A Speech, and Tharoor is in Everyone’s Good Books

Suddenly Shashi Tharoor is the flavor of the whole of India, even diehard opponents and detractors are coming out in praise of the Congress MP, all because of a short but remarkable speech full of wit and humour that he delivered during a debate at the Oxford Union Society. With suaveness and lucidity that few can command, he argued for the motion “This House Believes Britain Owes Reparations to her Former Colonies’.

The Thiruvananthapuram MP’s speech has gone viral by now – over 2 million views – and has earned him appreciation even from Prime Minister Modi. Tharoor the seasoned debater comes to the fore in the speech as he uses facts, statistics and witty repartee to passionately argue why Britain owes reparations for its exploitation of its colonies.

“It’s a bit rich to oppress, enslave, kill, torture, maim people for 200 years and then celebrate the fact that they are democratic at the end of it. We were denied democracy, so we had to snatch it, seize it from you,” he said to loud applause from the audience.

At his articulate best, Tharoor argued that, “India’s share of the world economy by the time the British arrived on its shores was 23 percent. By the time the British left it was down to below 4 percent.

“India was governed for the benefit of Britain. Britain’s industrial revolution was premised upon the de-industrialisation of India,” he reminded his rapt audience.

He described how the Bengal famine that led to the death of four million people came about and how British rulers destroyed India’s handloom industry and turned the country’s “weavers into beggars”.

Talking about Indian Railways which is often described as a ‘gift by the British’, Tharoor said, “Roads and railways were built to serve British interests in India.” Many countries in the world have got roads and railways built without being colonized, he added

His wit comes through in ample measure as he calls out the British for “the gall to call (Robert Clive) Clive of India as if he belonged to the country when in fact much of the country belonged to him.”

His humourous take on an old adage went like this, “The Sun couldn’t set on the British empire, because even God couldn’t trust the English in the dark.”

He ended his speech my making a compelling case for reparations, even if symbolic like one pound a year for the next 200 years. “The ability to acknowledge a wrong that has been done, to simply say sorry will go a far far longer way than some percentage of GDP.”

In the end the House voted 185 to 56 that Britain does owe reparations to her former colonies.