India’s External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar served a reminder this October of India’s “humiliation” under colonial rule, by quoting a study estimating the British loot from India was nearly $45 trillion in current monetary value ($ 1 trillion = Rs 71 lakh crores). That $45 trillion estimate may vary, but not the fact the British monarchy presided over a history of systematic, extensive, cunningly exploitative loot of India. Then we ask the obvious question: why should India belong to an organization called the ‘Commonwealth’ that pays obeisance to a monarchy that humiliated, colonized, looted India, caused deaths of millions during the Bengal famine of 1943? Tragic lessons of history cannot be forgotten, to ensure freedom from gross mistakes of the past.
To be fully free, a self-respecting India must clear its history ‘cache’. Just as Internet-accessing devices need to be periodically cleared off ‘cookies cache’ and ‘browsing data’ for efficient functioning, individuals and nations must clear the cache of dangerous hidden ‘cookies’ of past history. Clearing the cache eases the work for progress. Likewise, India has to clear the ‘colonial cache’, particularly its membership in an organization such as the ‘Commonwealth’ based on colonial identity. Even after India became a republic on 26 January 1950, strangely it chained itself to this peculiar post-colonial organisation called the ‘Commonwealth of countries’ – liberated from colonial rule but not liberated from colonial identity.
Imagine freed slaves proudly joining a club of freed slaves that has their former exploitative slave owner as the club president. Never underestimate the longterm harm India suffered from strange decisions taken immediately after gaining independence. Part of this impure legacy was a free India joining other former colonies in a club headed by royal colonial looters, this insult of to India’s history called The Commonwealth. The Commonwealth of Nations was born out of deep-rooted imperial history. It was first created as the British Commonwealth of Nations through the Balfour Declaration at the 1926 Imperial Conference in London, 19 October to 22 November 1926. The British Parliament then formalised it through the Statute of Westminster in 1931.
The current version was cooked up in 1949, a post-colonial colonies club of “free” nations. Prince Charles will succeed his mother Queen Elizabeth as the ‘Head of Commonwealth’ under whom the Commonwealth Secretary- General functions. King Charles’s successor will be his son Prince William – the future head of Commonwealth who along with his wife was gallivanting last week in the terrorist state of Pakistan, lending royal support to the most deluded, dangerous country in the world. Despite the British royalty’s façade of global charity – doled out with taxpayer money – the British monarchy is a stubborn anachronism living off illegal riches from centuries of colonial looting.
More so why post-independent generations of Indians like me question the common sense of India being part of such a ‘Commonwealth’ based on colonial status. USA too is a former colony of England, but a free US in July 1776 did not celebrate independence, then and later, by joining a formercolonies club, with the colonial exploiter as permanent head. A post-colonial ‘Commonwealth’ membership contradicts India’s 21st century ambitions to be a world leader. India wants a seat at the high table of the United Nations Security Council, but apart from the United Kingdom, none of the other existing five ‘permanent’ members belong to “humiliating” organizations like the Commonwealth based on colonial status.
The Commonwealth offers little value to India, not even in sports. The Commonwealth Games that India hosted in 2010 – including the horrendous corruption of Rs 70,000 crore – offered little by way of Indian athletes pocketing Olympic medals. Whatever “benefits” of trade and commerce too get offset with about 70 multinational organizations to which India belongs, including the Group of 77, G-24, G- 20, G-15. Most of these duplicating organizations have dubious practical worth. At best, these government heads meet in a taxpayer-funded gala holiday.
The G20 Summit in 2018 held in Buenos Aires cost $110 million, the G20 Summit in Hamburg the previous year cost $80 million. Leaders of Commonwealth countries meet every two years, with the next summit meeting in 2020 to be hosted in Rwanda, Africa. People can starve, but their leaders will feast. The US was never part of the Commonwealth of former British colonies but shares a special relationship with Britain. So, India’s bilateral relationships will not be affected by leaving the Commonwealth – membership of which is an insult to India’s history, an insult to supreme sacrifices of those who fought for our freedom. All actions, good and bad, have consequences guaranteed through the Law of Cause of Effect.
No escape from Mother Nature’s account book. Crimes of history have to be answered through a nemesis of what I call the ‘revenge of history’. Master colonial looter England now suffers political and economic turmoil, including through a reverse invasion of job seekers from former colonies, their Brexit mess, rise of violent crime and increasing dominance across England of a “religion” that breeds terrorists, the once proud ‘white’ xenophobic people rapidly reduced to minority status in many parts of England.
The ‘revenge of history’ includes the colonial exploiter leaving behind their language using which generations of free citizens from their former colonies, like minister S. Jaishankar, remind the world of England’s colonial crimes. Reminders of the $45 trillion loot are part of the recurring ‘revenge of history’. Whether England returns even part of the loot or not, I see no practical point in a looted India being part of a Commonwealth of looted nations, with the looter-in-chief as its chief. India and Prime Minister Narendra Modi should not be part of the next edition of this farce to be held in Rwanda next year.
(The writer is a senior, Mumbai-based journalist)