Colonialism-in-the-Mind by Gouranga Chattopadhyay – Part 7

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Being a foreign power, the British did not trust the colonized people. Therefore many checks were introduced, mostly unnecessarily. This practice also continues today. This leads to a huge amount of paper work, in addition to every government form (and those of semi-government organizations as well) asking (as mentioned earlier) the names of father/husband/guardians of individuals, as though all adult Indians are in fact less than adults and need someone else to be responsible for his/her behaviour. I have been told by a number of senior managers/officers in the public sector industry and government that the amount of money, for example, that is spent to check possible cheating on medical bills is far greater than the amount of money that could be cheated, given the ceiling on such expense.

Adult Indians as individuals also demonstrate this ‘non-adult’ assumption. If trains run late, daily passengers squat on the track and disrupt the entire railway operation in that sector. It stems from some kind of a covert assumption that the powers that be actually do not care for the people and therefore the only way they can be made to take steps to remove people’s difficulties is by disrupting administration. This kind of behaviour also seems to be based on the unconscious assumption, illustrated earlier, that there is an unexamined belief in an alien power governing the country even though they are people’s representatives

It is an open question as to what extent these people’s representatives – those who get elected to the parliament and the various state legislatures – also unconsciously act as though they are aliens with power to rule over the country’s population.

The impact of the colonial hangover manifested in terms of adolescent behaviour, and its opposite, treating adult Indians as adolescents by the powers that be can be seen in everyday life if one cares to reflect upon one’s experience.

There are regular media reports of people, for example, attacking employees and breaking up furniture and machinery in electricity supplying sub-stations if there is a failure in electrical supply during an important cricket match that was being shown live in a television channel; attacking hospital employees and breaking up equipment if one believes that a patient has died due to negligence and so on. The assumption that there is no legal recourse to set them right could also be true to a great extent, perhaps because the powers that be also feel that they are, in fact, ruling aliens. And the prize here goes to Kolkata, earlier known as Calcutta. All over West Bengal college students (who are all adults) and sometimes their parents (who pay the fees) run amok destroying college properties to force the authorities to dilute the standard of intellectual content in Kolkata. In addition, educated and moneyed people who drive four-wheelers and two-wheelers not only break traffic laws whenever they are in a hurry, but also start a serenade of motor horns every time there is a traffic jam and also, as soon as the traffic signal turns green. It is a phenomenon of not even adolescent behaviour, but infantile behaviour. It is the greedy child’s show of temper tantrum at its inability to postpone gratification.

Like the greedy child interprets adult behaviour as ‘getting away with their gratification’, in Kolkata the adults who actually get away with their gratification are the police, the army, many government officers and the Kolkata Municipal Corporation. Their vehicles routinely break traffic laws with impunity by driving up one way streets in the wrong direction, parking vehicles in no parking areas and sometimes even driving on the wrong side of the road to avoid a traffic jam when they have a red light attached to the car – a phenomenon that one Kolkata based newspaper had termed ‘the red menace’.

Then Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal, perhaps leads the rest of the state in taking law unto itself. Whoever has the contextual power, as the legacy of its colonial history where those who had contextual power i.e., the colonial masters, whether they were Greeks, Turks, Pathans, Mughals or British rulers, has scant regard for laws of their own making when it comes to their self-interest.

During the British colonial era, a great Maharashtrian leader of freedom fight had said ‘What Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow’ to highlight Bengal’s contribution to the struggle for independence. If that saying becomes true once again, the Republic of India may come in for a lot of rough weather. One has to read one’s daily newspaper thoroughly in order to look at some of the evidence of that scattered all over India.


For a comprehensive bibliography of K. P. Chattopadhyay’s publications see Essays in Social Anthropolog y, Kshitish Prasad Chattopadhyay, with an Introduction by Andre Beteille, K. P. Bagchi & Company, Calcutta and New Delhi, 1994, P.549-556.

Bion, W. R. Experiences in Groups and other papers, Tavistock Publications, London, 1962.

Chattopadhyay, Gouranga P. Managing Unconscious Process: The Family, the Organisation and Beyond, Chapter 2, Eureka Publishers, Calcutta, 1998.

Chattopadhyay Gouranga P. ‘Invader in the Mind.’ The Economic Times, VII, 137 & 138, Bombay,
Delhi and Calcutta, 1981.

Chaudhuri, Sukanta ‘From enclave to empire’, The Telegraph, November 5, 2009, Calcutta, 8.

Mitra, Ashok ‘Cutting the Corner’, The Telegraph, March 30, 2009, Kolkata.

Paramahamsa Niranjanananda, Yoga Darshan: Vision of the Yoga Upanishads, Sri Panchadashnam Alakh
Bara, Deoghar, Bihar, India, 1993.Colonialism-in-the-Mind

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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3 thoughts on “Colonialism-in-the-Mind by Gouranga Chattopadhyay – Part 7”

  1. What a wonderful paper!! I have always noticed and felt saddened by the unconscious ‘self hatred’ that so many of us Indians have towards India! It gets manifested as a jingoistic movement or as extreme apathy and criticism of everything Indian. This paper articulates so well why it must have happened …

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