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Colonialism in India: A Perspective

Posted by Admin on June 13, 2014 | Comment

It is aptly said that the history of India is the history of colonialism. The colonial era that began in the early 16th century with the Portuguese invasion, didn’t have a decisive end until 400 years later when the bugle of rebellion was sounded and the last colonizer was shown the door. Indian sub-continent was the location chosen by the French, Dutch and the British to fight power battles. Whoever came, established trading posts across the length and breadth of the country. They marauded, mingled, and left behind their legacies in the form of cultural footprints.

Colonialism in India

Colonialism and Its Impact on India

Someone had rightly asserted that colonialism is nothing but the imposition of one’s ideas on another by force. What impact did that have on India in socio-economic and political context? For the British, controlling India was looked upon as the only way of remaining at the top of the world power structure. Despite their policy of selective economic development, our nation did see substantial improvement in financial health by replacing ‘wasteful’ aristocracy with bureaucratic-military establishment.

Effective governance propelled reduction in fiscal deficit with a greater share of national product made available to the capitalists and sections of professional classes. The colonial rulers had to take up the task of infrastructure development. With earnestness, they invested in railways and irrigation that led to a boom in industrial and agricultural output. However, our colonial antecedents reveal to us that the British had discreetly followed a policy of de-industrialisation. According to historians and economists, it’s the “selfish commercial policy” that discouraged indigenous manufacturers in order to encourage the growth of manufactures in England. In fact, Nehru had also argued that the de-industrialisation policy was the “real and fundamental cause of the appalling poverty of the Indian people.”

The idea of colonialism was rooted in the one-point agenda – Make India subservient to Great Britain.

Post-Colonial India – Fraught With Adversities

India didn’t have a very rosy start to the post-colonial era. The freedom was achieved at the expense of peace. Territorial disputes with China and Pakistan led to frequent wars. Almost five battles were fought between 1947 and 1999. The dispute still remains unresolved.

Be it the imposition of Article 370 or the Simla Agreement on releasing prisoners of war, last six decades of Indian politics had been replete with “historic blunders” and “missed opportunities”. Another black patch in the post-colonial regime is the regressive economic policies from 1950s to 1980s driven by socialist-inspired policies. Extensive regulation and protectionism shattered the Indian economy.

Following the first nuclear test on 18 May 1974 at Pokharan, Indian government went defensive to such an extent that it decided on self-imposed moratorium on further nuclear testing. This was thought as the only way to placate the world. That’s how we lost out on all the advantages provided by our scientists and failed to gain recognition as a nuclear power. In yet another display of short-sightedness, India passed the Illegal Migrants – Determination by Tribunals (IMDT) Act of 1984 for Assam. This imprudent act shifted the burden of proving the illegal status of a suspected immigrant to the accuser. Assam continues to suffer even today, because the detection of illegal immigrants has become difficult.

The misery has been aggravated by the sharp rise in communalism, religious violence, separatist insurgencies, and terrorism. Some incidents such as the Operation Blue Star, 1984 anti-Sikh riots, and Siachen conflict, also ring a sad refrain.

Major Achievements during Post-Colonial India

If we are to recollect some of the shining days in the latter half of the 20th century, we must look back at the tremendous efforts by our leaders to resolve the food crisis by improving agricultural productivity. The Green revolution was made possible because of government-sponsored initiatives that increased the yield of food crops and commercial crops. 1990s will be remembered as the golden age for Indian economy, wherein the Congress-led government triggered the process of economic liberalisation, opening our economy to global trade and investment.

India’s greatest public health achievement has been the eradication of polio, which was even appreciated by the UN and leading advocacy groups, globally. On the technology front, India’s journey has been somewhat smooth. We have been simultaneously running the nuclear and the missile programs with enough success. In the military segment, we developed indigenous technologies to bring the best weapons to our arsenal.