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What if India was never colonised?

The 200 years of exploitative rule by the British over the Indian subcontinent has invited several viewings (positive and negative) of this period in the World History. However, the drastic shift in the history of the subcontinent has given rise to various speculative thoughts as to what would have happened if the English explorers had not reached the Indian shores or maybe if the revolt of 1857 would have been successful.

Historical perspective:

It is said that there would be a major shift in the unity of the nation as the absence of a central power would invariably push the innumerable number of Princely States to the forefront. Moreover, India Times believed that the big players of the game would be the Marathas in western and central India, the Mysore Kingdom under Tipu Sultan, and the Sikh rulers in the North West.

                                               Source: India Times

As a result of such diversity, the regional languages would emerge as something powerful in this context. Differential treatment would be more prevalent and regional aspirations would rule politics as a result of this. Nevertheless, soon citizens would start claiming a more democratic government as a result of the differential treatment. This would result in the growth of civil wars and rebellions.

Moreover, it is also believed that in the absence of British power, other European powers would emerge as major players in the game. India Times stated, “Following the actual history, the Portuguese and the French occupy Goa and Pondicherry respectively. With no other worthy opponents, their rivals are the Spanish who occupy the Philippines and the Dutch who have established plantations in Indonesia.” Although the Portuguese would try to strengthen their footing on the subcontinent, they have been opined to be not as powerful as the British. The trade link between India and Europe is believed to be the main interest of this power. It is also imperative to mention that the French Revolution in 1789 further affected the French powers’ holding of several territories of the subcontinent. This would have come to the aid of the Portuguese.

The introduction of railways in 1871 would be slowed down in the absence of the power that was behind the creation of them in the first place. However, the pioneers of the railway would probably be some other region like Hyderabad, Mysore, Punjab, etc., in collaboration with other Western Powers like the Dutch and the Portuguese speculated an article by India Today.

There would also be the birth of the feelings of nationalism as a result of several unifications and revolutions. For instance, the French Revolution and Unification of Germany would manage to stir up nationalistic feelings among men and think on the lines of a more unified and independent India.

India being a subcontinent housing several kingdoms would be torn by the conflicting views regarding which side to take. The kingdoms located in the Eastern and Southern Coast of the subcontinent would probably support the Allies as they fear the vulnerability which resulted due to the Japanese taking control of Singapore and now thinking about moving to Burma. The Northwestern frontier is frightful of an attack by the USSR and the British power, they manage to appeal to the Axis powers for help. The kingdom of Punjab is believed to probably assist the Japanese power in the annexation of the Eastern Coast to ward off the Soviets. However, the end of World War II, with the defeat of the Axis powers, would usher in the separation of India into two blocs, each practising its ideology. The Allies are believed would be controlling the peninsular region; whereas USSR is believed to set up a communist bloc along the borders of China and Central Asia stated India Times. As a result of this, the two blocs, North and South India, remain hostile throughout the Cold War conforming to their respective ideologies. “Monarchies no longer exist in the north while the south is a union of democratic states. North India follows East Germany and North Korea in attempts to prevent its citizens from escaping the vicious regime to the South,” explained India Times.

Modern-day India would call for a unified government as the fall of Berlin Wall, USSR, end of Afghan Wars, etc., show that communism is not an option. This also leads to the fall of the North India government. Indians would refuse that the subcontinent takes part in the US-led coalition against the Taliban.

Economic Perspective:

Dadabhai Naoroji in his book, “Poverty and Un-British Rule in India” explained that the amount of wealth drained by the British government from Indian subcontinent amounted to 4 million pounds every year stated an article by Story Pick. Thus, it can be aptly assumed that the economic devastation India faced as a result of the British measures would not have been the scenario. History is evidence that India has contributed more than 35% to World GDP. Furthermore, India’s role in the world economy declined from 24.4% in 1700 to 4.2% in 1950. By selling British goods at expensive rates in the local Indian markets and taxing the Indian sellers heavily, the Britishers successfully crippled the Economy. Indian economy would have declined with time, but the destructive mechanisms that the British Empire put in place expedited this process. So, it is right to say that India would have been richer had not the Brits come to India.

                         Source: Wikipedia

An article by Story Pick also mentions few extra points regarding this which might be of interest to many:

  • Indian army most probably would not hold the power it holds today if it would not have been trained under British warfare.
  • However, it is also believed that the Indian army gained precision after fighting in World War. It helped the nation in the sphere of discipline and taught soldiers how to handle modern ammunition.
  • India might have emerged as the biggest exporter of textiles had not it been paralyzed by the British.
  • The heinous practise of Sati would probably not have come to a stop had not a personality like Raja Ram Mohan Roy been exposed to Western education and ideals.

The points that the above article presents shows how obvious the impacts of the absence of British Raj would be, both negatively and positively. Thus, hoping to re-write History might be something that tempts us, but according to me, it might be preferable to keep it as it is.

                                                                                                                                                        By Sagarika Mukhopadhyay

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