October 14, 2008

What is Congo now!!!

Inequities galore is what we were witness too. And I have been terribly moved by the scale and intent of these inequities that were propounded by various colonialists during the last two centuries.

Sitting at Dubare, I am reading a book by Adam Hoschild about King Leopold's adventures in Congo in the late 1890's and am struck by the cruel mind, the man possessed. Being a history person, even I had conveniently ignored the excesses caused by the whites in Africa, but upon reading he book, which is a gift by Samita's friend Lisa, it has been a sordid revelation.

We hardly know King Leopold, as Napoleon, the Tsars and the Queens have always caught the Indian's imagination, but there he was, a figure in history - belonging to small Belgium who played a game that aided in the uprooting of millions of lives. What he and his well oiled mechanism did is there for the record presently, but what was surprising that unlike the British, his machine ran almost purely on slave labour, an it continued to do so for a number of decades. The experiences in the Congo probably inspired Joseph Conrad to write his Heart of Darkness and led to mental breakdowns of many of the perpetrators of this violence. The scale was huge and statistics never tell the tale, there were many many deaths and it led to the phenomenon of cutting of the hands of the natives. The entire Congo basin was maimed for several years and not many people really raised their voices.

When it was all over and the honorable Leopold and his gang exited, it took years to remove that scar but some signs could not be removed as maimed hands cannot be repaired.

I at this age, have been violently affected by the poison in their minds and wonder what makes us so. It is very apparent, however, from the book that the person committing the crime rarely put his hands into it and tried very hard to showcase it as a necessity, rather than his ritual.

However hidden from the public this crime was, it is a shame that people do not care much about what the colonial world did in places other than India and I dread reading about their adventures in other parts of Africa. We live in slightly better times now!!!