There is this belief in India and Pakistan, that the British had built us roads, rail tracks — even the army — and acquainted us with the virtues of parliamentary democracy. Some historians, intellectuals, and many commoners in the subcontinent, seem to attribute a great deal of development to their former colonisers — the British. Part of the reason for this is that in Pakistan, we have a doctored version of history, which has a lot of hatred for the Hindu-majority India. Yet, no great animosity is shown towards the British, who ended a thousand years of Muslim rule in India. So, what really is the reality of British rule in Indian subcontinent, did the coloniser really bring immense prosperity and progress to its colony, or did it cause unprecedented exploitation and depredation? Fortunately, there is one man on a mission to shatter the myth of the ‘remarkable British rule’ in India, and bring forth the real truth. Meet Dr Shashi Tharoor — a man so eloquent in his speech that even the British seem to enjoy his criticism, on their national television. A former Under Secretary General of the UN, Indian Minister of State for External Affairs, a best-selling writer of both fiction and non-fiction, a sitting member of the Indian parliament, and the most followed Indian on Twitter. Unfortunately, not many in Pakistan would know him, since our media only likes to portray Modi and those of his likes as the true face of India. So, what does the gentleman have to say? Well, he has recently written a book An Era of Darkness: The British Empire in India, as a follow up to his viral video debate at the Oxford Student Union, in which he exposed the loot and plunder of British in India. He elaborates the decline in India during the British rule by stating that, “At the beginning of the eighteenth century, India’s share of the world economy was 23 per cent, as large as all of Europe put together. By the time the British departed India, it had dropped to just over 3 per cent. The reason was simple: India was governed for the benefit of Britain. Britain’s rise for 200 years was financed by its depredations in India.” Hate benefits mainly the establishment and perpetuates status quo. The ones it does not benefit are the common Hindus and Muslims. And we in Pakistan must remember that hate against Hindus will only spread hate against over 200 million Muslims in India He goes on to emphasise, that 90 percent of the Indian population was living below the poverty line, with a literacy rate of below 17 percent, when the British left in 1947. The British systematically destroyed India’s world leading textile Industry by imposing punitive taxes and duties, soldiers smashed the looms so craftsmen could not work on them, at the same time lifting duties on the import of British cloth to India. As the taxes and resources of India were drained for British use, it reduced India to a poster child for third world poverty. Dr Tharoor have rightly accused the former British prime minister and war hero, Winston Churchill, of genocide causing 4.3 million deaths in the Bengal famine, by plunging Bengal into starvation, and by purchasing grains to ship it to Europe just to stock for future need. And, there are innumerable details of British oppression and depredation of India, that it took a book to enlist them. He demands reparations from the British, saying that the British Prime Minister must sink to his knees and apologise. Moving Towards the future from the Era of Darkness Well as they say, if you don’t know where you have come from, then you can’t appreciate where you are going. So what lessons we, Indian and Pakistanis, can draw from our combined British colonial history? To begin with, communal disharmony between Indian religious entities was plowed by the British to divide and rule because in the 1857 war of independence, Hindu’s and Muslims fought side by side to rid of the British and they did not want that to happen again, so they worked out a policy of creating religious divide. Yet, there exists a long history of joint Hindu-Muslim struggle for independence. Both the leading Indian nationalist parties, Congress and Muslims League, held several joint sessions to cooperate against the British imperialism. Gandhi supported the Khilafat movement and Jinnah stood in support for great Indian martyr Bhagat Singh. At the time of Independence, it was Gandhi who spoke for Pakistan, urging India to hand over our fair share of finances; he had to pay with his life for taking the righteous stand. Our founding fathers never wished animosity between the separating neighbours. Then, why has Hindutva and fundamentalism seem to have taken over today’s India, and why is Pakistan still treading an eternal anti Hindu, anti India path? Why don’t we in Pakistan celebrate Gandhi, Subhash Chandra Bose, Bhagat Singh etc. as our freedom fighters as well? Why does India see all Muslims, even as liberal as Jinnah, as Islamic fundamentalists? The British seem to have left, but the divisions they created seem to persist. Of course, we all know hate and war-mongering sells well in politics, and it suits vested interests of establishments in both countries. There are of course real issues and grievances, like the Kashmir issue that needs to be solved by dialogue. Since, hundreds of millions living in abject poverty across the border, cannot be fed with tanks and missiles. It is therefore about time, that the emerging third generation in both the countries decide to change the course of history. Majority of the population in both countries is under the age of 30, and they need quality education and good job prospects more than anything else. Hate will get them nowhere. So, let us try and build new bridges from the ashes of our colonial past. Lastly, on a lighter note Dr Shashi Tharoor said, that the British Museum should be called ‘Choor Bazaar’ in Hindi and Urdu, since everything in it was stolen — I think we all can agree to that. The writer is a university of Warwick graduate, faculty member at University of Lahore, entrepreneur and a concerned citizen. He can be reached at email@example.com or followed on facebook.com/sufian.bajar Published in Daily Times, September 21st 2017.