August 11, 2005

Bird's–Eye View

The Telegraph, 11.08.05

Ramachandra Guha must be applauded for presenting an unbiased analysis of Manmohan Singh’s speech at Oxford University. As the author correctly notes, the most vehement opposition to Singh came from the right and the left, rather than from the centre ground of Indian politics. And these forces were never a part of mainstream Indian politics, even during the national struggle. While organizations like the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh were against Gandhi’s ideals, the leftists owed their allegiance more to Russia than to India.

One can partially defend Singh, though. The raj undoubtedly induced doses of modernity — there were the railways, telegraph, telephones, automobiles, the concept of democracy and industries. Social evils like sati were stopped with the help of the British. In fact, the British were the “least of all evils”. Portuguese and French rule were even more barbaric. The British at least had respect for the constitutional process and rule of law, one of the prime reasons why Gandhi was such a phenomenal success. Above all, British rule bequeathed to India the idea of a nation-state, which till then had remained an intangible reality. No one can deny the ill-effects of the raj, but we need to acknowledge its positive impact as well.


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