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Throughout our lives, we all will be faced with a multitude of tough decisions to make, which will have a significant impact on our own lifestyles as well as the lives of our descendants. This is especially true for my family, as I would not be where I am today if it were not for the important decisions that were made by my grandparents and my parents. Both sides of my family come from India, and they are all Hindus. For almost a century (1858-1947), the Indian subcontinent was controlled by British monarchs known as the British Raj.
Before the British came, Hindus and Muslims peacefully coexisted together in India. The British imposed their rule by sparking a hatred between these cultures that is still felt today.When India finally gained its independence in 1947, it was consequently split into two countries, Pakistan (for Muslims) and India (for Hindus). As a result, my family of loyal Indians and devout Hindus was forced to leave everything behind and move into India.
Although the effects of the British colonization of India that many Indians experienced at the time were mostly negative, India’s growth and development as a major global power today stemmed from the British influence that it had for nearly 100 years.
After being under European control for over 500 years by the Dutch, French, British, and Portuguese, an Indian revolution movement began in the early 20th century. These movements were mostly non-violent, and were led by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (Mahatma Gandhi). Gandhi’s goal in perpetrating these revolutionist movements was to end discrimination against Indians in their own land and stop abusive labor treatment that most Indians faced.
Gandhi held a firm stance against the use of violence, and instead used civil disobedience to get his views across. These methods eventually caught on with the Indian National Congress, and instead of engaging in aggressive acts against British rule, the Indians took a more passive route by simply boycotting British imports. Gandhi was jailed multiple times for political crimes, but his influence remained powerful enough for other revolutionaries to carry out his message. One of Gandhi’s most significant protests was the Salt March, where he urged Indian workers to strike and make sea salt in protest to the British tax on salt exports and the ban on salt reclamation. In 1919, during a peaceful protest in Amritsar (a city in India), hundreds of Indians were shot dead by British soldiers. Despite all of this, Gandhi continued to remain non-violent and finally, in 1947, the British House of Commons passed the Independence Act, which freed India from British rule.
But during the time India was under British control, the British were able to assert their dominance by pitting Hindus and Muslim, who were living together peacefully, against each other. This was the beginning of an immense hatred between these two cultures that is still felt today. When India gained its independence, the Muslims wanted their own country, and India was split into multiple countries (Pakistan, Bangladesh (1971), and India). This was an extremely detrimental effect of British colonization of India as thousands of Indians had to flee their hometowns because they had turned into new countries practically overnight. Many Sikh and Hindu refugees left all of their belongings behind and came to what was left of India in to have a safe place to practice their religions. My family was included, as my great-grandparents (dad’s side) were originally from Punjab, but part of Punjab became Pakistan in 1947, and they left everything behind in Punjab and moved to a city near New Delhi called Rohtak. Another detrimental effect that British rule had on India was economical. While India was under British control, most of its natural resources were bled dry, and Indian workers were treated poorly, as they received minimal return on their labor. Perhaps the most infuriating effect that the British had on the development of India had to do with the social structure in India due the century in which India was under British rule. For decades, Indians were forced to live as second class citizens in their own country. Indian soldiers would die fighting wars for the British and they were never fairly compensated for the efforts. There were famines in many villages because the British would take food from family-owned farms. When the British left, India’s economy was in shambles, there was an extreme hatred between Hindus and Muslims, and due to an ineffective border between the newly split India and Pakistan, there were thousands of refugees on both sides who were forced to leave everything behind to find a place where their religion was accepted. There was also a significant amount of police brutality, where millions of Indians who peacefully protested the British crown were tortured and killed in brutal fashion.
Although the consequences of British rule in India that I had mentioned above are horrible, there were some benefits to the growth and development of India after existing under British influence for nearly a hundred years. One major benefit of the British control in India was the introduction of English as a major language in India. Before the British came, there were dozens of languages spoken throughout India and there were hundreds of dialects. This was an obstacle that was overcome by the spread of English in India. People in India were able to travel abroad and get better educations because the British had brought an internationally spoken language to a previously isolated country. Another important benefit of British rule for India was the railroad and irrigation systems that the British had implemented that are still depended on by Indias today. India’s transportation methods have become more effective as a result of British influence. The British also got rid of the caste system in India, which resulted in a more progressive and forward-thinking mindset for Indians. Males and females were seen as equals now, and people were more motivated to receive higher levels of education. When the Indian government was established, they modeled the British parliament and gave all their citizens basic human rights, such as freedom of speech and freedom of press.
In conclusion, there were many consequences of the British control in India, and they affected millions of people in many different ways. Many people still debate whether India experienced more benefits or detriments as a result of British rule. Although railroads were built, and the English language was introduced to Indians, there is no way to compensate for the millions of lives lost as a result of starvations caused by the British. Another lasting effect of the British rule in India, that will likely be felt around the world at some point in the future, is the hatred that the British instilled between Hindus and Muslims. Tensions are still high between these two cultures and lives are still lost today as a result of this unnecessary conflict created by the British.
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