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British Colonialism and Its Effects on Shaping Pakistani Culture

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3. British colonialism and its effects on the shaping of Pakistani culture

The culture of a nation (a complex structure of unsaid dos and don’ts) is determined by their emotive sensitivities and intellectual development at a given stage in history. The form of social order and its institutions are a reflection of this culture. Pre-British India was on a declining path vis-а-vis these factors. Hence conditions were ripe for the invaders to encourage and establish a culture of collaboration. And they were greatly helped in this process by people who willingly forsake the responsibility of leadership in favor of the colonists who represented a culture on dominance.

The advent of the British in India, unlike the previous invading forces, was an encounter of two fundamentally different civilizations, i.e., the crumbling structure of Indian feudalism and the emerging new civilization wrought by the Industrial Revolution taking place in Europe. Drawing upon their experience of previous invasions, the Hindu Indian princes accepted the British as a military and administrative power replacing the Moghals as new overlords of India. The British, however, had their own imposing agenda that was rooted first in ensuring favorable terms of trade with the colonies and later using them as cheap sources of raw materials and as markets for their finished products. That is why despite British presence on the subcontinent for over two hundred years; India never became native for them as it did for the Afghan and Moghal kings. “It always remained a Jewel in the Crown”

Due to the unsettled social, political and economic conditions of pre-colonial India, its colonization proved to be unique in the whole of the British colonial empire. The British rulers were welcomed with open arms. Not only did they bring law and order but ‘instant’ prosperity too for those who collaborated with them. Thereby creating a whole ethos wherein the principal measure of one’s nobility (without exception whether you were from amongst the rural landowners, traders/industrialists or educated urban middleclass) came to be gauged in terms of how strong one’s connections were with the Commissioner, Deputy Commissioner, or the Magistrate.

One of the most profound (but relatively less-understood) consequence of colonization has been how the political and “economic rape” of the colonies has also led to what sometimes seems to be an unbridgeable cultural gap between the nations that were the beneficiaries of colonization and those that were the victims of the colonial assault.

The rule on Indian subcontinent led to the decline of traditional cultural pursuits in the colonies (mainly due to the loss of support resulting from political defeat and economic contraction). At the same time, British were excelling in every walk of life like science and technology, etc. the colonized nations of Asia not only missed out on these monumental developments, their political and economic defeat led to cultural theft and destruction, and even more so, to a deeply penetrating “psychological genocide”

Apart from certain aspects of material culture in the sub continent that were destroyed, people lost sense of cultural continuity. They were now unable to recover the ability to strive for cultural progress on their own terms. The lack of self confidence made people look upon their heritage with cynicism or disdain or conversely sought refuge in fundamentalism and myth making. This trend is now rooted with in the culture and it would not be appropriate to hold colonization as the only cause for skepticism. Failure of democratic politics and general situation of political policy played their respective roles. Because the domain of culture is extremely broad, and encompasses many facets of civilized social life - the task of post-colonial cultural regeneration was much larger than what even what the most well-meaning advocates of de-colonization could have anticipated. And whereas some aspects of culture are immediately apparent to all (or most people in society), there are other more subtle and complex aspects of social culture that are not as readily understood or appreciated by the majority - especially at times (and in situations) when there have been sharp and forcible breaks in cultural continuity.

A common understanding of culture is in very simple and general terms for example, popular customs such as traditions and rituals pertaining to birth marriage and death. But colonial regimes did not show myuch interest in these aspects of daily life that is why most victims of the colonization are unaware of what they have lost permanently. Soon colonized societies had not only forgotten what they had, they had also forgotten how to sustain or renew (or elaborate upon) their fragile heritage. Above all, they had forgotten to dream,

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