South Asia Blog Post

The British control over South Asia created social and religious tensions still seen today. The British did enter India in a time of instability created as a result from Aurangzeb’s rule where Islam was placed at a higher status than Hinduism which led to Mughal dissenters and in result let to decentralization. With the spread of orientalism, the British became interested in the history, language, and cultures of Southern Asia. Along with this was the rise of liberalism ideas to Britain’s other lands that it was invested in. Britain felt that it had a civil responsibility to help develop Southern Asia into a liberal democracy because of these ideals.

Tensions in Southern Asia grew until the Sepoy Rebellion where the British defeated the rebels and extended their control of the subcontinent from an indirect to direct rule. Britain and now the crown, with its belief of understanding South Asia’s complicated cultures and religious diversity, began to identify people mainly as Hindu or Muslim while also having the natives identify themselves in traditional cast systems. This push back to traditionalism thoughts began to raise old tensions in Southern Asia that had seemed to be declining.

South Asia saw a rapid decolonization from Britain along with a rise in nationalism and anti-modernism. This quick shift in power created social distress as seen in India. One of India’s first rulers Nehru had “never let go of the British-created colonial state and its well-oiled machinery of repression” (Mishra) as it forced individuals to keep a specific identity, making it easy to identify those who dissent. Today a rise in the Hindu Right has created social distress as they have become violent and have destroyed the Babri Masjid Mosque for example.

Outside of India, the Radcliffe line border led to mass immigration as it forced families to move from either to or from Pakistan and India to leave potential discrimination in their native counties. Also, Kashmir has been a conflict between India and Pakistan because it was never controlled by the British so both countries now claim a legitimacy to control it. The choices of Britain’s involvement in South Asia can still be seen today.

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