– R. Muthu Kumar : –
Nation wants to shut itself off from the rest of colonial world
Economic offenders welcome; bright mindsets shunned
Britain’s exploitation and oppression of India and Indian citizens have continued beyond August 1947 when it left the sub-continent in total shambles as two ethnically divided nations in the name of granting freedom (August 14, 1947 to Pakistan and August 15, 1947 to India). Having taken away the wealth of all its colonially occupied nations, the UK – unlike the US that prides as a nation of immigrants – has been very harsh on immigration issues, especially from India. Britain’s oppression of Indians – both through the East India Company and the ‘Empire’ – was one of the most undignified humanitarian crisis in history with equality, liberty and justice being words of dream for the vast population of the undivided sub-continent. Every sphere of activity – agriculture, industry and commerce – had to bear the brunt of the British regimes exploitative cruelty.
In his book titled “Inglorious Empire” Shashi Tharoor, a United Nations diplomat turned Congress Member of Parliament energetically, bluntly and hurriedly sets out the litany of exploitation and theft, and the support given to the East India Company. This was before the Government of India Act of 1858 led to the British crown assuming direct control. The company had a private army of 260,000 at the start of the 19th century, and the champions of the British industrial revolution plundered India’s thriving manufacturing industries. Under British rule India’s share of world manufacturing exports fell from 27 per cent to 2 per cent as East India employees made colossal fortunes.
By 1890 about 6,000 British officials ruled 25 crore Indians! There are also reminders of the vile racism of Winston Churchill: “I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion…” Tharoor seeks to demolish the myth of “enlightened despotism” given the brutalities such as the Jalian Wala Bagh massacre with soldiers “emptying their magazines into the shrieking, wailing, then stampeding crowd with trained precision”.
Up to 35 million died unnecessarily in famines; London ate India’s bread while India starved, and in 1943 nearly four million Bengalis died. It was their own fault, according to the odious Churchill, for “breeding like rabbits”. Collectively, these famines amounted to a “British colonial holocaust”. But after all these years and plundering of India’s ancestral wealth and human resources, British mindset towards India and Indian people has not changed. There are also reports that thousands of Indian men and women volunteered to serve in the Army during the World War I and World War II but unfortunately there is not much recorded history. Some Indian businessmen accused of “unfair practices” have now found a safe haven in the UK. A British court ordered the judicial custody of Nirav Modi in connection with the Rs. 13,500 crore Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud case in 2018. The Westminster Magistrate’s Court ordered the Metropolitan Police to place him in its custody till the next hearing.
The 48-year-old businessman, wanted in India, was arrested from Holborn on March 19. Since then he has been fighting extradition proceedings. Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi are being investigated by the Enforcement Directorate and the Central Bureau of Investigation after the PNB alleged that they cheated it of Rs 13,500 crore with the involvement of some bank employees. Modi also faces charges under the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act. The ED has filed a chargesheet against Choksi in a Prevention of Money Laundering Act Court in Mumbai. Both fled India before details of the fraud emerged in January 2018.
Likewise fugitive Indian businessman Vijay Mallya, accused in bank loan default case to the tune of Rs. 9,000 crore involving his defunct Kingfisher Airlines is trying to stall his extradition from the UK. While the UK’s highest court has upheld India’s request, Mallya has found ways and means to stall the process. Advocate Rajat Nair, appearing for the Indian Government said that in compliance with the order of the apex court “we made extradition requests to the United Kingdom but we have been informed that some secret proceedings are going on to which we are not party”. He said that the Indian Government’s request for extradition of Mallya has been upheld by the highest court of the UK but nothing has been happening as of now due to the separate process, which has been initiated. The UK side has informed that extradition of Vijay Mallya cannot take place until a separate legal issue, which is judicial and confidential in nature, is resolved. The UK side has emphasized that neither they can provide any more details nor intervene in the process.
Nearly 50 years ago British MP Enoch Powell gave one of the most racist and controversial speeches in British political history. “Rivers of Blood”, as it came to known, was a tirade against Indians coming to work and settle in Britain. To him it was “literally mad” that the country was allowing them in. “It is like watching a nation busily engaged in heaping up its own funeral pyre,” he shrieked in anger and hatred. He said they should be sent back before things changed too much. British politicians have continued to take a tough posture against immigration. When she was home secretary, former Prime Minister Theresa May had the bright idea of getting vans with a big sign saying “GO HOME” to drive around in areas of London dominated by families of Indian origin. Even before she gave her first speech as Prime Minister at the Conservative Party conference her team was sending out the signals that British companies must ‘list’ the number of foreign workers employed by them. May wanted to ‘name and shame’ companies who employed too many foreigners! He famous quote was… “Someone who finds themselves out of work or on lower wages because of low-skilled immigration, life simply doesn’t seem fair.”
Britain is thus directly saying to India and Indians: “You’re not welcome any more.” And now the moot question is, “Aren’t Indian students who pay huge fee to study in the UK not welcome too?” If the UK authorities can openly say that Indian students are not welcome despite the huge fee the pay, then it will be better for the Indian students. They can seek greener pastures in the US or other countries in the Europe that are now opening up vistas for Indian students to explore. It is indeed strange that the British government and people should show a Nelson’s eye when it comes to defending economic offenders such as Mallya or Nirav Modi and broadly deriding those who strive to build that nation with their sweat and blood irrespective of their roots of origin. Such an attitude definitely doesn’t augur well for the future of the India-England bilateral relationships. The irony is that a nation that built its wealth by colonising other countries is now saying that it is better off shutting itself from the rest of world.
Let us not forget the historic fact that India was among the original members of the United Nations that signed the Declaration by United Nations at Washington, D.C., on January 1, 1942. India also participated in the United Nations Conference on International Organisation at San Francisco from April 25 to June 26, 1945, two years before acquiring independence from British rule. However, although today all UN members are fully sovereign states, four of the original members (Belarus, India, the Philippines, and Ukraine) were not independent at the time of their admission. India was the jewel in the crown of the British Empire. The British Empire regimented India’s manpower as the backbone of their military power. Indian troops helped the British control their empire, and they played a key role in fighting for Britain right up to the 20th century. One is reminded of the proverb “A cat drinking milk with closed eyes!”