Every time the sun rises it brings with it the promise of life and the warmth of hope. But this sun was different. It helped cast a long shadow of a fluttering Union Jack on lands and people that it would eventually impoverish and devour.
How many people needed to die for it to be called The English Holocaust? How many economies would need to be destroyed for the privilege of earning the cruelest adjectives? How many communities would have to be left embittered before the world saw Britain as a ruthless rampaging colonialist?
All of this is undeniably in the past and although it is dismissed as a mere phase in British history, it lays the very foundation of countries all around the world. In the vast collection of books on British History its colonial history flourishes in pages that will remain blank. Entire generations of students have grown up not knowing the sheer terror and trauma that the non-white world experienced at the hands of the British Empire.
British textbooks are tainted with glowing adjectives describing colonial British leaders. Winston Churchill is described as the “Greatest Briton”. While teachers talk about him with a glint in their eye they often forget to look at his hands, which are stained with the blood of over four million Indians that starved to death during the British-caused Great Famine of Bengal. And when the Government in Delhi wrote to Churchill pleading for help, all they received was a dismissive, apathetic and churlish response: “Why hasn’t Gandhi died yet?”. There is no museum in London that frames that telegram.
Perhaps the educationists of Britain recognise that the inspiring engine behind the colonialism stemmed from an inherent sense of racial superiority. Perhaps those educationists are embarrassed by that fact. Perhaps they believe that eliminating that period from history will protect the future generations from carrying its burden.
But if we wish to create a society where equality is more than a constitutional right; where equality is a value ingrained in our culture, where compassion carries greater weight than conquest, then we must help each new generation learn those important lessons of history. If not, we will create a society that will be condemned to repeat it.
It is almost impossible to produce unbiased history, but the exclusion of this particular period of British history is not only an injustice to students studying in the UK but also sows the seeds for deep rooted ignorance and apathy towards citizens of the world who suffered the consequences of British wrath.
The exclusion of these times from the history curriculum as well as from public debate perpetuates a culture of colonialist tendency and deep-seated disparity between the West and the rest. It hints at the fact that millions of lives being lost, families being torn apart and lands being extracted for British selfishness is not important enough to be included. It is a sort of denial from the British. This is what causes bitterness. This is what hurts.
Image: Alvesgaspar via Wikipedia Commons