India was a simple subcontinent before its introduction to the West. On the eve of the British conquest of India, it was characterized by lot of disruption and economic fragmentation. The gradual downfall of the Mughal Empire during the 18th century had led to economic disintegration and the constant bouts of conflict amongst the Indian princes hastened economic disruption.
As the British appeared in the political scenario there was considerable increase in the oppression and plunder. India was characterized by a village economy with the existence of self governing and self sufficient village communities. In essence, on the eve of the British rule Indian villages operated as self contained communities that did not have much to do with the outside world.
An important characteristic of the village economy pertained to the amalgamation of the agricultural and cottage and handicrafts industry. When agriculture did not provide adequate means of livelihood, peasant families engaged in secondary activities such as weaving and spinning.
Most of the economic needs in villages were fulfilled by village craftsmen such as blacksmiths, potters, goldsmiths, and carpenters who were part of the village economy. For rendering their services they received a share of the agricultural crops. Land relationships were governed by usage and customs and there was no practice of land ownership.
The villages had their own system of governance by way of autonomous bodies. The village panchayats were responsible to settle all disputes and to administer village affairs. However the practice of self sufficiency maintained in the rural sector had become barriers for the mobility of labour and for the creation of new markets due to which there was economic stagnation and prosperity was missing.
There was a lack of national consciousness amongst the villagers due to being aligned from the nationalist movements. Hence on the eve of the British entry into India, the villagers who comprised of the majority population suffered from economic blockades and were totally alienated from the mainstream. The urban economy was however much brighter in terms of economic prosperity.
The major industries were cotton in Gujarat and Bengal, silk fabrics in Agra, Lahore and Murshidabad, carpets and woollen shawls of Lahore, Agra and Kashmir, which were all in good demand in the subcontinent as also in other areas of the world.
In addition to the trade in gold and silver other metals were also predominant and the transactions in these metals developed the banking system within the country. However there were certain socio economic restraints like the prevalence of feudal classes and the system of interest that hampered economic advancement.
India was not a stable country politically during the period 1100 to 1700 in view of the plundering strategies of Muslim invaders. Mahmud Gazni and Ghori went on looting sprees and inflicted extreme mayhem on the people.
Despite the plundering, the economy continued to be prosperous and the subsequent Turk and Afghan rulers did not disturb the landowners, financiers and merchants in conducting their activities but collected their revenue by using force and taxing on land.
It was during Akbar’s time during the 1560s that a systematic land reform was introduced, and the wholesalers and merchants were organized into conducting their businesses in trade and for export. Such reforms led to rapid growth in the economy and historians believe that India and China at that time together accounted for about half of the world’s trade (Hari Sud, 2007).
Unfortunately for the country, Nadir Shah invaded the country in 1739 and decamped with booty worth over $1 billion in current value but the country was able to bounce back within twenty years and the unfettered economy recouped in accumulating wealth fairly quickly.
The Muslim rulers were not responsible for mishandling the culture and economy of the country. In fact they allowed it expand culturally and to prosper economically. They did get their revenues with an attitude of high handedness but remained aloof from the complexities of commerce, trading and finance. With all round prevalence of prosperity the British inherited a nation with strong fundamentals.
However the Indian economy began to decline after the onset of the Industrial Revolution in England. At the cost of the Indian cottage industries the British industries were made busy. Goods produced in India came to be taxed heavily, raw materials from India were carried to England and ship loads of manufactured goods were dumped into the country which gradually weakened the industries in India.
In this context the discourse of British Imperialism in India demonstrates the various connections to the loss of social and cultural awareness at the time of India’s independence that sparked an evolution of change to the Indian society of today.
The aggressive colonization of the British within India and the aftermath of their stay led to India’s own self-governed misuse of power, which followed the same path as the British imperialistic exponent.
India’s post independence reforms from 1947 to 1977 closely resembled those established under previous British imperial rule and further deepened the fragmentation of the Indian culture and social and economic progress, leading to a loss of cultural identity.
India previously comprised of a group of independent and semi-independent princely states and territories and had undergone lot of changes under the British rule. The country had become very poor and in addition had to suffer the pain and miseries resulting from partition.
There were 350 million people and an economy that was worth only $55 billion at the time of its independence in 1947. There were frequent occurrences of famines and droughts which the British blamed on the incompetence of Indians in strong denial of the creation being on their part.
The illustrations of a character within the literary piece, Midnight’s Children, show what roots lay beneath the surface of present day India. In terms of the social, political and psychological aspects of the colonization, this novel by Salman Rushdie vividly portrays the author’s point of view for India to be a self-sufficient nation or one without manipulative outside influence.
Rushdie also explores the impact of these outside regimes inflicting systemic damage to India over their period of reign. Within this ancient civilization of India, lay many pieces spread out from the Middle East to the coasts of the Pacific Ocean. Although India’s trade with the West had been quite prominent for several years, a shift of power was inevitably in view.
A supreme Indian statesman, Mohandas Ghandi, in a private interview in 1948 (the same year of his assassination) stated profoundly that “Repression does for a true man or a nation what fire does for gold. If nationalism is nonviolent it helps in enhancing industrialization and in bringing a higher order of civilization or else it becomes the curse of imperialism.”
This quotation found in the text of Concession and Repression, speaks to my topic in the sense that it questions directly what the Indian culture withstood as they took on the burden of an exploitive mindset of a narrow-minded British regime. In terms of the psychological aspects of the colonization, the quote vividly portrays a highly regarded citizen’s national pride and his vision for maintaining a conservative traditional India.
The repression at the hands of the British was manifold in the context of their social and economic highhandedness on the population at large. In this regard it was written in the issue dated May 20th 1884 of the Sindh Times, “Nadir Shah looted the country only once. But the British loot us every day. Every year wealth to the tune of 4.5 million dollar is being drained out, sucking our very blood. Britain should immediately quit India.”
This was one year before the birth of the Indian National Congress and 58 years prior to the launching of the Quit India Movement of 1942. Several leaders of the freedom struggle were hanged and a mass wave of revolutionary movements began which led the British to adopt severe repression measures in suppressing the resistance offered by way of civil unrest, strikes and demonstrations.
This was followed by the Jallianwala Bagh massacre by General Dyer in which thousands of unarmed demonstrators were fired upon and killed. In suppressing the communist movement in the country the British unleashed brutal repression on the newly emerging groups by banning communist literature in attempts to stop the spreading of radical ideas.
Despite the repressive practices the number of followers for both the revolutionary and communist parties continued to increase. Gradually small groups of subversive revolutionaries began to appear that attacked British Army camps, police stations and repression centers of the government. Such revolutionaries when apprehended were either hanged or sent to jails for hard labor.
Businesses were adversely impacted by the repressive policies followed by the British and the non violence movement of Gandhi created a class of defiant protestors within the working groups who were hamstrung by the conservatism of the Congress party and the oppression at the hands of the British colonial overlords.
Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children depicts Indian culture as an evolving creation. Midnight’s Children in essence is about the early life of its writer Salman Rushdie, and is tactfully blended with politics and fiction. The story is about Saleem Sinai’s life, who was born at the same time when India achieved independence from British rule at the stroke of midnight on 15th August, 1947.
The historical period of India between 1947 to 1977 reveals that the laws and reforms adopted after fighting for independence from Britain closely resemble those laws on the books during the British Imperial rule. Indian leadership retained many of the same infrastructures and policies that contributed to a “perpetuation” of the class system and further deepened the socio-economic divides.
According to the codified books of The Raj- India (1939), the rationale provided was that these continued laws served as a means of maintaining control over a diverse populace.
Saleem’s life is handcuffed to the same history of India’s undermined past and is instilled with the same uncertainty about change that was faced by India’s citizens in the State of Emergency in 1977. The mistreatment of Indian citizens during the State of Emergency established by the Indian government reflects the inhumane rule by the British upon India during colonization.
Midnight’s Children is a narrative in first person by Saleem Sinai, who is depicted as being a thirty year factory worker employed in a pickle factory and who fantastically narrates and writes the details of his life experiences every night, reads it out every day while Padma, the woman who is very affectionate with him, makes comments on what he has to say.
Saleem, in narrating the story of Midnight’s Children, gives details of what happens several years before he was born, including the detail of the courtship that his grandparents went through as also the lives of his parents before his birth. In regard to his own life, Saleem narrates the details every night in such a fantastic manner that it becomes very difficult for Padma to believe all that he said as being the truth.
The novel depicts Saleem’s childhood as being very hard and tough in view of the financial difficulties as also due to the fact that other children picked on him and teased him because of his abnormal looks. The novel is separated into three sections and each take on a vivid caption of the timeframe spanning from India’s Independence to India’s relapse into former British rule.
In the initial parts of the second section when Saleem is aged nine years, he is hit by his father on the ear, which makes him to become gifted with the ability to have telepathic powers thus enabling him to glance into other people’s minds. When he enters the head of a neighborhood child, Evie Burns, she becomes upset. Subsequently, he learns that other people know when he is reading their thoughts.
This learning induces him to form a network that connects all the children of midnight, who like him, were born on August 15, 1947. It is notable however that amongst the 1001 who were born at this time, only 581 remained alive by the time they reached nine years of age. All these children had extraordinary powers.
One boy had the ability to walk through mirrors, while a girl was gifted with such extraordinary beauty that whosoever looked at her was blinded by her dazzling looks. Saleem uses his ability to call the Midnight’s Children’s Conference. He utilizes his telepathic powers to contact Shiva, the child he was exchanged with at birth, and who is of the belief that he, not Saleem, must become the leader of the conference.
Later when Saleem is injured in school, a blood test confirms that the people whom he considers as being his parents are not actually so. He made to go to Pakistan to stay with his Aunt Pia and Uncle Hanif, who do business in films. Saleem discovers that Homi Catrack, who finances their films is having an affair with a naval officer’s wife, and he informs the officer by sending him an anonymous letter, who subsequently shoots Catrack as also his own wife.
This leads Saleem’s Uncle Hanif, now without financing, to kill himself. With the death of the financier, Saleem’s entire family collects together for the mourning of forty days. Thereafter Saleem is then taken to Pakistan, where his telepathic powers are considerably reduced in contacting the “Children.”
He is present at the front lines when India invades Pakistan. While living with his uncle, General Zulfikar, Salim is made a party and involved in making plans for a military coup. After returning to Bombay, his father makes arrangements to for an operation so that he gets relief from his running sinus because of which Salim entirely loses his telekinetic powers but develops an extraordinary sense and ability to smell things.
By this time, his 15 years old sister who is in Pakistan is able to become a very popular singer on the radio. Subsequently, upon Saleem’s confession of his love for her makes her to feel much repulsed and she tells him that she would never like to meet him again.
The story has special relevance in the viewpoint of its author Salman Rushdie who was born in Bombay, India on June 19, 1947, just two months before the protagonist of Midnight’s Children, Saleem Sinai.
With the outbreak of war between India and Pakistan an ironical development occurs in that, the grandmother, two aunts and guardians of Salim are killed by Indian bombardment. Salem wanders around Pakistan with amnesia from the head trauma that he received during warfare.
He regains enough sense of daily function to join the army. He led a patrolling group along the Padma River in keeping away from the war while several other soldiers are killed in the deep jungles. He comes across Parvati “the witch,” one of the Midnight’s Children, who recognizes him.
He disbands his patrol and is taken under the wings of Parvati and Picture Singh, a snake charmer. The two conceal Saleem and clandestinely bring him back to India so that he stays with the family of his uncle. He lives there for 420 days and mourns for the dead. Subsequently he returned back to the slums, where Parvati and Picture Singh had become communists.
He married Parvati and found that Shiva, the child who had been switched with him at the time of birth had become a war hero and who had by this time borne hundreds of children. Saleem is unable to have any children with his new wife Parvati since he keeps getting haunted with the memories of his sister, about whom he comes to know that she has also given birth to one of the several sons of Shiva.
The ghetto is attacked by government forces under the command of Shiva which leads to the death of Parvati while all the remaining midnight’s children are sterilized by the army officers. A distraught Salim returns to his roots and request his nanny to give him some work in the factory that she had.
She hired him straight away and he started working in the factory during the day. At night he used to tell his stories and experiences to a woman named Padma. In working at the pickle factory which was owned by his former nurse, Saleem is at much advantage since he has a strong sense of smell which made the job very well suited for him. Padma is the narrator’s confidante, the person to whom he tells the story of his life.
In the entire novel the story is told by Salim in being compelled to do so in view of the fact that Padma is not literate and would prompt him to narrate the events of his life. She would listen to him and comment critically, in responding towards what she liked and what she found very difficult to believe. At the end Padma is able to convince Salim to get married and the novel concludes on a romantic note with the two of them getting married.
It is known by now that Saleem was born on August 15, 1947 at the stroke of midnight, the time at which India was granted independence by the British in divesting all its colonial authority over the country. Saleem was born to a destitute couple; his father was a poor street singer and his mother died while giving him birth, and within a few minutes of his birth he was exchanged with the son of a rich family of merchants that eventually raised him.
He has been described as an unattractive child with a big nose that was always congested and running. Saleem Sinai examined in this novel the thirty years of his life as also the thirty years preceding his birth in order to understand his identity and purpose in this world.
In portraying that Saleem’s life began at a time when the colonial rule of the British had just finished, the novel is much relevant in linking his future life to the developments that took place in the post colonial era.
In looking back at the events in Saleem’s life, one is compelled to relate the failing circumstances that he is forced to go through with that of the problems faced by countries that are thrust abruptly with the responsibilities of transforming themselves into mature states.
Just he says that he is falling apart, India too was also in a similar state in view of the extreme challenges it was faced with. It is quite evident that initially an independent India appears to be thriving and strong while enjoying the new wealth and freedom just as Saleem did as a child; being brought up in a prosperous family in addition to enjoying the privileges and security.
Just as Saleem’s Midnight Children conducted their conferences, in countries also there are is tendency to have underground organizations, and such organizations produce people like Shiva who compete in controlling and promoting their respective violent agendas.
The fortunes of Saleem progressed and declined, just as India’s did, which depended at times on coincidence, chance and the willingness of people around him to ignore his unlawful status. This was similar to the willingness of the Indian people in submitting to the illegitimacy of foreign military rule that imposed its authority over them.
With the invasion of Pakistan by India Saleem’s gets changed for ever with the loss of his family, and similarly the identity of India also changed with the fierce repression of a country that shared its cultural values with it. Saleem is able to reach a state of peace at the end but at the cost of succumbing to his weak identity, which is also the important reality that Rushdie associates with India in its being vulnerable to the external forces.
It is noteworthy that there are several aspects in Saleem’s life which are portrayed in the novel in not making much meaning. The magical powers as enjoyed by children depicted in the novel are more in the nature of conveying the hope and expectations of a new generation looking forward to new promises of an independent country. In most of the other narrations the author has given details that do not convey any deep rooted meanings in this context.
All such details, are noteworthy but are not much meaningful, and only help in heightening the reader’s sense in regard to the absurdities of the world in which Saleem Sinai exists. The looks of Saleem as depicted in the novel are more in the nature of making a mockery of the customary classic character. His nose is made a big issue in becoming his most outstanding feature.
It is not only very big, but is given a status that makes people to remember him for a long time after having met him. The nose does not help him in any way and to make it worse it is always running. During his childhood, Saleem’s hair were pulled away from their roots and he lost a finger in a door that was slammed shut.
The existence of all these qualities and traits combined in making him appear to the readers as extremely bizarre. It is ridiculous in expecting readers to identify with Saleem, which although Salman Rushdie obviously desired.
There are several There are many examples in the book whereby Rushdie makes attempts in making the case that post colonial life in India is full of absurdities. An example in this regard was the exorbitant powers vested in the arch rival of Saleem in crushing his enemies and the fascination with which the entire nation followed the trials of Commander Subarmati.
Another amusing depiction is the character of Padma who appears to be the only person to be caring for Saleem at the end, and whose name if translated into English means “dung princess” (301). There are several components of the novel which indicate higher levels of importance, and there are also instances whereby the important constituents clearly indicate that even in their most ugly forms, the novel depicts a strange world which is abound with deep rooted wonders.
The novel has however made attempts to strike a balance between what could be made sense of and what could be treated as nonsense. For example, the protagonist is as far from being a dashing man as much as Rushdie could make out of him. Most of what we know about Saleem’s life is ridiculous, but not everything, since as the story is revealed, readers are much influenced by just how much sense can be made out of the finer points in the novel.
Saleem’s life is not inconsistent, but develops in a cyclic pattern with his fortunes transforming from good to bad and again bad to good. Throughout the novel, Rushdie has made it difficult for the reader in ascertaining as to which parts of the life and experiences of Saleem are important in being related to.
One thing which is noteworthy and commendable is the fact that Rushdie has very tactfully built upon a meaningful affiliation between the two boys who were given birth at midnight although on the face of it there may be some elements of doubts in the practicality of the happenings.
During the time that Rushdie was writing his novel in the 1970s, Indira Gandhi was the Prime Minister of India. Rushdie is particular in writing that she was not related to the freedom fighter Mohandas K. Gandhi. She was the daughter of independent India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, who was a close associate of Gandhi.
Indira Gandhi was the country’s first female Prime Minister and as a child had grown amongst the powerful elites of the country. She married Feroze Gandhi, also a politician who expired in 1960. She was elected as a member of the Indian Parliament in 1964, and upon the sudden death of her father Jawaharlal Nehru due to heart attack in 1966, she was unanimously chosen as the prime minister of the country.
She was seen as an easy target by the power brokers who sought to control her actions as the country’s leader in keeping with their unwarranted intentions. However after taking over as Prime Minister she exercised independent control and ruled the country continuously from 1966 to 1977, and for another four years from 1980 to 1984.
Indira Gandhi became much popular with the Indian masses especially in view of the victory over Pakistan in the 1971 War, but subsequently there were internal social developments that reduced her hold in politics and power. India suffered tremendously on the economic front and by 1973 a large scale movement took shape in holding her responsible for the adverse economic situation.
The High Court in India found her guilty of involvement in election campaign irregularities in June 1975 and she was ordered to step down as Prime Minister. Instead of resigning, Indira Gandhi declared a state of emergency by suspending the constitution; political opponents were sent to jail without proper trial and freedom of the press was immensely curtailed. In 1977 after concluding that all her opponents had been suppressed, she got elections held but her party was badly defeated in the polls and she had to make way for the new prime minister.
She was however elected again in 1980 and while in office as prime minister of the country, was shot at by her own bodyguards and killed in 1984. Following her assassination, her son Rajiv Gandhi was made the Prime Minister of the country.
The Europeans had been interested in India for trade and commerce since the 1490s when Portugal was given the sole privilege to trade in India by the then Mughal rulers. The Portuguese monopoly was broken by the Dutch East India Company in the start of the 17th century.
The East India Company too entered the fray soon after and by 1750s had fought a number of battles with the Dutch in gaining control over different parts of the subcontinent. For the next two centuries India was ruled by the British whereby the entire economic and social structure saw massive changes into making the modern India of today.
Before British rule, India possessed an assortment of resources. Trade was great with a variety of markets throughout the world. There had been constant invasions from outside sources that include Alexander the Great’s Greek army to the Mughal Empire. Nevertheless, India’s many kingdoms remained relatively intact, changing very little over hundreds of years.
This can only be understood by exploring the system by which India existed. For many years, India existed under the rule of several spread out kingdoms. Only one king from these kingdoms would be declared as the supreme “ruler” of the entire civilization. This would be determined by seniority, strength, and social appeal. Therefore each kingdom was ultimately autonomous.
The rules and laws depended on the rulers of each kingdom. Subsequently, due to the religious and mystical appeal of people in India, religion played a pivotal role in criminal law. This dependence on religion, which had existed for thousands of years, led to a stagnant and static civilization.
Change was not a priority in this pre-British India. Mysticism ran amuck, even kings were fearful of religious deities and superstitions. The king imposed the law, but he would always have a group of priests and advisors guiding his decisions.
Because the kingdoms were mystical in character, there was little change and social evolution. Thus, the laws, philosophies and ideas remained simple and constant. This was all about to change with the induction of the British East India Company.
Starting its tenure, the British East India Company was meant to be a simple trading venture. The establishment of the post would eventually facilitate trade between Britain and the Indian kingdoms. Instead, through the actions of its military officials, the company became a ruling enterprise, according to Peter Robb’s text, A History of India.
At first, the company’s primary initiative was to create a massive trading post in important Indian kingdoms. However, officials did not expect the inevitable. Indians wanted freedom, and certainly did not appreciate these “invaders.”
This led to increased military expenditures in order to gain more control over these rebelling Indian factions. These military ventures eventually led to complete control by the British East India Company, and consequently, a new shift in law and justice.
In 1773, Lord North initiated the India Bill, otherwise known as the Regulating Act of 1773. This allowed for parliamentary control over the company and its ventures. It also put the whole of India under the rule of a governor-general. This was a new type of leadership. It was more of a military iron fist.
The first governor-general, Warren Hastings sought to control all of the kingdoms of India and knew that the expansion of British India was paramount (76). The law ran under his control, and any disclaimers were always subdued on their way to the British parliament.
Justice, law and ideals had changed drastically within a few decades. For hundreds of years, Indians counted on mysticism, minimal change and constant and reliable leadership as standards for their justice. Now, a foreigner was dictating their rules and laws.
Inevitably, this led to several rebellions, including the famous Sepoy Mutiny as stated in the text, Imperial Nostalgia. Eventually, realizing the absurdity of this unlawful regiment, the East India Company was dissolved in 1858, and a new order was put in place.
For hundreds of thousands of years, most of India had run under the emphasis that criminals were those who committed a crime and had inherited criminal traits. In essence, Indians believed that thieves and murderers were always banded together, and part of a class.
They believed that upper class Hindus did not need to commit crimes and that the lowest class civilians were inherently at risk to commit crimes and atrocities. This system of criminal justice existed for many years, but the new order initiated by the British Crown felt that this needed to change.
Indian historian Lal Vinay stated that “the Civil Code was adopted in 1859, the Criminal Code in 1860, and the Code of Criminal Procedure and Police Act in 1861; and so, it was believed, the immoral influence of the upper class Brahmins was decisively removed” (41). This new code took time to gain acceptance, but it promoted some level of equality. Britain had many interesting feelings toward the Indian people.
Different British governors had different concepts on how to govern the indigenous townspeople. Some felt that it was their duty to instigate Christianity and faith in a single God. They felt that Hindus were too reliant on superstitions and extremely old and “worthless” rituals.
Others, such as the utilitarians, felt that it was their duty to install rational and scientific thinking into the minds of the superstitious Indians, according to an article entitled: John Stuart Mill and India. The article clearly pointed fingers and mentioned that Indians were Neanderthals, and that they needed to join the progression that Europe participated in.
Of course, not all British governors felt this need to institutionalize Indians. “There were some who were hopeless romantics,” according to Mill. They helped to preserve Indian customs and sacred rituals. They also helped to give confidence to Indians that they were not truly inferior, but rather victims of imperialism and world order.
Nevertheless, no matter what these different governors felt in terms of how to deal with the Indians, they ultimately felt that it was their duty to govern them, and the Indians’ duty to bow down to their leadership.
Albert Memmi is a modern Tunisian Jewish philosopher who is best-known for the non fictional work, The Colonizer and the Colonized, which examines the interdependent relationship of the two groups. The book was written in 1957 at a time when several movements of liberation had gained ground. Memmi explored the injustice and oppressive daily humiliations of the colonized.
The book is composed of two main narratives, one about the specific colonizer’s mentality and the other refers to the social detriment of the individuals being colonized. Memmi has referred to the narratives as being “descriptive portraits” which are easily recognizable and vivid. He has stated his arguments quite boldly and in a tone that is free from any anxiety.
Memmi has heavily relied in constructing single and collective personalities which is aptly portrayed with phrases such as the “Arab mind,” and “the Arab world” as also on the metaphors relating to health and sickness, which have been all tactfully used in pathologizing the “other.”
Memmi has recognized that postcolonial countries have been suffering at the hands of the repercussions of historical events but he has categorically denied in making history as a reason for self pity. He has written that the decolonized have tendencies to find shortcomings with all except themselves.
Memmi believes that history is at fault along with the whites, but until a time that the decolonized countries are unable to free themselves from the given elusions, which he calls dolorism, they will not be able to analyze correctly their factual circumstances and to further take remedial measures (19).
He has argued that colonialism has to a large scale resulted in disastrous consequences. It has not brought an end to the oppression and violence against women. Memmi has referred to such an existence as resembling a kind of fascism. He says that fascism is related to economic privileges, in spite of the notion of additionally dignified objectives in regard to religious civilization.
It is these practices that give vent to the practice of enacting terror and racism. Most of the former colonial states continue to have disputes and violent border clashes, measures to alleviate poverty have not been addressed in the right earnest, and most leaders and intellectuals who campaigned for independence from the colonists have become silent or grown timid.
Memmi has opined that racism is strongly imbedded in all colonial institutions which further aggravate the already established sub human conditions of the colonized people. The colonizers use terror to in halting uprisings of a reactionary nature and thus instil submission and fear amongst the people.
The colonizer rewrites history in glorifying itself and thus plays a major role in removing the colonized from history. The children in colonized states are not taught the history of their country but that of the colonizer. The colonized ultimately realize that they are insignificant and in being excluded from the government become less attracted in the formation of the government.
They become conditioned to such an extent that they consider themselves to be incapable of assuming significant roles in history. Another well known philosopher, Edward Said, has referred to Memmi as being one of the few intellectuals in the colonial periods that was able to link the space between the colonized and the colonizer.
“Since the 1960s Memmi has explored in his various works the tricky triangulation of his different cultural identities — Arab North African, Jewish, and French citizens —and over the years disillusionment with anti-colonial leftism moved him closer to a position which on cultural matters can be viewed as decidedly conservative” (Edward W. Said, 1979).
It is required of the ending of colonization that it should set the course for prosperity and freedom and the use of its native languages should result in the national culture to flourish.
But instead of a new culture being created, the higher level of freedom and enhanced education has resulted in the creation of forward looking society. Decolonization has in fact resulted in increasing incidents whereby religious fanatics and oppressors have become more dominating in enforcing their conventional practices.
With that notion in mind, it was very easy to implement rules and laws. Each Indian region possessed its own mini-parliament and answered to the subsequent governor presiding over that territory. To Britain, history and land was pivotal. The conquest of India was monumental in developing England’s reputation. They now had an even more powerful and diverse army, and instilled fear and sombreness in their enemies’ hearts.
Nevertheless, there was still strife within India itself. People in India were beginning to feel unappreciated and abused. Rules were being broken and there were not enough British to regulate the chaos. A new set of laws needed to be made to create order for everyone: British and Indian alike. This new set of rules was called the Indian Penal Code according to Imperial Nostalgia.
Founded by Lord McCauley, the code was influenced by the French penal code and the Code of Louisiana. The most interesting aspect of this “constitution” is that it is very similar to the British code of law. The distinction is that there are no technicalities, bureaucracies, and unproductive peculiarities.
It was 1860 when the Code was initiated as is still an underlying law code used throughout present day India. Of course, like any set of rules, amendments have been made. However, the Indian Penal Code still remains intact and society serving. More importantly, the Indian Penal Code is probably the most progressive and positive result of the British invasion of India.
India was definitely unified after its British colonization. But the big question is whether it became a better society because of the change. Britain had given India unification, penal codes, and universities. It had introduced modern society to the Indians, but it also introduced feudalism, famine and extreme poverty.
In order to ultimately answer that particular question, one must meticulously deliberate all the positives and negatives. As cited from Economic History and Modern India, Redefining the Link, standardizations of languages into dictionaries and translations throughout India were very important in creating connections through different cultures in India. Universities and hill stations (well built cities) are still in abundance today.
India had become a nation instead of a conglomeration of innumerable small societies. The industrial revolution made its way to India because of the British, as did cinema and arts. Law had a face in India because of the British.
There was a set of rules, and a democracy of sorts, for Indians to administer. Capitalism still pumps through the veins of India, and it would never have existed there if it were not for the British invasion. These are all wonderful aspects of the British invasion, but there may be many more negative ones. Before Britain, India had remained static for centuries.
The system worked, and there was little poverty because land ownership had different guidelines. Although there was rampant superstition, there was no visible and insufferable poverty.
Because there was little trust in the British government in India, rules and laws have little influence over the actions of millions of Indians. Britain also left India in shambles, creating a partition dictated by religion (Hindus and Muslims). Pakistan and India are still at war, even after 60 years.
The recurring famines in India during British rule were a direct result of “modernization.” India had used artificial irrigation, which needed continual care and proper division of labour for centuries. Britain, instead, dissimilated the centuries old division of labor in Indian society for its own benefit. Famine was inevitable because agriculture had taken a backseat to pleasing British rule.
The most pivotal argument is in reference to the quote by Arnold Toynbee found in Imperial Nostalgia: “the last stage but one of every civilization, is characterized by the forced political unification of its constituent parts, into a single greater whole” (77). When a civilization, a group or culture is unified, it is supposed to create a “greater whole.”
In India’s case, the result of the unification is a weaker sense of cultural identity than the one that existed when India was divided. A system that worked for thousands of years was replaced by a system that has only promoted anarchy, chaos and unreliability.
It is on that note that India needs to reach back into its roots, find what made it such an amazing subcontinent, and establish a new order; an order that takes the best of its past, British and pre-British. Only then will India maximize its future.
The plight of the Indian population is very well understood in the context of Franz Fanon’s revolutionary work “The Wretched of the Earth” which is a study on the post colonial conditions in North Africa. The theories outlined by Fanon revealed themselves to be very precise in the Indian context. Indeed it is easy to see that modern India is a product of the annals of British colonialism stemming from the conquests of the East India Company.
Over the several decades a false nation was created in encompassing people with vast and potentially volatile religions and cultures. Having received independence, the Indians did not have a concrete sense of national consciousness because of which there was large scale ambiguity in framing the social and economic objectives for the country.
In this context Fanon has categorically mentioned that “unity takes off the mask, and crumbles into regionalism inside the hollow shell of nationality itself,”(1583). The divide amongst Hindus and Muslims continued due to lack of trust, despite the formation of a separate Muslim state of Pakistan.
Fanon saw a deep spiritual regionalism in writing “Inside a single nation, religion splits up people into different spiritual communities, all of them kept up and stiffened by colonialism and its instruments,” (1584).
Going by Fanon’s theory the social structure is such that the country continues to be dominated by caste politics and economic penury amongst the masses. This is perhaps due to the western model that India adopted; a model that did not have much relevance in the country in view of being an almost empty replica of the original.
Nationalism did grow in keeping with the social structure of the country but the ideologies imposed on the country were not in keeping with the inherent culture and economic circumstances that prevailed at the time of independence.
Through the lens of Fanon’s work literature plays an important function in the region’s prosperity. Fanon argued that in post colonial situations there is a progression in the literature which reflects the evolution of nationalism; “In fact, the progress of national consciousness among the people modifies and gives precision to the literary utterances of the native intellectual,” (1589).
A marked change has been seen in India in the field of literary achievements in not only literature but also the ideologies in terms of an enhanced sense of nationalism and development of literature. The country has developed significantly especially during the last ten years in fulfilling Fanon’s prophecy that the literature coming out of a country provides the methods of stability and peace within the country.
The problematic association that links the colonizer and the colonized in the colonial framework is aptly demonstrated in E M Forster’s novel A Passage to India. Forster has revealed the stereotype in which the people have been depicted by way of being brainwashed and subjected to a consistent process of formatting by the colonizers.
The novel also portrays the picture of the land as proving to be unreceptive to the colonizers which makes them to fight and intensify their feelings of being alienated and exiled. The book is in stark resemblance to the theory as propagated by Memmi as also to those of other literary thinkers of the time.
Forster has explicitly depicted the challenging issues in regard to race relations, formation of identity and the complications from colonial discourses in different contexts. If Forster’s work is examined in the perspective of post colonialism one can infer the socio psychological dilemmas during the period of British rule.
Forster has outlined the processes by which it became rather mandatory for native people in positions of authority to accept adopting the British dictates in formatting themselves within the given framework of the system.
Forster’s book begins with describing the bazaars of India which are subsequently related with Chandrapore, the place where the British lived, “general outline of the town [which] persists, swelling here, shrinking there, like some low but indestructible form of life”, Chandrapore is “a city of gardens.
It is not described as a city, but as a forest that is thinly dotted with huts. It is a tropical pleasance, washed by a noble river,” (p.31). He further writes about the roads in Chandrapore being “named after victorious generals and intersecting at right angles, were symbolic of the net Great Britain had thrown over India” (p.39). In this context it is clear from the word “net” that Forster did not approve of the colonization of India by the British.
Forster writes that in spite of the attempts by the British to “tame” India, the country continued to be a “wild” country. The novel is concluded with the premise that the Indians and the British can be intimate with each other but the complexities of colonization, stereo typing and cultural disparities would never allow them to become friends.
Memmi has subtly said in this regard, “The colonial situation manufactures colonialists, just as it manufactures the colonised”, (Memmi 1974:56-57). Memmi was of the belief that the colonizer discovers his own existence in discovering his privileges.
He explained in this context that the colonizer “finds himself on one side of a scale, the other side of which bears the colonised man. …. [T]he more freely he breathes, the more the colonised are choked. … It is impossible for him not to be aware of the constant illegitimacy of his status (Memmi, pp.6-9).
It is clear that to Memmi the act of colonization was illegitimate; the colonizer takes away the right of the original inhabitant by taking his place. If the colonizer is sympathetic towards the colonized, he will be rejected by other colonizers who will take his place and the best choice for him is to remain a colonizer.
Memmi has noted that “one after another, all the qualities which make a man of the colonised crumble away”. To the coloniser, the colonised “is hardly a human being. He tends rapidly toward becoming an object” (Memmi, p.85-86). He opines that colonization is in the nature of hiding its factual intentions in the guise of introducing a higher order of civilization and knowledge for the colonized people.
In fact Memmi’s book was born out of his own experiences in North Africa. Memmi’s work is in the nature of providing a psychological viewpoint of the effect of colonialism. He has distinctly provided a clear picture of the colonized and the colonizer, their relationship and the dynamics prevailing amongst the two groups. Memmi has also examined the psychological influence on the protagonists.
Memmi has specifically explained of a world in which extreme privileges are enjoyed by the colonizer while the colonized is forced to live under inhuman conditions while at the same time being viewed as belonging to a single mass.
This is typical to the plight of the masses in India after the British left the country. In essence, the colonized become virtual objects and do not live the life of normal individuals. Memmi has described rather poetically how the process of colonization literally strangles the region in making it to loose its language, history and memory.
The native language of the colonized becomes out of use in being neither encouraged for further research nor being read and written in the present. The colonizer ensures that all institutions that have any relevance use its own language thus rendering the institutions of the colonized to be alarmed and scared in not using the native language.
This also implies that all technological advances and innovations happen as a result of the efforts of the colonizer which in turn makes the movement against colonization to become stronger with the return of culture that appeals to traditional institutions and religion.
The most important changes made by the British pertained to the changes they made in the top levels of Indian Society. The extravagant aristocracy of warlords was replaced by the military establishments which were more bureaucratic in nature, very efficient in preserving law and order which were framed by experienced technocrats.
The efficiency measures that the British adopted did result in considerable curtailment of the fiscal burden which enabled a larger chunk of the gross national product to be available for new classes of professionals, capitalists and land lords. On a positive note, although a part of the enhanced income was sent to the UK, a major chunk was spent within the country.
Consumption patterns also changed since the upper classes now did not indulge in the lavishness of maintaining harems and wearing expensive damascened swords etc. Although such changes caused some painful adjustments to be made in regard to sectors such as handicrafts, there was a definite increase in investments into the production sector which was a bare minimum during Mughal rule.
There was significant increase in industrial and agricultural output as a consequence of government initiated investments in these sectors. In fact there was the creation of a new elitist class which used English, went to English schools and adopted a western life style.
The English had left a legacy of new towns that had modern urban facilities in suburbs that were separated in having their own identities. New elite groups were formed that comprised of businessmen, journalists, teachers, doctors and lawyers and such people further encouraged the removal of old caste barriers and the increase in social mobility.
The British had made some institutional changes in the agricultural sector by converting the traditional circumscribed property rights into what resembled the agile property titles characterized by western capitalism. The erstwhile Moghul property system of jagirs was done away with and most of the previous warlord aristocracies were cast out.
The incomes from these sources were now to be incorporated as taxes on land. Zamindars continued to enjoy their status but they were not treated as having the same status as western land owners. They could not be evicted and their rights could be inherited.
The distinctive features of the zamindari system at the end of the British rule were much different as compared to the end of the 18th century. By the end of the colonial period the zamindars were no longer able to exploit their tenants as much as they used to at the beginning of the British rule in India.
The British have been accused by some Indian authors of bringing about de-industrialization in India. R C Dutt, an eminent economist has argued that, “India in the eighteenth century was a great manufacturing as well as a great agricultural country, and the products of the Indian loom supplied the markets of Asia and Europe.
Unfortunately it is true in regard to the East India Company and the British Parliament, that they follow selfish commercial policies as they did a century ago. They discouraged Indian manufacturers in the early years of British rule so that the British industries could capture a larger share of the markets for several goods.
The different policies followed by them during the latter half of the eighteenth century and during the first few decades of the nineteenth century, aimed at making India compliant and dependent on the manufacturers in different parts of England, and to literally force the Indian people in having no option but to only produce the raw materials. This strategy was in keeping with the British objective of enabling the supply of raw material for the manufacturers and looms in Great Britain,(Nayyar, D, 1966).
An important feature in the psychology of India pertains to the fact that it was born during the prime of the colonial rule under the British. The tradition of empiricist psychology is a gift to India and like other British legacies in the country the people have not metabolized them fully as yet.
According to Nicholas Abraham and Maria Torok, “we are living with many-a-‘phantoms’ of the past that are the result of our colonial history, the cultural trauma that emanated as a result, its psychic encryption and subsequent (psychic-social-political) concealment of this trauma from collective memory,” (1994).
Other works of postcolonial writings such as Said’s Orientalism, writings of Nandy (1995), Spivak (1993), G. Pandey (1988), and Das (1989. 1996, and 1997) have greatly influenced the culture and psyche of the people in addition to generating debates on the issue.
A characteristic of the educated Indians during the period of British rule was that they were very slow in reacting to some forms of racist attitude and impositions of the British. Deep rooted in their ambivalent attitude was their desire to remain close to their native self while also emulating the educated and enlightened white man, which considerably weakened the sense of subjectivity and culture in their understanding of the psychological perspectives.
In this regard Nandy (1995) says that such attitudes hampered efforts in the introduction of the Unique Indian oriented cultural and psychological theories. It was tragic that the Indian babus did not emulate the Indian practices and unashamedly supported the British in demeaning the Indian social customs and value systems for the sole purpose to be given membership in the so called civilized club.
Even today the remains of colonialism can be sensed in academic circles by way of the psychological developments. There is still a tendency for researchers to submit their findings with indications of their being more objective and subjective as compared to the subjects of the studies.
Walter Ernst (1997) has put forth a psychohistory of the idioms of madness in regard to the locals and Europeans who were mentally ill in British India. Ernst has in particular outlined the repeated instances of colonial psychiatry in India whereby women, tribes and lower castes were ostracized because they did not conform to their expectations.
The film Heat and Dust (1983), produced by Merchant Ivory was an excellent production that viewed at similar perspectives in comparing the attitude of the British with the practices of healing that were widely popular in India during the rule of the British.
There is not much material to directly link the critical psychology in India with its politics, cultural history and society in terms of their interpretations in social and individual lives. The critical thinking in this regard has to be manifested in associating with the works of writers who have researched similar situations in other parts of the world.
This paper has relied on the reviews of recent psychological literature whereby the prevailing psychological discourses in the country could be reviewed by simply visualizing the two parallel streams that run along side each other.
Such parallel streams suggest the disjunction among the psychological work in the mainstream of India and the presence of the alternatives along with the dissenting and radical perspectives and voices. In this country there are limitations in coming to a concrete conclusion since there is lack of awareness of psychology in exploring the full potential in this regard.
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