Colonialism ruined Pakistan and India, even the Koh-i-Noor can’t fix that!

Published: February 11, 2016
SHARES
Email

The Lahore High Court has agreed to hear a petition asking Queen Elizabeth II to return the Koh-e-Noor. PHOTO: REUTERS

The most precious diamond England had before usurping the Koh-i-Noor from India was none other than William Shakespeare. But the legendary bard, unlike his avaricious countrymen, himself never coveted stones and riches. What he longed for was content, a pleasure which only a man with a heart and passions could enjoy.

Shakespeare writes in his play King Henry VI, Part 3,

“My Crown is in my heart, not on my head:
Not deck’d with Diamonds, and Indian stones:
Nor to be seen: my Crown is call’d Content,
A Crown it is, that seldom Kings enjoy.”

Needless to say, if Winston Churchill had 0.1 per cent of the writer’s virtues, the world would have been a far better place.

India has been urging its former colonial master, Britain, for decades to return the Koh-i-Noor diamond to the country it was taken from. It seems my Pakistanis brothers have also, at last, realised that they were also subjected to the British rule for 200 years. The Lahore High Court has agreed to hear a petition asking Queen Elizabeth II to return the precious stone more than 150 years after it was surrendered by a young Sikh prince to the island nation following their conquest of the Punjab in 1849.

I wish Pakistanis all the very best in this regard and I hope they succeed in making the British do the right thing, a task in which we have been rather unsuccessful in doing so far. The former colonialists do not turn a hair.

For 200 years Britain plundered and tormented India to the hilt, to the extent that the word ‘loot’ has become a part of their dictionaries. Why, at the beginning of the 18th century when the East India Company treacherously set its foot in India, the ancient country’s share of the world economy was 23 per cent and by the time they bid farewell to their slaves in 1947, it had dropped to less than four per cent.

India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru – who in my view was in a class of his own – wrote in his book The Discovery of India – how Britain’s so-called ‘Industrial Revolution’ was a result of the deindustrialisation of India. They destroyed the flourishing business of Indian textiles so that their people could manufacture goods using Indian raw materials and export finished products back to the Colony and the rest of the world.

Photo: AFP

In this manner, according to Congress leader Shashi Tharoor, India became the biggest importer of British finished products instead of being a great exporter, which it once was.

Today, my mind also dwells upon the tragic famine that struck Bengal in 1943-44. It was not a natural famine. It happened after Churchill inhumanly ordered the diversion of food from dying Indians to stout British soldiers and the well-fed European stockpiles.

“The starvation of anyway underfed Bengalis is less serious than that of sturdy Greeks,” Churchill is said to have argued.

Photo: AFP

Nehru in The Discovery of India cites a scientific survey conducted by Calcutta University in the famine areas, according to which as many as 34,00,000 people died due to the famine in Bengal alone.

Can you imagine that?

He wrote, “This famine unveiled the picture of India as it was below the thin veneer of the prosperity of a small number of people at the top – a picture of poverty and ugliness of British rule. That was the culmination and fulfilment of British rule in India. It was no calamity of nature or play of the elements that brought this famine, nor was it caused by actual war operations and enemy blockade. Every competent observer agreed that it was a man-made famine.”

For the British though, it was a ‘normal occurrence’.

However, the biggest reason I bear the British a grudge is a diabolic role they played in the partition of India.

It all started in 1857 when Hindus and Muslims together fought the first war of independence to overthrow the British Raj. The colonialists somehow managed to crush the rebellion which could have rightly ended their Indian adventure then and there, realising that in order to rule Indians it was necessary to divide them along the lines of caste, creed and above all, religion.

I do not by any means suggest that differences did not exist between Hindus and Muslims, but they were not insurmountable, for after all we were all sons and daughters of the same soil. The British began playing mind games, pitting Hindus against Muslims and vice versa. By appearing to favour one community over another, they sowed the seeds of discord and enmity amongst us. It was not a coincidence that most of the well-paying government jobs went to Hindus by virtue of their good English skills.

Whenever communal riots – fomented by them – broke out in our cities and towns, the British administration would remain a mute spectator like Modi was in Gujarat in 2002 or Shahid Suhrawardy during the ‘Great Calcutta Killings’ in 1946 or Rajiv Gandhi in 1984. They did not make any attempts nor did they allow us to bridge our differences. They kept India’s communal pot boiling to carry out their nefarious designs.

Even today, ladies and gentlemen, these forces are not letting us make peace, turning us into a big market for their arms industries. The millions of poor people are being compelled to carry on with their wretched lives even after 68 years of our so-called independence.

They can’t eat bullets and missiles, can they?

For the sake of world peace and their own, our former rulers should apologise for the blunder of Himalayan magnitude and the biggest crime against humanity they committed in 1947 by dividing the people who once lived cheek by jowl.

All the perfumes in Arabia cannot wash away thy sins, Britain. Not even Koh-i-Noor!

Do you think colonialism ruined Pakistan and India?

     View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Sapan Kapoor

Sapan Kapoor

A history buff and India-based journalist, the author has worked with the Press Trust of India. He blogs at sehar-anawakening.blogspot.in/ and tweets as @dRaconteur.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • http://thoughtsandotherthing.blogspot.fr/2015/09/hyderabad-as-i-know-and-feel.html Supriya Arcot

    Err ..to the best of my knowledge , it was found in the mountains of Deccan and was owned by several kings / ruler / generals belonging to Persia /Afghanistan / India ( Lahore was then part of India … remember … ? ) . so today ,why should it be handed to Pak ?Recommend

  • vinsin

    Economic downfall happened in China also and it was much worse, there was no Britain in China. There were no Industries in India before British came. Britishers are not responsible if India failed to invent railways, universities, electricity, Industries, communication, printing press etc. Famines occurred before Brishers also in India and around the world. In 1857 Hindus and Muslims fought against Sikh to establish Islamic State. Hindus and Muslims fighting each other since 1000 AD and differences are insurmountable. British didnt play any game. Not true Britishers always tried to stop communal riots so did Modi. India can always make peace by resolving Kashmir issue. Britishers are not responsible for ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Pandits and Hindus from Pakistan and Afghanistan. What about blunder of dividing India from British Empire?Recommend

  • Farhan

    Using that logic, Lahore was part of British India and should remain with the British?Recommend

  • Headstrong

    What an absolute waste of time and resources. Nothing will be returned – and both Pakistan and India know it.
    Anyway, what is this article trying to prove? Is the British Empire responsible for the state of India and Pakistan today? What stopped both nations from repairing relations between each other? What stopped both nations to righting the ‘wrongs’ done to us by the British? Why do India and Pakistan have 22% and 16% respectively of its people living below the poverty line as defined by the UN – and even more if we were to objectively define poverty? What stopped the two countries from developing infrastructure?
    We have had 70 years of independence. Even if we were to give 25 years to getting back on our feet, what stopped us from at least graduating to a brisk walk, if not a jog or sprint? Instead, both of us are still crawling.
    Yes, British colonialism robbed us of a lot. Everything the author said about the colonial rule is true – and more. But let us not forget that the Brits gave us a lot too. They gave us a geography. Neither India nor Pakistan existed as states – it is the British who gave us a sense of unified identity. Also, a codified set of laws, infrastructure, ban on social ills – and most important of all, English.
    I’m no apologist for the British – but I certainly realise that if the British had not colonised us, it would have been the French or Dutch or Portuguese – and that, my friends, would have been far worse! We could not have withstood some form of colonisation as we were weak militarily and fragmented.
    Let us give up this silliness and get on with our lives.Recommend

  • SkepticalFaraz

    Do you realize it was British who united India?They even tried to include Afghanistan but could never conquer it. Do you realize the number of different ethnic States India was divided into before the British came? Please stop telling yourself the lie that British divided India. If they had not come, India would be a number of different countries based on ethnicity. The different ethnicities of sub-continent had never gotten along and separation was inevitable. The Punjabis of both sides got along fairly well, but to this day a Gujarati or Bengali is a foreigner to a Punjabi or Pashtun. It is not even about religion. Ethnicity unites people…like it or not. Bangladesh’s struggle for a separate country is another example for you. Recommend

  • kdp ukp

    Britishers like any other conqueror exploited and looted (especially during indirect rule through East India Company) but at the same time they had to (more for their convenience to rule) develop railways, telegrams, cars, postal service, and justice system that did not exist. I believe if Brits had not ruled, India would be a totally (more) backward country without any modern development and knowledge of English language. (none of the Indian subcontinent languages would have equivalent technical and scientific terms)
    Moguls and previous Muslim and Hindu rulers of India failed to start a single education institute one of the reasons that we missed Industrial Revolution. Oxford university existed in early 12th century, Harvard University a private Ivy League research university in USA established in 1636, Yale in 1700, Stanford in 1840. Now refer to History and see what Indians and their rulers were doing in 11th century, 1600 , 1700 and 1800 AD. They were building Building Mausoleum for their wives, Forts and graves with tax payers money.
    Aligarh Muslim University founded in 1875 and BHU in 1916 were I believe first few universities in India after Nalanda University centuries ago.Recommend

  • Faulitics

    Sapan Kapoor has forgotten to mention an inconvenient fact. India was already being ruled by muslim foreigners when the english colonizers came in. So india went from being ruled by one bunch of colonizers to another.Recommend

  • Faulitics

    Thats not her logic, its yours. You misunderstood what she said.Recommend

  • Bana Post

    Pakistan claim is understandable.Because they do not have unbiased written history books.Recommend

  • harry

    thank you for putting my thoughts into words so eloquently….Recommend

  • Salim Alvi

    “Economic downfall happened in China also and it was much worse, there was no Britain in China.”

    Have you heard of 40 yr Opium wars imposed by Anglos on China?

    “There were no Industries in India before British came. Britishers are not responsible if India failed to invent railways, universities, electricity, Industries, communication, printing press etc.”

    Have you heard of Nalanda, Takshshila & Gurukul system of educating the masses. Gurukuls in Indian DNA produces https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Srinivasa_Ramanujan even Jagdish Chandra Bose. But after independence and colonialized or MacauLaid Indian mind has stopped producing C.V Ramans or even Karmarkars.

    When went to Bell Labs Murray Hill in 1986, was surprised to see Math & Comp Sc. dominated Indian Hindu. Wondered as card carrying Marxist, how come so many Hindus and why no Arab or Greek if the Hindu numerals are called Arabic numerals in the west, BeejGanit is called Algebra and BhooGol (not BhooTatte/flat/plain) as Geography.Recommend

  • zoro

    The title itself is so so so wrong ….
    Well …. India is not ruined …Recommend

  • Salim Alvi

    Nothing will be returned. Hope Pakistanis and Mirpuri CashMeris are also not returned to greater India. The crooks, criminals like Dawood which Anglos attract will start destroying Anglos from within. Karma indeed does the justice. Too bad innocent Anglos, esp their girls will suffer.Recommend

  • Adam

    Why did Nehru appoint a british, actually a descendant of Queen Victoria, Lord Mountbatten as his first Governer General?, and why did he plead with him to stay even longer to serve India. He should have asked him to return the Koh i Noor which was with Mountbatten’s cousin at that time.Recommend

  • Jor El

    Not the British, but the 2nd name in ur argument …Recommend

  • vinsin

    You are so right that both French and British were fighting to colonize India. Tipu was supporting french colonization and, Nizams and Marathas – British.Recommend

  • Maverick_NZ

    I was a music festival in New Plymouth NZ where, an Indian host, when introducing Faiz Ali Faiz (qawwali singer) couldn’t resist blurting that Pakistan only exists because of some ‘mistake’ by the British. If that’s the case, the British also gave India independence by the same mistake. These statements trivialise the genuine and enlightened struggle of the Muslim leaders of the sub continent in the 19th and 20th centuries.

    Peace with India doesn’t mean trivialising our ancestors’ struggles. Recommend

  • SkepticalFaraz

    Do you realize it was British who united India?They even tried to include Afghanistan but could never conquer it. Do you realize the number of different ethnic States India was divided into before the British came? Please stop telling yourself the lie that British divided India. If they had not come, India would be a number of different countries based on ethnicity. The different ethnicities of sub-continent had never gotten along and separation was inevitable. The Punjabis of both sides got along fairly well, but to this day a Gujarati or Bengali is a foreigner to a Punjabi or Pashtun. It is not even about religion. Ethnicity unites people…like it or not. Bangladesh’s struggle for a separate country is another example for you.Recommend

  • ask

    Both Pakistan and especially INDIA exist because of British rule. I should remind you that prior to the British, India, as a modern day monolithic political entity NEVER existed at any point in history. Prior to the british it had all been a series of empires, princely states and other kingdoms each with it’s own language, customs and history. Even today these divisions exists across the entire subcontinent if you go North to South or East to West. The British did something that no one before had done. They united what is today India and Pakistan into one single political entity. Out of a 100 years of British rule, a sense of political consciousness arose among the Indian elite that led for cries for “indian” independence (and later Pakistan). This sense of common “indian” identity had never existed at any point in time before and in an ironic way unified opposition to the British helped create it. Even the name of the subcontinent as “India” was not unanimously agreed upon prior to British rule.

    I can almost certainly guarantee you that had the British never unified India into one political entity instead of 2 countries, India and Pakistan, we would today have a 100 countries in the indian subcontinent because there is no reason to think that so many sub nations of multiple languages, ethnicities, and different (often warring and violent) histories would have every come together. Instead of one genocide at Partition, we may have had another 100 more the same way Africa is today a bunch of 50+ countries.Recommend

  • Gullu, Guddu and Gomnath.

    The esteemed, well informed author has written an article par excellence.
    With all due respect, your long, meandering, hiccuping, rant is abysmal.
    The British or any colonists had one goal in mind. Priority ONE. THEMSELVES.
    They came first. The Mother Country came first. The ‘natives’ were a very
    very distance second. There are more things to worry about than Koh i noor.
    The Mughals did not conquer one unified country, or Bharat or Hindustan.
    They defeated and conquered 20 to 25 Princely States. Perhaps more!
    There was no unity at all. Bharat is, and has always been 10 to 15 different
    countries. That is true even now. Communal and provincial interests will
    ALWAYS win over any nationalistic fervor or unity. [Maybe in 150 years]
    As they say, there are more than 3,000 languages spoken in Hindustan.
    Pakistan is 5 countries. And 5 major languages. Urdu understood everywhere
    So, can anyone communicate with anyone in Hindustan? Doubt it very much.
    Now after 68 years why are things still crawling along? On both sides.
    Yes, the British Raj, played a major role in this communalism/provincialism.Recommend

  • Nandita.

    Author has lifted large sections of this blog from Shashi Tharoor’s speech at the Oxford union. Not surprised. Recommend

  • Gurion

    The “history buff” doesn’t know that Pakistan is a lovingly nurtured construct of the Colonials!Recommend

  • Gurion

    So, tell me about East PakistanRecommend

  • Milind A

    British India (including Lahore and rest of Pakistan) was part of India and should remain with Indians.Recommend

  • Swaadhin

    Let me confess, I did not read this blog of yours considering my previous experience .Recommend

  • Headstrong

    Er… no. ‘India’ was being ruled by ‘Indians’ before the British came in. Many kingdoms, yes – but they were all local. And yes, the Mughals were also ‘Indian’, even though they may have originated elsewhere. That includes Humayun downwards to Bahadur Shah.Recommend

  • jay

    Pakistani talking about History ? Recommend

  • Farhan

    Right… Pakistan has no claim over Bangladesh and India has no claim over Lahore (the resting place of the Koh-I-noor.

    Did you think this through???Recommend

  • Farhan

    It was the Sikh Empire then and other divided kingdoms. The India of today was established in 1947 was it notRecommend

  • Faulitics

    You have convinced yourself that the invaders/occupiers are locals because of the religious affinity you have with them. Its a very convenient attitude but not supported by history.Recommend

  • Headstrong

    The ‘invasion’ happened in 1526 when Babur came in (and before that, of course, leading back to bin Qasim). Thereafter ALL the rulers of Delhi were local. That’s not just convenient, but also supported by history. Unless you have a different set of history booksRecommend

  • thriftysmurf

    Many different ethnicities who all wanted a separate nation. Pakistanis and Most Indians are not the same people, get with the program.Recommend

  • Salim Alvi

    Same with me. Bhagat Singh becomes Bhagat Singh because he grew up as Arya Samaji HinduSikh. If he was born in Bombay (not Mumbai) and gone to convent school then he would turn out a parasite like most of the media people in the subcontinentRecommend

  • Salim Alvi

    nation state is recent history. But Indian culture is ancient it includes present Afghanistan to Indonesia. Most of the problems in AfPak anarchist land is because of losing Indian civilizational roots, ie why Pakistan is rentier state and army used by all kinds of barbaric alien imperialists.Recommend

  • Salim Alvi
  • Salim Alvi

    Mughals were subjects of Marathas and titular head of Delhi Municipalty by 1707. Even Punjab and beyond Attock was ruled by Marathas for 40 years in 18th century.Recommend

  • Bana Post

    ha ha ha ha ah aha ha ha ha.there you man . I agree with you . Recommend

  • Bana Post

    Need to read up on historyRecommend

  • Hamid Pasha.

    That, basically, has to do with Hindustan’s inferiority complex/.
    Well, narrow it down to Hindus inferiority complex. There is no
    other way of phrasing it. or sugarcoating. Perhaps it’s bitterness
    over 1200 years of Muslim rule. Perhaps it’s the realization that
    they did not have the guts or wherewithal to overthrow the Muslims,
    over this long long period.They, the Hindus, simply went along meekly.
    Yet, when the Muslims were dethroned, it was they, who led the call
    to get rid of the British. Long before the Mahatmaji arrived on the scene.
    Starting with the Sepoy Mutiny in 1857. Before that, the Muslim areas,
    [Current Pakistan] were never fully controlled by the Raj.
    Everything west of Lahore down to west of Karachi, was an autonomous
    area. The Raj barely controlled 1/2 of Sindh.Recommend

  • Rajiv

    Well India is not ruined, it’s prospering, in transition.
    Recommend

  • Headstrong

    While that is every Pakistani’s favourite delusion, it is unfortunately totally irrelevant to this topicRecommend

  • Swaadhin

    Just to add, there was a time when people with leftist leanings were still patriots, nowadays, fighting the right means since they love the country the leftists must hate. Look at the likes of D Raja and Sitaram Yechury and the position they have taken on JNU issue. These guys have eked out their careers bad mouthing India while keeping numb on the Chinese.

    Ask a leftist in todays times if he is going to say “Bharat Mata”, he is scornfully going to brand you communal, by this logic Bhagat himself was communal.Recommend

  • Gurion

    Given it’s birth was in South India?Recommend

  • Ghulam Lone

    Wrong, it was ruled by the Marathas for a grand total of 1 (one) year.Recommend

  • Ghulam Lone

    Indian culture in ancient times spread from Afghanistan to Indonesia. Don’t confuse the history of 2000 years ago to the reality of the modern-day.Recommend

  • محب اللہ کراچوی

    Whether the Partition should occur or not was an important debate among Muslims of India and there were good points both for and against it. Now, 70 years after partition there’s no point in debating whether it ought to have occurred or not.Recommend

  • Salim Alvi

    Wannabe Bedouin or Mongolian Khan, have you heard about Mahadji Shinde, Tatya Tope, Yashwantrao Holkar and Malharrao Holkar? Dilli Muncipalty was ruled by MughalRecommend

  • Faulitics

    We’ll..you atleast accept that Babar and Bin Qasim are not indians..:-)..Thats some progress.Recommend

  • SkepticalFaraz

    Aren’t you delusional and quite ashamed of your heritage when you lump yourself with Punjabis and Pashtuns? Why can’t you Indians face reality?Recommend

  • Maverick_NZ

    The author failed to convince me.Recommend

  • Salim Alvi

    Indian Gana-Tantra system made sure that India retains its civilization. As a Gana Tantra India was one, since time immemorial. Those who are staying out of Indian Gana Tantra are increasingly becoming anarchic barbaric land which is used by barbaric imperial powers. Thus Paki Abdul is used as cannon fodder against Soviets in Afghanistan. Bangladesh lately understood that and is falling into Indian Gana Tantra scheme. If Bangalis had merged in 1971 with India then Shaikh Mujbir Rahman would have saved himself and his family. His and family’s killer got green cards and citizenship in distant country who wants to enslave whole world.Recommend

  • Salim Alvi

    Jinah was a Brishit Maveric coconut …Indian Gana-Tantra system made sure that India retains its civilization. As a Gana Tantra India was one, since time immemorial. Those who are staying out of Indian Gana Tantra are increasingly becoming anarchic barbaric land which is used by barbaric imperial powers. Thus Paki Abdul is used as cannon fodder against Soviets in Afghanistan. Bangladesh lately understood that and is falling into Indian Gana Tantra scheme. If Bangalis had merged in 1971 with India then Shaikh Mujbir Rahman would have saved himself and his family. His and family’s killer got green cards and citizenship in distant country who wants to enslave whole world.Recommend