With pride month celebrated globally last month, India came to realize the dark aftermath of British colonialism, a period when homosexuality got constructed in a way that the LGBTQAIP+ community till date roars against the archaic law. It started in 1860, when Honourable Lord Macaulay, the chairman of the First Law Commission drafted the Indian Penal Code. The IPC that was drafted with the traditional Judeo-Christian perception of morality criminalized homosexuality and considered it a punishable offence. Though British themselves eventually changed the law, legal matters in India continued to be the same even after independence. The era of stigmatization of Indian sexual liberalism continues to this day and can be perceived as a colonial hangover.
Colonialism thereby is a cultural, social and even legal exploitation that occurs as an aftermath of colonization. Evidently, colonialism is an ideology and not a practice, that directly influences cultural ambits, lifestyle, legal and socio-political avenues and over time becomes naturalized, as was the case with Section 377. From our language to our morality, everything is tainted in colonial hues, as Jamila Lyiscott, a tri-tongued orator, clearly spoke in her TED Talk, “Yes I have decided to treat all of my three languages as equal, because I am ‘articulate. But who controls articulation? Because the English language is a multifaceted oration subject to indefinite transformation… even ‘articulate’ Americans sound foolish to British”.
The political domination of European powers, especially Great Britain, from 16th to 20th century over different parts of world led to tumultuous change in the landscape of many parts of world. The mere imperial aggrandisement extended to social, pedagogical, economic, political, legal and cultural reformations. Consequently, with British rule, colonialism brought a direct change in the lifestyle for many. The ancient India accepted and celebrated gender fluidity and various sexual expressions as evident in places like Konark and Khajuraho. Even many sacred and religious scriptures have homosexuality and alternate sexualities being expressed in par with the society. Mohini, the avatar of Vishnu, and Shikhandi from Mahabharat are just some characters that go against the tenets of Section 377.
It is colonialism in direct action that was brought about with the practice that sodomy was criminalized in England. Fleta, 1290 and Britton, 1300 are some sources that substantiate that sodomites were burnt alive. The Buggery Act of 1533, which was re-enacted by Queen Elizabeth I, penalized sodomy by hanging, thereby it resulted in the charter for consequent criminalization of sodomy in British Colonies. Eventually, Section 377 was propagated in India.
The very Indian sensibility of morality was altered by colonialism, and what Britishers thought to be immoral, got naturalized as Indian morality and generations down generations, got culturally approved and appropriated. Section 377 of Indian Penal Code, drafted in British era, breathing arrogantly in the present Indian clime, is the living example of colonialism deeply embedded in the Indian culture. Even though the legal structure might change in the near future, the social acceptance of the community has always remained a concern. Homosexuality is a severe matter of contention in Indian society as people consider it to be against the ‘Indian culture and morality’, which ironically, is the repercussion of British sense of morality- colonialism at its best. Though the LGBT community is raging, roaring and rising in power, trying to create a wave of social acceptance and awareness, in its face value, they are actually trying to decolonize the masses out of the stanchly entrenched colonialism.
- POST-COLONIALISM & POSTCOLONIALISM
Post-colonial is a historical phase or period that occurs post the colonies become independent. Once the colonies get decolonized, the period succeeding that phenomenon is referred to as post-colonialism. Most nations were formed as a direct result of decolonization, thereby, post-colonial addresses the challenges inherent to the politics of nation, nationhood, language, citizenship, literature, culture and nationalism immediately after decolonization.
Literature written during this period is referred as post-colonial literature and essentially, it encapsulates the response of the decolonized masses to the Empire. Some critics term it as ‘the colonized writing back to the colonizers’. Mostly, post-colonial texts highlight the harsh realities of colonial rule, address the changes and bring to the surface, the questions pertaining to new identities within the historical time frame of independence, sovereignty, and secular republics. Post colonialism has a deep concern with the national culture and it is a state of consciousness with self-awareness of cultural process. Post colonialism is in a way cultural and political imperialism in a broader sense. “We must also pay attention to the cultural hybridity that is the natural feature of post-colonial writing and that has become one of the most characteristic features of the modern world itself”, says David Murdoch about post-colonialism.
In many texts, a resistance to the former colonizer and an assertion of national identity is felt and Padma Shree awardee, Nissim Ezekiel excels in that. Nissim Ezekiel as a post-colonial poet had always attempted to establish a native tradition in his works. Ezekiel’s poetry provides clear representation of native culture and indigenous tradition in a vivid way. His poems include: ‘The Unfinished Man’, ‘Time to Change’, ‘Sixty Poems’, ‘The Exact Name’, ‘Hymns In Darkness’ show many characteristics of post-colonial literature.
His famous poem ‘Enterprise’ talks about post-colonialism in further detail. The poem talks about the journey of few men on a spiritual undertaking to find the meaning and reality. The journey that starts with immense zeal and energy, gradually fades away, as the travellers face adverse natural difficulties. The poem resonates with overtones of Indian spirituality and indigene facing British claws of colonization.
Through his lines,
“Observed and put down copious notes
On things the peasants sold and bought
The way of serpents and of goats.
Three cities where a sage had taught”
Ezekiel refers to a post-colonial understanding of India where the native systems of trade and spirituality have been lost, directly hinting at the British invasion. The shadow of discord that falls onto their enterprise in their poem symbolizes the divide and rule policy of British administration. By referring to these incidents, Ezekiel is rewriting the indigene history in a post-colonial way.
“A section claimed its liberty
To leave the group. I tried to pray.
Our leader said he smelt the sea”
The above lines signify the independence movement where masses revolted against the British rule, denouncing imperialism in all its ways, under the guidance of a leader, a probable reference to Mahatma Gandhi. The usage of sea evokes the story of Exodus where Moses led the way to freedom. Reminiscence of the independence movement while realizing the identity is a post-colonial method. The last line of the poem concludes the feeling of nationalism as he writes, “Home is where we have to gather grace”, and clearly marks the post-colonial thought of realizing national identity in the poem.
Like Shiv. K. Kumar, A.K. Ramanujan, Jayanta Mahapatra, R. Parthasarathy and other post-colonial writers, he also realizes that it is the best to know and symbolize the identity. ‘Home’ therefore becomes an extension to national identity, which somewhere got lost in the colonial era. Post-colonialism therefore aims at that revival of identity, resuscitation of nationhood and restoration of cultures. Most of Ezekiel’s works are based on that tangent of post-colonialism.
“A writer needs a national or cultural identity, without that you become a series of imitations, echoes, responses, but you do not develop because there is nothing at the core to develop” were Ezekiel’s words and they show how vehemently he believed in the discipline of post-colonialism.
Poets like Rudyard Kipling have also written in post-colonial hues, like in his poem, ‘Gunga Din’, he blatantly reveals the savage treatment of Englishmen inflicted on Indians. The cockney dialect of the poem serves as a reminder of the colonial days. Rudyard responds back to the Empire by writing a character, so kind and sincere, that dies serving the British though receiving nothing but mockery and meagre living for his services. This type of character sketch, that takes back the readers to harsh realities of colonial rule and makes them realize of the servitude Indians went through is undoubtedly a post-colonial strategy to make readers aware of their identity and history.
However, postcolonialism is a different term altogether, which broadly refers to the cultural impact of colonialism. Postcolonialism addresses the effects of colonialism on culture and society. It refers to the totality of practices, in all their rich diversity, which characterize the society of the postcolonial world from the moment of colonization to the present day, since colonialism doesn’t cease with the mere political independence and rather rolls out into neo-colonialism.
Postcolonial texts usually deal by finding the spaces in and around us where colonialism has left a significant change. It can be as minute and ingrained in our systems as our greeting systems. The way we get up in the morning and rather than using our mother tongue to greet each other, we say “Good morning” is a postcolonial text. Like that, all the major social and cultural systems hailing from linguistic discourse are primarily postcolonial. Even our daily eating habits of lifestyle, like evening tea with some snacks is quintessentially a British habit. It has perpetuated into our lifestyle and social habits over the time and has altered it. This recognition of cultural change comes under the functionality of a postcolonial text.
Easter 1916 by William Butler Yeats is an impeccable example of postcolonialism as Ester Uprising marked the advancements to decolonization. If postcoloniality is construed not as after decolonialization but since colonization, then Yeats is easily in the postcolonial canon. Edward Said, in ‘Culture and Imperialism’, argues for Yeats as a decolonizing writer, and makes the claim that Ireland is indeed a postcolonial nation. Said introduces the notion of Yeats as an “indisputably great national poet who during a period of anti-imperialist resistance articulates the experiences, the restorative vision of a people suffering under the domination of an offshore power”.
In Easter 1916, Yeats writes about the postcolonialism in Ireland as social situations have changed since colonization and “terrible beauty is born”. Ireland was revolting against the imperial rule and the Ireland had gone through a serious change since the time of colonization.
“But lived where motley is worn:
All changed, changed utterly”
Through these lines, Yeats is talking about the same change in cultural, political and social landscape post colonization. This recognition of change as evident through lines like, “When, young and beautiful”, “He, too, has been changed in his turn, transformed utterly”, “From cloud to tumbling cloud, Minute by minute they change”, “A shadow of cloud on the stream, Changes minute by minute”, “And hens to moor-cocks call; Minute by minute they live, Now and in time to be”, “Wherever green is worn, are changed, changed utterly: A terrible beauty is born” second the postcolonial thought of the poem. From the natural terrain changing like streams and meadows till the nature of women and men changing, entire Ireland seems to have changed and absorbed colonialism within. Yeats talks about the places and people, who because of English imperialism, had completely changed their course of existence. Women who were once quiet and at peace, had now gone shrill, men too were exhausted. Clouds were recasting a new shadow on the nation. All these imageries add up to substantiate the postcolonial experience of Yeats with Ireland.
His reference to England in lines,
“For England may keep faith
For all that is done and said.
We know their dream; enough
To know they dreamed and are dead”, explains how the postcolonial acknowledges the colonizing machinery of England and is able to find its effect in its own system. Yeats, though personally never took a clear political stand, through his poems always sided by postcolonial method of vilifying British. Critics consider him as anticolonial, however his poetry reverberates with postcolonial thought.
Writers like Arundhati Roy, Radhanath Swamy, Sandeep Roy, Jhumpa Lahiri and such pen down the postcoloniality in subtle ways, while acknowledging the fact that how deeply it has perpetuated in us.
Decolonization is the process of revealing and dismantling colonialist power in all its forms- political, social, cultural, legal, pedagogical and economical. It comprises dismantling the hidden aspects of those institutional and cultural forces that had maintained the colonialist power and that remain even after political independence is achieved. It is referred to the procedure of granting independence to the colonies, often preceded by movements of nationalism, fight for civil rights and various forms of revolts against the colonizer.
What started as a boycott movement of Manchester cloth and Liverpool salt in parts of Bengal on August 7, 1905, with the passage of Boycott Resolution, very soon changed into pan-India Swadeshi movement being led by militant nationalists like Tilak, Lajput Rai, Bipin Chandra Pal and Aurobindo Ghosh. Emboldened by Dadabhia Naoroji’s declaration at the Calcutta session (1906), the self-government or swaraj became the goal of Congress. The Extremists had given a call for passive resistance in addition to swadeshi and boycott which would include a boycott of government schools and colleges, Government service, courts, legislative councils, municipalities, Government titles, and such. It was shaping into a large-scale decolonizing machinery being operated by colonized demanding for independence.
Aurbindo’s words, “make the administration under present conditions impossible by an organised refusal to do anything which will help either the British commerce in the exploitation of it” mark the dismantling of British commerce and trade. Boycott of foreign goods and public burning of foreign cloth, boycott of foreign-made salt or sugar, refusal by priests to ritualize marriages involving exchange of foreign goods, refusal by washer men to wash foreign clothes and such initiatives helped in the decolonization. Decolonization was on the brink as emerged as mass mobilisation.
Swadeshi movement had eventually tumulted into nationalist movement or freedom struggle, led by Mahatma Gandhi. Refusal to use British commodities was picked up as a dismantling technique of decolonization. Non-cooperation Movement and other forms of resilience came about as decolonizing methods.
Many postcolonial critics believed that the political decolonization does not indicate the end of colonialism. Rather, language, religion, the politics of representation, and politics of neo-colonialism continues to colonize the minds of people at various levels even centuries after political independence. Decolonization is the meaningful and active resistance to the forces of colonialism that perpetuate the subjugation and/or exploitation of our minds, bodies, and lands. Its ultimate purpose is to overturn the colonial structure and realize indigenous liberation.
The Make in India initiative, launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in September 2014 can be seen as part of a wider set of nation-building initiatives towards decolonizing the minds of Indians against the consumption patterns of foreign products. Devised to transform India into a global design and manufacturing hub, ‘Make in India’ aims at reducing the manufacturing and purchase of gods and services from other nations and realizing the swaraj movement’s motto of self-reliance.
The initiative is a process of decolonizing the mind when in the present socio-cultural scenario, westernization, especially Americanization seems to be a colonializing undertaking on the minds of youth. In the Non-cooperation movement, Swadeshi was the way protestors silently decolonized the minds and pushed forward the idea that they demand self-reliance and won’t depend on British anymore for anything.
At present, India is one of the largest markets for American companies and conglomerates as the consumption rate is very high. In such a case, USA and its multinational companies have launched many products and services that have transmogrified the lifestyle and cultural patterns of people. American media and film have further affected Indian sense of morality and thinking. For the commerce aspect of this colonization, ‘Make in India’, ensures production lines being carried out in India, thereby decolonizing the minds of 1.3 billion citizens. In the global scenario of cultural recolonization, decolonizing the mind becomes an immediate requirement.
‘Khadi’ is being promoted once again to ensure the idea of self-reliance and swadeshi goes down the throat of Indians. All of these steps taken by government can be read as ways of decolonizing the mind towards Americanisation. In the post-colonial era, swadeshi movement and non-cooperation movement, that propagated ideas of self-government and self-reliance were ways leaders tried to decolonize the minds of people. Charkha, khadi, indigenous cultures, and such were used as tools of decolonization of mind. Our sensibilities were being tried to remoulded and reshaped to realize the effects of colonialism. A decolonized mind defends culture by defending the root of its existence.
Frantz Fanon wrote, “Imperialism leaves behind germs of rot which we must clinically detect and remove from our land and from our minds as well”. That removal accounts to decolonizing the mind. We might be independent but perhaps be still colonized with some ideologies, removal of such ideologies makes us decolonized.