Monday, March 18, 2013

THE REGRETS OF AN EMPIRE by Christine Lindsay

PM David Cameron laying a wreath in Amritsar India, Feb. 20, 2013

This past February 20, 2013, an event took place that took my breath away. During the last day of his three-day-trip to India, British Prime Minister David Cameron visited the site of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. In his speech the Prime Minister spoke about an inhuman episode that occurred almost a century ago in the city of Amritsar, northern India. From the viewpoint of Indian people, that episode was the bloodiest murder which the British Raj inflicted on India, during their colonial rule.

The PM expressed regret over the episode. I for one was delighted to hear this, and said to myself, well it’s about time.

Now don’t get me wrong—on my passport it clearly states that I was born a citizen of Great Britain—I’m proud to be British. One of the things I love about this fun group of international writers is that many of the countries represented are members of the Commonwealth or are nations who still have strong ties with Britain.

But there are times in life when as individuals and as nations that we must apologize or express our regrets.  

Times sure have changed for good old Britannia, though, haven’t they?

If you were a kid about 100 years ago, studying a map, you would have seen a great many pink areas designated as belonging to Great Britain. Those days the sun never set on the Empire. Countries such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, Burma, parts of China, Africa, the Caribbean . . . oh goodness, I’ve probably forgotten some. And of course at one time, the United States was a British colony until the Boston Tea Party. 

So when did The Empire cease to be an empire?

For that answer we need to look at the birthing of “said” Empire. 

It started out with a need for assets. In the Tudor days when Drake, Magellan, Columbus, to name a few, were trying to find better routes to the Far East for the spice, silks, all the money that could be made in those fertile tropical lands. They wanted to get to India—the treasure trove—and therefore created the British Raj of India. Raj, being the Indian word for rule.

But there were rumbles in the kingdom, most infamous the 1857 Mutiny where the Indian people revolted against British rule, and later in April 1919, that awful massacre in the Jallianwala Bagh, when British General Rex Dyer ordered his troops to mow down 1000 peaceful Indian demonstrators with rifle-fire.

Winston Churchill called the event monstrous, and said, "This was a deeply shameful event in British history.”

Even though Britain never ordered such an atrocity, the event has blighted British/Indian relationships to this day.

But the massacre took place in 1919, and India did not gain her desired independence until 1947. So what convinced Britain to release her hold on India almost 30 years later? Why money of course.

After WW2 Great Britain’s coffers were pretty much empty. This tipped the scales. Not the shame of what we Brits did to the Indian subcontinent, but simply because we could no longer afford to keep them.

The day India gained her independence was the day the Empire ceased to exist, and sadly Great Britain became simply . . . Britain.  

And I wonder--after all this time--why has at long last, a British Prime Minister come to India to express his regrets? Makes me wonder if that too is about money. Trade, perhaps. 

Funny how the more we think things change, the more they stay the same.

It is this decline of the British Raj that fascinates me, and has become the era and setting of my series—fittingly called—Twilight of the British Raj. A time of action, adventure, exotic settings, in Shadowed in Silk, and Captured by Moonlight, and Book 3 Veiled at Midnight coming 2014.

Book 2 of the Twilight of the British Raj
 Purchase links for Captured by Moonlight and Shadowed in Silk

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  1. What a fascinating story, Christine. You've gone into Britain's history in depth. I also believe Britain's callous treatment of the Jews not allowing them to land their ships in Palestine - as it was then called - went against God's plans. Strange how it is being overrun with Muslims now, isn't it?

    I do like your latest picture and must get hold of your latest book!

    1. Thank you Rita. I think we all as individuals as well as nations have much to answer for when it comes to hurting others. Britain has done her fair shair of harm in the world as well as good. Just like all countries. It's good that regret has been spoken though.

  2. Reading this post reminded me that I hadn't downloaded Captured by Moonlight yet. So I went to the Amazon link and put it on my Kindle app. It was as intriguing as Shadowed in Silk. Loved it! And I learn so much about the Raj, the people, the customs and the exotic places. Someone please remind me when the third book is available.

    This was a wonderful post about collective responsibility. We cannot sit back and let the government be "them" and distance ourselves from moral responsibility as "us." We need, all of us, to be in prayer for our countries that we do as little harm as possible to others, that we make reparations where harm has been done, and that we remove from power our leaders who treat other nations and people with disrespect. Thank you for this thoughtful post.

    And thank you for my "novel of the day" today.

    1. Thank you so much Judith for those encouraging words. You are so right. And I'm so glad you liked Shadowed in Silk and Captured by Mooonlight.


      PS I just had lunch today with the most wonderful woman. She has written a true-life account of her atrocious experience as an abused wife. She is Indian and was married to an Indian man who tortured her, and tried to murder her several times. Her ministry (not that he is dead) is to abused women, and she speaks all over North American, including Washington. Her book is non-fiction called Black and Blue Sari.

      You must purchase this book.