When one talks about the presence and role of British Raj in the Indian Subcontinent and even in today’s Pakistan; There always comes a word in mind “Murree”. Among the fewest cities in Asia, Murree is a mixture of Western and Eastern world, culture, architecture, tradition and lifestyle that one can exactly feel like living in West and East at the same time. Murree is the birthplace of my father which connects me into a special bond with Murree, its air, its history and people.
There is not a year when we don’t visit Murree. The stillness in the air and the peace in the atmosphere of Murree easily takes me to the roots of Murree. The time when Britishers were here, The time takes over me and takes me back to 19th and 18th century. The Churches and building built in that era speak to me, provoking a wish inside me to know more about the history. The buildings in Murree of British era not only stand firmly but they always hold every moment, month, year and decade they’ve witnessed. They arose a phrase in my mind “History speaks to us, if you’re willing to hear it”. These buildings exhibits the Western Architecture of 18th and 19th century. A Pakistani can easily see this Architecture running through our lives in every big city of Pakistan. Lawrence college, Murree Brewery are among many of the wonders left in Murree which were established in Murree by British people. Street lights which were in fact installed in British Raj are still standing tall there,. All of ‘em always keep me observed thinking about their history and the British Era.
I believe if Britain wasn’t here in 18th and 19th century, Pakistan, Bangladesh and India would’ve not been on map and they’d have still been ruled by atrocious Mughals, poverty would’ve been on the peak. Subcontinent would still have been a poor, uncivilized country with high illiteracy rate, low income, weak trembling economy and socially, politically and religiously a disable place to be, with its gradually decreasing economy and progress. Before the Britons in Subcontinent, people had no rights, their presence did not matter, neither did their opinion nor their voices, they were suppressed, they didn’t have any importance of education and had no equality, justice and tension in society. The Mughals spent no interest on education, they built palaces for themselves. Which was the reason in 1857, there were only 715 people B.A/BSc passed out of Millions of Million people.
British Raj which started with The Viscount Canning and ended at The Viscount Mountbatten has left an everlasting effects, prints on the lives of every South Asian of past, present and future. Education and importance of Education was the biggest British influence on Indian Subcontinent that by 1939 the number of institutions had uncountless and enrolment reached 145,000. This foundation of Education and knowledge was what made the people of Indian Subcontinent conscious and aware of their rights. If Education wasn’t there, Indian Subcontinent (Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Burma) would never have been on this place where it is now today. The Britain’s presence in the subcontinent made the native people aware of their rights, their presence, equality and they taught the people of Indian Subcontinent the value of Knowledge, Education, social manners and etiquettes. Although, The economy declined during the British Raj than it was before the British Raj. We can never deny the vital role Britain played in the development, socialization, awareness, betterment and civilization of the People of the Indian Subcontinent. Education is the key behind all the marvelous success of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh today, for the Gift of Education, I believe the South Asian people forever will be thankful to Brits.
I was traveling along with my friend and teacher from Lahore back to Islamabad via GT road, I noticed the bridges built for trains during the British Raj. The economical growth of a country entirely depends upon the road transport and network; Railway network was one of the most important step Britain took in 19th century which at the time was 4th largest in the world. It was a massive step toward progress. The railways at first were privately owned and operated. The track still exists in Pakistan and India, still is used for transportation, goes through every part of both of the nations which reflects the british roots and how far and long their rooted in South Asia. The engineers and trains used in the era still are preserved in the museums in Pakistan and India. If they didn’t have introduced train step up, no doubts many people here still have been using crafts and bulls for transports.
Britain ruled subcontinent for nearly around 100 years (1 century) which means atmost 3 generations were born, grown old and died in between in this time, as there are many aspects which are on the brighter side, there’s always the dark side of it too, Subcontinent which was the mixture of the cultures specially the tribes which were the mustangs for the British Raj very difficult to control and negociate hence they were not able to completely satisfy the people since the people had their own way of living – the constitutional system still does not implement in some parts of Pakistan (FATA) Federally Administered Tribal Areas – the story was same back in British Raj as well.
The major failure which British Raj faced was imbalanced and underestimated the power of the people, definitely who can forget that World War I and World War II, Britain faced the terrible time and loss of human lives were on the peak by the 2nd World War, it was clear that they had to save homeland their ruling power in (Divide and Rule) formula was no longer stronger to be subjective not just here but even in Australia and other regions there was always a gap between the people and the governance due to their religious belief, native language and cultural morals which outcast British Raj from the Subcontinent.
Influenced Subcontinent still has the marks the traces of the history which shows clearly that not only development but agricultural system was enhanced which is being used all over India and Pakistan back in those days, it wasn’t easy to build a barrage (Sukkur Barrage) back in 19th century Sindh Government borrowed loan from Bombay presidency sum of 250 million for the construction which was paid within 15 years of duration before the given deadline, enhanced the irrigation system in upper sindh same projects were done in several areas, However despite all the goods people weren’t in favor and there was injustice too, since the ordinary people were not the slave of British Raj only but their own tribal chief too, it wasn’t easy for them to make living while two lions in the same jungle.
Britisher’s introduced Constabulary system in 1840 and cities like Karachi saw the police before that there was no such thing, the same constitutional acts still exists in Pakistan even after the amended the constitution act 1973 which is being practiced in Pakistan yet the same constitution is based on the same ideology of British Raj I guess that’s why Official language is English thus there’s no native Englishman in Subcontinent.
Surely, British Raj not only given the direction but helped the people to travel , communicate and trade (business) across subcontinent however, however the future had decided something else for it, the creation of Pakistan and India partition was the sign of the time, which was realized and seeing the majority partition took place which ended the British Raj. The British influence, reforms, social, politics changes and effects live in our lives and society every single day. Even If a person is in Murree or any other city of Pakistan, they can’t deny the role of Brits in the development of Pakistanis and Pakistan. Each of us, may not see the presence as visible as it is but it still exists, deep rooted and well grew up. The Brits altered not only our lives, but also our spirits and minds towards being prosper, successful and progressive nation – like the UK. Britain not only gave the people of Indian Subcontinent the golden rules of life but also brought the High Technology of the time such as train, transportation network, etc, and Empowerment of education. The only reason behind Indian Subcontinent’s development and success is the British influence and reforms.
Regards: Snober Abbasi’s Guide on the British Era and Influence