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Aug 28

India at 60

Current – http://blogs.inquirer.net/current/2007/08/28/india-at-60/

 

You cannot go wrong with watching Partition: The Day India Burned, a documentary produced by the BBC to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the independence of India. In 1857 Indians revolted against British rule, and just like our revolt against Spain in 1896 and then our war against the Americans, they, like we, were defeated, with great bloodshed. The last Moghal emperor was exiled; the process began by which the Queen of Great Britain became Empress of India by 1877. The British, as the victors, called the revolt the Indian Mutiny; just as the Americans until quite recently, called the Filipino-American War the Philippine Insurrection. The end result, for Indians and us, seems the same: another way had to be found. The costs of revolt were too great, whether in India in 1857, here at home in 1870, for which the elite was persecuted, and in 1896, for which the new middle class and the masses too up arms, and then, again, for us, from 1899-1903 in our war against the Americans. So the 20th Century would see, for both India and the Philippines, a remarkable, unprecedented development in the history of colonized nations: a generally peaceful, political, struggle for independence. Like the British in India, the Americans set out to create a class of professionals in addition to the established rulers, through whom they ruled; and who would, because they were educated in the ways of the British, instinctively pursue reform by means of the law and not the gun. Just as our peaceful campaign to restore our independence was led by lawyers,  so, too was India’s. All three of it’s greatest independence campaigners, Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, and Mohammed Ali Jinnah: wanted independence, but through peaceful means. Indeed Nehru and Jinnah, left alone, might have pursued matters as Filipinos did, through independence missions. But Gandhi developed something he called Satyagraha — the resistance of tyranny through mass civil disobedience, which firmly founded upon ahimsa or total non-violence. “Nehru: A Tryst with Destiny” (Stanley Wolpert), a fascinating account of that statesman’s life and times, tell us of the unease some of Gandhi’s closest associates, like Nehru, felt with the idea of civil disobedience. The Muslim leader Jinnah simply hated it. The story told in Wolpert’s book reads like our political history from the 20s to the 40s: factions, infighting, debates over independence -the how, when, and even why of it, certainly, the who of it. Their independence struggle, like ours, is a tale of leaders generally from the upper and professional classes that led the independence movement. Their vehicle was a single party, the Congress Party, which dominated politics for generations, just as here at home, the Nacionalista Party dominated the independence movement. Even now, the instinct of our political class is to form a superparty, just as much of India’s modern history has been dominated by the Congress Party. And independence for India, as for us, come, some felt, too soon, but not a moment too soon, because the Americans and the British were finally prepared to recognize independence, after decades of insistence on the part of Filipinos and Indians. America had thought it could use the Philippines, as an entry point to the China market. Britain thought it could reap riches from India. For a time, both nations did well from their colonies’ resources, but eventually, the Philippines proved too much a threat to American sugar and vegetable oils interests, independence was finally promised by 1935. A Russian scholar, Victor Somsky, told me not so long ago, that Carlos P. Romulo once interviewed Mahatma Gandhi in the 1930s. Gandhi told Romulo, if he’d been able to secure an independence law from the British the way Filipinos did from the Americans, he would have accepted it with delight. For a Britain exhausted by two world wars, independence for India too, became inevitable. When the British decided on independence, they were in such a rush that after having promised it by 1948, all of a sudden Lord Louis Mountbatten, the last Viceroy of India, advanced it to 1947. A British lawyer was summoned to draw a line across the map, determining the border between the two countries. Why India had to be divided -and in a rush- when it became independent, is a story told in that documentary I linked to, above. For the details of the sudden, and violent, rush, to Indian independence, watch it -and understand why Indians embraced their independence, with its flaws, and why we should embrace the fact we’ve been independent about as long as them -despite our own freedom’s flaws.
The costs of revolt were too great, whether in India in 1857, here at home in 1870, for which the elite was persecuted, and in 1896, for which the new middle class and the masses too up arms, and then, again, for us, from 1899-1903 in our war against the Americans.So the 20th Century would see, for both India and the Philippines, a remarkable, unprecedented development in the history of colonized nations: a generally peaceful, political, struggle for independence.Like the British in India, the Americans set out to create a class of professionals in addition to the established rulers, through whom they ruled; and who would, because they were educated in the ways of the British, instinctively pursue reform by means of the law and not the gun.Just as our peaceful campaign to restore our independence was led by lawyers, so, too was India’s….  The Muslim leader Jinnah simply hated it.The story told in Wolpert’s book reads like our political history from the 20s to the 40s: factions, infighting, debates over independence -the how, when, and even why of it, certainly, the who of it.Their independence struggle, like ours, is a tale of leaders generally from the upper and professional classes that led the independence movement….  Even now, the instinct of our political class is to form a superparty, just as much of India’s modern history has been dominated by the Congress Party.And independence for India, as for us, come, some felt, too soon, but not a moment too soon, because the Americans and the British were finally prepared to recognize independence, after decades of insistence on the part of Filipinos and Indians.America had thought it could use the Philippines, as an entry point to the China market.
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