Colonialism-in-the-Mind by Gouranga Chattopadhyay – Part 4

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In British India, for almost two centuries, this process had taken place. A small percentage of people, variously termed by the British as ‘terrorists’ and ‘enemies of the crown’, resisted the fear of punishment, accepted the punishments meted out by the imperial rulers and kept up the fight for freedom that culminated in the Union Jack going down at the hour of midnight on August 15, 1947 and the tricolour with the Chakra in the center-piece going up. Others (the rest) largely identified with the British imperial power as they had experienced it and these identification-based culture traits have been passed on to following generations.

Sadly, the new Indian Government could not gauge the depth of penetration of identification with the aggressor in the psyche of the average Indian – both in the so-called ‘ordinary’ people and the so-called ‘exclusive’ people. As a result the top-level civil servants who kept on emphasising the ‘goodness’ of the erstwhile colonial days, were retained in their respective positions. Such people had earlier refused to believe that it was possible that an independent nation called India could thrive when the British had to quit. I can quote here as an example of that kind of mentality from one of my experiences.

While the Gandhi-Jinnah talks were going on in Shimla, my host (an uncle of mine) there had invited Sarojini Naidu, Humayun Kabir, his wife Shanti, and a senior Indian civil servant of the rank of Secretary to tea. At Mrs. Naidu’s request everyone present in the room, including the civil servant who had part of his education in Santiniketan, sang the song, ‘Balo balo balo shhabe/ Shato beena benu robe/ Bharat abar jagat shabhae sreshtha ashana labe’ (‘Let all of us declare together/ In voice resounding like hundreds of beenas and flutes/ India will regain her great place in the world’). At the end of the song the civil servant said to Mrs. Naidu, ‘Madam, I sang along with the others at your request, but I don’t believe in the words’. As a result of such people remaining almost at the helm of the nascent nation of India, no steps were taken to re-mould the education system, re-establish some of the relevant pedagogical methodologies followed in pre-British India, and freeing the Indian psyche from the internalized identification with the aggressor as a meta-clutural reality in India, and presumably in Pakistan too (Chattopadhyay 1991).

Many different kinds of evidence of this hangover can be found scattered in various walks of life. The recent move by the Government of India to create world standard universities with foreign collaboration may also stem from the colonial hangover. That is because the assumption behind the move could well be the ingrained notion that it is only when one collaborates with the white man that we Indians can do anything worthwhile. The points made in his recent article by Chaudhuri (2009) entitled ‘From enclave to empire’ on high and low in higher education are also worth exploring in the present context as flowing from the same hangover.

That is the colonial hangover. It has largely alienated Indians from many other realities that are part of the sub-continental meta-culture that are not internalized. Those meta-cultural realities have the creative power necessary to establish a Mahan Bharat, a Great India. Instead, the desire for greatness is projected on stickers on the rear bumpers of public buses and trucks by writing ‘Mera Bharat Mahan’ (my India is great), while individuals keep behaving mostly as something that is the opposite of mahan (great).

In the early nineteen forties as a school student I had attended an annual conference of All India Students Federation in Guntur (which was then a small village). During that conference some of the local members had sung a song in Telegu, the first line of which I still remember: ‘Desha mante mattikadoi desha mante manusuoi’ (‘The country does not consist of its earth only, but it includes the human beings too’). This Mera Bharat Mahan legend written in various places seems to push the onus of being mahan (great) on to the earth of India while releasing the people to be mean and behave like adolescents to downright infants.

I mention these two non-adult categories because the British had done their work in creating a climate where Indians were seen as non-adults. I am referring here to the fact that almost every kind of form asked the person filling it to write after his/her name, father/husband/guardian’s name and, if one moved to a new place, there was also the category of a ‘local guardian’. Sadly, this practice still continues although one wonders why Indians over the age of 18 need to wear on their sleeves the name of either father/husband or a guardian, unless the Indian psyche has internalised the British ploy to mentally reduce all Indians to a non-adult state. The probability of the Indian psyche collectively internalising the non-adult state of every Indian, irrespective their age, is evidenced by many kinds of behaviour patterns, some of which will be noted in the text later on. I shall mention here only one of those. In most other countries the film censor boards by and large follow the policy of attaching a letter to the film censor board’s certificate to signify whether those are not fit to be seen by children. Other letters are used to note violence, sex, or even almost pornography, leaving the adult population to use its wisdom (or lack of it) to make their own choice. But in India, the Film Censor Board also has the authority to decide which films, or what parts of which films India’s adult population should not see, as if the members of that Board are super-adults, dealing with the morals of not-quite-adult Indian citizens who are otherwise supposed to use their wisdom to elect the law makers of the nation! It is as though, unconsciously taking a cue from the government, various kinds of so-called moral police organisations have also sprung up who have the temerity to behave absolutely despicably and despotically in several states.

Continued in Part 5

Biographical Note

Gouranga Chattopadhyay is Emeritus Professor of HR of the Academy of Human Resources, Ahmedabad and an independent OD consultant, executive coach and personal counsellor. He can be contacted at

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