British rule in India but rather to actually explore ideas of their own freedom and autonomy that led eventually to two calls for Home Rule and then for independence it's striking for example that English became the principal language of Indian nationalism Niro wrote the discovery of India in English Jinnah made all his speeches in English
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he's the lang of the language in which he was most comfortable so it is paradox that this has happened but the second thing the British tried to achieve with the introduced duction of English was what might one might call the colonization of the mind and that is for example the subject that you seem to have studied English literature was not taught anywhere in the world it was invented to be taught to Indians professor Corey Vishwanathan
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at Columbia University as an entire thesis about how the study of English literature as an academic discipline was created as an instrument of colonial subjugation but not the subjugation of over wrong the subject you know to make people feel that this is this great land that produces agreement McCauley had notoriously said that the entire learning in every single books of India and Arabia are not worth a single shelf of British books that's essentially the
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approach they had and so that is something we have still not overcome those of us who went to school in India in the English language learned our Shakespeare but didn't read call it us we may have depending on the schools we went to become familiar with the tales of the Iliad and the Odyssey but not of them are of arith and there are mine you to find those out at all so you really have a situation in which that aspect of colonization of the mind I'm afraid has continued and it's going to be something that each of us will
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have to overcome in our own ways not in any way to reject the extraordinary opportunities for learning and discovery that the English language has given us over the decades and indeed in today's world in the globalized world of today English is an opportune is a language of opportunity of advancement of employment and so on so I'm not at all anxious to move away from English but for us to be able to use the language has a narrow origin now or the other by neurology or
01:00:16
others did without letting our minds be colonized by it to see the language as something as a tool and instrument for our thoughts for our ideas a vehicle to the destination we want to go and not where those who invented the language wish to take us good afternoon doctor through my name's Abhishek package' and I'm from Bhopal in India and I'm a finally a politic student I just wanted to take your views on some of the social rap traditions that the British subjected to us
01:00:55
especially the fact that you know there was a way great limitation and Free Press and ironically on democracy which with the Allies before Fighting's in both world wars but what I particularly want to get your views on is the fact that similar depredations especially socially occur in India right now I write editorials for this newspaper and I've received several death threats or things that I've written and we obviously saw the murderer the cold-blooded murder if I put like this
01:01:27
of gory Lankesh not too long ago so on there shades of this of what the British did in the tyranny of the Government of India at the moment and the way that they've handled this entire situation I'm not sure I quote everywhere the acoustics aren't terribly terribly I mean you you wanted me to speak about particularly freedom of the press is that is that is that the point of a mr. mm is that the example yes the freedom of the press and the sort of social depredations that the job the social
01:02:01
deprivation of off of Indians that the Government of India has been subjecting especially if I if I was taking examples the the lynching of Indians well as you know I'm a member of the opposition I've spoken out very loudly and very vociferously against much of this there's no question in my mind that they just turned up the volume on your mic as well thank you whoever did that though
01:02:34
the fact is that that we are witnessing some very dangerous tendencies in India none of which can be directly attributed to the government other than the fact that the government has created the opportunity for a leasing a number of very very unhealthy forces in our society which it either appears to condone or not sufficiently to curb so obviously the government claims that it's you know excuse me not
01:03:06
behind the so called car vigilantism that we have seen in the last couple of years and they claim that anybody who conducts some mob lynching will be subject to the rule of law but in practice practically no one has been convicted for any of these heinous crimes and murders and and to my mind the frustration we have today is the change in attitude as to what are given two examples there's a horrendous story of Muhammad o´clock father of a serving
01:03:37
Air Force Indian Air Force soldier who is attacked by a mob outside his house on the grounds of the bag of meat he's carrying is actually beef the man is beaten to death the mob burst into his house breaks open his door destroys the door of his fridge and takes out the meat in it and rushes to the police station with it and instead of being arrested for murder they're let go while the police send the two meat off to the lab to see if it was
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beef I mean is this the country that India is supposed to be about as it turned out it wasn't beef but even if it was is that grounds to allow a mob to to murder an innocent human being I mean this is the sort of thing that they the atmosphere that has been drawn that in so many ways has been allowed to prevail in parts of the country under the the rule of our present government to something that is completely I'll use the word foreign to the essence of Indian this is not the way we've lived
01:04:39
for four millennia I mean and the last thing I want to see happening to my countries so very to turn into a Hindu Pakistan or reference to the Pakistanis yeah who have their own battles to fight at home so the short answer is if that was your question that I of course I sympathize with you Gordian Lankesh one of the last things she did before she was shot was to retweet a tweet of mine in which I had I had shown group of Caroline nuns performing
01:05:12
an ornament theater worn and danced and talked about this is what Carol as pluralism and secularism is all about and she had talked about that in her Facebook post and a couple of hours later she was shot I mean I feel I feel her loss very keenly despite never having known her as a person this is to my mind a very very very dangerous indication of the kinds of forces that have been unleashed by our governments refusal to take stern action against thank you very much I'm Nandini
01:05:51
I'm from Calcutta but I have adopted Edinburgh as my second city if you can bear to be away from Calcutta I remember the poet petition on these famous line if you must exile me Calcutta blind my eyes before I go I don't want that to happen to you but it is yes it has happened but my humble question is when
01:06:23
Jallianwala Bagh incident was happening than he was there very much and Congress was a powerful force in India they preserve nationalist movement it wasn't in power no powerful force I didn't say they were in power of course not I only said they were a powerful force so my humble question is when this these kind of incidents you only mentioned
01:06:54
about one but when these kind of incidents were happening what was and what were the stand of Congress as it at movements as a forceful power or powerful force in India and just today I was writing a post on Gandhi whom I love very very much who grew and who developed himself and he changed his policies throughout his
01:07:26
career but at that time when Jolyon walla bug is happening was happening what was his dance and what was Congress as a I get your question caught it was Congress that actually created the distance yeah it was Congress that created the the uproar that resulted eventually in daya being cached from the Army Congress refused to accept the findings of the British they sent their own commission of inquiry including young Java lal nehru to Jallianwala Bagh
01:07:59
never personally counted every single bullet hole on the wall they challenged the official account they demanded action against daya it was a Congress that stirred up a huge nationalist frenzy around the country on this incident and it had a profound effect a lot of people it in many ways it made Gandhi abandon the path of cooperation with the British he would never again call on Indians to support the British war effort in the First World War and in the Boer War before that he had asked to support the British in the Second World
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War he called the British to quit India leave India to God order Anarchy as he said so it was it had a transformative effect cerumen and our Tagore returned his knighthood this was a huge event no question for Indians at that time and the Congress was very much in the forefront of it good thank you for the speech my name is Manish I used to study economics at the University I graduated last year so my question is and I'll quote one of your writings from the great Indian novel India's a highly developed civilization
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which is in an advanced state of decay if I mean my mr. few words there but do you think and and I get where this or at least part of the DK it comes from after your speech today I think it shed some light on that DK do you think we're doing enough today to undo the DK well firstly that line is the privilege of the satirist it's from the opening paragraph of a satirical novel so you do realize that one is allowed to poke fun in that process I mean one could argue
01:09:47
that we already are doing a great deal a book was published in 1989 91 the liberalisation started we took steps to Kanta to actually overcome the decay and and I think you know literally in everything from the gleaming new airports to some of the gleaming new policies that have been instituted in the last 25 years or so arguably that sentence could not be written with the same sort of impact today as it would have had at that time when it was manifestly visibly true everywhere
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around but if you to say I get where this is coming from my speech was not so much about that my speech was essentially we are very much a forgiving forget culture aren't we and I'm saying to the Indians forgive by all means forgive you must forgive because not forgiving is bad for you and nurturing hatred and bitterness actually hurts the ATF far more than they hate it but I'm saying forgive but don't forget I just want people to remember you can remember the past embrace the past but leave it
01:10:48
in the past I am NOT asking for this to come in for example an affect our relationship with Britain today I think that today's Britain and India are two sovereign equal nations we don't need to have a chip on the shoulder about each other we have a mutual language we can talk to and on top of talk to each other in our economies are roughly the same size so this is not today's india british relations i think we can leave that behind where it was but we need to know just as every individual would like to know a little bit about their parents where they came
01:11:19
from maybe their grandparents a society should know about its past it's part of who we are today what we were before and that's that's the reason so it's there's a satire apart this speech and this book is not about about that idea it's merely about let's forgive but let's not forget [Applause] [Applause]

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