What has happened?
On September 8th of this year, the world was struck by the passing of the longest reigning monarch in British history, Queen Elizabeth II. Regardless of your views on the royal family and its social presence and worth, or your stance on the Queen’s reign itself, it is undeniably an event that will change the political sphere- and will just as certainly stir continued commotion amongst the people of former colonies, enemies, and allies alike.
A range of opinions on various subjects, such as the colonisation of Jamaica, has ordinary citizens and seasoned army vets alike clamouring for apologies- as well as something more tangible.“This commonwealth of nations, that wealth belongs to England. That wealth is something never shared in,” said Bert Samuels, a member of the National Council on Reparations in Jamaica (qtd. in NPR). When Queen Elizabeth’s reign was in its infancy, Britain’s views on slavery and colonisation “pulled down” many Jamaican people- the question being, is this time for repentance, notwithstanding the passing of the Monarch?
How is India reacting to this?
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has offered his condolences to Britain and he has also declared Sunday a day of mourning. However, this is not public opinion.
It does not trouble the general Indian populace greatly as Britain has not treated India in the best way throughout the past. As an example, in 1997, India was celebrating 50 years of independence and on the Queen’s itinerary was a visit to Jallianwala Bagh, the site where in 1919 a British general ordered thousands of peaceful protesters to be shot, a massacre that was one of the bloodiest episodes of British colonial rule over India. The hope among many was that the Queen’s visit would finally bring about a long-awaited apology for these tragic events. But, in the end, the apology never came. we do not say that the queen has been a tyrant toward Indian commoners but instead the British monarch. In fact, in comparison to many other British Indians were looked down upon by the British and Indian culture was treated as way inferior to European culture.
For many Indians, it is little more than a foreign news story, a bit of gossip, or even a cause for a little celebration. This is what a commoner of India had to say about the subject. Speaking to PBS.org, Madhulika Gupta, a marketing professional, said, “I think royalty or not, it's unfair to mourn the loss of someone whose crimes against humanity, racist and white-supremacist behaviour has been well documented. Her demise is the end of an era, a reign underlined with colonising, unabashed stealing from the Commonwealth countries, causing famines, putting countries 50 years backwards and not apologising for any of it," It’s certainly a fiery opinion, and is a testament to the attitude the everyman Indian has towards not just the Queen’s death, but England’s monarchy itself.
And yet, on a more neutral note, Prime Minister Modi, in his attempt to showcase the Queen's demise in a broader sense, said, "I believe we should respect the dead and that despite all the horrible past of colonization and other human rights violations, the Queen deserves a dignified final adieu." The political sphere is certainly heated… but as proved here, the all-Indian opinion is just as feisty.
But.. What does AES think?
Amidst the various responses from the outside world, we return to a more familiar environment: AES. We collected plenty of interviews from MS, and suffice to say we have very varied opinions as well. On one hand, we have Guy from Grade 8, and Karanjot from grade 7 who had this to say:
Guy in grade 8 recognizes the large impact that the death of the monarch will have. “I’m very much aware of it [the political discourse created by her death]. She’s been a monarch for a long time and had important roles in many different countries. It's a sudden death and it won’t be easy to replace her.” While her replacement, King Charles, will certainly face bumps in the road, Karanjot (gr. 7) supports the status quo of the royal family, “I think the commonwealth brings peace and harmony, and for that reason, it should be running.”
This more neutral standpoint is shared by many students at AES, but not all. While some like Karajot perceive the impact of Queen Elizabeth to be positive, some have a more critical eye, like Aahana in grade 8, “I don’t like the queen because she was really into colonialism. Otherwise, I don’t really care [about her death] because it doesn’t affect me personally. I don’t like King Charles III either, because he cheated on Diana, and that is enough to dislike a person. Honestly, I don’t care about the Royal Family because I’m from India and will probably never even move to the UK. I guess they have a lot to deal with - the Queen’s death, up to 80% inflation, etc. Terrible for them...”
As seen here, there are more sceptical opinions. Although we are generally well-informed people, it’s plain to see that divergence in opinions is prevalent among students for a variety of reasons. But, we also asked a teacher about their opinions.
For example, Mx. Caitlin Cornwell hopes for change in the future. “[Do you think the commonwealth will still thrive?] It's difficult for me to project the future, It’s my hope that the future governing of Britain takes into account what individual countries want, and what they wish the role of British rule is in their country. I think one of the problems with colonisation is that certain countries benefitted to the detriment of other countries, and I hope that can be reconciled as countries move forward.”
As seen here, we have collected a rogue’s gallery of opinion pieces here, but just why is there so much variance in opinion? Well, in the end, we can attribute much of that to media coverage where we grew up. That’s a great way to segway into our final section:
Regardless of who you are, it is very apparent that the Queen’s death is a massive event that has changed the political sphere, and left many wondering about Britain’s future practices. We see that there is a variance in awareness of the topic, and that’s further distorted by historical and cultural issues. Ultimately, the reality of the situation leaves us uncertain of the future. However, as a school and community, it is our duty to promote peace and equality for all.