We publish in full a letter from a correspondent in Kerala speaking for many about the distress caused by the British Council's closure of their library, and the organisation's failure to consult or show interest in local concerns.
Don't the British care for what people in other parts of the world think about them? I live in the state of Kerala in South India. It is a place that is considered a model state in many ways. We don't produce terrorists of any sort; not surprising when you consider our high levels of literacy and education. Quite a number of people from here have migrated to the UK, mostly from the professional classes. They've integrated very well into British society and have contributed significantly to British life, culture and economy. There are also British companies with big offices in Kerala. We had a British Library run with the help of the British Council. A couple of weeks back they abruptly announced their decision to shut the library. Members are devastated at the prospect. We have not been given reasons for the closure. It was suggested at first that the Council was pulling out because they would have to come up with significant amounts of money for new premises. Our state government offered free land and a building if the Council could continue to maintain the library. Now the Council says it is part of their world wide policy to close down libraries. Maybe it is the British Council's policy, but can't anyone in the UK see it is not beneficial to anyone? Allow me to point out that this is one of the few parts of the "third world" where there is some goodwill for Britain and the British. That is not because we are fans of what you are doing in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is because we've had a mutually beneficial relationship with Britain. And your library has played a very important part in this relationship. Does the British Council not care for this? I would have thought it was more important for you to win hearts and minds here than to alienate yet another part of the world. The Council even refuses to talk to us, the members of the library. Is it your famous stiff upper lip or residual imperial arrogance? Will some British person answer my questions?
P. Vijaya Kumar Kamalalayam -2 Kunnukuzhy P O Trivandrum 695037 South India