Friday, February 12, 2010

Why India needed British rule...

2-3 years ago, such a thought would have been preposterous to me. But now that I think about it, India would have been only slightly better than Africa, had there not been British rule.

When the British started expanding in India, it was being ruled by the later mughals whose vision for the country was clouded by their own lust for power and royalty. India had lost the momentum that the Mauryas, the Guptas, and other such dynasties had created over the years in terms of scientific innovations. Though one can counter that Mughals gave India excellent architecture, and perhaps had the best taxing system of their time and may be even afterwards, but culture can only take you so far. If it is not backed by constant innovation and allowed to stagnate, it serves no one.

Actually, the only thing that the Mughals did well was to make the Indian economy attractive enough for the Europeans to be interested in. Otherwise, India with its vast natural resources was no better than Africa.

Now, let us move further, if India were to participate in the World wars, which they would have under the Mughals (though, as a faithful believer in the chaos theory, I don't think world wars would even have happened, had India not been a colony under the British), imagine the state of affairs, though India would have had a very substantial army, we should remember that we were able to get past the two world wars unscathed largely due to the military supremacy of the British and the allied forces.

On the technology front, British gave us modern infrastructure, in the form of railways, the expertise for which we would not have had. Railways, perhaps are the single largest contributor to the national GDP of our country even today, just think, we are still using British infrastructure, whose cost would have been enormous if we had attempted that on our own. They erected factories working on the latest technologies, made roads and bridges, and developed infrastructure in Indian cities, comparable to the best in the world at that time.

And now the most important point, when the British came to India, the influence of the Mughals had already started to vain. The British united the whole sub-continent against one common enemy, which had not been possible for centuries of other foreign invasions. What Ghazni couldn't do in 6 invasions, British were able to do, by simply trying to "civilize" us! Had it not been for them, the Indian sub-continent with such varied cultures, and languages, would have been the next Europe!

Yes, they did oppress our ancestors; they sowed the seeds of the Hindu-Muslim hatred that still mars the peace between two nuclear capable neighbors. But it should be noted that India had always been on the radar of foreign powers, and had been invaded by many other powers throughout its history. The British didn't come here to spend their resources and technology for the welfare of a people halfway across the world, they wanted Gold, and they took it, again like many others had done in the history, it is just that something clicked in the Indian psyche that propelled a whole nation to march against them.

The crust of the matter is that knowingly or unknowingly, the British did do some good for us.

It is time we come to terms...with our history...

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Regionalism in India

How does one define regionalism? It is roughly an ideology that centers on the interests of a particular region, which may be a geographical area, or a cultural entity belonging to people, majority of whom speak a common language, follow a common religion, etc.

Unlike the conventional negative portrayal reinforced by the myopic media, I believe regionalism is essential for the said region to progress continuously and evenly. Without regionalism, people would be content with whatever small resources they have and won't yearn for more. They won't associate their ambitions with the place they live in, and thus, will be complacent towards development of the region.

Everyone needs a driving force to work beyond one's comfort zone; after all it was the idea of independence from the British rule that served as a passion that brought millions of Indians together. It is the government's apathy towards the poor and down-trodden in the eastern states that has made people passionate about their rights, and this is what created and sustained the Naxal movement in our country.

Thus, the idea of regionalism works differently for different regions of our country. While in places like Mumbai, where regionalism has become such an obsession, at least to some people (but sadly, they call the shots there), that they would rather think of the city as a city-state, independent of the country where it lies. Here, many natives have inferred that their city is being pulled back due to the large inflow of people from other parts of the country, and that some of these people have also stolen the jobs, that might have been theirs.

This same idea has done wonders in the states like Gujarat and Karnataka, where it has propagated regional nationalism or rather stateism. People of Gujarat have welcomed the participation of people of other states to the development of the state wholeheartedly, and that’s the whole point of the concept of India. If we were meant to be born and spend the rest of our lives at a single place, then, these states would rather have been separate countries. Regionalism in Gujarat has made the inhabitants, whether the natives or the migrants, passionate about the development of their state, and they all contribute towards that goal. This is most evident in the fact that Gujarat has the least labor (who, like in Mumbai, largely come from other states) unrest, if at all, in the country. Similarly, Bangalore in Karnataka has become the IT capital of India, attracting youngsters from all parts of the country to work in the booming sector.

Having lived my whole life in Gujarat, I would go as far as to say, that Gujarat has evolved a unique system, where there are multiple levels of regionalism operating simultaneously, and harmoniously, thus, fostering a healthy competition that drives people to excel. For example, I would like my city, Surat, to be the most developed city of the country, but would still be joyous when Ahmadabad BRTS gets international recognition, and would still wish for Delhi to be better than other major cities of the world.

So, it comes down to the people at the helm of affairs. Both The Senas in Mumbai are in essence using regionalism as a way of strengthening the cause of natives, while disrupting national integration, while Mr. Modi the and previous governments, have used regionalism to motivate the populace towards inclusive development, which ultimately does help India.

It is for the people of Mumbai, and the rest of the country to decide which kind of regionalism they would like to see in their state.