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Role of British Governance in India: Tracking Down Both the Positive and Negative Aspects



“We all know the Indians were colonized by the European, but every colonized Indian has been colonized by the Indian reaction to colonization”

- Sherman Alexi-


1. Introduction

According to parem par in non habet imperium in international law, all the states in the world are the same. But it is clear from British imperialism that this situation did not work out in the 17th century. The British Crown exercised its power by conquering Asian and African countries, and from 1858 to 1947 India had to submit to it. The collapse of the Mughal Empire in 1707 due to disunity among the rulers was one of the main reasons for foreign influences to reach India. Although a number of historical facts can be seen, this article does not discuss those issues and emphasizes more logically the good and bad consequences of the British colonial conquest of India.


2. The Historical Background of the Establishment of the British Governance in India.

In the 18th century, the British and the French struggled to seize power in India, and Britain rapidly expanded its power and established its rule. In 1857, the British East India Company created a struggle for the expansion of power in India, resulting in casualties on both sides. As a result, the British Crown examined the powers of the British East India Company and accordingly the British took over power from the Company to the Crown. Accordingly, in 1858, with the appointment of a Governor, the Queen of Britain took full control of India. From 1858 to 1947, Britain was known as the British Raj. The Indian State Act of 1858 had a great influence on this. One of the bills was enacted by Parliament and stated that all forms of power would be vested in the British Crown. Under British rule, not only property but also administrative powers, all state powers and the armed forces were subject to British domination. It undermined the independence of India over the years.


3. Positive traits under British governance.

The British under imperialist rule had some positive effects on India and the situation is as follows.

· Creation of a United Democracy in India: In 1919, the British Parliament introduced a bicameral parliament, establishing the Government of India Act under the Montagu Chelmsford Reforms. The Federal Methodology was established in 1935 under the Government of India Act. These introductions were to some extent or a major factor in the history of India at a time when complete indigenous and autonomous rule could not be expected during a colonial period.


· The formation of thoughts of nationalism in the minds of the people: Uniting attitudes towards a common goal on the existing multicultural structure in India is an extremely complex task. But the disrespect for localism, as originally promised by the British, was a reason to lead the Indian struggle for independence, regardless of all differences on the grounds of unjust tax policy and opposition to new social reforms. An example of this is the mobilization of the people for the anti-British conditions created by Mahatma Gandhi. This fact highlights the unfavorable conditions under which the British governance, but in absolute terms this is a positive feature.


· Many changes that contribute to social progress: The British wanted to completely change the social order of India and made some social changes in pursuit of the goal of creating a civilized nation.


* Abolition of slavery and removal of religious thugs.

* The condition that widows could remarry was legalized. Also, the idea that child marriages should be stopped was put forward at the same time.

* In addition, the abolition of Sati Pooja, the suppression of polytheism, and the replacement of religious views with a scientific basis were added to society. Each of these changes can be seen to be endorsed by the later democratic social system.


· Development of knowledge through development in the field of education: In 1857, three universities were established in Calcutta, Mumbai and Madras, but these later developed. Emphasis was placed on the importance of education for social advancement, disbelief and empowerment of women. This was to avoid language-based barriers and to develop the field of education in a more democratic manner.


· Market expansion and economic development: The British sought to accelerate economic growth in the agricultural and industrial sectors. Under Entrepreneurship, Jamsetji Tata started operations as a major manufacturing company in Bombay in 1877 and with the importation of machinery required for it, India opened up to global trade. Indigenous people were employed to work in the factories set up by the British, which provided them with the opportunity to engage with experience and technology, albeit to a lesser extent. It also contributed to economic growth.


· Infrastructure development under new trends: During the British period, large investments were made in the fields of highways, canals, railways, and ports. By 1900, India had the largest canal system in the world. This situation is described by the writer David Gilmore as follows. “By the 1870s the peasantry in the districts irrigated by the Ganges Canal were visibly better fed, housed and dressed than before; by the end of the century the new network of canals in the Punjab at producing even more prosperous peasantry there.”


4. Negative traits under British governance.

“So long as there is imperialism in the world, a permanent peace is impossible”

-Hassan Nasrallah-


The negative effects of British rule on India are many and can discuss as follows.

· Gaining economic benefits. The British introduced India as the crown jewel of Britain. India had a prosperous economy and was overwhelmed by the introduction of its economic policy by the British. Before colonization, India was a land of the Himalayas, fertile rivers, Indus Valley, vast coastline, tropical forests, arid mountains and deserts. Taking advantage of colonialism, Britain took these entire rich resources home, causing great economic loss to India.


· Some of the racist ideas that existed in Britain at the time were spread in India as well. Accordingly, India, which claimed a large territory as a United Kingdom, later faced a number of struggles, which were criticized by the colonial government in 1905 for dividing Bengal into Hindus and Muslims. It made it easier for Britain to achieve its goals through creating strife and suspicion among the natives. The end result was the creation of two separate states, India and Pakistan, at the end of the War of Independence.


· The subjugation of the characteristics inherent in a more civilized India. Instead of encouraging education in languages endemic to India, attempts were made to promote English education. Indigenousness was highlighted through the Hindu colleges established in Calcutta. But through British rule it sought to create a more English-speaking society, thereby attempting to abstract people from indigenousness.


· Problems arise in applying the British legal system to India. A special tax law was enacted for salt and a large tax was levied on Indian salt for the sale of imported salt. Through the Salt Act of 1882, salt production was monopolized and restricted to exports. In the judiciary, too, the situation for the natives was very low, resulting in changes in the justice system.


· The change in the industrial sector had a profound effect on the lives of the people. R.C.Dutt describes its effect as follows. “India in the eighteenth century was a great manufacturing as well as a great agricultural country, and the products of the Indian loom supplied the markets of Asia and Europe. It is, unfortunately, true that the East India Company and the British Parliament, following the selfish commercial policy of a hundred years ago, discouraged Indian manufacturers in the early years of British rule in order to encourage the rising manufactures of England. Their fixed policy, pursued during the last decades of the eighteenth century and the first decades of the nineteenth, was to make India subservient to the industries of Great Britain, and to make the Indian people grow raw produce only, in order to supply material for the looms and manufactories of Great Britain”

It is clear that British imperialist rule as a whole exerted social, economic and political influence on the whole of India as a state and on all the people who lived there.


5. An Analysis of the Modern State of the Impact of British Empire on India.

It is true that imperialism will end on its own or end with the assertion of independence after a fierce freedom struggle like in India. But its dark shadows will not leave the land and its core values will be eroded in the land. Therefore, it is necessary to examine those matters critically. The Constitution, the most important legal document in modern India, was created after the abolition of imperialist rule. It has been in force since 1950 and is set to celebrate its 70th anniversary by 2020. It is arguable that intoxicants of choice run the taste in British cuisine. It contains all the elements of sovereignty that are needed to rise together as a nation. That is to say, the Indians have used Britain as a lesson in the dark experience of imperialist rule for future prosperity.


The separation of powers, the rule of law and the sovereignty of Parliament also highlight the fact that India is a democracy. The panchayat system of covering the rural level in the flow of power from top to bottom has become more successful control and can also be identified as a tool to address the grassroots masses.


India, Sri Lanka The structure of government in most of the colonial countries is very similar to the British tradition, and these factors have contributed to the creation of the three-party government agency. This laid the groundwork for a more democratic adaptation of the conditions created by the British to the face of the modern social welfare state. Under the Westminster model of Britain, the executive consists of the cabinet, including the president and prime minister, while in India, Britain holds the presidency as the methodology as well as the nominal executive. The truth can be seen in the presence of the Prime Minister as the executive.

The Indian judiciary has become one of the most functional and active courts in the world today, replacing the pro-crown judicial process in British imperialism when it comes to the judiciary. The National Green Tribunal, which deals with the interpretation of fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution and environmental issues in particular, is a tribunal that safeguards more democracy.


In India as well as in Sri Lanka, the Penal Code is commonly referred to as a carbon copy. The same is true of the Evidence Ordinance. This is due to the influence of the British on legal documents under imperialist rule. That is to say, the conditions on which the British laid the foundations have changed from modern to modern. But India has sought to end the unjust laws introduced by the British imperialist regime. The influence exerted by powerful figures such as Mahatma Gandhi on the removal of unjust legal society is immense. Mahatma Gandhi declared that “it was right to disobey a law when it was unjust.”


In terms of religious and social background, India today has a large population of people, but they live in harmony and peace with a sense of nationality. The spread of Christianity and its impact on the status quo can be seen in the inclusion of laws related to adultery and marriage in the Indian Penal Code. But at present there are about 24,080,016 Christians in India and it is gratifying that they too are Indian citizens.


In the face of British imperialist rule, Indian trade, industry, imports and export markets are almost completely unfavorable to India, but today India is one of the most powerful economies in the world. According to the 2019 World Bank, India is the fifth largest country in the world in terms of GDP. It is also a great achievement in comparison between the Commonwealth countries.


Therefore, India has entered many positive and negative stages under the rule of British imperialism over the years, but the same pacification has been used as a powerful tool to uplift the present social order. That is to say, it is not so easy to get rid of the bad thoughts of an imperialist regime, but a positive analysis of the above confirms that India has taken a more successful step and responded to imperialist rule.


“Among the any misdeeds of the British rule in India, History will look upon the Act depriving a whole nation of arm as the blackest”

-Mahathma Ghandhi


Authored by: Sujan De Silva

Faculty of Law, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka.




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