In a first, the Labour Party in the United Kingdom ha said it will include the history of the British colonial empire including its imperialist reign in India in school curriculum, given it comes to power.
Despite solid historic evidence, the brutalities and atrocities committed by the British East India company in India and other imperial colonies in the name of the Crown has so far been left out of school textbooks and curriculum in the UK, despite growing demands from academics as well as politicians, especially from India.
Congress MP Shashi Tharoor has on several occasions taken up the issue on various international platforms. However, this is the first time that the issue has made it to electoral discourse in the UK.
The issue was included in a new add-on manifesto unveiled by the Labour Party, led by Jeremy Corbyn, on Tuesday, weeks before Britain goes for General Elections on Dec 12.
The party's ‘Race and Faith Manifesto’ comes in the wake of its main manifesto last week, which had pledged to issue a formal apology for the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in Amritsar by troops under the British Empire in April 1919.
"The creation of an Emancipation Educational Trust will ensure historical injustice, colonialism and role of the British empire is taught in the National Curriculum," notes the supplementary manifesto. "Only by acknowledging the historical injustice faced by our communities can we work towards a better future that is prosperous for all, that isn’t blighted by austerity and the politics of fear," said Dawn Butler, Labour’s Shadow Equalities and Women’s Secretary.
The issue was recently raised by British actor and activist Emma Watson who played Hermione in the Harry Potter film series. Speaking to Vogue, the actor said that growing up in the UK, she like many other students had no idea about the brutalities committed by the British imperialist government in its heyday. It was only when she analysed the British empire during the course of her studies in the United states when she realised her own's country's dark history.
Currently the history of the British Empire is not a compulsory module in the UK school curriculum, an issue often highlighted by campaigners as a failure to present an accurate picture of the country’s history for school children. "It is important that children are taught about colonialism, injustice and the role of the British Empire. This is a major step that meets our long-standing demands," said Harsev Bains, National Vice-President of the Indian Workers Association of Great Britain (IWA-GB), one of the oldest Indian workers' groups in the UK.
"On behalf of the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre Centenary Committee (JBMCC) consisting of Indians, Pakistani and Bangladeshi organisations in Britain led by the IWA GB, we also welcome the inclusion of a formal apology for the massacre in Amritsar,” said Bains, a member of the committee set up to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Jallianwala Bagh tragedy that affected thousands of lives.
The news has made several Parliamentarians in India including Tharoor hopeful. Reacting to the news, the Thiruvananthapuram MP took to Twitter and wrote, "In a first, Labour Party vows to teach colonial history in Britain’s schools. So glad somebody is listening!!"
(With inputs from PTI)