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In India, Queen Elizabeth’s funeral is contested by its colonial legacy

In India, Queen Elizabeth's funeral is contested by its colonial legacy
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NEW DELHI – Jennifer Cooke was in high school in 1961 when she sang for Queen Elizabeth II in her choir during the monarch’s first visit to India.

“He came in a carriage. We had to stand on a straight line and could not turn our eyes,” said Cook, speaking in St. Petersburg. Paul’s Cathedral in Calcutta, once the capital of British India. “I don’t remember much else, but he read from the Bible.”

The 70-year-old retiree spent Monday in front of a television at the retirement home in New Delhi where he now lives, watching longingly as the queen was carried for the last time during her traditional funeral and procession.

In Mumbai, Sarwar Irani secretly watched the ceremony on his smartphone during his workday as an administrative officer at a mall. Her home contains dozens of rare books, stamps and other memorabilia collected over the decades highlighting Elizabeth and Princess Diana.

“About something [the queen’s] his eyes and smile told me that he must be a kind and beautiful person,” Irani, 61, said. “That sparkle is now gone forever.”

But most Indians, especially the young, felt little nostalgia. The queen’s death has sparked a complex conversation about colonial legacy here, so even as world leaders and heads of state gather in London for the service, there was no deep expression of grief in what was once a crucial corner of the British empire. . Unlike many of his colleagues, Prime Minister Narendra Modi stayed at home.

Mumbai activist Yash Marwah, 27, called the funeral a “big deal” and did not attend. His first thought when he heard of the queen’s death in September. 8 would overshadow more important events.

“I thought about all the news that wouldn’t make the news,” he said.

In former British colonies, ghosts of the past mourn the queen

Although India gained independence before Elizabeth was crowned queen, many people think she could at least apologize for the violence and looting that marked British rule on the peninsula and led to the partition of India and Pakistan.

“There is a need and a demand for an apology,” said Jyoti Atwal, a historian who teaches at Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University.

The closest the Queen came to this was her third and final visit to India in 1997. Jallianwala BaghIn the north, where British troops opened fire on a gathering of unarmed Indian protesters in 1919, killing hundreds, the queen acknowledged a bloody past.

“It is no secret that we have had some difficult episodes in our past. “Jallianwala Bagh, which I will visit tomorrow, is a sad example.”

However, he did not go any further and said: “History cannot be rewritten, however much we sometimes wish otherwise. He has moments of joy as well as sadness. We should learn from sadness and develop joy.”

A toast to Her Majesty in Britain’s oldest overseas territory

Atwal said the queen played an important role in communicating with the former colonies and the new king had to decide what to do next. “He laid the foundation for such negotiations and rethought the role between the crown and the colonies,” he said. “It’s a modified script that Charles has to work with.”

Memes and posts on social media demanded the return of the Kohinoor, a 105.6-carat diamond originally from India that adorns the Queen’s crown. “Remember that Queen Elizabeth is not a colonial relic” noted a tweet. “He was an active participant in colonialism.”

And just last week, Modi renamed a road in central Delhi called Kingsway or Rajpath. as he described “Symbol of Slavery”.

“Today we leave the past behind and fill the picture of tomorrow with new colors,” he said.

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