A glimpse into the darkness: the 'Brutish' rule in India

May 18, 2019

A second-generation freeborn attempts to understand the impact and aftermath of colonization of India by British. It turns out that even an educated Indian of today is still not aware of the atrocities and turmoil it caused the country.

India - the golden bird of medieval times, known for it’s riches - the diamonds and the muslins, one of the world’s greatest exporter of silk - a country sharing a cut of more than 27% in the world’s economy during the sixteenth century - the country which was then capitalized for 200 years all the while feeding to the interests of Britain, leaving the post-British India with a crumbling share of a little more than 3% in the world GDP.

This is my country.

I am an Indian. This blog post highlights the pain it causes me that we, the youth of India - the second-generation freeborn aren’t afflicted by this dark side of the history, and how our education [A British establishment] merely portrays colonization as a chronological series, celebrating the independence and mapping it with subsequent post-independence failures. There is none or timid attempt made to lay emphasis on the curtailed legacy of India, the utter amorality of the British rule or the atrocities imposed on our forefathers without scruple or principle. This case of insincerity has lead to an incomplete analysis of the deep wounds of the colonization and of finding a cure.

On the contrary, the notions about how the British brought industrialization to India, how trains were supposedly a precious ‘gift’, and how British were key to the political ‘unification’ of India are quite popular.

But recently coming across an Oxford Union Debate by Dr. Shashi Tharoor, a novelist, diplomat and Indian politician, on the proposition “Britain Owes Reparations to her Former Colonies” - which he admissibly won with his characteristically impassioned and precisely argued speech - was an eye-opening experience, which lead me to further pursue the topic.

The Debate

After the debate, Tharoor left England (in his own words, “pleased enough, but without giving the proceedings a second thought”). However, a couple of months later, once the speech was posted online, it took on an almost surreal afterlife, not only going viral across various social media platforms and causing many a storm in chai cups across the sub-continent and Britain, but also managed to unite, in India, the old and the young, the radical and the conservative, and most uniquely, the ever-estranged political left, right, and centre of our country in unequivocal approbation.

On this, says Tharoor

“Yet the fact that my speech struck such a chord with so many listeners suggested that what I considered basic was unfamiliar to many, perhaps most, educated Indians. They reacted as if I had opened their eyes, instead of merely reiterating what they had already known.

It was this realisation that prompted my friend and publisher, David Davidar, to insist I convert my speech into a short book – something that could be read and digested by a layman but also be a valuable source of reference to students and others looking for the basic facts about India’s experience with British colonialism. The moral urgency of explaining to today’s Indians – and Britons – why colonialism was the horror it turned out to be could not be put aside.”

The Book

He indeed did gift India with his book “An Era of Darkness” deconstructing the british rule, unfolding around various themes: Of loot and of the hemorrhaged Indian wealth, of the increased rural poverty, the nefarious British policies (like divide-and-rule) which continue to haunt the contemporary India to date, the famines and the holocausts, and of course Cricket.

The book provides as a leaping point, marking a paradigm shift forward so that the Youth of India knows the importance of the past and of talking about it, if only to unpick its skein better – but to do it yet, with a sense of irony and wisdom.


An Era of Darkness, by Shashi Tharoor is a must read!

A glimpse into the darkness: the 'Brutish' rule in India - May 18, 2019 - Rahul Jha