Zuhayr MasihuddinThe impact of colonialism divides India’s historians because of the issue of whether British rule fractured the patterns of Indian society or compelled it to adapt to British rule. British rule fractured and disrupted Indian society by westernizing Indian society and impacting the severity of India’s caste system. By the end of the nineteenth century, British rule gave way to a society of permanent feuding of different communities; each one wanted to be represented and protected by the British Raj. The British, for their rule to be more effective, had to implement the english language in Indian society because they needed their revenue collection and property law had to be better understood.
For example, according to Khilani “the British had to cultivate a local elite who could understand them and their concepts of rule, who were willing to be inducted into politics, into a “public arena” where they would freely give allegiance to the British crown”. They achieved this through passing the 1835 Education Minute reform in which they supported a Western influenced curriculum with English as the language of instruction by using funds for the East India Company to spend on literature and education in India. Before British rule, the court language of the Mughals was Persian and the muslim population used Urdu, a mixture of Persian, Sanskrit, and Arabic. This disrupted patterns of Indian society by creating a division not only among the British and their subjects but among the Indians themselves, between those who spoke English and those who didn’t. This is one example of how British rule has disrupted Indian society by implementing reforms to make their rule more effective and create a division among Indians.
In India’s case it was a matter of language, where the British slowly extracted the power from society and concentration from the state. To do this, the power that the languages Sanskrit and Persian had were replaced with English. Another example according to Khilnani ” it began to pry into Indians’ social customs and habits” the British Raj legislated the abolition of sati which interfered in the social customs by political authority and without any historical precedent in India over these types of issues. It established the representative politics. This is another example of how British rule has disrupted patterns of Indian society by impacting India’s social reforms.
During the British rule, there was an issue of representation where societies of communities, not individuals were represented. The Government of India Act of 1935, which established the Raj as a federal structure and brought more indians into its administration, however, still less than one-third had the vote and a quarter of the population was excluded. For the British rule to be more effective, they had to take a census of the population and a major question they would ask is what is your religion so this brought about a conflict within Indian society because it created a divide between different religion and a hindu in one village for example would associate himself differently than a hindu in another village.
The only groups who received some sort of political representation were these religious communities with fixed interests and collective rights: these Hindu, Muslim, Christian, and Parsi communities all have their own interests and the British had to protect it from one another. A big change in India’s social structure is when the British replaced the warlord aristocracy by an efficient bureaucracy and army. The main focus of the British was for economic gain off of the India.
In the legal tradition of the British, in order for this the British needed clear and stable laws that safeguarded property rights and really focus more attention on stable and predictable taxation levels, fixed in writing. This fractured Indian society because instead of adapting to the Indian system of judging the different conflicts between various local groups, the British would rather ditch the practices of local governance, in which issues of justice, business, and taxation were often seen as negotiations, in favor of an increased emphasis on written laws. British rule was more distant and could not adapt to specific situations. In doing so this benefited the few who could adapt to or understand British legal principles: specifically the Europeans in India, and some well-connected Indians.
Everyone else had to make do with this style of governance. Another pattern of Indian society that the British fractured was the caste system in India. Before the British, the caste system was a closed system of social stratification is there was little movement through the different levels and you were stuck once you were born into it.
For example according to M. S. Deshpande ” The three supporting pillars of the Indian caste system—hereditary specialization, the sacred hierarchy, and mutual repulsion—were basically undermined by the British administration”. This fractured the caste system because it caused it to be more fluid and the British law courts began to disagree with the discrimination against the lower castes. It began to become a problem because as British civilization multiplied in India,however, it was fatal for different members in the caste system to use or share the same type of instrument as the lower members of the caste. For example, when the British wanted to install a water system in Bombay, there was so much public outcry from the upper caste saying that they could not believe that the supposed impure people of the lower caste system were going to be drinking from the same water source as them.
A number of traditional caste-linked crafts were made impossible to make because of the large number of importing manufactured goods from the metropolis. As a result, many weavers had to turn to agriculture. Another consequence is some occupations that were passed down generations had to be closed down because of newly opened factories. Because of these events, not only were occupations changed but the very social situations between the castes were affected.
There is no doubt that the British fractured Indian social society because the methods in which the British forced their legal and social traditions on their growing Raj worked against the majority of the Indian people at the time and the Indian’s legal traditions were done away with swiftly by the British. The new laws were not created necessarily to improve justice,however, they were put in place in order to create more favorable conditions for the maximization of revenue for the British who only wanted predictable incomes and steady taxation. Over the course of the 18th and 19th centuries, India has suffered as a result of British attitudes toward governance and law. For example the Great Bengal Famine of 1769-1770, where 20 percent of Bengal’s population perished, was the result of British’s inability to adapt or be flexible towards the Indians. For example, the British were not willing to accept late tax payments or allow farmers to borrow money after crops had failed. Some similar issues over the course of history led to some major economic changes which resulted in the failure of a large number of Indian businesses as well as further famines.
BibliographyKhilnani, Sunil. The Idea of India. Farrar, Straus and Girour, 2017. 2.
It is a fair assessment that the supposed fact established by orientalism began its career as a colonial idea, an imperial theory, and became a modern institutional reality. The supposed fact is India was defined by its opposing religions which is true because India was largely influenced by the conflict between the Hindus and Muslims. Orientalism is defined with the connotations of ideological racial stereotype such as “sexism” and “racism”. As a result European empires rationalized colonial imperialism of non-Western societies, creating some forms of knowledge that support Western imperialism. It began as a colonial idea because according to David Ludden “The result is a massive colonial archive that documents the primordial qualities of religion in India, and of Hindu-Muslim conflict in particular”. For example in the reading by David Ludden, when colonial officers write reports about riots they used what intended to appear as eyewitness accounts, even though they were usually not present in the scene and were not even close from being experts on local affairs, who would make themselves and their report seem like they came from an expert by using the word “communal riot’ because it was assumed that Hindu-Muslim riots were happening all the time in India. So it began as a colonial theory because people naturally assumed Hindu-Muslim conflict was happening all the time in India so it was easier to describe the conflict for which the local officials looked to deflect responsibility and the label stuck really easily.
The phrase “communal conflict” was the go to phrase to use to describe “violent unrest” and it was constantly used in reports so that’s how the supposed fact began its career as a colonial idea. India was defined as its opposing religions because the colonial officials had to write separate law codes for Muslim and Hindus which are still in place today. For example in 1986 there was a supreme court case involving the rights of muslims widow, Shah Bano,. This became a major event in how communalism escalated. The public debate here is that keeping a separate Muslim law violates principles of Indian unity and social justice according to Hindu nationalists. Another reason to support that the conflict between religions influenced India is that there was a policy in which colonial officials had to consult Muslim and Hindu leaders separately.
As a result of this tradition, a form of separate electorates for Hindus and Muslims was established in India in 1911 until 1947. What led to the partition of India was the result of the Indian National Congress and its inability to represent or reserve seats for Muslims, especially in Muslim majority provinces, which led to the separate states of India and Pakistan. After World War II when the British separated India there was a huge debate among Muslim groups such as the Muslim League as to how the division of powers would be distributed within a united India after it gained its independence so a partition was bound to happen. This explains how the conflict of the opposing religions brought about the India we know as today.
The supposed fact that India was defined by its opposing religions began as an imperial theory because the British thought upon landing on India’s shores that these people are barbaric and “we” meaning the British have the show them their supposed superior way of governing. The idea of the white man’s burden came into play because the British saw the Indians as inferior and they didn’t know how to govern themselves so it’s their job to teach them. They used this idea to justify imperialism and when they saw how the Indians kept religion as the means to govern India as some sort of theocracy, the supposed superior ability of the English to keep these two domains, Race/Religion and state, distinct the British intervened and it was their need to guide India to become more modern and help it progress. This led to the evolution of religion as a separate component with the other components being Caste, Statecraft, and Idolatry which all have become impossibly muddled. Therefore it began with the need of the British to “guide” the Indians to become more civilized and modern.
Orientalism established the fact that India was defined by its opposing religions because Orientalism used phrases to make India seem so foreign to the west such as mysticism, yoga, ritual, caste, untouchability, creatmated widows, female seclusion, “holy war”, and communalism. This pattern created religious stereotypes of Muslims, Hindus, and others that rationalize Western power in the world. This fact began as an imperial theory because according to David Ludden ” At the same time, European scholars, painters, novelists, museum curators, journalists, designers, policymakers, and politicians, began systematically to create compelling images of Hindus and Muslims for Western audiences”. This caused the Westerners to believe that India was backwards, immoral threatening, and more prone to religious violence, and irrational in their fervent religiosity.. Therefore this created the theory and stereotypes of Hindus and Muslims which rationalized European Imperialism. The producers of culture in Europe created the image of Europe as being the essence of modernity and increased the stereotypes and backwardness elsewhere. Because of the fact that Muslims appeared as a major threat to the United States this influenced the way people think in regards about world politics.
For example the events at Ayodhya, people interpreted it as Hindu rage against Islam. In this perspective Hinduism and Islam form together as a single image of religious militancy which seem like two armies fighting. This is where the media coverage coined the term “Holy War” because of the story at Ayodhya. This enhanced the theory of India being a place where religions are constantly at odds against one another which made India seem backwards and barbaric. This justified European imperialism and the supposed fact that India was defined by its opposing religions is further proven because of how it began as an imperial theory. India became a modern institutional reality because according to David Ludden “Modernity in South Asia has entailed countless efforts to organize collective identities”.
This meant the India was becoming more modern because groups sought political representation and India saw an increase in minority movements. For example ” The Indian People’s Party” sought to from a Hindu government was created and the Indian National Congress which was formed in 1885 to embrace all religious, ethnic, and linguistic identities within one overarching Indian national identity. Therefore the supposed fact that India was defined by its opposing religions Bibliography Ludden, David.
Contesting the Nation: Religion, Community, and the Politics of Democracy in India. University of Pennsylvania Press, 1996.