tirsdag 21. juli 2020

Churchill's legacy leaves Indians questioning his hero status

I first learnt about Winston Churchill as a child. A character in an Enid Blyton book I was reading kept a picture of him on the mantelpiece in her home because she 'had a terrific admiration for this great statesman'. As I grew older, and had more conversations about India's colonial past, I found most people in my country held a starkly different view of the wartime British prime minister.

There were conflicting opinions about colonial rule too. Some argued the British had done great things for India - built railways, set up a postal system. "They did those things to serve their own purpose, and left India a poor, plundered country" would be the inevitable response to this claim. My grandmother always talked passionately about how they'd participated in protests against "those cruel Britishers". But despite this anger, anything western, anything done or said by people who were white-skinned, was seen as superior in the India I grew up in. The self-confidence of people had been eroded by decades of colonial rule.

Seventy-three years since independence, a lot has changed. A new generation of Indians, more self-assured about our place in the world, are questioning why there isn't more widespread knowledge and condemnation of the many dark chapters of our colonial history, like the Bengal famine of 1943.