Colonisation was a barbaric act of inhumanity;moreover, decolonisation was a more horrific process compared to the formeract.
In the second half of the last century, many nations around the world gainedtheir independence. However, the immoral process of decolonisation destroyedand divided their countries and entered them in swirls did not end to today. Thesubject of this essay is to analyse the process of the decolonisation of Indiaconsidering many different appropriate sources. In addition, this essay willexamine how various nationalist parties in India evolved through resistance tothe British colonisation and leading to the independence and how Britainhandled the decolonisation of India. These masked and destructive processes ofdecolonisation were important for imperial powers such as Britain to continueexploiting their former colonies and keep up the global balance of power. Anciently,imperialism has developed with the progress of human civilization. Imperialismdefined as per Cambridge dictionary as ‘a system or a situation where onecountry with superior power used force or influence to rule and exploit anothercountry’ (Cambridge dictionary, 2017).
In the contemporary colonial era, manyEuropean intellectuals and thinkers have justified imperialism such as RudyardKipling with his famous poem ‘The White Man’s Burden’ (Kiplingsociety.co,uk,2017). The poem reflected the agreement of many Europeans of their superiority,which attached with a duty to spread Western ideas and knowledge towardnon-Western people. They thought they were primitive barbarians as Kiplingexpressed them ‘Half-devil and half-child’ and needed guidance to change their way of life. Extraordinarily,the British has exceeded its European counterparts in colonial superiority andextended its empire, the largest in the world, over fifth of the land in the earthand they gained that status because of their naval superiority and manoeuvres. By1783, Britain had established an empire which comprised colonies in Canada,America and the West Indies (bbc.co.uk, 2017).
The British East India Company hadbuilt up a small empire of trading posts in India. Due to the harsh land taxesand the exploitative treatment of rich landowners and princes supported by thecompany, an unsuccessful rebellion erupted in 1857 against the company whichled the British government to take over the rule of India from the company. TheBritish forced the reigning princes to pay taxes to the British Empire for theprivilege of continuing their rule over their lands. India was viewed as thejewel in the crown of the British Empire because of its wealth and population.
Spices, textiles, cotton and opium which Britain wanted were all available inIndia. Even population was capitalised by the British to form the backbone oftheir military regiments (bbc.co.uk, 2017). Although there were overwhelming numbers ofIndians accepted to cooperate with the British Raj especially in the IndianArmy which used to maintain control of India and defend the empire elsewhere.
However, since the ‘Sepoy Mutiny’ rebellion in 1857 Muslims were the corerecruits in the army. Hindu were mostly neither recruited nor permitted tovolunteer to serve. In 1885, National Congress Party was founded by Indiannationalist movement. Initially, it campaigned for a role for Indians withinthe administration of India (Wolpert, 2006, P 7).
In 1913, The All IndianMuslim League was founded to represent Muslims in India. The League wasinspired by conservative British officials who feared the Congress Party’sgrowing popular opposition (Wolpert, 2006, P 3). Muhammed Ali Jinnah was themain figure and leader of the League. He joined the Congress Party in 1906 andseven years later co-founded the Muslim League.
Mohandas Ghandi was the mainnationalist leader who influenced the movement for Independence and was theCongress mentor. His successful campaign against South Africa’s discriminatorypolicies gave him an impressive name in nationalist circles. By the time hereturned to India in 1915, he had inspired the national movement to demandindependence rather than home rule and calling for an end to India’s strictcaste system (Wolpert, 2006, P 8). Jawaharlal Nehru was the main figure and theleader of the National Congress Party. The main character shared between thembeside they were nationalist figures, they were graduate barristers from London.However, they disagree on the best tactics to win liberation for India. Ironically,as an impact of the First World War, both parties gathered in one platformin1916 to support the Allied War efforts in exchange for ‘dominion status’within the British Commonwealth as a national goal (Wolpert, 2006, P 2). Afterthe war ended with the Allied victory, the British instead of rewarding themillion valiant Indian soldiers and granting India the virtual sovereign independenceof ‘dominion status’, the Viceroy Lord Chelmsford extended India’s martial lawordinances or the ‘Black Act’ as Ghandi labelled them (Wolpert, 2006, P 4).
Consequently, rise of nationalism and a strong independence movement widespreadbetween Indians. In 1919, the British Raj government massacred a peacefulgathering at Amritsar. Then, Ghandi called upon Indians to peacefully refuseobeying British laws.
The British hardly cracked on Ghandi’s followers(Wolpert, 2006, P 8). With the beginning of WWII, the Muslim Leagueadopted ‘Pakistan’ resolution in 1940. The idea grew intensively on how theCongress treated Muslims especially in refusing to allow them into coalitionprovincial governments (Wolpert, 2006, P 77). On February 10th,1942, Singapore felled in the hand of Japanese after the surrender of BritishIndian troops. The British government in London feared losing India in caseJapan attacked it. Winston Churchill, who hated the Indians, sent Sir Crippswith an offer to win the Indians during the war in promise for ‘dominionstatus’ (Wolpert, 2006, P 72). The National Congress Party refused the proposalbecause they wanted control over defence matters, which was rejected by theBritish.
Ghandi & the Congress launched ‘Quit India’ campaign on August 8th,1942 (Open.ac.uk, 2017). Ghandi and the leaders of the Congress were arrestedthe following day, which erupted massive riots across India. Churchill refusedto allow Ghandi to meet with Jinnah or even have any correspondent between themduring the war-time (Wolpert, 2006, P 58).
OnJune 1946, the Congress Party adopted a resolution calling for independencewith the establishment of a united democratic India with a central government.Jinnah was upset with the Congress’ resolution, therefore, he called for a’Direct Action Day’ of Muslims organised by the League on August 1946. Hugereligious tensions exploded and led to a massacre between the Hindus andMuslims (Wolpert, 2006, P 119). As an effect of the Second World War, Britain was bankrupt as fightingcolonial independence became too expensive.
On February 20th, 1947,the British prime minister Attlee’s government issued a statement in Londonpromising to hand over its ‘powers’ and ‘great responsibilities’ in India,either to one central Indian government or to provincial governments by nolater than June 1948 (Wolpert, 2006 P 129). Lord Mountbatten – cousin of KingGeorge – was appointed as the last Viceroy in India. Nehru gave negativestatement to Mountbatten in their first meetings about Jinnah and that probablyinfluenced Mountbatten decisions in future (Wolpert, 2006, P135). Mountbatten ledthe negotiations between major parties – the Congress Party led by Nehru wanted a united India with a strongcentral state and the Muslim League led by Jinnah wanted a separate Muslimstate. Mountbatten decided that partition was the only way to avoid civil warand would produce less violence. His proposal was designed to place theresponsibility for dividing India on the Indians themselves if the partitionand independence were given fast.
Therefore, he brought the date of Britishwithdrawal forward to August 1947 (Wolpert, 2006, P 144). A British barristerwho had never put his feet before in India, Sir Cyril Radcliffe, was in chargeof drawing the dividing borders lines between India and Pakistan. The Partitionborders – the maps – which divided Hindu and Muslim communities on the frontierin half, were not announced until after independence was granted. After theindependence, millions of refugees died to immigrate to their desired side ofpartition. Ghandi, who was against the partitioning, went on hunger strikeappealing for peace.
He was assassinated by a Hindu fanatic who resented hisdemand that Muslims should be treated as equals. The Kashmir problem is notsettled to this day and led to many wars between the divided countries. Although,Churchill hated the Indians and was responsible for the Bengal famine which costaround 2 million lives, he was right when he described the decolonisationprocess by the British as a ‘Shameful Flight’ in his opposition speech. Furthermore,the British decolonisation policy in India was alike with Ireland – first andlongest British colony in the history. Like India, Ireland had many uprisingthrough their history but the British crack them down hardly and refused togive them their independence. The Irish famine in the 1850s was like the Bengalfamine in India in occurrence due to ignorant British policies. The Britishdecolonisation process in Ireland led to a partition based on religion similarto India. After numerous massacres, severe repressionand twisted promises, Britain left India after centuries of colonisation.
The worsethan that, she left after it divided it and with enormous cost of human life inthe partition process itself. There isstill animosity between India and Pakistan and then are both nuclear powers. Arguably,Imperialism had made a new form for itself with the same exploitive principles andused the process of decolonization of colonies to apply the new form.
India isthe best example for that.