There’s an element of truth to this

The Bihar government’s official website has called former prime minister Indira Gandhi’s tenure as PM worse than British rule in India, raising the hackles of the Congress party.

It’s arguable at least.

Hmm:

On the website, the mention of Indira Gandhi’s “autocratic rule” and “oppression” perpetrated during the Emergency has been made in a part of Bihar’s history.
While criticising Indira’s rule, the write-up also mentioned the contributions of Jay Prakash Narayan – or JP – to modern history and says, “It was he who steadfastly and staunchly opposed the autocratic rule of Indira Gandhi and her younger son, Sanjay Gandhi. Fearing people’s reaction to his (JP’s) opposition, Indira Gandhi had him arrested on the eve of declaring National Emergency beginning June 26, 1975. He was put in the Tihar Jail, located near Delhi, where notorious criminals are jailed.
“Thus, in Free India, this septuagenarian (JP), who had fought for India’s freedom alongside Indira Gandhi’s father, Jawahar Lal Nehru, received a treatment that was worse than what the British had meted out to Gandhiji in Champaran in 1917, for his speaking out against oppression.”

Let’s face it, decolonialisation was not an unmitigated success. The replacement of foreign bastards by local bastards wasn’t necessarily a move in the right direction: does depend upon the personal characteristics of the bastards in question really. Possibly even upon the institutional structures within which they get to be ruling bastards.

Pol Pot wasn’t a notable improvement over the French protectorate, Botswana seems to have done rather well. Depends: and you could make the argument that Indira wasn’t quite at the right end of that spectrum.

19 thoughts on “There’s an element of truth to this”

  1. So Much For Subtlety

    It is just the treatment handed out to one long-term professional pain in the ar$e being compared. Not British rule as a whole compared to Indian independence as a whole.

    Reasonably people hate those that are close to them in the main. So Indians will hate each other more than professional British colonial administrators looking forward to retirement in Surrey will hate anyone.

    But there is a lot of truth to it. Except on the whole India continued under Macauley’s brown Englishmen much as it had under the White ones. Only more Fabian in orientation. Indira’s Emergency abuse of powers is all the more unusual because of it.

  2. The replacement of foreign bastards by local bastards wasn’t necessarily a move in the right direction: does depend upon the personal characteristics of the bastards in question really.

    I disagree, but only on the principle that people should be allowed to fuck up their own country if they object to the foreigners running things. Our mistake is listening to their bullshit when they then go on to fuck up their own country instead of telling them to lie in the bed they made and not to bring their mess to our shores.

  3. Have read/heard on several occasions recently that there is a palpable (and positive) difference between ex-British and ex-French colonies, even with all other parameters being equal. And from French-speakers too.

  4. Have read/heard on several occasions recently that there is a palpable (and positive) difference between ex-British and ex-French colonies, even with all other parameters being equal.

    Indeed. One of the main differences between British and French/Portuguese colonies is that for the Brits the colonies were only every considered as overseas territories, and served either a commercial or geopolitical strategic purpose so the Brits didn’t really impose anything which was not to do with keeping control or making money. We weren’t too bothered about people’s religions, languages, customs, etc. and the natives’ private lives weren’t much of a concern provided they didn’t get all uppity and didn’t get in the way of us doing what we wanted.

    By contrast, the French and Portuguese considered their colonies to be a literal extension of the homeland: Algeria was as much “France” as Burgandy (whereas no Brit thought India was as much England as Surrey). They pushed all their institutions through their colonies such that everyone was speaking French (or Portuguese), French schools and universities were established, and the citizens expected to conform as much as possible to a French way of life, particularly those employed in the civil service, administration, and professions. Then when the French pulled out, they did so begrudgingly and in at least one country (West African, I forget which) they deliberately dismantled everything they’d built in a fit of petulance. Or they started fighting, like they did in Indochina and Algeria, wrecking the place in the process. The Brits, by and large, left everything intact when they left.

    I saw an example of this difference in Nigeria when I met some Congolese engineers. They had been to French schools in Congo, educated in French universities in Congo and then France, and (to me) came across as Frenchmen who happened to be black in terms of dress, customs, behaviours, etc. By contrast, Nigerians we much less “British” than the Congolese were “French”.

  5. @BenS
    Possibly because the french, like others, went out to create an Empire. Brits more woke up one day & found they’d stumbled into having one & had to find a way of running it. India, for instance, was pretty well a commercial enterprise that got out of hand.

  6. Tim, the Spanish weather forecasts still routinely refer to e.g. Teneriffe as part of Spain, which was odd to my ears.

  7. “people should be allowed to fuck up their own country”: but what if the country didn’t exist until the British invented it? There never had been an India, except as a geographical expression. The nearest was probably the Mughal Empire, the Mughals being foreigners (= Mongol) whose court spoke Persian and army Turkish, and which was moslem in a subcontinent that was predominantly Hindu.

    The country was made, I’m guessing, largely by British “drains and trains”, and the imposition of a civil service and a legal system.

  8. but what if the country didn’t exist until the British invented it?

    The land they inhabit, then.

    The country was made, I’m guessing, largely by British “drains and trains”, and the imposition of a civil service and a legal system.

    Oh, I quite agree. But the paler Soviets made similar claims on the Uzbeks (with some truth in there) and then onto the Baltics (where there was none). Doesn’t alter the principle that people who’ve occupied a patch for “a while” ought to be allowed to run their own affairs, should they choose to.

  9. Actually, my opposition to colonialism comes largely from watching utterly incompetent expatriates be shipped into places foreign and be put in charge of quite competent locals. As a Brit I’ve never had to suffer the indignity of an utterly useless foreigner telling me what to do in my own country, but I am surprised it does not enrage more foreigners than it seems to. I could probably tolerate a competent occupying foreign power, such as the colonial Brits or Romans. But can you imagine having to live under an imposed version of the current British civil service? I’d be signing up to Terror School within a week.

  10. As a Brit I’ve never had to suffer the indignity of an utterly useless foreigner telling me what to do in my own country, but I am surprised it does not enrage more foreigners than it seems to.

    I’m currently working for an Indian outsourcing company. The only thing they have going for them is that the end-customer are even more incompetent at the management level than the Indians are.

    Interestingly, the company get regularly “best of” and similar industry awards. I’m not sure whether this project is just their equivalent of the Muppet Theatre.

    I would note that there are current three really good technical people on the project – and a bunch of adequate ones. It is the project management and commercial side that is a complete waste of oxygen.

  11. “As a Brit I’ve never had to suffer the indignity of an utterly useless foreigner telling me what to do in my own country”: except the Brussels commission, obviously.

    And while I accept the basic thrust of your argument, I’d also point out that none of the French, British, Russian or American rulers of postwar Germany tossed the future of the country away in the style of Mrs Merkel.

  12. I’d also point out that none of the French, British, Russian or American rulers of postwar Germany tossed the future of the country away in the style of Mrs Merkel.

    Indeed.

  13. To turn it around, if her rule was worse than ours, British rule was better than local rule (or at least some of the local rule).

    Not surprising really; India is such a bloody big place that “local” rule isn’t local – it’s just one bunch of distant, faceless bureaucrats or another.

    And, as others have said, it wasn’t really a country before we forced it into one; just lots of little princedoms, so people still aren’t being ruled by “their own”.

    Of course Bismark did much the same to Germany, and they seem to have produced a national consciousness, except for Bavaria (and the East-West split, but that’s much more recent), but India doesn’t seem to have done to the same extent.

  14. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1023/A:1018322908007

    Much of the work on colonialism has been theoretical or anecdotal. In this paper, I close the gap between the literature on development and new growth theory by testing the effect of colonization on subsequent growth and development. In a sample of 63 ex-colonial states from 1961-1990, I find that colonies that were held for longer periods of time than other countries tend to perform better, on average, after independence. Finally, I show that the level of education at the time of independence can help to explain much of the development gap between the former British and French colonies in Africa.

  15. As a Brit I’ve never had to suffer the indignity of an utterly useless foreigner telling me what to do in my own country, but I am surprised it does not enrage more foreigners than it seems to.

    Increasingly, a lot of Brits do, though. I once worked for a company with a German CEO and Nigerian FD, both of whom didn’t have a clue. At the time their nationalities didn’t enrage me as much as their utter incompetence.

  16. “I find that colonies that were held for longer periods of time than other countries tend to perform better, on average, after independence”: wouldn’t your results be confounded by the Scramble for Africa colonies?

  17. dearieme

    Not my results, but those of the author. And no,he specifically focuses on africa for his second stage analysis. In general British colonies do better than french ones and this holds even after adjusting for holding period and for stuff like education levels. Causation here is a bit problematic though. (far worse than the whole drinking leads to an increase in cancer thingy that caused a spat here over the weekend).

  18. So Much For Subtlety

    We all have to work with other people from other countries. What we make of it is up to us. We can choose to be offended if a woman dares to issue an order. Or we can get on with it.

    The Indians can resent the British if they want. But someone has to be the District Magistrate. The chances are very good it will not be someone who speaks their language. He may share their skin colour. He may not. Race may make a difference. But my limited experience of Indians is that they resent being given orders by Bengalis or Tamils a lot more than they do from White people. India is full of hatreds after all.

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