I have always had a strange fascination with peoples’ interactions with their environment. However, for most of my life this understanding has been seemingly constrained to the one sided explanation of how the environment shapes human interaction and behavior. The telling of how human behavior and interaction impacts nature is typically exiguous if not absent. It is summed up in- the serious yet hackneyed- Global Warming; Climate Change, Deforestation.
Understanding the environment itself is often a missing aspect of this discourse. Our focus lies within the narrow, yet complex realm of human factors, the human gains and losses and the human outcomes, the environment is just a background; nay a silent back-drop.
In this vein, I seek to understand the environmental effects of colonialism in India. To understand the intellectual and political decolonization of nature-its knowledge, practice, and history. The British Raj in India was not only accompanied but also supported by the exploitation of forests and environmental destruction for economic gains. Indian Independence brought a new life to the exploited people, but it forgot the exploited lands, waters, forests and wildlife. It ignored the crevasse left between local societies and their relationship with natural resources, that only continued to grow.
What were the specific modalities and methods that were used to colonize the environment and nature during the period of British colonialism in India? What were the environmental relationships and practices of the colonized population? Why were the “environmentally sustainable,” and nature-nurturing communities replaced? In what ways has the separation of the categories of “nature” and “culture” itself been the construction of modernity? What was the aftermath of the environmental practices of the British in India- are these effects still felt today?
Answering these questions involves a holistic understanding, with a culturally specific view; it involves interweaving two mindsets, two peoples and two histories. I seek to explore the time after Mughal Rajas and their perennially colorful gardens and before the common man began living under a socialistic, republic, democratic government.