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The Lingering Consequences of British Colonialism

British colonization is one of the most significant events in Indian history, having far-reaching and long-lasting consequences for the country. It began with the arrival of the British East India Company in the early 1600s but was solidified as colonization in the mid-18th century. They exploited India economically and forced cultural assimilation. They introduced systems that broke apart Indian society and changed everything the Indian people knew. While India gained their independence in 1947, the legacy of colonization heavily affects Indian society to this day and continues to shape life for Indians worldwide.

Britain's ruthless colonial rule in India inflicted immeasurable harm, leaving behind a legacy of destruction and suffering that continues to resonate deeply even to this day. The economic impact of colonization in India was substantial, with the British introducing many new policies, like a cash-based system of taxation and land ownership. This led to the displacement of traditional landowners and put money into the hands of a few wealthy individuals. The peasants were forced to grow and export “cash crops”, such as tea, cotton, and opium, while they were left to live off of low-quality food crops. Due to this, there was the Great Famine of 1876-1878, in which the British continued to export grain from India, as millions of Indians starved to death, getting robbed of what was theirs. It’s estimated that between £9 and £11 trillion (12.4 trillion-15.2 trillion USD), was stolen by the British during colonial rule. Not only did they destroy India’s economy, but they also found India’s ways and culture to be “primitive” and “uncivilized”. They introduced an education system that only taught Western science, literature, and philosophy. Their goals were to force Indians to adopt British values and beliefs. They also imposed regulations on traditional Indian clothing and languages, hoping to make them conform to Western practices. They also brought changes in gender roles. Pre-colonization, family structures were quite fluid, rather than a clear separation of roles of men and women. They even had a significant impact on the way children were brought up. They introduced them to a Western-style education system that emphasized discipline, obedience, and conformity. This led to a parenting style of discipline and obedience, rather than individuality and creativity. The British colonial government also contributed to the Indian caste system by using caste-based data in their censuses and enforcing caste-based laws. All of these remain significant issues in India today, in some way or another, despite efforts to dismantle it all.

Indians today live a much different life than they did during colonial times. But colonialism has long-lasting effects on the sub-continent, and their people across the world. The exploitation of India’s resources destroyed India’s existing manufacturing sector and made it dependent on British imports. The money they took from India also took a large toll on them, which still impacts them today. Since the British implemented a system of education that was not geared towards properly educating the Indians, but rather to help them fit jobs and roles the British gave them, the system didn't provide the people with the skills and knowledge that they needed to participate in a modern economy. This severely limited the development of India’s human capital and its ability to innovate and compete with the rest of the world.

Even Indians outside of India feel the radiation of the consequences of British colonization - mostly through their mindsets. The British instilled ideas of beauty into the minds of Indian people, along with the rest of the world, and now inside the Indian community, there is lots of colorism. People with darker complexions are deemed as “ugly” and called rude names like “Kali”. Skin bleaching is very popular in India, with there being ads with famous movie stars endorsing the products. Before British colonization, women wore free clothing, clothes that weren’t always modest, and often didn’t wear a blouse under their sarees. But, as stated earlier, the British people imposed restrictions on such clothing and stressed the importance of modest clothing. Now, those ideologies follow Indian immigrants wherever they go. Indian immigrants in this age tend to be parents rather than children, and since they have all the ideas that colonization passed down from generations that their children don’t share, it causes problems in many, many families. The effects of colonization were heavy at the time of colonization, and continue to follow people throughout time and around the globe.

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