Time to Soar Away
Does the name “Clive Branson” ring a bell? I am sure it won’t with a multitude of Indians today. Sent to India just before the Quit India movement, Branson was an ordinary British soldier but an extremely sensitive writer, poet and a painter. His letters published as the Book “British Soldier in India” reveals a very empathetic man who got in love with India and was so out of character with the Gora Sahibs of the day. He for one understood the real face of British Imperialism.
A few excerpts from his writings go like this:
“After 175 years of Imperialism in India, the conditions are a howling disgrace”.
“However much people at home believe in British Imperialism, there are 400 million Indians who know by bitter daily experience the reality.”
At the end of 1942 when Bombay is gripped by a massive food shortage, Branson knows that he is too small a fry and feels depressed at his inability to meet the huge situation…. “So little to atone for the stinking, filthy, crooked, hypocritical ……..so-called Englishmen who rule this great country.”
Almost 80 years after Clive Branson’s experiences and writings, the headlines in the newspapers read like this:
Commonwealth Games 2022 Day 10 Highlights: Boxers have dream day, women’s cricket team settle for silver, women’s hockey team clinch bronze.
Commonwealth Games 2022 Birmingham, Day 10 highlights: India’s medal rush continues on Day 10.
A Leap of Faith: India bag rare gold and silver in Commonwealth Triple jump.
As we collectively cheer our best-ever medal tally, the flavour of the day is indeed the Commonwealth Games. Undoubtedly, the country is doing better than the yester years in these games which provide a stepping stone for our athletes towards greener and higher pastures. A matter of great pride indeed!
Not trying to be a literal spoilsport, I sometimes reflect as to why are we participating in these games at all. Sorry, let me put it in another way- as to why are we still part of the Commonwealth of Nations or simply stated Commonwealth?
A political association of 56 member states, the vast majority of which are former territories of the British Empire, the Commonwealth focuses on non-governmental relations amongst member states.
The Commonwealth dates back to the first half of the 20th century but the current Commonwealth of Nations was formally constituted by the London Declaration in 1949 which modernised the Commonwealth concept and established the member states as “free and equal”.
Although the stated principle is of equitability, the head of the Commonwealth is currently Queen Elizabeth II. Further, the 2018 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting appointed Charles, Prince of Wales to be her designated successor. Although it is subtly mentioned at places that the position is not hereditary, there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that the British monarch will continue to occupy the throne position with other member reps in sitting in subtle obeisance .
Member states are supposed to have no legal obligations to one another but are connected through their use of the English language and historical ties. The Commonwealth Charter defines shared values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law.
Zoom out for a moment and see for yourself as to what the British were trying to do mid-way through the last century? As rapid-decolonization occurred in many colonies including India after WW II, the British consolidated their residual soft power through the Commonwealth concept where the Queen continued to be the notional Head of State of 15 countries like Canada and Australia besides being the overarching head of the Commonwealth organization.
India has come a long way after 1949. Our economy has grown manifold. Our population consists of 1.4 billion souls out of the Commonwealth total population of 2.4 billions. We don’t want any preaching or hand-holding for “Shared values of democracy, human rights and rule of law” which is just diplomatic bumkum as the organization has no locus-standi for any kind of enforcement.
But more importantly, we are not at all proud of our colonial past. Yet we remain part of an insignificant organization where the British Royalty (which itself has lost its significance besides running a reality soap-opera) is the titular head.
By remaining in the Commonwealth and forgetting the ignominies of our historical past, are we not insulting the sacrifices and contributions of our freedom-fighters? Is it not time to unshackle ourselves from the virtual yoke of imperialism in the 75th year of our independence? Maybe the resurfacing nationalistic wave in the country will take heed and do the needful. What better gift to the people of India as we celebrate our Azaadi ka Amrit Mahotsav!
The tragedy is that Clive Branson could not stand and accept the condescending manner of conduct of his own people but we still do!
Trying to wake up from my slumber of political unconsciousness for it is time to soar away,
First published at seekmediation.com on 08/08/22.
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