walk a-musing

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

How About An Apology?

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On Saturday evening when we started to watch one the football matches of the FIFA world cup with friends, someone drew our attention to the words written on the center of the field. "Say No To Racism". A discussion ensued. Isn't it ironical that Germany, known for its holocaust, proclaims this today? Why does it feel compelled to do so? Does it want to prove to the world again and again that it is now different from the Germany we read about in history books? Or is it because of the rise of neonazis in the country that it feels it has to declare to the world that the country as a whole is against racism?

Someone else commented that Britain has never apologised for its Imperialism. Never. Why is there this difference? I feel it depends first of all on whether you demand an apology or not. Secondly how powerful the people who demand it are. When it came to Germany, the 'injured party' included the US and the UK. The two countries had suffered extensively during the war and they being two of the most powerful countries in the world, Germany had to beg forgiveness. Someone else pointed out that the Jews are a powerful lobby now. So everyone is careful not to hurt their feelings.

What about Great Britain and its history of colonialism then? Has it apologized to any country it colonised and plundered and to the people it uprooted (including about 1.5 million Indians) and scattered around the world to do its bidding? Has any country demanded an apology? Ofcourse many African countries have. They have demanded reparations and continue to do so with almost no result . Billions of billions will have to be paid as compensations by the US and UK for the slavery alone. What about India? Gandhiji wanted us to part as friends. That was his greatness. But doesn't Britain feel any remorse for all that it did?

Let me quote from "Empire", the recent book of Nial Ferguson who is "The most brilliant British historian of his generation", according to The Times.

"Under British rule, the village economy's share of total after-tax income actually rose from 45% to 54%. Since that sector represented around three quarters of the entire population, there can therefore be little doubt that British rule reduced inequality in India. And even if the British did not greatly increase Indian incomes, things might conceivably have been worse under a restored Mughal regime had the Mutiny succeeded. China did not prosper under Chinese rulers."

!! ....Oh is that why the British went forward and swamped that country with opium? Cool.
He continues.
"The reality, then, was that Indian Nationalism was fuelled not by the impoverishment of the many but by the rejection of the privileged few."

According to him, the English educated Indian elite,
"who aspired to have some share in the government.... and were spurned in favour of the defunct maharajas"
were the ones who fuelled this nationalism. Sad. The rest of the Indian population was quite happy with British Rule.

There. They still discuss it and some even try to make it look good. We don’t talk about it much anymore, let alone demand an apology. Is it unfashionable to do so? We parted as friends, we are all adults now, so why rake up old issues? But I can’t stand and cheer when the same people who committed all those atrocities pose as moral policemen to the world. A voice in me will always ask, ”What about what you did in my country? Have you said sorry for that?" Every time Koizumi visits the Yasukuni shrine for Japanese war heroes, Korea demands an apology (Not that it stops him from visiting it next year). The Koreans are right. How can you let people forget?

32 Comments:

  • At 8:40 PM, Blogger Harsha said…

    Agree with you Anu... The british need to compensate for what they did to India. India was called a golden bird then. All the wealth was stolen. Our jewels, our money, all our splendour was taken away. Apology is the least thing on my mind.

    If you look back now and see what the root of the problem is, it is the inequality among people and the lack of unity amongst the kings. After all they were a few traders and England isnt half as big as Karnataka. Even though they might have had all the fancy artillery, they could not have overcome a giant country like India without us being divided and ruled us for more than 400 yrs.

    Nothing has changed much since then. The likes of Gandhi, Nehru etc have really split the country in the name of religion and castes. Why cant we just get rid of the caste and creed. I dont say that religion is a bad thing. Just keep it inside you. Believe in God and do your Karma.

     
  • At 12:45 AM, Blogger Deppe said…

    There are not too many cases when kingdoms from India colonised others but I remember this history lesson we had in school about how the Cholas colonised Sumatra and Sri Lanka and spread our beautiful culture to those nations. I remember feeling very proud about it. There was not a thought spared to whether that destroyed local cultures or whether the Cholas took more than they gave. After all, history is so much about perspective isn't it? Mohammed Ghauri who according to our teachers was a villain who plundered us, is celebrated enough across the border to have a missile named after him. Now who is right? Does a generation that had nothing to do with colonisation still owe an apology for the wrongs of their forefathers? It's tempting to think that we would have been a land of milk and honey if the phirangs hadn't taken us over. Is that really true? (In my village they still talk about how our own Alauddin Khilji ransacked the temple treasures)

    On a lighter note. They say the british used the divide-and-rule policy to dominate us. But now, the tables are turned. The asian population there is growing in number and influence, or as my friend calls it , we have begun to use the multiply-and-rule policy;-)

     
  • At 4:56 AM, Blogger Inder said…

    I don't think feeling proud of a great past or getting aggitated or sad over a sad past would help us. The past is past. It it better to learn from past, analyse the present and plan for future.

    I personally feel that demanding (to be correct, begging) an appolory is not a very graceful thing to do. An apology on demand connot be heartfelt. Either the one who wronged should apologise out of his own guilt or the one who was wronged should make him regret what he did in the past.

    UK is too proud to apologise and we are not powerful enough to make them apologise. That is the sad truth.

    The same way we consider Mohammad Ghauri as a villain, the Sinhalese may tell a different story about what the Cholas did to them. The Sinhalese still consider the Srilankan Tamils as intruders and want them all out. Srilanka would not dare to earn our wrath by deporting the Tamils, nor would we apologise to Srilanka for what the Cholas did to their natives.

    We have enough problems and dangers within our country. We should first try to save ourselves from corrupt politicians and bureaucrats...

     
  • At 9:43 AM, Blogger starry nights said…

    I understand how you feel and The british have always felt that they helped the indians and did no wrong even though we know it is not true. But I think an apology does have to come from the heart. we should not have to make some one apologize.

     
  • At 10:26 AM, Blogger albino_black_sheep said…

    mmm..a very thoughtful post.. I dont think countries should apologize, but I do agree that they have no right to call us commonwealth countries or to claim that they ruled justly and that their behavior at any point of time was jsutified. When I read books even gentle ones like The Secret Garen, I do get upset by the whole "heathen" "savage" concept..if it is alien to them, fine, no right to look down upon our "heathenism"
    ohh i think i lost the thread and rambled on:D

     
  • At 11:16 AM, Blogger Anu said…

    Bev, yes historians agree that the Indian kings used the support of the British to fight each other, becoming totally dependent on them and ultimately their puppets.
    But I dont understand why Gandhi is to be blamed for splitting the country in the name of caste and religion.

    deppe, Inder, You are right about perspective. History, they say is the story written by the winners. It is the story written by a respected contemporary British historian that really annoyed me and prompted me to write this post. Colonialism is universally accepted as an evil. But here is an analysis by the historian, comparing what Britain took home, and what it invested in India, how India changed during the period and concluding that British rule in India was something Indians had to be thankful about! Yes I dont expect their Queen to come to India and say how sorry she is for everything, but historians trying to make colonialism look respectable is something I cannot take.

     
  • At 11:33 AM, Blogger Anu said…

    Starry nights, Perhaps moving to UK has made me a little more sensitive to this. It is not the people, I have had very pleasant experiences with most them. But just one visit to the British museum makes you realise how much was taken away from so many parts of the world.... If there was such a thing as a country feeling remorse and making amends, well, the British museum would have to be completely emptied.

    albino_black_sheep, Is Secret Garden the same as the one made into a movie? I came across it recently but did not give it much attention. Is it an interesting book?

     
  • At 2:18 PM, Blogger nevermind said…

    sorry about the language, but niall ferguson is an unreconstructed neo-imperialist w*%#r. and the times, (under murdoch management) though not as bad as the daily telegraph and the spectator, is a haven for patronising twits of his ilk. is an apology in order? certainly.

    however, many decent ordinary englishpeople are quite apologetic about their past in conversation.

    and this is why i loved hearing the BNP describe 'local ethnic english minorities' under seige in parts of the country. the wheel turns full circle....

     
  • At 2:27 PM, Blogger nevermind said…

    sorry again:-/ lost it for a minute.. the british museum, the statues of colonial commanders, the plinths outside buckingham palace, all of it.

     
  • At 4:44 PM, Blogger Bhargav said…

    Anu, a very thoughtful post and also, interesting comments by your readers. I wouldn't blame either sides (the British, and the Indians they ruled); they had their own share of misdeeds. But, ignoring what has been committed is something I won't accept. Currently am reading Freedom at Midnight, and I feel irritated when things are misrepresented. For example, Siraj Ud Daulah who stood against East India company, is documented as a tyrant in the book. No where in my history books was he mentioned as a tyrant. As you have said, history is written not by the vanquished, but by the conquerors.

     
  • At 8:54 PM, Anonymous mahen said…

    Good Thoughts!!! :)

     
  • At 10:00 PM, Anonymous vin said…

    "Say No To Racism" is a FIFA initiate and has nothing to do with Germany....otherwise points well made!

     
  • At 11:58 PM, Anonymous Kunal said…

    This isnt a contrary view, but for everything the British took from India, they did leave behind something good. Just around Bombay - Great architecture, CST, Gateway of India, Prince of Wales Museum. A good sewage system, if you look at all the areas that get flooded during the rains it is the new suburbs built by us not areas like Fort, Nepeanse Road. And simply the one thing they left that is helping us compete is English. It is the large English speaking population that is bringing tons of money into the country, not the fact that we have cheap labour. If it was just cheap labour we would be working in sweat shops not new climate controlled buildings with computers at every corner.

     
  • At 2:39 AM, Blogger Anu said…

    nevermind, Thanks for the comments. A friend once commented that he never reads an author who quotes Rudyard Kipling. I thought it was a bit extreme. I am now amused to find Ferguson generously quoting Kipling. I wonder if there something in that prejudice? :))

    Bhargav, Thanks. I dont know much about Siraj ud daulah, and so took a quick look at Wikipedia. His contemporaries seem to have written that he was indeed a terror.

    mahen, Thanks.

    Vin, Thankyou very much for the correction.

    Kunal, You are pleased with these builings and sewage pipes they left behind? And where does Pride come in this cost benefit analysis?
    Did they take some from us or leave some of theirs behind for us to use?
    If the English hadnt occupied so many countries, English WOULD NOT have been the language of communication in the world. Who knows, the call centres would then be situated in England and there would be a rush to learn (to pick at random) Swahili by the world because it was the most spoken language.

     
  • At 2:45 AM, Blogger Shawn said…

    Here's another way of looking at things. It's all very well to want England or Germany or Japan (and currently the US) to apologize for their selfish bullying through the course of history. However, even if they DO eventually apologize, where do we go from there?

    Since their admission of responsibility for the sins of their forefathers won't help generate more employment or increase the national GDP, what will? Beating them at their own game might. The process of reverse colonisation and the Flattening Of the World (Thomas Friedman's words, not mine) is seeing countries like India, China, Singapore, Malaysia, etc showing the obviously less brainy Yanks and Brits how to take over the world all over again.

    The Infosys's and Lenovo's of the world aren't looking to compete on the same level as their American or Brit counterparts, they're looking to dominate and wipe the floor with them.

    While the West has been moaning about the outsourcing issue for years now, they've always consoled themselves with the fact that their losing their jobs to people who work cheaper. What they're slowly coming to realise is that these same 'cheaper' people are also doing the work BETTER.

    So rather than wait for our erstwhile colonists and conquerers to apologize, I'd say we should focus on working our butts off to prove to them that it's OUR time now. And let silly old biased historians yell themselves hoarse while we REWRITE history.

     
  • At 2:49 AM, Blogger Inder said…

    British didn't do anything for Indians as such. They constructed nice buildings and resorts because they wanted their officers to live in luxury. They laid roads and railway tracks because they wanted good transportation for the English, their goods and their slaves. They made their language to Indians because they wanted to communicate with them and the Btitish were not too keen to learn Indian language. Whatever they did, they did for themselves. They did them because they thought that they would be in India ruling it for ever. They never dreamt that they would leave India independent.

    But still, we have to agree that whatever the British did for themselves ended up being a bit beneficiary to us. But the price we had to pay for those sparse benefits was way too much.

     
  • At 3:02 AM, Blogger Maverick said…

    Perhaps the view of britan tht they helped India is ofcourse ridiculous, but in what i have a different opinion is in forgiveness, why dig up the old wars that our great grand fathers have started, enough time , money and thoughts have been wasted already.Im not asking people to get up one fine morning and forget everything.But asking for a compensation or an apology would be of no good either,apart from the thought tht all our supposed dignity will be restored just by an apology, we have our own problems to be resolved before blaming another country for our present position.Only then will those countries hold respect to us.

    came across this blog frm shruthi's n just loved it.

     
  • At 7:04 AM, Blogger Inder said…

    British MP Thomas Macaulay, in his address to the British Parliament on February 2, 1835, said:

    "I have traveled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such caliber, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation"

    Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Babington_Macaulay,_1st_Baron_Macaulay

     
  • At 7:07 AM, Blogger Inder said…

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

     
  • At 9:08 AM, Blogger albino_black_sheep said…

    anu, reading your comment to someone's comment..I remembered exactly what you mean, when I was in london, visiting the palaces with their hordes of gold leaf and showcases with entire gold armours from " a nothern king in India, defeated in battle" made me sick..when they were amassing all this wealth, this was flowing out of India, and in Buckingham palace, a recording of the king, talking about how he wants peace in the world (during WWII) made me mad, because that was the time they were trying to break India completely!
    Secret Garden is a children's book, it is sweet and nice!

     
  • At 11:15 AM, Anonymous Bhargav said…

    Ha..., the contemporaries who thought he was a terror, worked for the British East India company. I did look them up before I commented. Anyways, that is not the way our history books potray Siraj Ud Daulah.

     
  • At 5:03 AM, Blogger Anu said…

    fast forward, I should say 'fast forward' is an appropriate name considering the kind of sentiments you have expressed. :) appreciate them. We need to do all that you mention, and perhaps in our spare time set their view of history - ateast the one concerning us - right. How about it? :))

    Inder, I agree that whatever construction was done was in aid of colonialism and not in an attitude of benevolence. Ofcourse there were individuals among them who showed great compassion towards the people they were sent to rule.
    And yes, i have read this statement by Macaulay. Thanks for quoting it here.

    maverick, Thankyou very much. I think my response to your comment would be the same as that given to fast forward.

    albino_black_sheep, Yes, we went to see Blenheim palace in Isle of Wight. The guide told us that Maharaja Ranjit Singh gifted the Kohinoor to queen Victoria. I had recently read a very interesting book on the same subject (forget its name now). I was so tempted to ask "at gun point?" but didnt.:)
    Have located Wind in the Willows. Will bring it home and read soon.

    Bhargav, hm.... possible. I dont know much about it. Intersting to find out more.

     
  • At 6:22 PM, Blogger PRIDERA said…

    I have been so busy this entire week that I checked your blog only today.
    What British did to India cannot just be forgotten with an apology. If the British divided and ruled India ... so are the politicians today. I guess the British just laid the foundation for all this .. sadly India has still a long way to go before it can get back its Golden Status.... I can go on and on ... this topic just boils me.
    Coming back to the blog... An apology if not from heart is no apology :(

     
  • At 10:50 AM, Anonymous disha said…

    hope you enjoy the book Anu..I like classics like these a lot!
    btw I moved my blog..you might get luckier this time in getting to it!

    https://directions.wordpress.com

     
  • At 10:51 AM, Blogger albino_black_sheep said…

    ohh btw disha is albino_black_sheep :D

     
  • At 2:28 PM, Blogger Id it is said…

    Great post.
    Made me ponder and wonder whether an apology is what I'd seek, and if I did what purpose would it serve? The wrongs have been done and people have suffered as a result. Neither of which can be retracted. So why the apology? If anything it'd only renew old wounds. Words cannot mend hearts or heal wounds it's our actions that speak for us and make the difference. The fact that Germany hosts the Soccer World Cup and nations around the world send their teams to compete is in fact a true measure of global comraderie.

     
  • At 6:34 AM, Blogger Shawn said…

    Thanks Anu, I think thats an appropriate meeting point of our opinions. Always a pleasure when people attempt to find a coomon ground......FastForward

     
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