Nationalism and its Role in Independence

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NATIONALISM AND ITS ROLE IN INDEPENDENCE 5

Question 1

During the last decades of the 19th Century, nationalistmovements were formed in several parts of India. One of the movementswas called The Sepoy Rebellion made up of Indian intellectuals. Nationalism and nationalist movements played a major role in creatingpolitical awareness among the people. There was an increasing wave ofconcern regarding how the British colonialists were unfair and brutalin their rule. One example that showed how the British disrespectedIndian rulers was when Lord Dalhousie sent a letter to the King ofAva to inform him that the British had annexed Pegu without theKing’s Knowledge (McLeod, 2002). This together with otheratrocities committed by Britain drove Indians to demand for their owngovernment that would be run by fellow Indians.

According to Ansary (2009), Western colonization of the Middle Eastonly functioned to wipe out the gains made by previous civilization.The author names the Persian Empire and the Ottoman Empire as some ofthe regimes that spread Islam throughout the Middle East. Theseempires created a relatively homogeneous civilization that wasdifferent from Western civilization on numerous fronts. It does notcome as a surprise, when Middle Easterners took up nationalism toprevent the Westerners from imposing foreign believes on them. Theybelieved that the foreigners were out to erase years of Islamiccivilization and therefore called upon each other to stand up againstcolonization in order to preserve the integrity of Islamiccivilization.

After independence, both regions embraced nationalism in order tocast away changes that European colonialists had created within theirsociety. For instance in India, they decided to rename some of thelandmarks to native names in order display the spirit of nationalism.In the Middle East, some countries decided to go back to their formersystems of administration including the reintroduction of Sharia law.They reverted their official languages to Arabic and made severalchanges to depict a nation with an Islamic majority. For instance,after independence most of the countries in the Middle East changedthe Weekend from Saturday and Sunday to Thursday and Friday. SinceMuslims worship on Friday’s, they figured that they would be betteroff developing their own weekend rather than relying on one that wascreated by Christian colonialists.

In both regions, Islam played a major role in spreading nationalismbecause it created a sense of collective uniqueness from the Europeancolonizers. The parallel views between Islam and Christianity madethe Muslim population in India and the Middle East want to break awayfrom their Christian colonizers. Leaders used Islam to tell theirpeople that the White man was aiming at alienating a religion thatthey have practiced for centuries. The sense of nationalism createdby Islam saw the colonized hate their colonizers and finally demandfor their independence.

Question 2

India seems to have been more successful in achieving political andeconomic stability after independence. The country has fewer coupattempts and it has never been in a civil war after it gainedindependence from Britain. The fact that the subcontinent ispolitically and socially homogenous explains the reason India hasbeen successful thus far. In addition, before the arrival of theBritish colonialists, India had a centralized system of governance(McLeod, 2002). Indian civilization due to Hinduism created a systemof hierarchy within the society. When the colonialists arrived, theydid not have to do much to impose their rule on Indians because theyalready had structures in place. All that the British did was toinvolve the Indian elites in their quest to control the masses.

When the British left, several Indians who were within theadministrative ranks were already exposed to the Western system ofgovernance. The transition from colonial India to the post-colonialIndia was smooth thanks to the new administrative officials who hadalready served in the colonial government.

Africa is the least economically and politically stable of the threeregions. According to Houngnikpo (2006), Africans were more resistantto European invasions because they already had their own uniquecivilizations. The huge disparity between the beliefs and ways oflife between the two societies made it hard for Africans to adopt theEuropean system of governance. The hostility towards anything thatwas European also contributed to the poor adoption of the Europeansystem of governance.

It is also important to note that European colonialists did notdelegate many responsibilities to African elites. Europeans did notthink that Africans had the intellect to advance their system ofgovernance. “Darwinism allowed some scientists to derive that Homosapiens were not immune from the struggle for survival. These socialDarwinists believed that European human species and theirinstitutions had evolved into a superior position vis-à-visnon-Europeans” (Houngnikpo, 2006, p.18). The perceived superiorityexplains why Europeans never gave Africans many administrative dutiesto prepare them for self-governance during the post-colonial period.The poor transition in the system of governance in many Africancountries immediately after independence explains the reason thecontinent had numerous civil war and widespread poverty.

References

Ansary, T. (2009). Destiny disrupted: A history of the worldthrough Islamic eyes. New York NY: Public Affairs. Read pp.269-348.

Houngnikpo, M. (2006). Africa`s elusive quest for development.London: Palgrave Macmillan. Read pp. 15-56.

McLeod, J. (2002). The History of India. Westport, CT: GreenwoodPublishing Group. Read pp. 81-144

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