First Published in Countercurrents.org
Where were we one hundred years ago?
Mankind was out of caves long ago and Asia was learning lessons from colonials about drawing boundaries. Colonialism was still an accepted way of life — it was twenty-five years before a nuclear bomb condemned fascist aspirations in history.
Historically, India was in the middle of the Non-cooperation and Khilafat movements. USA was under Woodrow Wilson and Sun Yat Sen was managing a conflict- ridden China. Singapore and parts of Malaysia were part of the Straits Settlement under the British Raj. The Europeans and Americans were just stumbling out of Spanish flu which had started in April 1918. It affected 500 million of the world population and the total deaths came to estimates of 50 million or more. The world population was then less than two billion.
The League of Nations which lasted till the start of the next world war was founded in January 1920 with active participation from the thirty first American President Wilson, who was awarded the Nobel peace prize in 1919. The First World War had ended in 1918. Indian soldiers manned the British army and the police force and shot their own countrymen and others too to defend colonial borders, though Gandhi ( who returned in 1914-15 from South Africa, where he stayed for more than two decades ) and many others that now lie on the other side of divides, pushed for independence. Borders were mobile even during colonial rule because the boundaries were reshaped by the imperialists needs, especially when they handed over part of their dominions to others from Europe — all those who found it convenient to trade and rule in Africa or Asia for the market, raw materials and to ‘ civilise’ people to the victor’s way of life. The political map of the world looked different then.