"This House believes that Britain owes reparations to its former colonies ".
"A speech that launched four million views,unleashing affirmative thoughts, in the minds of friend and foe;where ‘likes’ were strewn copiously, as leaves after a storm;when the world woke up to listen, to the clarion call at Oxford; the call for action and reparations."
The speech went viral;the Indian social media rose up to applaud Dr. Tharoor and his skill to take on the British, while questioning the wisdom of their indescribable crimes.On hearing this speech, the majority of Indians spoke in a single voice, the voice of a magnanimous Nation!
The motion for which he argued in the affirmative was: “This house believes Britain owes reparations to her former colonies.” Each of the statements he made was compelling. His argument was coated in wit. His rhetoric unsurpassed. With his uncommon gift of eloquence he crushed claims that colonialism was a blessing in disguise and proved that the people of India had silently borne the brunt of Britain’s brutal colonial attack. He unraveled the strands of the troubled past and argued that “Britain’s rise for 200 years was financed by its depredations in India.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi was speaking at the Speaker’s Research Initiative for Parliamentarians, to a gathering of Ministers where Dr. Tharoor was also present, on the effectiveness of a good debate. The PM cited Dr.Tharoor’s Oxford Speech as an example and said that it shows the importance of saying the right thing at the right time in the right place.
Dr. Tharoor’s name was among the top trends on Facebook for several days. As an initial reaction some more quotes were added to the assorted compilation of Tharoorian Quotes. They found a permanent place on various images of Dr Tharoor delivering his persuasive speech:
“I rather feel like Henry VIII’s last wife: I more or less know what’s expected of me but I am not sure how to do it any differently.”
“We literally paid for our own oppression.”
“And no wonder that the sun never set on the British Empire because even God couldn’t trust the English in the dark.”
”We were denied democracy, Sir. We had to snatch it, seize it from you.”
”… the ability to acknowledge a wrong that has been done, to simply say sorry, will go a far longer way…”
The Indian-origin British MP Keith Vaz, even felt that the Kohinoor diamond should be returned to India. "I welcome Dr. Tharoor's speech and the endorsement of its message by Prime Minister Modi. I share their views. These are genuine grievances which must be addressed. Pursuing monetary reparations is complex, time consuming and potentially fruitless, but there is no excuse for not returning precious items such as the Kohinoor Diamond, a campaign I have backed for many years."
According to the Independent Magazine UK:
“Bollywood stars and businessmen have united to instruct lawyers to begin legal proceedings in London’s High Court to return the Kohinoor Diamond…. The group, which has called itself the “Mountain of Light” after the translation of the stone’s name, say that the 105-carat diamond was stolen from its true home in India and are demanding that the UK Government returns it…British Lawyers instructed by the “Mountain of Light” group to return the stone, said they would base their case on the Holocaust (Return of Cultural Objects) Act, which gives national institutions in the UK the power to return stolen art…The UK Government has so far rejected the claims”.
The British initially embarked on a cleansing mission in India- coloured indelibly by the myth of cleansing the culture and civilizing them. Very soon they were enslaved and degraded. They were appropriated to fill the coffers of the British. This had a debilitating effect on the people. The realization of this national hazard,quickly awakened the masses to a sense of danger. They understood that they had come not just to preach religion but to conquer and to rule.
The saga of repression continued. The culture and civilization of India was badly shaken. The Manifesto prepared by Gandhi in 1930 and adopted by the Working Committee of the Congress, was a declaration of Independence and a pledge of loyalty to the sacred fight for India’s liberty:
“The British Government in India has not only deprived the Indian people of their freedom but has based itself on the exploitation of the masses and has ruined India economically, politically culturally and spiritually. We believe therefore that India must sever the British connection and attain Purna Swaraj or complete Independence….We hold it to be a crime against man and God to submit any longer to a rule that has caused this fourfold disaster to our country.”
The British claim to have “contributed” to India. Well that cannot be repudiated as the following instances prove: The British first disarmed the country, after which they initiated the policy of divide and rule. When they realized that a strong nationalist feeling infused the whole nation, which could not divide the people, they quickly pressed forward to divide the country geographically. Burma and Pakistan were all part of this grand plan. Would it be wrong to say that this “division” was another “legacy” from the British?
In the occupation of India, the British not only used arms—but the weapons of bribery, treachery and corruption. Robert Clive,was proved by historians to have been guilty of forgery.Warren Hastings, was accused as being guilty of “high crimes and misdemeanors”-- Another precious legacy of the British rule in India.
India, the victim of oppression, was blamed for the crime—for her inferiority. Britain will have to accept the responsibility for this unnatural crime. The economic ascent of India and its current status has replaced the feeling of superiority in the British by those of mild hatred and fear, humanity’s most destructive emotions. When Dr.Tharoor delivered his speech, it was more in tune with the words of Nelson Mandela “As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.”
The golden age of oppression has come to a definitive close. Will Britain pay reparations, at least in the form of atonement, or will it remain stubborn and uncompromising? Some would like to know if India would file a Case in the International Court of Justice at the Hague to press Britain for financial reparations. The “curious case” of the Kohinoor Diamond is already on its way to the International Court of Justice.
The movement, which has been initiated by Dr.Shashi Tharoor is gathering impetus. This mission will mature into action in the years to come. It is not only India, which will become the beneficiary of this valiant speech, but many other oppressed nations and factions who have dared to speak up and demand reparations. Prime Minister David Cameron, has been reminded of his family’s links to slavery. Britain has been asked to pay Jamaica millions of pounds in reparations. Academics and politicians in Jamaica are demanding the PM should apologize for the hundreds of years during which Britain enslaved and “extracted wealth” from the people of this island. Palestinian political Islamists, Hamas have demanded Britain apologize for agreeing to establish a Jewish homeland in Palestine in 1917, which according to experts had “profound and pervasive” consequences for those who lived there. Hamas wants Britain to apologize for the declaration, to withdraw it and declare it was an error.
Dr.Tharoor has delivered many speeches, most of them par excellence. But this speech has remained his flagship speech and the best to date, in terms of public applause and recognition.
The story that unfolded on that eventful day- 28 May 2015, at Oxford Union, was the story of India; the voice you heard was the Voice of India.