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Monday, September 20, 2021

Colonialism to Star Dot Star Colonialism: A Contracting Universe

(This article is being presented as a 4-part series. It talks about the various forms of colonialism which thrive even today)

Part 1: Colonialism is Dead. Long Live Star-Dot-Star Colonialism?

Unguarded slips reveal an inner mindset. The Queen of England’s comment on Chinese rudeness was one such. And then there was one from Marc Andreessen. Andreessen, founder of Netscape and a Director at Facebook, was miffed when authorities in Bharat did not accept a Facebook proposal on grounds that it compromised net neutrality. In an exchange in twitter-world, Andreessen’s tweet termed anti-Colonialism as an ‘economic catastrophic for the Indian people for decades’ (see box below).


In the time and space between this tweet and its panic stricken deletion by Andreessen, a veritable storm blew up. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder, applied some balm to calm things down. He issued politically correct comments and laced up sugary references to Indian ‘history and culture’. The incident got swept under the car­­pet in an attention deficit world.

It does not stop at mere slips that emerge out of a façade of political correctness. There are outright apologists too. In his article, ‘Revisiting the British Raj’, in Swarajya Magazine, Jaitirth Rao states that Lord Curzon and Lord Irwin were more worthy than Baba Kharak Singh and Kasturba Gandhi. He goes on to paint Lord Curzon as the saviour of Historical Monuments of Bharat by enacting the Preservation of Ancient Monuments Act of 1904 which he says was instrumental in protecting ancient monuments of Bharat (this itself is scrutinized later). Elsewhere, Rao suggests that we should have a balanced  look at British Rule. To rub salt further, he adds that such a balance would indicate a maturity that is lacking now. He conveniently attributes this imbalance to the leftists who have been perhaps the mildest critics of colonial rule. This is a red herring too. What he really desires is that the current efforts to correct our history should be kind to the colonizers: his comments come at a time when the influence of Leftists is on the wane and an emerging narrative detailing the perspective of Bharat is being developed.

These comments and incidents deserve a closer scrutiny and perhaps a deeper understanding of the Colonial forces at play.

Firstly what these incidents reveal is a mindset prevailing amongst many policy decision makers in government, politicians, bureaucracy, international bodies, business, social bodies, think tanks that span a vast , visible and vocal section of society, but by no means is it universal. This mindset is an integral part of an ecosystem that rationalizes, legitimizes and strengthens colonialism in different flavours, shapes, sizes and creates new forms when old colonial games have played out their life.

The term Star-dot-Star Colonialism is used in this article to cover all forms of past, existing and yet to be manifested colonialism. The prefix Star-dot-Star (*.*), a term familiar to computer geeks, refers to all forms of colonialism including post-colonial institutions which are merely sophisticated ways to apply paint lipstick to a colonial pig that has proliferated everywhere.

Star-dot-Star colonialism is a Win-Lose paradigm where the underlying rules ultimately crystallize into a Heads-I-win-Tails-you-lose scenario for the colonized classes. There is no win-win in any form of Star-dot-Star colonialism even though all initiatives of Star-dot-Star Colonialism are packaged to appear so whenever they are released in new versions. The Colonizers have developed great expertise, institutions and elaborate methods to confuse the lay public and ultimately inflict great damage on their targets.

Consider four examples from a large number of documented articles, books and accounts of our forefathers a mere four to eight generations ago:

(a) The creation of the Forest Department in Colonial British India in 1864 was presented as an outstanding effort to save forests. In practice, it accelerated the depletion of forests with ‘lip service to principles of sustainable harvest’[1]. Adivasis and tribals were isolated from their sources of sustenance, timber exploited, species hunted and sacred groves withered. This form of colonialism marginalized adivasis and tribal communities in one stroke, affecting the livelihood of millions and dismantling a large knowledge base of sustainable forestry that had been in existence for thousands of years. There were a series of wars fought between the British colonizers and tribals from the Malpahariya conflicts right upto the struggles of Lakshman Naik in Orissa in 1942. Ironically, the displaced and dispossessed tribal victims of such policies who had been living in mutual interdependency with agricultural and urbanised societies of Bharat from time immemorial are now represented as victims of Hindu ‘oppression’ by a leftist academia while the colonizers are depicted as saviours who worked against Hindu ‘caste’ oppression![2] It is also rather strange that Dr. Ambedkar, the Architect of the Constitution, and a champion of the oppressed chose to keep such an oppressive Act essentially intact in the new Constitution. Thus the forest dwellers felt that no material change had occurred despite Independence.

Source: The Globalization of Environmental Crisis –By Jan Oosthoek, Barry K. Gills pp 15. As taken from http://bit.ly/GllznOfEnvCrisesBook

b) A narrow, rigid Intellectual Property interpretation became the framework to ensure high profits in the Pharmaceutical Industry internationally. All other possible win-win forms are brow-beaten into submission and obscurity by the ferocity of opposition from ‘experts’ orchestrated for this very task. Bharat is an exception and a victim of this: it was ostracised and also a victim of active piracy of bio-resources and traditional knowledge. A Traditional Knowledge Digital Library “… expert group estimated that, annually, some 2,000 patents relating to Indian medicinal systems were being erroneously granted by patent offices around the world”[3]. The countries which champion rigid IP interpretations and have populations facing high medical costs, have well established barriers to pharmaceutical generics and a healthcare crisis.

Web link: http://bit.ly/WIPOArticleOnTKDL
Web link: http://bit.ly/WIPOArticleOnTKDL

(c) Climate related negotiations show that developed countries stall emission norms being applied to them and yet they label countries like Bharat as spoil sports despite Bharat contributing 3% to global greenhouse gases while having 16% of the world population[4] – in contrast to the US contributing 27% of global greenhouse gases with about 5% of the world population. The pattern of blaming the victims and allowing the real culprits to get away continues in all forms of Star-dot-Star colonialism.


(d) In his article referenced earlier, Jaitirth Rao mentions the Preservation of Ancient Monuments Act of 1904 sponsored by Lord Curzon. This merits a closer look. Contrary to what Rao points out, the Act was a blatant piece of legislation which put the onus of preservation on owners, ensured the Centre’s rights to acquire or even be ‘gifted’[5] Ancient Monuments or Assets and appropriate land and other areas by declaring properties as Ancient. The law had provisions that allow intervention like possession of assets on the basis of a mere apprehension. In recent times, Iraq was invaded and occupied on the apprehension that it ‘might be having’ weapons of mass destruction. Presumptive clauses such as this and how many properties could be defined as ‘Ownerless’ under Section 4[6] of this Act and  appropriated by the Centre gave sanction for abuse. Ironically and as a consequence, there are more manuscripts and antiques to be found in the British Museum than the Indian National Museum: and much of this was facilitated under this Act. This Act was instrumental in removing live sacred practices as was an integral part of ancient shrines from the physical monument. Thus the worship at the inner sanctum sanctorum at Shringeri or at Mahabalipuram was ceased as soon as these places were taken up by the Archaeological Society of India[6] set up for this purpose. The parallels of this with the fate of the forest dweller Adivasis affected by the establishment of the Forest Department mentioned earlier is striking.

In the same article, Jaitirth Rao credits the British for giving us a ‘united’ nation. It is comically ironical to discuss this today when UK is itself faced with Brexit challenges, demands for the breaking away of Wales, Scotland and a call for an independent City-Country of London. Either Rao’s gratefulness to the British is misplaced or we are indeed immature and unbalanced in stating that Sardar Patel stitched together a united Bharat by bringing 576 princely states to give us the map of Bharat as we know it now. Rao conveniently forgets to mention that British had actually given us on the 15th of August, 1947, a moth eaten political reality with amputated, bleeding limbs and a lopped off head –which was attached to Bharat and a part which is under illegal Pakistani colonial occupation. The myth being fashionably perpetuated about the British uniting Bharat must be examined with facts as the political map of the set-up pre-1947[7] and a current map[8] of Bharat shows:


Bharat is mature and balanced enough to keep relationships with other countries and civilizations cordial and mutually beneficial in the present despite the sordid past. But to do so, one does not have to airbrush the terrible, gut wrenching misdeeds of colonizers – just one example is pictured alongside[9] – and paint the occupation as if

British Colonialism
Bengal famine engineered by British; Picture source [9]

colonizers had come with oodles of goodies for the ‘barbaric’ masses. This is an error the colonizers and their enablers make – perhaps because they are yet to give up their colonial mindset or paradoxically, are neither balanced nor mature enough to see the brutal reality of what the common man was faced with during colonial rule. Worse, it makes the real victims appear to be terrible culprits and terrible culprits look like benign benefactors.

With so much distortion in the narratives, it is no surprise that the colonial mindset finds its way into many assumptions in plush corporate boardrooms – from strategy to product design to supply-chain management to human resource decisions. It oozes into investment decisions for private capital allocation. It flows into developmental policies in multilateral bodies. It shapes institutional programs. It warps perceptions and policies on Agriculture, Food, Water, Education, Urban Planning, Rural Development, Forestry and much more.

Fears, Uncertainties and Doubts (FUDs) are deliberately created to present challenges to ‘humanity’ by new versions of colonialism that create new win-lose scenarios. All current or emerging waves of colonialism appear as Saviours. Simultaneously, older hapless victims of earlier phases of Colonialism are faulted. Thus colonial historians depict Hindus as oppressors – a case of painting the real victims as the designated ‘villains’ in their narratives while British and other Colonizers are the agents of ‘progress’. This is why every school child today can effortlessly rattle off the ‘evils’ of Hinduism – Caste, Suttee, Dowry, Untouchability, Dalits, Adivasis and the ‘benefits’ of Colonialism – ‘unification’ of the country, English Language, ‘Education’, Railways, Technology, Science and ‘Institutions’. At the same time, they are hard pressed to remember anything positive about Hindus or Bharat’s living knowledge systems or their methods or the excesses and impact of Colonial policy on our people. It is this imbalance that Jaitirth Rao (and others – he shows up as an example in this case only) should spend his energies and intelligence around rather than the other way around – for that is the shocking reality elites in colonized countries have avoided.

In the next part, we shall examine the conditions that have made Star-dot-Star colonialism prevalent. We look at the key drivers that make normal human beings into becoming conditioned Pavlovian cogs in mechanisms organized  to inflict slavery and pseudo-slavery, destruction of family & social structures, and creating trade & financial regimes that help perpetuate this win-lose asymmetry.

End of Part 1

[1] Buchy, 1993 as quoted in The Globalization of Environmental Crisis –By Jan Oosthoek, Barry K. Gills pp 15.  Ref: http://bit.ly/GllznOfEnvCrisesBook.

[2] Many adivasi heroes like Birsa Munda, Kanhu Santhal, Tantya Bhil, Lakshman Naik, Ambul Reddi, Thalakkal Chandu are ignored in the official text books which hide the colonial wars against tribals. Also see: Tribal Contemporary Issues: Appraisal and Intervention – Ramaṇikā Guptā , p 14 (http://bit.ly/TrblCntpryIss-RGupta)

[3] Source: http://www.wipo.int/wipo_magazine/en/2011/03/article_0002.html ; India set up the Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL) in 2001 and since then it has recorded over 2 million traditional medicines to prevent their appropriation by modern day methods of asset appropriation.

[4]  See: http://time.com/4138055/india-paris-talks-climate-change/ for a view explaining India’s position.

[5] The act of getting things ‘gifted’ has been used in many cases of colonial appropriation. The most famous act of such coercive ‘gifting’ was the appropriation of the Kohinoor Diamond.

[6] A discussion mentioning the separation of the sacred from Sanskrit and the adoption of Temples by ASI that made worship impossible can be seen in this Youtube discussion featuring Rajeev Malhotra: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pAdrrmjDZm8

[7] Map source: http://www.worldstatesmen.org/India-princely-states.gif

[8] Map Source: http://www.mapsofworld.com/india/india-political-map.html

[9] Picture taken from http://worldobserveronline.com/2014/08/20/bengal-famine-british-engineered-worst-genocide-human-history-profit/

Note: There was a minor typo in the original article published on 5 July which has now been corrected. “It is oozes..” has been changed to “It oozes..”

Prashant Singh
Prashant Singh is a private citizen and an independent observer of current business, social and global developments. Twitter ID: ps_009



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