Thoughts about reparations for India’s colonization

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Rekha Iyer

An author, politician, and former international civil servant, Shashi Tharoor straddles several worlds of experience. Currently a second-term Lok Sabha MP representing the Thiruvananthapuram constituency and Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs, he has previously served as Minister of State for Human Resource Development and Minister of State for External Affairs in the Government of India. During his nearly three-decade long prior career at the United Nations, he served as a peacekeeper, refugee worker, and administrator at the highest levels, serving as Under-Secretary General during Kofi Annan’s leadership of the organization.

Born in London in 1956, Dr. Tharoor was educated in India and the United States, completing a PhD in 1978 at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Massachusetts, US.

He has won many national and international awards including Global Leader of Tomorrow, World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland in 1998 and Digital Person of the year, Indian Digital Media Awards for popularizing the digital medium in India in 2010.

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However Dr. Tharoor became more popular after his speech at Oxford Union in 2015 demanding reparation payments by Britain to India for its 200-year colonial rule, which, he said, led to the crumbling of India’s economy. Even Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi could not resist himself from appreciating the exhilarating speech of Dr. Tharoor. Dr. Tharoor’s speech has gone viral on video sharing website YouTube and social media platforms like Facebook and also prompted a vigorous debate.

He ended the speech with these strong words: “The fact is that to speak blithely of sacrifices on both sides as an analogy was used here – a burglar comes into your house and sacks the place but stubs his toe and you say that there was sacrifice on both sides that I am sorry to say is not an acceptable argument. The truth is that we are not arguing specifically that vast sum of money needs to be paid. The proposition before this house is the principle of owing reparations, not the fine points of how much is owed, to whom it should be paid. The question is, is there a debt, does Britain owe reparations? As far as I am concerned, the ability to acknowledge your wrong that has been done, to simply say sorry will go a far far far longer way than some percentage of GDP in the form of aid. What is required it seems to me is accepting the principle the reparations are owed. Personally, I will be quite happy if it was one pound a year for the next 200 years after the last 200 years of Britain in India”.

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Dr. Tharoor on January 15, 2018 said “the Jallianwala Bagh centenary in 2019 would be a good time for the British to apologize to the Indians for all the wrongdoing that they indulged in during their rule. Either the British Prime Minister or a member of the Royal family can come and convey their own profound apologies to the people of India, not just for that atrocity (Jallianwala Bagh massacre) but for all wrongs done during the empire. Why not use that opportunity? That would be a very fine gesture because after all the wrongs were done in the name of the Crown”.

Dr. Tharoor cited the example of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s apology for denying entry to hundreds of Hindu, Sikh and Muslim immigrants into the country following the Komagata Maru incident of 1914. The immigrants were turned away from the Vancouver port and returned to India where their future was uncertain.

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This is possible only if he gets support from India and the world. – CINEWS

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