New Delhi: Congress MP Shashi Tharoor has called for a museum in India to display Britain's role in reducing the country to one of the "poorest, illiterate and diseased places on Earth" and to educate large sections of both Indians and British about the extent of “imperial crimes against humanity”.
In an article for Al Jazeera, Tharoor mentioned that he has written a letter to the Indian government “to propose that one of India's most renowned heritage buildings, the Victoria Memorial in Kolkata, be converted into a museum that displays the truth of the British Raj - a museum, in other words, to colonial atrocities.”
Tharoor added that a museum would serve as a reminder of “what was done to India by the British, who conquered one of the richest countries in the world (27 percent of global gross domestic product in 1700) and reduced it to, after over two centuries of looting and exploitation, one of the poorest, most diseased and most illiterate countries on Earth by the time they left in 1947.”
The author of 16 books further noted that there was not a single museum, either in India or in Britain, which says anything about the colonial experience, “the destruction of India's textile industry and the depopulation of the great weaving centres of Bengal, the systematic collapse of shipbuilding, or the extinction of India's fabled "wootz" steel”.
“Nor is there any memorial to the massacres of the Raj, from Delhi in 1857 to Amritsar in 1919, the deaths of 35 million Indians in totally unnecessary famines caused by British policy, or the `divide and rule` policy that culminated in the horrors of Partition in 1947 when the British made their shambolic and tragic Brexit from the subcontinent. The lack of such a museum is striking.”
The Congress leader further wrote: “Many apologists for British rule have argued that there were several benefits to India from it; the most common example cited is the Indian Railways, portrayed as a generous British endowment to knit the country together and transport its teeming millions.”
“But in reality, the railways were conceived, designed and intended only to enhance British control of the country and reap further economic benefits for the British.”
“Their construction was a big colonial scam, through which British shareholders made an absurdly high return on capital, paid for by the hapless Indian taxpayer.”
He also mentioned about the “many less tangible legacies of British colonialism that continue to affect Indians”.
Tharoor concluded by writing: “An enduring reminder is needed, both for Indian schoolchildren to educate themselves and for British tourists to visit for their own enlightenment. As I say to young Indians: if you don't know where you have come from, how will you appreciate where you are going?”