Local Rajas & The British Empire

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When I think of India, three words spring up on my mind: “former British colony” and India’s identity in the world can never part from it

India for a very long time, much like a progressive developing economy, has been associated with colonisation by the British. The only other country from the Indian subcontinent that singularly dominates correct global thought over British colonisation, is it’s fellow prosperous neighbour, Bangladesh. Bangladesh has been doing very well for itself, in terms of development, for the last two years, and although the level of India’s human development has been fluctuating, unlike Bangladesh’s steady human development and “new progressive developing economy status”, it is still regarded as a former British colony. Can the same be said about perceptions of states colonised by other European countries? It is hard to grasp it, when history points at Ceylon, as having been far too badly fought over by both the Dutch and the Portuguese. The Dutch had gained an advantage because it actually had colonisation fanfare amongst the people of Ceylon (present day Sri Lanka) but then it all ended rather abruptly. The British, in the end, were given Ceylon and it was made a “protectorate” after the Dutch lost to the British; a protectorate isn’t a colony, where one country governs another country because a protectorate is a state that is protected by another country, in exchange of something important – British colonisation efforts in Ceylon were always about mainly keeping in line with local political sentiments in the Indian subcontinent. India, since independence from the British Empire, has had the ability to advise Bhutan (a lone, isolated and solitary kingdom) over both defence and foreign policy, so relations between the two have generally been a good one, unlike for India and Pakistan, and the rather muted and lukewarm relationship between India, and both Nepal and Sri Lanka, respectively.

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In the consciousness of Indians, it is hard to fathom what British colonisation can mean, when you look at it’s very old film culture. In Bollywood, it is enormously grand to believe that Indians can win against the British and also win back their rights, in the process from their local emperors, during the British colonial era in India. The British in Bollywood are viewed as emperors, instead of local rajas or zamindars, who were always subordinate to the British Crown. Hence, peasants inherit this naturalistic desire to defeat the king or the queen, because the British rule India like local rajas are normally supposed to rule a state in South Asia. The “British Raj” is the period of India and Bangladesh’s history that is only about British colonisation efforts in both the countries; in fact, the British Empire is called the “British Raj” for only India and Bangladesh. Bangladesh and India, historically have shared amicable ties for various reasons, one of which has been because of the British Raj. The British Raj in India (when Bangladesh was still a state in India) wanted to alleviate the poorest Muslims from horrible prejudice coming from Hindus in India. As a result, partition of India was agreed upon and Bangladesh (a predominantly Muslim state, and formerly occasionally a poorly developing country, along with Pakistan whose national state is still the same) eventually became an independent state, in part because of the British Raj. The truth is that Bangladesh, like India, has negative relations with Pakistan, and both India and Bangladesh are heading towards promising stability, since June 2015 because of a new land boundary agreement. But when it comes to the British Raj, there are still greater questions over Indian and Bangladeshi sentiments towards its own culture: what does Bangladesh, with it’s native Anglicised-Bengali language, feel about it’s own heritage? And what do Indians really think about their highest local rulers – how can it be right to regard all local rajas, including the British, as an individual worth rebelling against?

The British Raj



About Osmi Anannya

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