The African Future

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Can Africa break free from its terrible past?

African history is largely a black chapter, with the presence of European colonialism thrown in for good measure. But this is primarily a recent development because as early as the sixties, very little was known about Africans in stark contrast to the European chapter in Africa. In fact, the 18th Century Scottish philosopher, David Hume ignorantly claimed that Africans weren’t known to demonstrate any special skills in any subject, which should be gifted praise, but modern Africa begs to differ.

In fact, the Atlantic slave trade had propelled great talents to travel away, because of the shackles, which slavery had placed on them, from their African lands to far away places, and nothing was done to fill this new vacuum in the homelands. The result of this was catastrophic for Africa because the social order faced a new kind of imbalance now, and it was powerless to protect itself from colonization.

Furthermore, when fellow African states, such as Benin, began to rise, the thirst for Europeans to have their own African slaves became almost unquenchable. The Kingdom of Dahomey, what is present-day Benin, used to act as a slave port, perhaps because many Africans born and brought up in that kingdom, were later traded off as slaves but later on the state shifted its focus to the trade of basic amenities, such as African palm oil.

In the West, not enough is known about Africa, save for it’s history chapters of slavery, wars of independence, new age political catastrophes, and Africa, as a continent, having states, which were colonized. But these are celebrated talking points enough, doused in praise and the hope of seeing much else, is next to nothing.

True, justice can never be done to modern Africa that way and African states do have many interesting sides, such as stories of aborigines and African culture but those should exist in the fabrics of the time that is spoken about regarding Africa, be it a time when states were colonized or the modern political developments, which aim to shape Africa as a continent. It can’t be separated as talking points, although certainly a greater body of work is necessary to be displayed for Africa.

With the advent of neo-colonialism, Africa is preparing for a future that alongside exploring modern developments, will also charter into a neo-liberalist form of westernized capitalism. European colonists were deeply interested in controlling new lands, never mind the structures built in those colonies were entirely empty – everything was a struggle of dominance of foreign power, instead of local power. And yet, no importance was attached to the idea of crafting beneficial ownership equations, which could greatly aide with lifting these ‘colonies’ of European powers out of poverty, and nurturing steady development or contributing to good nation building efforts.

The present is cutting through some of those mistakes in history: globalization, which is a recent invention, is pushing new-colonist thoughts into Africa. And as Africans continue to suffer, with no thoughts given whatsoever to the welfare of Africans (as well), their nations experience a new reality of privatization and trade, and this is happening with the rise of important markets.


The Causes Of Apartheid

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Did colonization really act as an important catalyst for apartheid in South Africa?

One of the most horrific chapters in South Africa’s history has been apartheid – it was a time when black people were segregated in their own land. The origins of apartheid lies in the colonization of South Africa and several laws that were introduced in Cape Colony (South Africa), which had snatched away the rights of black people. The injustices were very different, however, to the kinds which were to befall upon coloured South Africans, some years after independence from the United Kingdom.

In British Cape Colony, black people were not allowed to own any lands and they were to only have cheap labour. Furthermore, high paying jobs were only reserved for whites because it was perceived that blacks did not hold the necessary skills etc. to work these jobs. Laws, such as these were the catalyst for apartheid, introduced from 1948 onwards, which amongst many things prohibited blacks and whites from having the same wages even if they worked the same jobs or the same numbers of hours, which is just an outright wrong thing to do. If blacks have the necessary skills to hold the same jobs as whites, and also work the same hours as them, then they should be paid the same.

It is an entirely different kind of injustice inflicted by the British Empire on South Africans if the idea prevails during the latter’s colonization, that black people might not be skilled enough to hold the same kinds of jobs as whites: South Africa was (and still is) a much less developed state than those (United Kingdom and the Netherlands, for example) that are native to European colonialists. As a result, acquiring skills to work high-paying jobs might not really be as readily accessible to South Africans as to whites because of the state’s impoverished circumstances.

In fact, the differences are plenty: the Natives Land Act (1913) is actually one of the most important contributors to the creation of apartheid, after the British had left South Africa in 1961; South Africa had become a self-governing state in 1934 but dominion-status for it came to an end in 1961. The act had placed 10 percent of blacks to reserves, and forbade black people to own lands outside of these reserves, as well. In 1948, when apartheid was put into practice in South Africa, the South African government snatched away the rural areas classified as white and relegated blacks to camps aiming to resettle blacks but over there, there were neither any prospects for employment, nor any services in place. The camps were also located in infertile places and the government had labelled black people as non-essential to the South African labour market.

Meanwhile, the Land Act, when it was introduced had permitted black people to own lands in reserves but what was done differently during the age of apartheid was that black people’s lands were sold off to white farmers at low prices. This was truly horrific. Apartheid, gratefully, came to an end in 1994, when elections were held and a nonwhite government of the African National Congress (ANC), led by Nelson Mandela, came into power.

India and Bangladesh: Religious Hardships

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The heart wrenching nature of how Muslims regularly get preyed on by Hindus in India, is a very different reality to the peaceful existence, which Muslims and Hindus share on a daily basis in Bangladesh

Religious violence, sometimes even bordering on persecution of people religiously different from the Hindu-majority in India is a decades-old barbaric national story. In neighbouring Bangladesh, there has never been any major problem with religious violence, or the inability of ethnic minorities to get along in a predominantly Muslim nation.

Even when conflicts arose between Hindus and Muslims, it would happen during the darkest phases of Bangladesh’s political history, where the entirely wrong set of people were in power, with their vital connections to terrorism and Pakistan – that political period, which largely aimed to taint Bangladesh’s democracy, no longer prevails. It has been many years since democracy has prevailed instead, since the early nineties in fact and the democratic situation in Bangladesh is a lot better than many countries in the world, such as Nepal, Thailand, Morocco, Pakistan, Egypt and Cambodia.

It is always the wrong sets of people, wishing to appeal to fundamentalism, who attack Hindus in Bangladesh, and it is so hard to not connect these various sets of people as those reliant on Pakistan, or maybe even Sri Lanka, given the two nations’ very bad track record on dealing with homegrown terrorism or homegrown terrorist groups. For India, however, which has had the fortune of successive governments working in favour of democracy in the country, persecution of Muslims has wrongfully been directed by political parties, such as Shiv Sena or the Bhartiya Janata Party, which helmed by Narendra Modi is in power. It is not just that because the state seemingly also has been unable to do a lot to ease Hindu-Muslim tensions in India – it has heinously occurred plenty of times already.

Whenever communal conflict happens in India between Hindus and Muslims, it is always the Muslims who pay a very heavy price – many people even lose their lives. These episodes of violence have made Muslims in India retreat into a ghetto form of living, which first of all is not helping with integration matters with the rest of the population of India built of numerous religions, from Hinduism to Sikhism. Following that up is the reality that these ghettos have made it simpler for rioting parties to prey on Muslims because it is a known fact that many Muslims live in those particular areas of India.

The only source of comfort in these troubling times is perhaps the fact that the situation in India isn’t as bad as in Pakistan, whose population is mostly built up of Muslims. In Pakistan, ethnic violence, with regards to Hindus is horrific: rising homegrown extremism often persecute Hindus, Christians, etc. in the country; the West has repeatedly accused Pakistan of supporting the Taliban, an extremist political movement headquartered in Pakistan but the state does nothing but deny involvement. Intolerance and awful prejudice towards Hindus in Pakistan is a reality in Pakistan and it’s particularly widespread – they are often called ‘miserly’. Perhaps this intolerance towards Hindus (in Pakistan) should be looked upon as a lesson on how much a South Asian country can really deteriorate. Meanwhile, the harmonity with which Hindus and Muslims exist in Bangladesh is a part of the nation’s societal fabric: Hindus (in Bangladesh) practice much of the religious customs of Hindus in West Bengal (in India), which aren’t very much different from the religious practices of Hindus across India.

The United Kingdom Should Never Apologize To India

The British Raj’s legacy should be treated no differently from any local power

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In recent times, it is often a common sight to find the British Raj criticized heavily because of it’s colonial past in India (and Bangladesh). The criticism has been very unjust and wrong because there is no need to have a heightened response to the legacy that the Raj left in those two countries only because what the British Raj did was something that is so rarely visible in the region: in the middle of bad democracy and even worse governance, filled with extreme poverty and mass corruption, there is also the “positive colonization legacy” left by the Raj. The Raj, is an inherently foreign colonial power – it is a power that is largely external to the whole Indian environment and yet the Raj managed to conquer India and rule when so few can even govern appropriately today. It’s indeed a remarkable question of how few can effectively rule India as the Raj did, or even how governance fares for other countries in the Indian subcontinent in comparison to the Raj’s in decades past, in both India and Bangladesh? Naturally, both India and Bangladesh’s former ruler, the British Raj led a flawed democratic project, which bred poverty but that is simply bad governance and nothing else.

If it is in India and Bangladesh’s history that the British Raj colonized the two states (and the Raj was a rather mighty and very lengthy ruler, it’s important to add) why should the British Raj be treated any differently from other former rulers of India, from Indira Gandhi to Manmohan Singh? It shouldn’t because that would most certainly be a grave wrong to the legacy of the Raj in the Indian subcontinent. There have been outrageous claims made too that the United Kingdom should consider apologizing to India for having colonized India, but for what? Naturally, India was made to look like a very grand state in response to it because the conclusion was derived that the reason why India does not really need to ask for an apology from the United Kingdom is because India is filled with so much goodness and has such pompous (and well-calculated) localized faith in becoming a great force in the world. What is hard to understand is why this illiterate point of view even prevails in India? The British Empire (of which the British Raj is a faction of) had also colonized Sri Lanka and even gave it the title ‘British Ceylon’.

British Ceylon began as a protectorate so it wouldn’t be tough to connect the dots there that the colony had different roots or different beginnings from India and Bangladesh – these two states began as proper colonies and nothing else. So, arguably, India and Bangladesh are real colonies of the British Raj. In today’s times, the Human Development Index for Sri Lanka is always so much higher than India’s. Since 2010, in fact, Sri Lanka is developing better than India but how is that possible because Sri Lanka is India’s neighbour and a part of the Indian subcontinent, in the end? Sri Lanka, at the moment has high human development, whereas both India and Bangladesh have medium human development. If the British Empire or the British Raj really had made India so poor that an apology should be due by the United Kingdom for it’s colonial legacy in the state, how is Sri Lanka doing so much better for it’s human capital? It cannot, under any circumstance, be assumed that British Ceylon did not suffer because of the United Kingdom’s colonization legacy. Arguably, Ceylon had become the richest state in the region because of certain plantations but Ceylon wasn’t happy with the British, even then.

Just because the British had founded the plantations in Ceylon that still exists today, doesn’t mean that Sri Lanka is still profiting from it. The only argument that can exist in it’s favour is that Sri Lanka might be profiting in the sense that the plantation was founded by the British, as in the plantations had those roots but the whole trade now is entirely an independent venture. So the British had in reality only made it ‘possible’ for Sri Lanka to profit from tea plantations but the whole tea plantation trade-work responsible in Sri Lanka now, which is a beneficial point, is singularly a Sri Lankan effort and nothing else. It is not possible to imagine that Sri Lanka can still be benefiting from those roots of the plantations and doing so well economically simply because it is in the fabrics of their history. India, it is already wrongfully claimed, is still poor because of the horrendous British (Raj) ruling in the state (for which an apology should be in order) but then that argument cannot be stretched and applied in another direction for Sri Lanka too; the mere roots of tea plantations (laid down by the British) is not acting as a profiting venture for Sri Lanka in today’s times, at all.

Colonized India, meanwhile, had many problems of its own like India today: India is, at first, always a challenge to govern, and then because of the British Raj, India (and Bangladesh) experienced the Great Depression (along with the rest of the world), and naturally the British Raj at the time had formulated poor policy responses to all the economic problems that had surfaced in India. But should the United Kingdom apologize to India for it? I don’t think so. It is high time that the understanding prevails that the British Raj should be freely criticized like any other governing power of India. Why does there need to be an apology for it because a former governing power may make it’s own mistakes, whether or not it is colonial, can it not? I have never seen such a point of view flung towards one of the most catastrophic mistakes in Indian history, made by Indira Gandhi during her rule – there is most definitely an Indian hypocrisy at play here. The British Raj, should be constructively criticized but it is still a good and grand force in the world and it’s legacy in India and Bangladesh, should not be treated any differently from local powers.

Bangladesh’s Struggle For Independence

Today is Victory Day in Bangladesh. It is a national holiday and a cause for celebration because Bangladesh became independent from Pakistan on this day

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The gulf of misunderstanding between India and Pakistan is unfathomable on most days. But Bangladesh, which became independent on December 16, and counts Bengali as the native language isn’t so much different from it’s amicable neighbour in this regard because relationships with Pakistan also continue to remain unfavourable, for various reasons. It’s tough to pinpoint the arguments against those ideas in the Indian subcontinent but naturally after losing the independence war, Pakistan does exude a friendly-cordialness in some quarters with Bangladesh. Bangladesh has always been the opposite of that: it’s tough to strike a chord in bilateral relations because major trade relations exist with the United States and the European Union, not Pakistan.

There have been sovereign visits from both sides but Bangladesh never engages with Pakistan as much, so it would be safe to assume that all of that cannot be counted as anything more than Bangladesh exhibiting it has ‘civilized bilateral ties’ with Pakistan. Countless leaders from Pakistan visited Bangladesh, after losing the war of independence in 1971. Relations were very strained with the state, right after independence but over the years, from Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to Pervez Musharraf, Pakistani figures have highlighted that it was a tragedy that many Bangladeshis lost their lives during the war.

It’s still not enough because it does not even take those two leaders to change their colours within an instant – if it’s not disrespectful glee for the former, it’s an ill-informed idea of Bangladesh’s role in the independence war for the latter; Musharraf once stated that he feels India played a pretty significant role in Bangladesh’s struggle for independence from Pakistan but that simply is not true at all because what India had done was simply support Bangladesh in it’s efforts to become independent from Pakistan, when the United Nations could do absolutely nothing more than denounce the human rights violations conducted by Pakistan in Bangladesh during the war.

India had chosen to train Bangladeshi freedom fighters and it was just that because the whole war was fought by Bangladesh and only during the last hours of a very long war did India have the possibility (because of Bangladesh’s freedom fighters’ great liberating work) to conduct an intervention in the state to support Bangladesh’s demand for independence. India’s role in Bangladesh’s Liberation War is not an isolated example of support. It is a well-known fact that there were corners of support in the Democratic Party at the time for Bangladesh’s Liberation War, but recently when John Kerry visited Bangladesh he highlighted that he (along with the state of Massachusetts) had supported Bangladesh’s Liberation War, in favour of Bangladesh winning the war.

Naturally, it’s so tough to comprehend how bilateral relations with Pakistan will ever grow positive there both for India and Bangladesh so it really is better to treat all of this cautiousness as a singular norm; India has many reasons to have difficult relations with Pakistan, as well, and one of the primary ones is the Kashmir dispute it has with Pakistan, which is always proving to be very diplomatically unjust for India.

Local Rajas & The British Empire

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When I think of India, three words spring up on my mind: “former British colony” and India’s identity in the world can never part from it

India for a very long time, much like a progressive developing economy, has been associated with colonisation by the British. The only other country from the Indian subcontinent that singularly dominates correct global thought over British colonisation, is it’s fellow prosperous neighbour, Bangladesh. Bangladesh has been doing very well for itself, in terms of development, for the last two years, and although the level of India’s human development has been fluctuating, unlike Bangladesh’s steady human development and “new progressive developing economy status”, it is still regarded as a former British colony. Can the same be said about perceptions of states colonised by other European countries? It is hard to grasp it, when history points at Ceylon, as having been far too badly fought over by both the Dutch and the Portuguese. The Dutch had gained an advantage because it actually had colonisation fanfare amongst the people of Ceylon (present day Sri Lanka) but then it all ended rather abruptly. The British, in the end, were given Ceylon and it was made a “protectorate” after the Dutch lost to the British; a protectorate isn’t a colony, where one country governs another country because a protectorate is a state that is protected by another country, in exchange of something important – British colonisation efforts in Ceylon were always about mainly keeping in line with local political sentiments in the Indian subcontinent. India, since independence from the British Empire, has had the ability to advise Bhutan (a lone, isolated and solitary kingdom) over both defence and foreign policy, so relations between the two have generally been a good one, unlike for India and Pakistan, and the rather muted and lukewarm relationship between India, and both Nepal and Sri Lanka, respectively.

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In the consciousness of Indians, it is hard to fathom what British colonisation can mean, when you look at it’s very old film culture. In Bollywood, it is enormously grand to believe that Indians can win against the British and also win back their rights, in the process from their local emperors, during the British colonial era in India. The British in Bollywood are viewed as emperors, instead of local rajas or zamindars, who were always subordinate to the British Crown. Hence, peasants inherit this naturalistic desire to defeat the king or the queen, because the British rule India like local rajas are normally supposed to rule a state in South Asia. The “British Raj” is the period of India and Bangladesh’s history that is only about British colonisation efforts in both the countries; in fact, the British Empire is called the “British Raj” for only India and Bangladesh. Bangladesh and India, historically have shared amicable ties for various reasons, one of which has been because of the British Raj. The British Raj in India (when Bangladesh was still a state in India) wanted to alleviate the poorest Muslims from horrible prejudice coming from Hindus in India. As a result, partition of India was agreed upon and Bangladesh (a predominantly Muslim state, and formerly occasionally a poorly developing country, along with Pakistan whose national state is still the same) eventually became an independent state, in part because of the British Raj. The truth is that Bangladesh, like India, has negative relations with Pakistan, and both India and Bangladesh are heading towards promising stability, since June 2015 because of a new land boundary agreement. But when it comes to the British Raj, there are still greater questions over Indian and Bangladeshi sentiments towards its own culture: what does Bangladesh, with it’s native Anglicised-Bengali language, feel about it’s own heritage? And what do Indians really think about their highest local rulers – how can it be right to regard all local rajas, including the British, as an individual worth rebelling against?

The British Raj