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The Saffron Book

The British in India had no strategic policy of divide and rule. If they had they would not have brought the presidencies together under the Governor General. They would have had a separate viceroy for the princely

49. Myth of Divide and Rule

Dear Kaul
The Hindu elite often practices double standards. We uproot statues and Indianise the names of cities the British founded and of the streets or parks they laid. We are proud of the beauty and architecture of theVictoria Memorial at Kolkata. And to show it to the visitors, we floodlight it on most evenings. The man who conceived the idea of the Memorial was Lord Curzon whose larger than life statue, therefore, stood opposite the main entrance. Believe it or not, Lord Curzon was, over a decade ago, summarily uprooted and replaced with, of all people, a slim young Sri Aurobindo. What is the earthly connection between our revolutionary turned sage and the Memorial to QueenVictoria?

All this kind of thing has been done in the name of patriotism.Several pseudo nationalists argue by saying that the colonial exploiters should be shown their place. The white man was a foreigner. But then was not Zahiruddin Muhammad Babar a foreigner in 1526 or 1528 A.D.? He died long before he could be deemed to have domiciled in Agra. Yet, his desecration of the Ramjanmabhoomi temple is not considered the perpetration of a foreigner. Incidentally, as per his wishes, Babar's embalmed body was transported home all the way to Farghana in Central Asia. His tomb is still there and Mrs. Indira Gandhiis reported to have visited it when she was prime minister.

Going further back, how can Sultan Muhammad Ghauri not be considered a foreigner? I cannot see how I can accept Alauddin Khilji as an Imlian either. Go further back and think of Sultan Mahmud Ghazni,who was quite clear that he was only a visit in robber iconoclast. How could he possibly be one of us? Yet, we are prepared to do nothing to repair the damage done to our pride in the crime of the iconoclast. In any case, surely a criminal is a criminal, no matter where he is born and in which country he died. To that extent, Aurangzeb's crimes are no smaller than those of Mahmut Ghazni.

Another argument used is that the desecration of temples took place long ago. Is there any point in going back in time? The very same leaders protest against the discrimination of dalits for centuries. Fair enough. The fundamental difference between man and animal is that the former has not only an individual memory but also collective one. If old times do not matter, why do the same leaders read history and quote from the annals?

By contrast, what did the British do? A serious allegation against them is that they indulged in a policy of divide and rule, as if before the advent of the British, the Hindus and the Muslims were one united people bound by friendship. We must face the fact that that was not the case. Except during the reigns of Akbar, Jehangir and Shah Jahan all non-Muslims had to pay jaziya. This vexatious levy was hardly a sign of friendship. So long as we keep cherishing such myths, we are not going to achieve true friendship and become a united people.

Let us have a look at some facts. It was never a serious British policy to build, consolidate and retain the Indian empire by a strategy of divide and rule. Had it been so, the map of the subcontinent would have been different from the beginning of the British era and would have been altered from time to time to suit the strategy.

The three presidencies of Bombay, Calcutta and Madras were established independently of one another. They were brought under one umbrella by the Act of 1773 whereafter Warren Hastings was promoted from Governor of Bengal to Governor General of India Decades later, the Agra Presidency was formed, also to be answerable to the Governor General and not directly to the Board of Directors of East India Company in London.

If the policy was to divide, why was Macaulay supported in his zeal for introducing English as the medium of instruction? This reform contributed more to bringing Indians together than any other. Without the English language how could a Bengali converse freely with a Gujarati? There was no rashtra bhasha then. And without education in English, would our leaders across the subcontinent have imbibed from the west the spirit of liberty and the concept of nationalism soon enough? For the purpose of administration, a few Indian officials could have been especially trained in English. For the rest, education could have continued to be in the so called vernacular languages.

It may be argued that the directors of East India Company knew how to manage a business but not how to govern an empire' And hence they combined the presidencies under the Governor General and introduced English as the medium of instruction. On the British crown assuming the administration of India in 1858, many changes were made but none in the direction of abolishing English or making the presidencies more autonomous. Instead, the office of Viceroy for the princely states and of the Governor General for British India were combined in the same person.

A blatant instance of'divide and rule' was, however, the partition of Bengal in 1905. It was undertaken out of fear of the leadership in Bengal which was the cradle of nationalism in the subcontinent. It was an isolated action and not a sequence of an ongoing design to divide. Small wonder that it was retracted before long. The capital was shifted to Delhi. Bihar and Orissa were separated from the Bengal Presidency and Sind from Bombay. While Burma (present day Mynamar) was altogether excluded from India in 1937. None of these changes evoked any protest. Like Burma, several other provinces could have been separated. And the suzerainty over the larger princely states could have been exercised through political agents reporting directly to London.

Unlike Burma, Ceylon was never amalgamated with India and there was never a voice heard asking for its merger. In short, the British could have done a great deal to nip the potential of Indian nationalism in the bud. By not doing so, they helped to unite rather than divide India.

Could it be that by harbouring myths such as we have jus discussed or by demolishing British creations, are we soothing of wounded psyche? We must learn to be honest with ourselves and face the reality squarely.

The Saffron Book
Prafull Goradia
1. Awake and Unite!
2. Why The Saffron Book?

10. Small States
3. Vision
4. Economic Face
5. Abolish Casteism
6. Bride Burning, Divorce
7. Rape, Prostitution
8. Revolutionising Education
9. The Constitution

11. Nationalism
12. Pan-Islamism
13. Communism
14. Subnationalism
15. Casteism

16. Hindutva is Dialectical
17. Origin of Hinduism
18. Medieval Phase
19. Modern Resurgence
20. Not Fundamentalism
21. Not Fascism
22. Tolerance
23. Strengths
24. Weaknesses
25. Opportunities
26. Threats
27. Individual Brilliance

Hindu Paradoxes
42. Idolatry
43. Fatalism
44. Double Standards
45. Masochistic Fringe
46. Fifth Column
47. No Soul before Birth

48. Proselytising Unwelcome
49. Myth of Divide and Rule

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