BBC, September 14, 2022
An American TV anchor is drawing the ire of Indians for suggesting that the British had civilised India.
Tucker Carlson from Fox News channel claimed that India had not produced any architectural marvels after British rule ended.
The anchor made the statement during a show on Queen Elizabeth II who died last week, aged 96.
His comments have been criticised as racist and uninformed by politicians, commentators and social media users.
They come at a time when the Queen’s death has revived a sensitive debate about the empire’s colonial past.
In recent days, a number of prominent writers and academicians across the world, including in India, have criticised the British monarchy which, they say, is yet to reckon with the indignities and brutality of the empire.
Mr Carlson sought to debunk this argument in his show last week, when he claimed that the British empire was “more than just genocide”.
“Strong countries dominate weak countries. This trend hasn’t changed,” he said in a clip that has since gone viral on Twitter.
The anchor added that unlike the US, the English “took their colonial responsibility seriously” and ruled the world with “decency unmatched by any empire in human history”.
“When the British pulled out of India, they left behind an entire civilisation, a language, a legal system, schools, churches and public buildings, all of which are still in use today,” he said.
The anchor then tried to defend his position by giving the example of Victoria Terminus station – a sprawling Victorian structure of yellow sandstone, granite and blue-grey basalt in what was then the city of Bombay (now Mumbai) – which was built by the British in 1887 and renamed as Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus in 2016.
“After 75 years of independence, has [India] produced a single building as beautiful as the Bombay train station the British colonialists built? No sadly it has not, not one,” Mr Carlson said.
His comments outraged many in India, including senior politicians like Shashi Tharoor of the main opposition Congress party.
“I think Twitter ought to have an option for something to press when you can’t respond without losing your cool,” Mr Tharoor tweeted with two angry emojis on Tuesday.
Another user said he found the claim “funny” as the most stunning buildings he had seen in India “weren’t built by the British but by Indians themselves”.
“That was before colonialism, when they could still afford to… Colonialism wrecked India, it didn’t build it,” he added.
Tennis legend Martina Navratilova also weighed in on the matter and said that Mr Carlson’s “utter ignorance of history” was “quite staggering”.
“Your racism is off the charts and your stupidity on this particular issue is of Olympic proportions!!!,” she tweeted.
However, journalist Barkha Dutt said the controversy was blown out of proportion and called it a case of “needless obsession with the white man’s orientalism”.
“Amazed at how much time Indian media is willing to expend on a US anchor who wouldn’t even notice if you commented on his nation,” she added.