It wasn’t just Queen Victoria in Lahore who was removed from public view with the ending of the British empire (Letters, 17 June). A statue of the 19th-century British viceroy Lord Lawrence, who had led troops “recapturing” Delhi during the 1857-58 rebellion, was quietly removed from Lahore’s mall in August 1950, while across the new border in India similar action took place.
Interestingly, in 1957, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of that uprising, the Indian prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, suggested that colonial-era statues should be divided into three categories and dealt with accordingly: first, those that were offensive to “national dignity”; second, those possessing “historic significance”; and, finally, those that were merely “artistic”.
Surprisingly few in the end were deemed to fall into the first category, though it is worth noting that more recently erected statues have become controversial additions to the contemporary political Indian landscape. In a similar move to adapt the material iconography of urban spaces after independence, streets across former British India were often renamed. All the same, in Karachi, a key building in the city, Frere Hall (Frere being a relatively enlightened local British official), continues to carry its colonial-era label.
Professor of history, Royal Holloway, University of London