The Colonization of India and the Path to Independence

The independence of India in 1947 was a key event of the 20th century and the beginning of the end of the European colonial empires. The colonization of India took place in several steps. It began in the 17th century through the bases established by the East India Company, which secured England’s trade monopoly in South Asia. The change from the base to the colony broke with the historical self-development of the subcontinent and resulted in a radical transformation of political and social structures. The British legitimized their foreign rule with “Indian otherness.” The Indian population became the sole object of colonial policy, which allegedly followed a benevolent reform policy.The British Raj comprised today’s India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, and in 1857 was subordinated directly to the British Crown. The subcontinent was systematically “reformed” with the help of the legal and administrative apparatus, pushing the caste system into an even more rigid scheme. The collaboration with Indian elites – true to the divide-and-rule strategy – contributed to the marginalization of other groups. The Indian National Congress (INC), founded in 1885, is considered to be the source of Indian independence. Initially, the political efforts of the National Congress were still within the framework of the colonial order. Only Mahatma Gandhi, with his resistance movement against foreign rule, was able to mobilize the broader population and question the legitimacy of the British. On August 15, 1947 India’s independence was declared. The simultaneous founding of the Muslim state of Pakistan was experienced as a traumatic division of the subcontinent and resulted in ongoing con fl ict. The colonial legacy – so the conclusion of Gita Dharampal- Frick and Manju Ludwig – casts its long shadow on many areas of Indian society, which is still shaped by the colonial constructs.

The mid-20th century British decolonization of South Asia and the concomitant independence of India as the greatest transfer of power – as the largest transference of power in modern history – must be considered one Key event of the 20th century. But these happenings serve as an initial spark for other global developments as well as the beginning of the end of the great Western European colonial empires. India’s Independence Day on 15 August 1947 must therefore be considered a “prelude, model and motor of comparable developments in other regions of the world”.

India, meanwhile, also played a key role as a colony for European and global power structures: Only because of its colonial empire with India in the center was England able to claim the status of a global player of the first order. This meaning of India is usually neglected in the hitherto quite Eurocentric historiography of the colonial past of the subcontinent.

India as a Colony of Power

According to a minimal definition, colonialism is the process of conquest under foreign rule. India, however, was never a settlement colony, such as Canada or Australia, but initially a base colony and later a colony, in addition to the economically prosperous coastal regions and remote areas were crossed in the hinterland, but without pursuing the goal of colonization by large European communities. In fact, observers of Indian colonial history are always amazed at how little staffing was needed to subjugate large parts of a subcontinent as a colony. In 1901, just 170,000 Britons came to 294 million Indians, and in 1921 the ratio fell to 157,000 Europeans compared to 306 million Indians.

Different dimensions of colonialism. A more economically oriented definition of colonialism reads: “Colonialism is a relationship in which an entire society is deprived of its own historical development, controlled by others, and reoriented to the – primarily economic – needs and interests of the colonial rulers.” 3 A more comprehensive examination of colonialism is possible but beyond an economic and bipolar geographic context, it considers not only the political component but also social and cultural factors that have contributed to the domination of the Indian subcontinent as a colony, not only the economic and political domination of India relevant to the explanation of colonial structures, but also the ideological and psychological components of colonialism and its implications for colonial society, which are felt to this day.4 Based on Michel Foucault’s vision In the context of biopolitics, where political control is closely linked to socio-cultural discipline, the consideration of colonial structures in South Asia implies the need to consider not only purely political and economic components but also the construction of a colonial social order.5 In the context of The colonial state in India is all the more relevant to the analysis of various instruments of domination, since a whole subcontinent was directly and partly indirectly governed by a numerically far lower British colonial power. The colonization of India under British rule was influenced by various, not always

Colonial stereotyping

The colonial epoch of India must also be attributed so much importance because the colonial thought patterns, which emanated from an Indian inferiority, found its way into the Indian self-perception. In particular, the Indian nationalists and early reformers adopted colonial stereotypes in their own perception of Indian society. Thus, until the present, specific colonial constructs persist. This certainly includes the phenomenon of the caste, which was widespread in South Asia long before the European expansion, but was only pressed into a more rigid scheme by the colonial administration policy, which, for example, led to the censuses from the 1860s onwards. Similarly, the origin of rigid gender roles in the Indian context is more likely to be found in colonial stereotype formations and responding Indian reformist movements than in allegedly traditional hierarchical, religiously rooted grounds. The current adherence to colonial demarcation also repeatedly leads to conflicts with Pakistan over Kashmir, but also with China and the Indian states of the northeast. Historians still question the question of whether India could even find its way through the colonial state to a unified national feeling. It is also astonishing in the colonial context of India that the British still understand their rule in India as a homogenous one to portray a smooth enterprise, even though the British Raj was struggling, especially in its initial stages, with countless scandals that needed to be hushed up to maintain the prestige of foreign domination. Nor was the white society in India the homogeneous ruling race it pretended to be , White subalterns such as British tramps, prostitutes or even the working class posed a challenge to colonial rule, which forced strict regulation of its own British population.

India celebrated the 60th anniversary of its independence on 15 August 2007. In terms of population, India, despite all its ethnic, linguistic, religious and cultural diversity, is the largest democracy in the world with regular elections, party competition and constitutionally anchored fundamental rights. justified legitimate legitimization strategies. In particular, a civilization discourse anchored in the nineteenth century argued morally with the “burden of the white man.” Thus, the colonial legacy casts its long shadow over many areas of contemporary Indian society, not only through the continuation of colonial political institutions but also by the lasting influence on social structures, which resulted in the impoverishment and deprivation of rights of larger sections of the population, for example.