Like many people of Indian origin, my reaction to Queen Elizabeth’s passing is lukewarm, almost indifferent. The trauma of British colonialism is too deeply embedded in my psyche, even though I was born and raised in independent India. Therefore, any interest in her funeral and successors is purely from a historical and journalistic perspective.
To me the UK royals are no different from the colonists, still living off their subjects in commonwealth countries. So, I don’t subscribe to the British media’s portrayal of her as a monarch that changed the world. What’s different?
It’s hard to see her as a benevolent queen, given the loot and plunder of India for two hundred years for which she made no reparations. She was expected to apologize for the Jallianwala Bagh massacre which took place under her grandfather’s watch in 1919 and didn’t. Now the onus is on King Charles III but probably not likely. And the Kohinoor diamond adorning the Queen Mother’s crown, which Camilla could inherit, is still a huge bone of contention.
So, the most difficult part of getting a Canadian passport was swearing allegiance to the Queen and her successors during the oath of citizenship. Several friends of similar background told me that they skipped these words.
One could call the lingering bad blood over past colonial atrocities political conditioning, nonetheless several people from Commonwealth countries will share my sentiments and support the idea of Canada becoming a republic, like I do. In fact, there is a growing expectation that many nations will leave the Commonwealth fold after the Queen’s death.
In my opinion, the British monarchy is redundant outside the UK which makes the dissolution of the Commonwealth bloc long overdue.
India’s declaration of a day of state mourning for the late Queen came as a huge shock, given the current government’s mission to rid the country of all colonial symbols, the most recent move being renaming ‘Rajpath’ (formerly Kings Way) as ‘Kartavya Path’. Not surprisingly, local news reports and anecdotal evidence suggest that most Indians were angered by this ‘diplomatic’ show of respect. So, while Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s carefully worded tribute said the Queen “will be remembered as a stalwart of our times,” the call for the return of the Kohinoor diamond was renewed. India maintains it was taken illegally by the British and wants it back.
Even our neighbours south of the border faced some backlash for their “respectful” coverage because of the British monarchy’s association with its evil colonial past. After all, America has gone to great lengths to distance itself from everything British after its independence, including establishing its own form of the English language.
I’m curious about what people of Indian origin living in the UK feel about the Queen’s passing given this troubled history between the two countries. I believe that those who mourn her loss make a clear distinction between her two personas — as an individual and the British Queen. Every royal event is so fairy-tale and soap-opera-like to people all over the world. Moreover her troubled relationship with Diana and the recent racism allegations made by Meghan Markle have being equated with the Indian saas-bahu dynamics in real and reel life.
There is no doubt that Queen Elizabeth’s reign was historic because of her length of time on the throne. The sustained interest in British royalty was probably on account of the continued family scandals from Charles and Diana’s breakup to Prince Harry leaving the fold and Prince Andrew’s sexual abuse allegations and association with Jeffrey Epstein.
So, while the UK and its royals might think the world is mourning the Queen, her death has brought painful memories of colonialism front and centre. In reality Britain faces an uncertain future under King Charles III whose legacy might well be the dissolution of the Commonwealth bloc.