Congress leader Shashi Tharoor today said 200 years of British rule had reduced India from its glory of one of richest countries in the world to the poorest one and their claims of bringing development and political unity was false as the British had done nothing intended for the benefit of India or Indians. Speaking during the launch of his new book ‘An Era of Darkness: The British Empire in India’ here, he said whatever the British had done in India was only those necessary to consolidate their rule and control over the country.
He said the British era history is needed to be retold today and his new book is an attempt to look comprehensively at the legacy of British Empire in India.
“The fact is that, before 200 years, the British came to one of the richest countries in the world- a country which had 23 per cent of global GDP… a country where poverty was unknown,” Tharoor said.
“A country that was the world leader in at least three industries- textiles, steel and ship building. A country that had everything… And after 200 years of exploitation, expropriation and clean outright looting, this country was reduced to one of the poorest countries in the world by the time the British left in 1947,” he said.
Governor P Sathasivam released the book by handing over a copy to eminent filmmaker Adoor Gopalakrishnan at a function held here late in the evening.
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Tharoor said his 333-page book, published by Aleph Book Company, was an attempt to challenge with fact and figures the notion and claim that “on the whole the British rule was beneficial…I do something that no other books attempted to do-which is to take up each of the argument for the British empire in India… everything from railways, political unity, the rule of law, English language and even cricket,” he said.
“I tried to take up every single thing that is being claimed to be a positive benefit left behind by the British…and I have demonstrated in detail that how and why even not one of them was intended to benefit India or Indians,” the writer said.
Stating that he was not the first one to say about the British exploitation, Tharoor said Dadabhai Naoroji, R C Dutt and Jawaharlal Nehru had written about the aspect before.
“I don’t claim that I am the first one to be saying all these.I believe that in saying it now I am doing a necessary service to my country..,” he said.
Detailing various aspects of British rule and its impacts in the country, Tharoor said the Hindu-Muslim divide and the growth of caste system were examples of “many unusual things that the British Empire left behind, whose consequences which we are still living with today.”
“We all know the examples that the Hindu-Muslim divide was actively and deliberately sought to be propagated, promoted and even financed as a deliberate imperial policy of divide and rule,” he said.
The Congress MP also accused western historians of writing ‘self-justificatory books’ and ‘glorifying and glamorising the cruelty and exploitations in India under the British raj.’
“The history of British era is needed to be retold as a large number of youngsters of 21st century still think that former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was some sort of hero of freedom or that people died in famines in India because of reasons endemic to India, without realising that 35 million people died as a result of deliberate British policy,” Tharoor added.
Sathasivam said the book would be an eye opener to readers in terms of understanding the real history of the country.”This book will change our perception and even force us to break up our historic amnesia,” he said, hailing Tharoor as one of the most readable writers of Asia.