Bijoy Dibos means the Day of Victory in Bengali language. In Hindi, this day is known as Vijay Diwas, celebrated on 16 December every year in Bangladesh and India. 2021 marks 50 years since the end of the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971 that saw the birth of a free nation of Bangladesh and the biggest surrender of troops since the Second World War, 93,000 in number, as the genocidal state of erstwhile West Pakistan (now Pakistan) was brought to its knees by the combined strength and will of Bengali nationalists of erstwhile East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) and the Indian armed forces.
“When some Pakistani Generals in 1971 foolishly spoke of a jihad against the Hindu unbelievers, they were fighting a country whose army was commanded by a Parsi (Zoroastrian), whose Air Force in the Northern Sector was commanded by a Muslim, whose Eastern Command that marched into East Pakistan was commanded by a Sikh and the General who was helicoptered to negotiate the surrender of the Pakistani forces was Jewish. That’s India. It’s not a country of one religion or one kind of people. It’s always been a country for everybody.” (Dr Shashi Tharoor, Al Jazeera English, 2017)
Last week, on 6 December, India and Bangladesh observed Friendship Day (Maitri Diwas/Moitri Dibos) to commemorate India’s recognition of Bangladesh as a sovereign and independent state in 1971. The story of Bangladesh’s independence is also the story of how the Pakistani military leadership’s systematic persecution, massacre and rape of the Bengalis of erstwhile East Pakistan in 1971, numbering in tens of thousands, was brought to an end by India’s timely military intervention on the side of the Bengali resistance forces (referred to as the Mukti Bahini) during the course of Liberation War against the tyrannical West Pakistani regime.
The political elite of Pakistan were dominated by the Western side that had no respect for East Pakistan’s majority Bengali people or their language and cultural distinctiveness. The roots of discontent of the Bengali people towards the Pakistani government, which eventually metamorphosed into a nationalist movement, can be traced back to the immediate post-independence period in the late 1940s.
The background of Bengali resistance
When the Indian Subcontinent was partitioned in 1947, the Islamic state of Pakistan was formed as a non-contiguous territorial entity on the western and eastern sides of India. On the West lay modern-day Pakistan and in the East lay modern-day Bangladesh. The Pakistani people, despite being largely Islamic in terms of religion, remained divided on ethno-linguistic lines, largely influenced by geo-cultural factors. Nowhere was it more evident than in the East, where the Bengali-speaking population had little in common with their Western counterparts, who were largely of Punjabi and Pashtun descent.
The Bangladeshi people are historically and culturally connected with the eastern region of India, particularly with the states of West Bengal and Tripura. The influence of larger than life literary behemoths such as Rabindranath Tagore, Kazi Nazrul Islam and Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay transcends beyond politically-made boundaries and remains as the common ethno-linguistic heritage of the Bengali people, who were divided into two nationalities with the creation of Pakistan in 1947, and psychologically divided as early as 1905 with Lord Curzon’s first Partition of Bengal that year, as part of the British-era ‘Divide and Rule’ policy, aimed at weakening the cradle of Indian nationalism – the Bengal region.
The Bengali Language Movement as a precursor the rise of Bengali nationalism
In the very next year following the Partition of the Indian Subcontinent, the then Karachi-based Government of Pakistan proclaimed ‘Urdu’ as the sole national language, inviting resentment and mass protests among the Bengali-speaking majority in the East. Sectarian tensions and demonstrations followed, forcing Karachi to outlaw public meetings and rallies.
The students in Dhaka, East Pakistan, and other political activists defied the law and continued with their protests, which ended with the brutal killing of a number of student demonstrators by the police on 21 February 1952, instigating widespread civil unrest in the East. After eight years of struggle, the Pakistani government yielded to the demands of the Bengali people in the East and granted an official status to the Bengali language in 1956.
Later in 1999, UNESCO declared 21 February as International Mother Language Day as a tribute to the Bengali Language Movement and also the ethno-linguistic rights of people around the world. It is a national holiday in Bangladesh. The Indian states of West Bengal, Tripura, and the Bengali diaspora community observe the day by paying tribute to the martyrs of 1952. The Language Movement had a major cultural impact on Bengali society, rejuvenating their national consciousness with the celebration of language, literature and culture in the following years and decades.
The call for greater autonomy
Along with the discrimination faced by the Bengali people, data from the 1950s and 1960s showed that exports from East Pakistan such as jute were a key contributor to Pakistan’s export income. However, the Bengalis of East Pakistan fell far behind in the distribution of politico-economic power within the state of Pakistan.
Taking up these issues, the would-be Founding Father of Bangladesh, the Awami League party’s leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, fondly referred to as Bongobondhu, meaning “the Friend of Bengal”, kick-started a new movement in the mid-1960s in East Pakistan calling for greater provincial autonomy, which later evolved into the famous ‘six-point demands’. But it was not only rejected by the West Pakistani leadership, Mujibur Rahman was branded as ‘separatist’ too.
The late 1960s: A churn in Pakistan’s domestic politics
Pakistan’s domestic politics was witnessing new transformations in the late 1960s with the rise of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and his Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), a socialist-inclined party formed in 1967 to resist General Ayub Khan’s dictatorial administration and the mounting economic inequalities. Parallelly, the public support for Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his Awami League, a party formed in 1949 as a Bengali counter-weight to the dominance of the Muslim League, was also rising.
Adding to these socio-political churn was the devastating Cyclone Bhola that wreaked havoc in East Pakistan and India’s eastern coast in November 1970. It was the deadliest tropical cyclone ever recorded in modern history, claiming 500,000 lives. Pakistani central leadership based in the West showed an extremely callous attitude to the looming humanitarian crisis as they deliberately delayed and downplayed the much-needed relief efforts, adding to the resentment of the Bengali people in East Pakistan.
Both Bhutto and Rahman emerged as strong political leaders of Pakistan by the end of the decade with a substantial number of people rallying behind on both sides. General Ayub Khan’s decade-long military regime relented to popular sentiments by 1969, forcing the transfer of his Presidency to General Yahya Khan in March that year, who agreed for elections to the Pakistani National Assembly in the following year. Free polls were held in December 1970 for the first time since Pakistan’s independence. Bhutto’s PPP and Rahman’s Awami League strongly took on each other.
Voting took place in 300 general constituencies, of which 162 were in East Pakistan and 138 in West Pakistan. Surprising all, the Awami League emerged victorious by gaining an absolute majority, winning 160 of the 162 general seats and all seven women’s seats in East Pakistan. The PPP won only 81 general seats and five women’s seats, all in the West. In the provincial elections that followed, the Awami League again dominated the East, while the PPP established its dominance in the provinces of Punjab and Sindh in the West.
President Yahya Khan and the PPP Chief Bhutto did not wish to see a party from East Pakistan in the West-based central government. Instead of Mujibur Rahman, General Yahya Khan appointed the veteran Bengali politician Nurul Amin as Prime Minister, asking him to reach a consensus between the PPP and the Awami League. However, this move failed as the delay in inauguration had already caused significant unrest in East Pakistan. All these developments formed a potent recipe for an escalated civil war by the following year.
Genocide of the Bengali people in East Pakistan and the resultant refugee crisis
By the beginning of 1971, ethnic tensions between Bengali nationalists and the pro-Pakistan, Urdu-speaking Bihari Muslims of East Pakistan began to rise. By early March 1971, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman issued a call to the Bengali people of East Pakistan to prepare for an all-out struggle following the imposition of martial law, the indefinite postponement of the scheduled session of the National Assembly that was due to be held on 3 March 1971 in Dhaka and the unwillingness of the Yahya Khan regime to transfer power to the elected representatives.
The Pakistani government responded to the deteriorating law and order situation in the East by launching ‘Operation Searchlight’ by the end of March that continued till mid-May. It was led by a Pakistani General named Tikka Khan, who planned and orchestrated the military action aimed at cracking down on Bengali dissent and to decisively take control of East Pakistan’s major cities by quelling all political and military Bengali opposition forces.
However, West Pakistani leadership failed to anticipate a prolonged Bengali resistance, which later intensified with the intervention of the Indian military, following the influx of about 10 million Bengali refugees to eastern India. The Indian army was already providing active support to the Bengali freedom fighters known as the Mukti Bahini in the form of arms and training. Pakistan’s brutal crackdown on Bengalis in East Pakistan eventually culminated in the genocide of innocent civilian Bengali nationalists, intelligentsia and the minorities.
No definite survey has yet been made to ascertain the exact number of people massacred by the Pakistani army. But, it is estimated to be as high as three million. The killings and genocidal rape of Bengalis committed by the Pakistan army and the Pakistani paramilitary force known as the Razakars remains as one of the worst genocides in modern human history. Sadly, the United States and the West, allied with Pakistan, turned a blind eye on this escalating humanitarian catastrophe, terming it an ‘internal matter’ of Pakistan. In the meantime, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was arrested and taken to West Pakistan.
India and Pakistan goes to war for the third time
While the Bengali population of East Pakistan stared at an existential question on their national self-determination, India was going through a crucial general election in March 1971 that saw Prime Minister Indira Gandhi returning back to power in a landslide victory by overcoming the ruling Indian National Congress (INC) party’s internal splits and power struggles.
Just weeks after taking over as Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi sought the possibility of a military intervention in East Pakistan to Indian Army Chief General Sam Manekshaw, who in turn informed her that the armed forces were not prepared enough for such a highly risky move and needed more time to prepare themselves well, as both the Western powers and China threw their weight behind Pakistan. Notably, it had also been less than a decade since the 1962 debacle with China. India’s military logistics and weaponry were also not favourable for a new war, as many of the defence orders were only being delivered by that time, of which the training and the tactical preparation parts still remained.
While the Indian armed forces were undergoing preparation to intervene and the refugees kept pouring in, PM Gandhi made sure that India won’t be isolated on the diplomatic front or deprived of energy and other crucial supplies by bilaterally engaging all concerned countries. India has been repeatedly appealing to the global community for assistance, but it has failed to receive any solid support of any major power.
Getting closer to the Soviets
PM Gandhi, thus, went a step ahead by setting aside the legacy non-aligned mentality and harnessed support of the other superpower, the Soviet Union, by signing the Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Cooperation between the two countries in August 1971. This treaty would turn out to be highly consequential and of great significance for India during the rest of the Cold War years, and particularly during the approaching war with Pakistan in December. It also helped India in the multilateral front as the Soviet Union vetoed all anti-India resolutions at the United Nations. The Soviets also made sure that the Chinese won’t come to the rescue of the West Pakistanis by deploying its troops along the Sino-Soviet border as a political message.
Pakistan’s attack on Indian airbases gives a start to war
By November 1971, General Sam Manekshaw informed PM Gandhi of the army’s state of preparedness to move across the border and to openly side with the Mukti Bahini fighters. These moves by India enhanced the West Pakistani sense of insecurity, which in turn responded by attacking 11 Indian air bases along the western front on December 3 in an Operation code-named ‘Chengiz Khan’. This marked the beginning of a 13-day war between India and Pakistan that continued until 16 December with the fall of Dhaka to the combined forces of India and the Mukti Bahini.
India responds by bombing Pakistan’s port of Karachi
The response to Pakistani air strikes was given by the Indian Navy on the following day in an Operation code-named ‘Trident’, wherein Pakistan’s most important and strategic port of Karachi was bombed using Soviet-supplied anti-ship missiles, thereby inflicting heavy damage upon Western-supplied Pakistani warships and the naval facilities with India suffering no losses at all.
In memory of victory in this operation, India observes Navy Day every year on December 4. In yet another embarrassment to the Pakistani Navy, Operation Trident was followed by another one code-named ‘Python’ on December 8, thereby striking the same port of Karachi twice in less than a week’s time.
The 1971 war witnessed an effective coordination between the ground, naval, and air forces of the Indian military for the first time in a full-scale war since independence. The overall strategy of the Indian armed forces was to keep the war short with minimum loss of lives by treading on unconventional routes with the local knowledge of Mukti Bahini fighters (the Muktijoddhas), thereby approaching and striking through farm fields, by-lanes, alleys, and the rural countryside, rather than moving through main roads and cities. However, the ultimate aim was to reach Dhaka, the capital city of East Pakistan in a rapid advance and to force its surrender.
The Indo-Soviet coalition wins over the US-Britain-China-Pakistan coalition
While the US and Britain showed its support to Pakistan by deploying its fleet of warships to the Indian Ocean in a move aimed at intimidating India, the USSR deployed its own strike group from its Pacific port of Vladivostok, including nuclear-armed warships and submarines, in India’s support thereby ensured a balance of power, preventing a direct clash between India on the one side and the US and Britain on the other. Pakistan also has China’s support.
While the Indian Navy effectively blockaded the Bay of Bengal, preventing the entry of Pakistani vessels, an aerial blockade of Pakistani aircraft flying over Indian airspace by the Indian Air Force was already operational since the beginning of the year. Indian soldiers and the Muktijoddhas continued to fight valiantly on the ground and were gaining a decisive upper hand by 14 December.
Pakistan surrenders, the war ends, and a free Bangla nation is born
The head of Pakistani Army’s Eastern Command and Chief Martial Law Administrator of East Pakistan, Lt. Gen. AAK Niazi appealed for a ceasefire. However, India’s negotiator and chief of staff of Indian Army’s Eastern Command, Maj. Gen. JFR Jacob, who worked under General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the combined Indian and Bangladeshi forces in the Eastern Theatre Jagjit Singh Aurora and the Indian Army chief General Sam Manekshaw, demanded a public surrender of Pakistani troops, who were approximately 93,000 in number.
With no options left, General Niazi signed the Instrument of Surrender in the evening of 16 December 1971, thereby bringing the Bangladesh Liberation War to its end, effectively leading to the birth of a free nation of Bangladesh. This was the largest public surrender of a country’s armed forces since the Second World War.
Bangladesh thus gained its much-fought freedom, and India, a nation haunted by the ghosts of 1962, now has a reason to rejoice. India was one of the earliest countries to recognize Bangladesh as a sovereign and independent nation during the course of war itself. Later, Bangladesh adopted a poem titled ‘Amar Shonar Bangla’ (My Golden Bengal) as its national anthem, written by the famous Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore, who has also written India’s national anthem.
With this defeat, Pakistan was dismembered due to its own ill-intended policies and the curtains were down for General Yahya Khan’s military rule with the rise of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto to power. India and Pakistan signed a peace treaty in the Indian hill station of Shimla in July 1972, wherein Pakistan recognized Bangladesh in exchange for the return of Pakistani prisoners of war. India’s decisive victory in the war has demonstrated its regional power in the Subcontinent and has ensured relative peace in the border areas with Pakistan for the next two decades until Pakistan began to reinvigorate insurgency in Kashmir into a militant form with the launch of Operation Tupac in the late 1980s.
2021, thus, marks 50 years since a free nation of Bangladesh was born, wherein the combined strength and will of India and Bangladesh brought the genocidal state of Pakistan to its knees. Today, Bijoy Dibos/Vijay Diwas symbolizes the long-standing friendship and a shared past between India and Bangladesh that are to be cherished for the posterity.
Indian Republic Day: A Black Day for Kashmiris
India celebrates ‘Republic Day’ on January 26th every year to commemorate the day when the Constitution of India came into effect, replacing the Government of India Act 1935, and making India a republic. However, it is observed as a ‘black day’ in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu & Kashmir (IIOJK) because it marks the day when the Indian government stripped the region of its autonomous status and imposed direct rule from New Delhi. Kashmir has been a contentious issue between India and Pakistan since the two countries gained independence in 1947. The people of Jammu and Kashmir were promised a high degree of autonomy under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, which was in effect until August 2019, when the Indian government revoked it. This autonomy included the right to a separate constitution, a separate flag, and laws that were distinct from the rest of India. However, in practice, the Indian government has been involved in suppressing the political and basic rights of the people of Jammu & Kashmir and denying them their right to self-determination.
The special status granted to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, which was revoked by the Indian government in 2019, had given the region a high degree of autonomy and protected its distinct identity. The revocation of this special status has led to widespread protests and resentment among the people of the region, who see it as an infringement on their rights and an attempt by the Indian government to suppress their political and cultural identity and right of self-determination.
The Indian government’s handling of the situation in Jammu and Kashmir has also been criticized by international human rights organizations, who in their recent reports have highlighted how the Indian government has been involved in human rights violations of the people of Kashmir, through the use of excessive force, arbitrary arrests, and censorship of the media. International Human Rights Law forbids the unjustified deprivation of life. The right to life is embodied in Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which is being flagrantly violated in Kashmiri. India has signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as well (ICCPR). Which hasn’t prevented it from abusing the law, though.
When the Indian government removed Indian Occupied Kashmir’s special status and sent thousands more troops to the area, the situation for the locals of Kashmir became much tougher. Additionally, India reverted to age-old slavery techniques by enforcing a curfew on the helpless population, cutting off the internet and telecommunications, and detaining political figures, leaving 1.47 billion people cut off from the outside world, devoid of fundamental human rights, and living in dread. Since the repeal of Article 370 and the ensuing curfew, there have been reports of nighttime raids in which youngsters have been kidnapped and tortured, as well as of women being harassed. Intentionally violating both international humanitarian law and human rights law, the Indian military has intentionally dismembered, injured, and several times murdered people during this forceful conquest. The Kashmiri diaspora in the UK and Europe observe “Black Day” on January 26th each year to protest the Indian government’s illegal actions in Jammu& Kashmir. This day marks the anniversary of the Indian Constitution coming into effect in 1950, which provides a pretext for the formalization of Indian control over Kashmir, a region that has been the subject of ongoing conflict and human rights abuses. The diaspora uses this day to raise awareness about human rights abuses and the ongoing conflict in the region, and to call for self-determination for the people of Kashmir. They also call on the international community to break the status quo imposed by the fascist Indian government. For instance, the president of Tehreek-e-Kashmir UK president claimed that “the people of Kashmir have challenged India to take out the forces (one million) from the valley and then celebrate the republic day”. Jammu & Kashmir salvation movement president Altaf Ahmed also call the UN for intervention to protect the rights of Kashmiris.
India has long claimed to be the world’s largest democracy and a champion of human rights. However, it has a long history of human rights abuses and political suppression in the region of Kashmir. Despite India’s claims of being the world’s largest democratic state, it has been involved use of excessive force against peaceful protesters, the imposition of strict curfews and internet shutdowns, and the detention of political leaders and activists in the Kashmir region. The Indian government has also been criticized for its heavy-handed tactics in dealing with the insurgency in the region, which has resulted in widespread human rights abuses, including extrajudicial killings, torture, and enforced disappearances. The Indian government has also failed to provide the people of Kashmir with basic democratic rights, such as freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and the right to self-determination.
It is certainly true that the Indian government’s actions in the region of Kashmir have been widely criticized for human rights abuses and the suppression of political dissent. The deployment of a large number of security forces in the region, along with heavy-handed tactics, have resulted in widespread human rights abuses and a lack of protection for the people of Kashmir. This is in contrast to the protection of basic human and democratic rights, which are supposed to be guaranteed to all citizens of India by the Constitution. How a democratic state can be the largest human rights violator? A self-proclaimed secular state which does not give the rights of minorities cannot be a democratic republic state.
The situation in Kashmir raises questions about the Indian government’s commitment to protecting the rights of all of its citizens, regardless of ethnicity or religion. A democratic state should ensure that all citizens are protected and treated fairly under the law, but the actions of the Indian government in Kashmir suggest that this is not always the case. Similarly, a self-proclaimed secular state like India should ensure that all religious groups are treated fairly, but the Indian government has been criticized for its treatment of minority groups in the country, particularly the Muslim population of Kashmir.
A Brief History of British Imperialism in India
The British Empire
The British Empire or Kingdom was an imperial entity that changed the global order in every way imaginable. The Kingdom of Great Britain was conceived in 1707 when Scotland and Wales joined England under the sovereignty of the Crown. Having ruled for three centuries, its imperialist tendencies had started to show quite early in the 17th century when Britain lay claim to its very first colony in Jamestown, Virginia. Imperial tendencies refer to the aggressive and expansionist ideology that had been donned by the Empire. British imperialism refers to the attempts and following successes of Britain in expanding its power territorially. It did this by infiltrating various regions of the world and forming colonies; though the colonies were self-managed for the most part, they were answerable to the monarchy and were exploited thoroughly without any compensation. Their foreign policy was to self-portray as traders and travelers and then obtain regional control over time. It was a global phenomenon, and it was majorly aided by England’s foray into maritime expansion. Shipping routes were new and undiscovered which led to new lands ripe for exploration and exploitation. There was also a certain rush within the Empire to expand due to the competitive nature of the international system at that time. It was a challenging race for control between England, Spain, France, and Holland.
The colonized regions of the world include North America, Australia, West Indies, New Zealand, Asia (Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Hong Kong), Africa (Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya), and more. Around sixty-five current nation-states gained independence from the Empire. However, Britain left behind deep scars within the system that are detrimental to progress to this day.
The British monarchy played a dominant role in one of the world’s greatest tragedies – The Transatlantic Slave Trade which lasted from about the 16th century to the 19th century. It altered the geopolitical dimensions of the world through massive population displacements. Even though later on it called for the Abolition (1833) and Emancipation of slavery and slaves – it had been a decisive enough move to alter world history.
The formation of colonies was for both political and economic power. They were sources of power with a combined manpower of over 450 million people. The colonies presented as pure profit as the natives and slates weren’t given adequate fiscal compensation. Working for pennies on the dollar, the indigenous populations were forced to work in less than favorable working conditions for long taxing hours. The major trade from colonies consisted of sugar, spices, silk, cotton, salt, silver, gold, ivory, tobacco, tea, and more. Many of these such as mining metals and extracting sugar are incredibly labor-intensive works.
The empire used various tactics to carve out strongholds in their regions of choice. The establishment of trading companies – Hudson Bay Company and East India Company, and Strait Settlements.
The Britishers have been responsible for most of the socio-cultural divide in the Subcontinent. Before their arrival in 1600s, the region was flourishing under the Mughal Rule with various castes and religions coexisting peacefully. Once the Empire came into control, they sowed seeds of discord amongst the masses along racial and religious lines. The promotion of white supremacy and the English language enveloped the people in a sense of inferiority that still rears its head to this day. The Muslim-Hindu divide became more pronounced after the War of Independence in 1857.
Formation of the East India Company
In the last months of the year 1600, a group of London-based traders asked for a royal charter – a document that essentially brings legal recognition to organizations and declarations and is granted by the monarch of the time, in order to expand their trade to the East Indies via new naval routes. They wanted to set up a new organization called The East India Company in the Indian subcontinent due to its massive potential. The request was granted by Queen Elizabeth I and the merchants set out, headed by James Lancaster. Once they reached it, they had to first request permission to establish their company. Sir Thomas Roe was sent forward to conduct negotiations with Mughal Emperor Jahangir who was eventually won over by the British charm. Finally, the company set up shop in Surat in the first decade of the 17th century.
Entrance into Politics
The initial interest of the Britishers was indeed purely economic and the company was working independently of the Kingdom. However, soon it became a full-blown empire of sorts with its own armed forces and land. They became responsible for almost half the goods being exported out of India. Their trade included spices, silk, cotton, dye, ammunition, glass, clay-made goods, opium, and tea. Their control over the remaining pillars of the state – Military and Politics, was initiated by General Robert Clive. Clive was a member of the EIC who joined the company army and led it to victory against Siraj-ud-Daulah – The Nawab of Bengal, in the Battle of Plassey in 1757. As he replaced the Nawab as the new governor of Bengal, it marked the start of British incursion into Indian politics. As another century passed and as India became more valuable to England, the Crown took over ruling in 1857 after the War of Independence, eventually dissolving East India Company in 1874.
The British rule, as known in India – British Raj, was significantly more parasitic than the East India Company was with its ventures. It managed to destroy systems that had been thriving for centuries.
Disregarding Traditional Ways
British economy brought with it a complete disregard for cultural sentimentality and practices. They were in a global race for capital and territory, something which was not compatible with the traditional practices of the Indian people. They were made to abandon their ancestral teachings and ways of craftsmanship to fall in line with the mechanized ways of the British economy. Cheaper machine-made products replaced handmade goods. Those who could not work for hours in factories or toil away on the fields were suddenly out of jobs. There was a massive decline in employment in the vulnerable sectors of society – women, the elderly, and disabled communities.
Forced labor and poor pay weren’t the only means through which British imperialism was ripping Indian society into shreds. There was a hefty price to pay because of their economic policies introduced in 1813, the repercussions of which can still be felt in modern times. The infamous policy of ‘One Way Free Trade’ which was introduced in 1813 set forth a precedent for British trade. According to it, British exports into India were not taxed, nor were they met with any tariffs, while Indian exports were taxed heavily. India was drained. It meant that Britain was working with a pure profit off of Indian resources and labor while actively suppressing any nationalized economy of the subcontinent.
England was front and center in creating and cementing a class divide within India. White supremacy was prevalent and with it came a heavy dose of linguistic racism. English was the primary mode of trade and communication in the upper echelons. The English Education Act was passed in 1835 which got funds reallocated for restructuring educational institutions for the sole purpose of making English the language of instruction and discussion.
Once World War II was initiated in 1939, Britain was up against Axis Powers – Germany, Italy, and Japan. Although it had the support of other Allied powers, still the cost was too high for Britain to bear due to its resources being spread out amongst the colonies all over the world. It directed the cash flows to the war efforts leading to massive famines in India. Overall, during its imperial rule, the Crown contributed to no less than 12 famines in India spanning from the years 1769-1944. The most atrocious one was The Bengal Famine. Lasting for little over a year, this famine set India back decades as it slaughtered millions and led to an internal economic collapse as well, sending many tumbling below the poverty line. The money that could have preserved the masses was instead used to fund arms and ammunition.
The Disintegration of Hindu-Muslim Relations
The British and their colonial legacy are responsible for the religious disharmony that is seen in modern-day India. The Britishers borrowed the divide-and-rule philosophy from Julius Caesar and used it to segregate the communities of India. The Sepoy Mutiny saw a religious fracture in the social fabric of the subcontinent which isolated both Hindus and Muslims – a previously co-habiting community into separate metaphorical corners. It eventually led to the Muslims forming an in-group mentality due to the common suffering. This ‘Us vs Them’ approach led to the 1947 partition and is still visible in modern-day India keeping the socio-religious conflict alive.
Much of the western world and most of Britain especially is built upon the backs of colonial labor. Their infrastructure, factories, and entire social standing are built because of the free and forced labor of the former colonies. Excess taxation and plunder are the only reasons why Britain survived the industrialization of the world and managed to maintain its position at the top.
Hindutva has overshadowed Indian Republic Ideology
India observes Republic Day on January 26 each year to honor the 1950 Constitution of India, which succeeded the Government of India Act (1935) as the country’s governing law. Following decolonization, India’s new constitution was secular, emphasizing a reasonable separation of religion and state matters rather than strict demarcation as in many Western democracies. However, the political victory of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party in the late 1990s and past six years of Moodi’s victory, deduced an obvious Hindu interpretation of democracy that differs from the existential western form of democracy. Religious content has increased in India’s electoral environment (BJP). The post-colonial era has conveyed an alternative nationalism, one that is founded not on secular ideas but rather on the idea that Hindu culture and Indian culture are inseparable. Moodi is ready to transform India into a contemporary Hindu version of controlled democracy through his widespread advocacy of Hindutva ideology.
The secularism of the Indian Republic has always been opposed by the Hindutva movement. A significant portion of Muslims were persuaded to remain in India instead of migrating to the newly founded Islamic state of Pakistan because, at the time, independent India proclaimed itself a secular state, offering freedom to all minority groups as well as citizens’ fundamental rights. All those who supported secularism were perished tragically due to the brutality of the rising Hindu extremism. Even Mahatma Gandhi, the most influential Hindu leader, was assassinated by the RSS because of his secular vision. Since then, Hindutva has become the core of every right-wing political group in India, including the RSS, Shiv Sena, Hindu Mahasbha, and BJP, led by Narendra Modi.
Since many years, termite fascism—which rejects equality—has been encroaching on India in the form of Hindutva. Apparently, in present day India, the Hindu Rashtra is theoretically opposed to caste discrimination against political Hindus. Modi’s ordinary beginning and ascension to authority offer conclusive proof of a free and fair modernity. However, in practice, Hindutva is ready to accept the daily coercions that characterize contemporary Indian society. Instead of assuring the due rights of minorities residing in India, the parliament validated the communal, majoritarian, and intolerable Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) – 2019 (CAA) followed by Indian High Court’s suspicious decision on the Babri Masjid. By fabricating a “Muslim threat” to support the BJP’s anti-Muslim actions, Hindutva has exacerbated social divisions in India. Undoubtedly, right-wing Hindu nationalism threatens India’s constitutional foundations by establishing a Hindu Rashtra. This includes the 2019 Citizenship (Amendment) Act, the removal of Kashmir’s autonomous status, and the Kerala hijab ban. Fascism is reshaping itself in India. It has infiltrated Hindu nationalism, or Hindutva, and now seriously endangers Indian democracy.
Similarly, the inauguration of a Hindu temple in Ayudha on August 5, 2020 (the same day a year after Article 370 was revoked) in lieu of a Mughal-era mosque razed by a right-wing Hindu mob in 1992. This confirms that the BJP has re-energized Savarkar’s plan of Hindutva as a political religion, although in a decidedly populist tone. Conservatism is now increasingly couched in current class semantics (“rich” and “poor”) rather than ancient caste terminology. Some people are considered more equal than others. Muslims, Christians, Marxists, and anti-caste campaigners are the new targets of prejudice and rejection. Individuals under such categories would be deemed political Hindus if they accepted Hindutva. In the new Hindu government, the lines are porous, and everything is negotiable.
Here, the point of concern is whether secularism would continue to serve India’s central philosophy. Perhaps it would be determined by a confluence of political factors, specifically the BJP’s future electoral success and the tactics the opposition uses to challenge the ruling party. Hindu nationalism is stripping India of one of its greatest strengths at a time when nations all over the world are struggling to deal with religious diversity. Therefore, it may not be incorrect to say that Hindu nationalism has an unquestionable sphere of influence over Indian politics and society, despite its evidently xenophobic emergence under the BJP. In fact, the revival of caste identities, which frequently threaten religious identities, is indirectly detrimental to secularism. The BJP has consistently attempted to adopt discriminatory policies to exploit caste-based individualities. In sum, India’s commitment to secularist republic tradition is now in doubt given the political dominance of the BJP’s trademark of Hindu nationalism.
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What is behind the Recalibration of Japanese Security Policy?
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