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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Depth of Moral Equivalency

I came across an opinion written by Rudrangshu Mukherjee in The Telegraph published in Kolkatta. I have seen moral equivalency in lot of issues but I think this one takes the laddu.

He starts okay with a bold assertion that independent struggle should not be about revenge. But soon it is on a slippery slope to nowhere.

First the apologies to the British:

"The revolt of 1857 has been stalked by silly controversies ever since it began. British officers in 1857 got misled into the controversy about the greased cartridges, which many of them believed in their delusion had caused the huge conflagration. "

Then the muddle:

"One hundred years later, historians became embroiled in a needless debate about nomenclature, what to call the rebellion: mutiny, war of independence, what have you. "

And then the blow - starts off slow...

"Kanpur was the site of three of the worst bloodbaths of the rebellion — on the river at Satichaura Ghat, where the rebels massacred the Britons who had been promised safe passage by boat to Allahabad, the killing of the survivors from Satichaura Ghat in an enclosed room called Bibighur and the subsequent vengeance of James Neill after the British recovered
Kanpur. To commemorate the Britons who had been killed in the two massacres, the British erected a statue — Angel of Mercy — near the well into which the dead bodies had been thrown after the Bibighur killing. In the remembrance of the victors, the Indians who had been butchered by Neill needed no commemoration. Indians and non-Christians were not allowed to go into the enclosed area containing the well and the statue. "

but soon becomes as clear as blue, cloudless, sky:

"One hundred and fifty years after the event, it is important for both Britons and Indians to accept that both sides had perpetrated terrible acts of violence. One side used violence to protect their possessions in India from a real and violent threat from those who had been conquered and dominated by the British. The other side used violence to defy the dominance
and to break it. 1857 is not a moment of which either India or Britain can be proud. The year represents a common legacy of violence. "

This is moral equivalency at its worst - equating fight against subjugation and slavery with fight to impose that imperial tyranny. Now we get the call for equal status to the imperialists and the subjugated natives. Do we not feel ashamed for been subjugated? Is there no pride for attaining independence after bitter, almost a century long, struggle? Are we supposed to forget the discrimination, and ethic and culture cleansing that we are still grappling with and give equal space to the imperialists?

One won't find this kind of muddled moral equivalency anywhere else in the world. We have twisted ourselves into knots during the post-independent socialist historians period when even subjugation was and continues to be taught as a virtue. And we are unable to break the knots.

So now we get calls for building monuments for the imperialists! This after the current prime minister, Manmohan, in his official capacity actually thanked the British for their imperialism and subjugation - you gave us English and that compensates for centuries of the slavery.