London: Congress leader and Lok Sabha MP Shashi Tharoor made a passionate argument demanding reparation payments from the UK to India for 200 years of its colonial rule, prompting a vigorous debate online with his speech becoming a hit on social media like Facebook and YouTube.
"India's share of the world economy when Britain arrived on its shores was 23 per cent," Tharoor said at a debate at the University of Oxford recently.
"By the time the British left it was down to below 4 per cent. Why? Simply because India had been governed for the benefit of Britain. Britain's rise for 200 years was financed by its depredations in India," he said, debating: 'This house believes Britain owes reparations to her former colonies'.
Throughout his 15-minute speech, the 59-year-old former UN diplomat spoke about the "moral debt" owed by Britain to India - and argued for economic compensation, BBC reported.
Although he did not provide attribution for his statistics in the speech, some historical economic research backs up his account - although his opponents in the debate argued that India benefited overall from British rule.
"The passionate speech touched off a huge debate online, with many young Indians commenting on the video, which has been viewed half a million times since being posted on YouTube last week," it said.
The comments on social media forums were dominated by young Indians, and Tharoor's name was among the top trends on Facebook in India for several days.
"A lot of truth has been exposed about colonialism," one viewer said. "The Brits only looted and got kicked out when enough became enough," another commented.
As for the Oxford Union debate - Tharoor's side won 185 votes to 56.