Saturday, August 16, 2003

August 14-15, 1947

Tom Watson blogs on Indian Independence Day (but strangely ignores Pakistan Independence Day), quoting Jawaharlal Nehru - "A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new; when an age ends; and when the soul of a nation long suppressed finds utterance."

Well, up to a point, Lord Copper. There's no doubt of the magnitude of the Indian achievement in sustaining a democracy over the last 50 years, and in doing so sustaining the conditions for an ever-increasing standard of living and of education. Many Indians are far better educated than their British counterparts.

Working in IT I see more and more business heading offshore to India. I have no problem with that - a people who value education will inevitably come to dominate an industry where what you know is more important than where you are. And in the UK the children of Indian immigrants do far better than the Native Brits in school (and the Chinese, whose kids do best of all, are coming up fast on the rails in the global IT industry).

The contrast between the continuing progress of India and the stagnation if not regression of Africa is remarkable.

But we should perhaps remember another quote. "As the British authority passes ... the old hatreds between Moslem and Hindu revive and acquire new life and malignancy. We cannot easily conceive what these hatreds are." Winston Churchill, House of Commons, 1931.

He added in the late 1940s - 'we have reached our horrible consummation in the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of poor people who only sought to earn their living under conditions of peace and justice".

Betwen 400,000 and a million people died in rioting and massacre between Hindu, Muslim and Sikh after independence and the partition of the Raj into India and Pakistan.

William Dalrymple (no relation) writes of the still vivid remembrance of the massacres in Lahore, where trains from India would arrive completely full of dead bodies, while a small UK based site offers a neat potted history of the birth of Pakistan.

And 'for amusement only' Socialist Worker blames the massacres on the wicked colonialists, who 'encouraged partition'. The fact that partition was seen as the only way to prevent even worse massacres is apparently irrelevant.

In India the Prime Minister has marked Independence Day by calling upon the two old enemies to unite against poverty.