Anger over past, indifference meets queen’s death in India

Sep 12, 2022, 9:32 AM | Updated: 10:15 pm
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks at the inauguration of the revamped Central Vista Avenue...

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks at the inauguration of the revamped Central Vista Avenue at the India Gate in New Delhi, India, Thursday, Sept. 8, 2022. Modi urged the country to shed its colonial ties in a ceremony to rename Rajpath, a boulevard that was once called Kingsway after King George V, Modi called it a "symbol of slavery" under the British Raj. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

(AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

NEW DELHI (AP) — Just hours before news of Queen Elizabeth II’s death spread, Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivered a fiery speech urging India to shed its colonial ties in a ceremony to rename a boulevard that once honored King George V.

Rajpath, formerly called Kingsway, was a “symbol of slavery” under the British Raj, he said. Instead, under the newly named Kartavya Path that leads to the iconic India Gate, “a new history has been created,” Modi beamed.

His speech last Thursday was the latest in a concerted drive to purge India of its colonial relics. It was also a clear sign that the country, once the largest of Britain’s colonies that endured two centuries of imperial rule, has moved on.

The renovated avenue now boasts a black granite statue of Indian freedom fighter Subhas Chandra Bose, in the place where a mold of King George V, Elizabeth’s grandfather, once stood.

The queen’s death provoked sympathies to a deeply respected figure from some while for a few others, it jogged memories of a bloody history under the British crown. But among most regular Indians, the news was met with an indifferent shrug.

The British monarchy “holds precisely zero relevance to Indians today — they are of no importance,” said Kapil Komireddi, author of “Malevolent Republic: A Short History of the New India.”

British rule shaped the country in significant ways, but India has since overtaken the British economy in size.

“The country has come into its own … As a rising power, India can gain a lot from the U.K. but the U.K. can gain a whole lot more from India,” Komireddi added.

On Thursday, Modi penned a heartfelt note, calling the queen “a stalwart of our times,” while the government declared a day of mourning. But for most Indians born a generation after independence from the British in 1947, there is little attachment to the queen or the royal family.

Sankul Sonawane, 20, was at home when he heard the news, which had “no impact” on him. “We have no sense of emotional connection with the queen. She was a monarch and I don’t believe in the idea of a monarchy.”

Dhiren Singh, a 57-year-old entrepreneur in New Delhi, felt the same way. “I do not think we have any place for kings and queens in today’s world, because we are the world’s largest democratic country,” he said.

Elizabeth visited India three times during her reign and was the first monarch to tour the newly freed country, cementing the start of fresh ties with Britain. After her coronation in 1953, she arrived in the capital New Delhi in 1961, where she addressed a massive crowd and nearly a million people lined up along streets to catch a glimpse of her and her husband, Prince Philip.

Darshan Paul was 10 or 11 years old when she stood along a road in New Delhi and waved an Indian flag at the queen. “I remember her gloved hand waving back at me and was so impressed,” Paul, now 71, said.

There was abundant excitement and curiosity around her visit, Paul recalled, as she and her friends poured over newspaper photos of the queen and were dazzled by the gowns she wore.

But it was a different time then, Paul said, as she acknowledged that the traditional bond some Indians once held with the royal family has morphed dramatically since.

“To young Indians today, they seem like any other high-profile celebrity family – you might follow news of them because you want to know what is happening behind closed doors. But beyond the glamor and celebrity allure, they don’t hold any significance any more.”

If her son, who was formally proclaimed King Charles III over the weekend, were to make an official visit to India, “it will certainly not matter as much,” Paul added.

The queen’s last visit in 1997 was tinged with controversy when she traveled to a memorial dedicated to hundreds of unarmed Indians who were killed by British colonial forces in 1919, amid calls for an apology over the Jallianwala Bagh massacre.

For many, the royal family remains a hallmark of a deeply painful history. Colonial rule is still remembered for the extraordinary violence and suffering it spawned, from numerous famines and economic exploitation to ultimately an unprecedented level of bloodshed in the partition of India and Pakistan.

Scrolling through social media after the news, 25-year-old Sumedha Chatterjee said the tweets in support of the queen felt almost like people had forgotten about all the “loot and plunder” the British monarchy oversaw. “They built their empire on the backs of the so-called third world,” she added.

Just hours after her death, Indian social media lit up with renewed calls for the return of the famous Koh-i-Noor, the 106-carat discovered in India that is part of the British crown jewels.

“If the king is not going to wear (the) Koh-i-Noor, give it back,” quipped one user.

Ever since gaining independence, India has moved to shed its colonial ties, including changing back the names of a clutch of cities that were renamed during British rule. In the 1960s, officials removed figures of British officials and royalty from public view — the statue of King George V, which stood tall under the canopy of India Gate, was moved to Coronation Park, a graveyard or final resting place for imperial symbols in the capital.

And under Modi, there has been renewed vigor to reclaim India’s past, which has seen the government scrub away colonial-era street names, some laws and even flag symbols.

Such gestures “represent a new India” which has nothing to do with the monarchy, said Archana Ojha, a professor of history at Delhi University. She added, though, that the country’s imperial history can’t be hidden away.

“We may not need to cherish some of the legacies, but we need to preserve them to teach our future generations. We cannot just erase it completely,” she said.


Associated Press journalist Rishi Lekhi contributed to this report.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Associated Press

How company off-sites are changing business travel

Business travel used to mean sending employees from their home office to somewhere else — to meet with clients or coworkers at other offices. But for many remote-first companies, it now means the opposite: Bringing employees together from their far-flung homes to work and meet in person. These so-called “off-sites” — a holdover term from […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Serbian police detain migrant smugglers, find weapons, money

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Serbian special police on Wednesday raided a makeshift camp near the border with Hungary where they found 200 migrants, detained people smugglers and confiscated weapons and money. The police operation in Srpski Krstur, by the Tisa river that runs along the border with Hungary, comes just two days after Serbia, Hungary […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

EU agrees on price cap for Russian oil over Ukraine war

BRUSSELS (AP) — European Union countries agreed on Wednesday to impose new sanctions on Russia after it illegally annexed four regions in Ukraine, according to an EU official, including an expected price cap on Russian oil. EU member-state diplomats struck the deal in Brussels, said the official representing the Czech Republic, which holds the 27-nation […]
1 day ago
Nigeria's Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director General of the World Trade Organisation, WTO, speaks to the...
Associated Press

WTO predicts trade growth to slow next year amid crises

GENEVA (AP) — The World Trade Organization is predicting global trade volumes will grow a lackluster 1% next year as crises and challenges weigh on markets, including high energy prices, rising interest rates and uncertainties about Chinese manufacturing output amid the lingering COVID-19 pandemic. The Geneva-based trade body said Wednesday that the amount of goods […]
1 day ago
A resident wades through floodwaters, Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2022, in Ubon Ratchathani province, northe...
Associated Press

Thai capital on alert for flooding as heavy rains expected

BANGKOK (AP) — Authorities in Thailand warned Wednesday of possible serious flooding in the capital and other parts of the central region from heavy seasonal rainfall expected through the rest of the week. The situation is being worsened by a large volume of water moving downriver from flooding in northern provinces and from discharges from […]
1 day ago
Men weep as they offer prayer outside Kanjuruhan Stadium where a soccer stampede killed more than 1...
Associated Press

Indonesian leader says locked gates contributed to deaths

MALANG, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo said on Wednesday that locked gates had contributed to the crush at the soccer stadium that left 131 dead and over 400 injured when police fired tear gas and set off a panicked run for the exits. Widodo made the statement after touring the Kanjuruhan soccer stadium […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
Anger over past, indifference meets queen’s death in India