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Should We Atone for Our Ancestors’ Sins?

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Shashi Tharoor’s speech at the Oxford Union debate (May 2015) on the proposition “Britain Owes Reparations to Her Former Colonies” garnered a lot of attention. His argument for the motion was quickly followed by his recent book An Era of Darkness: The British Empire in India in which he dwells upon the issue of reparations and apology in a greater detail. He writes that, “I, for one, dearly hope that a British prime minister finds the heart, and spirit to get on his or her knees […] and beg forgiveness from the Indians.”

Tharoor’s book is essentially a historical narration of India’s colonial encounter, but the question of paying reparations or apologising for historic “wrongs,” involves a philosophical enquiry as well. Let me highlight five interesting and philosophically-enticing dimensions of the debate, which, perhaps, have been somewhat eclipsed by the historic tenor of the book and the Oxford debate.

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Updated On : 14th Apr, 2017

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