The end of empire and an India worth celebrating | Letters

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A girl takes part in India’s independence day celebrations in Chennai on 15 August 2017. ‘Midnight’s children have achieved a lot,’ writes Nitin Mehta. Photograph: P Ravikumar/Reuters

There has been a lot written this week about the 70th anniversary of Britain’s hasty retreat from India in 1947 (Editorial, 15 August), but I’ve seen nothing about the burning by the British government of documents recording the details of British colonial rule. According to Colonial Office papers in the National Archives at Kew, west London, “The press greatly enjoyed themselves with the pall of smoke which hung over Delhi during the mass destruction of documents.” The same thing happened all over the British empire, and was even given a cynical name: Operation Legacy. In Trinidad, where I was at school, the governor was urged to hurry up with the weeding of documents as “it is a long job that needs doing thoroughly and it would perhaps be a little unfortunate to celebrate Independence Day with smoke”. The Colonial Office had been helpful, even advising the governor: “You may like to know that, as an alternative to fire, it is permissible to pack documents in well-weighted crates and sink them in current-free water at the maximum practicable distance from the shore.” Thus were historians deprived of much valuable source material, as the British government made sure that the full story of British colonial rule over so much of the globe would never be told.
Chris Birch
London

• In the article titled Partition, 70 years on (Review, 5 August) your contributors failed to acknowledge a single Indian achievement. India is a relative place of calm. Tens of millions of people from different faiths and ethnic background go about their lives with no fear. Many have achieved the highest positions in Indian society. This is a country where persecuted Zoroastrians, Bahá’ís, Tibetans and many others have found a safe home; that embraced mother Theresa and gave her the highest honour; where Jewish people have lived for 2,000 years and never faced any persecution. India’s education system has produced people who now dominate Nasa and the Silicon Valley in US. Some Indian educational institutions are among the best in the world. India is a world leader in IT, it has a multibillion-dollar space commerce business, launching satellites for many countries. It is one of the few countries to have designed a super computer. There are 56 Indian companies featured in the Forbes 2000 list of the largest and most powerful companies in the world. Midnight’s children have achieved a lot.
Nitin Mehta
London

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