First Person Research Paper on India

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My parents were born in India during the time it was being ruled by the British. Since the main motive for the control of India was commercial, the British paid close attention to developing the Indian economy. They entered into large irrigation projects to bring new land into cultivation and introduced new crops such as tea and coffee. They revitalized old crops such as cotton, jute, to supply raw materials to British textile mills. In order to distribute their goods, the British built a railroad that linked the coast to the interior; they introduced new processing industries and opened coalmines to provide fuel. The railroad was one of the five largest railroads in the world. The British treated India as a place to make money, and its culture, beliefs and religions were left strictly alone.


Religion was a major driving force for us. Hinduism was the religion of the vast majority of Indians. Hinduism taught its believers that each person’s life was predetermined by his or her actions and behavior in previous lives. Only spiritual perfection, attainable through a combination of devotion, good works, and spiritual learning, released one from the wheel of births and re-births. The people are told that if they go to the city of Varanasi, which lies on the Ganges River, and is the holiest place on earth for Hindus, they will escape the wheel of continual re-birth and go straight to heaven. Many people make a pilgrimage to Varanasi to die. They immerse themselves in the Ganges River to wash away their misdeeds and the cremated remains of the deceased are scattered on the waters of the Ganges. Hindus follow the principle of ahimsa, non-injury to living creatures. This principle especially applies to cows, which Hindus believe are sacred animals. As a result, hardly any Hindus eat beef, and many do not eat any kind of meat.


The Indian society is based on castes. Our caste system has been in use for many years. Still today the values of the caste system are held strongly. It has kept a sense of order, and peace among the people. There are five different levels of the system Brahman (priests), Kshatriya (rulers, warriors, and landowners), Vaishya (merchants), Shudra (artisans and agriculturists), and Harijans (outside the caste system or “untouchables”). Within each of these categories are the actual castes within which people are born, marry, and die. They all have their own place among each other and accept that it is the way to keep society from disintegrating to chaos. This system has worked well for Indian people and still has a major role in modern India.


The British introduced measures to correct some of our practices that were considered wrong by Western standards. They abolished suttee, which was the practice of burning upper caste widows alive on their husbands’ funeral piers. They suppressed the thuggees, members of a Hindu cult that robbed and murdered in the name of religion.


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Great Britain used public revenues in India to support British style schools (both Catholic and Protestant). While they didn’t convert many Indians to Christianity, the schools were crucial in the spread of western values and knowledge to many Indians. I went to one of these schools where I was taught about Christianity. We were taught English in school also, though at home, we predominantly spoke our native language of Hindi.


From 100 onward, nationalism was a powerful force in India. Indians argued that they should govern themselves and that the British should leave India. The capital was moved from Calcutta to Delhi in 11. India remained loyal to Great Britain throughout WWI because they realized that the allies were more liberal and democratic than the central powers. India contributed substantially to the Allied war cause, providing both soldiers and laborers in Europe. This led to the British parliament passing the government of India act in 11, which was a step toward self-government in India.


In 11, the Indian national Congress gave Gandhi sole executive authority. He perfected techniques for peaceful protest demonstrations and called his non-violent movement Satyagraha (truth force). He argued that since fewer than 00,000 British ruled 400,000,000 Indians, the maintenance of British authority had to be based on Indian cooperation. Consequently if Indians withdrew their cooperation, British rule would not continue. Gandhi mobilized the masses and repeated Satyagraha movements against the British.


When I was born in 10, Gandhi performed the Great Salt March, which was a well-publicized event where he walked 00 miles to the seacoast and drew a pitcher of water, which he boiled to extract salt. In doing so, he symbolically defied the salt monopoly and the salt tax imposed by the British. After Gandhi’s salt march, India responded with Swadeshy, a movement to boycott British manufactured goods. Gandhi’s campaign showed him as a humanitarian, he abhorred violence; a political realist, he understood that his cause would most benefit by winning the sympathy of the world’s public opinion.


When I was 17, India became a sovereign nation within the British Commonwealth of Nations. At the same time, Muslim peoples to the northeast declared their independence as the new nation of Pakistan. Fearful for their fate in East and West Pakistan, Hindu minorities sought safety by crossing over into India and many frightened Muslims from India fled to Pakistan. More than 14 million people took part in this massive human migration. An estimated 600,000 people died in the chaos and violence. Prime Minister Nehru labored to ensure that the remaining 50 million Muslims received protection. At this time, the life expectancy for an Indian who survived infancy was years; by 16, it had reached 5. Increased longevity put a huge strain on Indian food resources. During my life in India, I saw the population grow to 750 million and it kept growing at a rate of 1 million a month. In the country where children help in the fields, large families are still desirable.


On January 0, 148 at a prayer meeting in India’s capital New Delhi, a Hindu extremist who had believed he had been too generous to the Muslims assassinated Gandhi. This was a sad time for Indians. I will never forget the announcement of his death declared over the din of voices, This afternoon, at Birla House in Delhi, our beloved Mahatma was killed. Some madman shot him in the stomach, ladies and gentlemen-our Bapu is gone!


It was also around this time that Mother Teresa started her order the Missionaries of Charity. Her order served the blind, the aged, lepers, the disabled, and the dying. In 16 the Indian government awarded her the Padmashri (Lord of the Lotus) for her services to the people of India. She was a mother to our people and especially the unloved and motherless. In 171 Pope Paul VI awarded her the first Pope John XXIII Peace Prize and in 17 she received the Nobel Peace Prize.


In November of 14 our Constitution was adopted and it was put into force in January of 150. It recognized eighteen official languages, but over 1600 minor languages and dialects are known. English is the preferred common language of educated Indians.


The Indian government’s main goal in economic development was to raise the painfully low living standards of its citizens, whose annual per capita income in 151 was $5.00. We had to spend up to 0 percent of our income on food. The goal of improving the standard of living and literacy rate was constantly frustrated by the alarmingly fast growth of the population.


The Indian parliament passed laws soon after the independence that made women politically equal to men, enforced monogamy and granted Hindu widows the right to remarry, wives the right to obtain a divorce, and daughters equal rights in inheritance with sons. Except for those in the urban middle class, few women either understood their rights or felt confident enough to exercise them. Prior to this time, women were expected to live with their husband’s parents even after their husbands had died.


Despite ethnic problems, India enjoyed elected governments, except between 175 and 177, when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi suspended the constitution and ruled under emergency laws. Gandhi and her Congress Party were thrown out of office in 177 when she allowed free elections. The Janata Party, which followed, was ineffective and unstable. Gandhi was swept back to power in the 180 election. She was assassinated in 184 and the leaders of the Congress Party elevated her son Rajiv to the prim ministership. Rajiv was popular because he was young, he supported modernization, and because he was handicapped by political inexperience. Rajiv resigned as prime minister in 18 and was assassinated in 10 by a Tamil extremist group from Sri Lanka. While Rajiv was in power, the economy began to grow faster because he favored private enterprise, deregulation, and high technology. As a result, India’s middle class grew to become larger than the total population of the United States.


Today India is troubled by disputes over the international boundary with China; the status of Kashmir with Pakistan; water-sharing problems with Pakistan over the Indus River (Wular Barrage); a portion of the boundary with Bangladesh is indefinite; dispute with Bangladesh over New Moore/South Talpatty Island. Illicit drugs also trouble India. India is the worlds largest producer of licit opium for the pharmaceutical trade, but an undetermined quantity of opium is diverted to illicit international drug markets, as well as hashish and methaqualone. India is also a major transit country for illicit narcotics produced in neighboring countries.


For most of India’s rural population, obtaining water for irrigation and essential domestic use is a daily problem. Rivers meet some of the villager’s needs but during the dry season, many streams dwindle to nothing. Fortunately the water table in most parts of the country lies just beneath the surface and can be tapped by digging or boring a well. Traditional open wells are breeding grounds for disease, but modern, machine drilled wells are completely enclosed and the risk of contamination is reduced. Under a government project to ring clean water to every village, hundreds of thousands of such wells have been sunk since the 170s.


Sources


Moore, Gillian. Library of Nations India. Virginia Time-Life Books, 188.


Goff, Richard, Walter Moss, etc. The Twentieth Century A Brief Global History. Massachusetts McGraw Hill, 00.


Yahoo! Reference World Factbook http//education.yahoo.com/reference/factbook/in/index.html


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