Lessons of Empire: India, 60 Years After Independence
Nick Robins and Pratap Chatterjee write in CorpWatch:
Two villagers who left their mud and wood huts last month to travel to London — Kumuti Majhi and Phulme Majhi — were a stark contrast to the 212,000 wealthy Indians who visited Britain last year on shopping expeditions where they outspent Japanese tourists. The villagers’ mission, rather than the acquisition of designer clothing or the latest electronics, was to try to save the livelihoods of their small tribe that grows millet, fruit and spices in the lushly-forested Niyamgiri hills in eastern India.
On August 1, 2007, the Majhis spoke out at the annual general meeting of Vedanta Resources PLC, a British multinational that is poised to dig a new bauxite mine that threatens the village of Jaganathpur. While Vedanta is incorporated in Britain, it is owned by Anil Agarwal, the world’s 230th richest man according to the Forbes 2007 list, a former scrap metal merchant who was born in eastern India. (See Vedanta Undermines Indian Communities, by Nityanand Jayaraman.)
The timing of the Mahji’s trip to Britain and the protests back in India have a much wider significance. 2007 is marked by a trinity of anniversaries that recall India’s conquest, first struggles and eventual liberation from British rule. On August 14th, India celebrates 60 years of independence. Earlier in the year, commemorations took place for the 150th anniversary of the great rebellion against British rule in 1857 -– known in the UK as the ‘mutiny’ and on the sub-continent as the ‘first war of independence.’ This trinity of historic milestones is completed with the 250th anniversary of the pivotal battle of Plassey in June 1757, when the private army of Britain’s East India Company (which was often referred to simply as the “Company”) defeated the forces of the Nawab (ruler) of Bengal (in eastern India), ushering in first corporate and then imperial domination.