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Colonial Legacy in Decolonized World

The United Nations marked the commencement of a new era of decolonization in 1987. However, well before the formal initiatives for decolonization, numerous colonial nations had already emancipated themselves through freedom struggles. Despite the prevalence of independent nations today, remnants of colonial norms persist in the contemporary world.


As historian Ramchandra Guha aptly observes, the British arrival in India, driven by vile pursuits of gold, spices, and textiles, had profound and lasting impacts. Beyond shaping the political and economic landscape, British rule significantly influenced the everyday existence of the Indian people. 


Guha's statement underscores how the colonial agenda not only disrupted the governance and financial systems of India, but also left an indelible mark on the cultural and social fabric. 


Colonial Influence on Law 


The concept of the law and judicial system was introduced in India by the British East India Company. The British created these laws to rule the country at their whims. These laws were not particularly helpful for the people, as they weren’t designed for the state's welfare. The ideal goal was to gain resources with minimal hindrance. The second wave of these laws was used to suppress the mass rebellion against the British Raj. Hence, the acts enacted ranged from trade and commerce to judicial and administrative systems.


On the eve of India’s independence, India followed a need for an adequate governance mechanism. It needed to be indigenous in nature, yet acceptable and sensitive to the needs and customs of the immense multitude of castes, classes, religious and linguistic communities. Continuance of the judicial system put together by the British was a compromise that worked best then. Steeped in European culture and practices, numerous law codes were adopted and continued in the Indian legal system. Although, after 1200 archaic regulations were repealed, even after 75 years of independence, many of these outdated laws have a place in our constitution. There are multiple reasons behind the same, such as modern-day identity politics, authoritarian governance, whitewashing of culture, and so on.


For example, Sedition (Section 124A) of the IPC refers to “hatred or contempt excited against the government” in a written or spoken manner. The law originated in the 1870s. Its objective was to convict revolutionaries who spoke against colonial rule and questioned the legitimacy of British rule in India. Today, the sedition law is followed rigorously by the Indian government. Between 2018 and 2019, 326 sedition cases were filed, out of which only six were convicted, which showcases the exploitative use of the law. In the UK, the law regarding sedition was considered a relic of an era where freedom of expression was considered incorrect. Hence, the law was declared void.


Apart from the continuance of void laws, the judiciary has backed various heinous crimes, whose roots link back to the Victorian laws. The Indian Penal Code was drafted in the 1860s when, as a colony, Victorian patriarchal norms largely influenced India’s laws. Marital rape is one of the issues which still hasn’t been criminalized. The Victorian age believed that a woman was a man’s property, which has led to tolerance of marital rape to date.


Although the judicial system is one of the finest institutions in a nation, it is time for India to introduce new codes based on Indian cultures and practices. It is high time that the legislature makes changes toward progress and does not cling to the colonial mindset. As a colony, India had no control over the laws and regulations; it is absurd to continue the cruelty in modern-day independent India.


Globalization as a proponent of colonialism


Globalization describes the growing interdependence of the world’s economies, cultures, and populations, brought about by cross-border trade in goods and services, technology, information, etc. It’s the integration of sociological, political, and economic devices on a global stage, with the involvement of the private and public sectors. 


Globalization promised a utopian economy and claimed to be the best way to bring about development in the economic forum. It promised individual growth of economies. Proponents of globalism say that it is progress; developing countries must accept it if they are to grow and to fight poverty effectively. But to many in the developing world, globalization has not brought the promised economic benefits. 


Thomas Friedman identifies globalization as integrating trade, finance, and information, creating a single global market and culture. The question is, whose market and culture will become dominant? 


There exists a theory that globalization is an instrument of continued economic exploitation of developing and poor countries and maintains the colonial legacy of loot and plunder. 


After Britain gained territorial control in India, the roles were established clearly: Britain was the advanced trading nation, and India was the vast agrarian state. Trade was already established in the country. Indian goods had a demand worldwide and were appreciated for their fine craftsmanship. Soon after the Battle of Plassey, The Charter Act of 1813 was enacted, which ensured the monopoly of the East India Company. Indian traders needed a special license to trade legally. The Charter Act was a death blow for native industries. The British system in India was based on taking surplus revenue from Indian merchants, farmers, and traders and exporting it to Europe for cheaper prices. Indian goods could no longer compete in the world market. India soon became the reservoir of raw materials. 


The parallel between the economic colonial system and globalization is uncanny. Due to the incorporation of MNCs, the native industries are suffering. MNCs create monopolies, not indigenous industries, and the domestic economy dips while foreign countries prosper. Current-day developed countries were historically colonial lords. Hence, the cycle continues. In the name of ‘investment,’ developed countries establish factory bases in undeveloped or semi-developed countries to reap the benefits of cheap labour and abundant raw materials. Interdependence of economies has resulted in some forms of development but has nevertheless increased the gap between the rich and the poor. Ultimately, globalization has redefined the Drain of Wealth Theory given by Dadabhai Naoroji.


In conclusion, the enduring colonial legacy in India, evident in legal systems and economic structures, highlights the need for progressive reforms. The juxtaposition of historical exploitation with modern-day challenges underlines the imperative for India to shape its laws and economic policies authentically, breaking free from lingering colonial mindsets.


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