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The India inherited by Nehru - Brijesh Kalappa

The India inherited by Nehru

May 24, 2015, 2:07 PM IST Brijesh Kalappa in Emphasis | India | TOI

Narendra Modi was quoted by The Hindu as having said in Shanghai on Saturday, “Earlier, you felt ashamed of being born Indian. Now you feel proud to represent the country. Indians abroad had all hoped for a change in government last year.”

Again, in Seoul Modi stated, “There was a time when people used to say we don’t know what sins we committed in our past life that we were born in Hindustan. Is this a country or is this a government…we will leave. There was a time when people used to leave, businessmen used to say we can’t do business here. These people are ready to come back. The mood has changed.”

Rev. Jabes T Sunderland (1842-1936), Editor, Young India (New York) and author of India, America and World Brotherhood and causes of famine in India wrote “Nearly every kind of manufacture or product known to the civilized world-nearly every kind of creation of man’s brain and hand, existing anywhere, and prized either for its utility or beauty had long, long been produced in India. India was a far greater industrial and manufacturing nation than any in Europe or than any other in Asia. Her textile goods the fine products of her looms, in cotton, wool, linen and silk – were famous over the civilized world; so were her exquisite jewelry and her precious stones cut in every lovely form; so were her pottery, porcelains, ceramics of every kind, quality, color and beautiful shape; so were her fine works in metal-iron, steel silver and gold. She had great architecture – equal in beauty to any in the world. She had great engineering works. She had great merchants, great businessmen, great bankers and financiers. Not only was she the greatest ship-building nation, but she had great commerce and trade by land and sea which extended to all known civilized countries. Such was the India which the British found when they came.”

Will Durant in his ‘The case for India’ writes “The national debt of India, which was $35,00,000 in 1792, rose to $105,000,000 in 1805 ; to $150,000,000 in 1829 ; to $215,000,000 in 1845 ; to $275,000,000 in 1850 ; to $350,000,000 in 1858 ; to $500,000,000 in 1860 ; to $1,000,000,000 in 1901 ; to $ 1,535,000,000 in 1913, and to $3,500,000,000 in 1929.”

This prompted Mahatma Gandhi to remark that “The foreign system under which India is governed to-day, has reduced India to pauperism and emasculation. We have lost self-confidence.”

The manner in which a British historian puts it is as under: “It is a melancholy instance of the wrong done to India by the country on which she has become dependent. Had India been independent, she would have retaliated, would have imposed prohibitive duties upon British goods, and would thus have preserved her own productive industry from annihilation. This act of self-defense was not permitted her; she was at the mercy of the stranger. British goods were forced upon her without paying any duty, and the foreign manufacturer employed the arm of political injustice to keep down and ultimately strangle a competitor with whom he would not have contended on equal terms.”

And another Englishman wrote: “We have done everything possible to impoverish still further the miserable beings subject to the cruel selfishness of English commerce. Under the pretense of free trade, England has compelled the Hindus to receive the products of the steam-looms of Lancashire, Yorkshire, Glasgow, etc., at merely nominal duties; while the hand wrought manufactures of Bengal and Behar, beautiful in fabric and durable in wear, have heavy and almost prohibitive duties imposed on their importation into England.

The result was that Manchester and Paisley flourished, and Indian industries declined; a country well on the way to prosperity was forcibly arrested in its development, and compelled to be only a rural hinterland for industrial England. The mineral wealth abounding in India’s soil was not explored, for no competition with England was to be allowed. The millions of skilled artisans whom Indian handicrafts had maintained were added to the hundreds of millions who sought support from the land. “India,” says Kohn, “was transformed into a purely agricultural country, and her people lived perpetually on the verge of starvation.”

Durant says, “As early as 1783, Edmund Burke predicted that the annual drain of Indian resources to England without equivalent return would eventually destroy India. From Plassey to Waterloo, fifty-seven years, the drain of India’s wealth to England is computed by Brooks Adams at two-and-a-half to five billion dollars. He adds, what Macaulay suggested long ago, that it was this stolen wealth from India which supplied England with free capital for the development of mechanical inventions, and so made possible the Industrial Revolution. In 1901, Dutt estimated that one half of the net revenues of India flowed annually out of the country, never to return. In 1906, Mr. Hyndman reckoned the drain at $40,000,000 a year. A.J. Wilson valued it at one-tenth of the total annual production of India. Montgomery Martin, estimating the drain at $15,000,000 year in 1838, calculated that these annual sums, retained and gathering interest in India, would amount in half a century to $40,000,000,000. Though it may seem merely spectacular to juggle such figures, it is highly probable that the total wealth drained from India since 1757, if it had all been left and invested in India, would now amount, at a low rate of interest, to $400,000,000,000. Allow for money reinvested in India, and a sum remains easily equivalent to the difference between the poorest and the riches nations in the world. The same high rate of taxation which has bled India to perhaps a mortal weakness, might have done her no permanent injury if the wealth so taken had all been returned into the economy and circulation of the country ; but bodily withdrawn from her as so much of it was, it has acted like a long-continued transfusion of vital blood. “So great an economic drain out of the resources of the land,” says Dutt, “would impoverish the most prosperous countries on earth; it has reduced India to a land of famines more frequent, more widespread and more fatal, than any known before in the history of India, or of the world.”

Sir Wilfred Seawen Blunt sums it up from the point of view of a true Englishman: “India’s famines have been severer and more frequent, its agricultural poverty has deepened, its rural population has become more hopelessly in debut, their despair more desperate. The system of constantly enhancing the land values (i.e. raising the valuation and assessment) has not been altered. The salt tax … still robs the very poor. What was bad twenty five years ago is worse now. At any rate there is the same drain of India’s food to alien mouths. Endemic famines and endemic plagues are facts no official statistics can explain away. Though myself a good Conservative … I own to being shocked at the bondage in which the Indian people are held; … and I have come to the conclusion that if we go on the developing the country at the present rate, the inhabitants, sooner or later, will have to resort to cannibalism, for there will be nothing left for them to eat.”

Prime Minister Modi is weak at history- he has famously said that Taxila was in Patna, besides referring to the Mahatma as Mohanlal. But this is the India that was inherited by Jawaharlal Nehru in 1947. Nehru had famously remarked that in India we had to import everything, even as much as a pin when we attained independence. It is from the brink that Nehru and his team restored much of India’s former glory. No right minded person can ever expect Modi (given his RSS background) to give credit to Nehru and the founding fathers of India for the extraordinary work they have done, but let Modi not embarrass himself and indeed the nation, atleast on foreign soil.

DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author's own.



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If Britain is responsible for India’s Misery, why is Mass Misery Still Continuing?

Saturday 22 November 2014by T J S George


Here’s something that should rivet Narendra Modi’s attention. “Nearly every kind of manufacture or product known to the civilised world—nearly every kind of creation of man’s brain and hand, existing anywhere, and prized either for its utility or beauty—had long, long been produced in India. India was a far greater industrial and manufacturing nation than any in Europe or than any other in Asia. Her textile goods—the fine products of her looms, in cotton, wool, linen and silk—were famous over the civilised world; so were her exquisite jewellery and her precious stones cut in every lovely form; so were her pottery, porcelains, ceramics of every kind, quality, colour and beautiful shape; so were her fine works in metal—iron, steel, silver and gold. She had great architecture, equal in beauty to any in the world. She had great engineering works. She had great merchants, great businessmen, great bankers and financiers. Not only was she the greatest shipbuilding nation, but she had great commerce and trade by land and sea which extended to all known civilised countries. Such was the India which the British found when they came.”

That’s a quotation from a little-known but ought-to-be-widely-known book written 84 years ago: The Case for India by Will Durant (of the 11-volume The Story of Civilisation fame). “Made in India” was the natural slogan of the past. Today we have to plead to “make in India”. What explains the wholesale collapse? Will Durant puts the blame squarely on British exploitation of India. Separating the English from the British, he says: “The English are the best gentlemen on earth, the British are the worst of all imperialists.” His book marshals evidence to show how extensive was the destruction wrought by the imperialist Britain.

Durant has a way of digging out nuggets of information from extensive research and presenting them with a suddenness that surprises the reader. Casually as it were, he tells us that there were 7000 opium shops in India operated by the British Government, that two to four hundred thousand acres of India’s soil were given away to the growing of opium.

On Gandhi: “In his first year in England he read 80 books on Christianity.”

His account of the levels of poverty that prevailed in India is perhaps the most disturbing. While Britain stole enough wealth from India to make the Industrial Revolution possible, the percentage of taxes as related to the gross produce was more in India than in any other country. Famine became a feature of Indian life. As many as 15 million people died in the famines of 1877, 1889, 1897 and 1900. (A bigger one was to come after Durant’s visit when the British took away all the foodgrains they could get from India as supplies to World War II).

There is a doomsday echo to Durant’s words: “The British ownership of India has been a calamity and a crime. This is quite unlike the Mohammedan domination: those invaders came to stay; what they took in taxes and tribute they spent in India, developing its industries and resources, adorning its literature and art... [Under British rule] I saw a people—one-fifth of the human race—suffering poverty and oppression bitterer than any to be found elsewhere on the earth. I was horrified. I had not thought it possible that any government could allow its subjects to sink to such misery.” That last point seems applicable to successive governments after independence as well. The misery of vast sections of people in the slums, on the banks of polluted water bodies, in unplanned urban beehives ever waiting for catastrophes would horrify Durant if he were to visit us again.

An oddity in the narrative provides an ironic link to today’s ultra-nationalists who say that all Indians are Hindus.

They are, of course, in a geographic sense—as inheritors of the Sindhu (Indus) valley civilisation. The word has since become wholly religious, as distinct from geographical, so much so that Durant sounds outdated or eccentric when he talks of Hindu industries vs British industries, there being not one Hindu in the Railway Board of those days, third-class passengers in trains being Hindus and Gandhi being the leader of 320 million Hindus. Narendra Modi would never claim to be, or want to be, the leader of 1.1 billion Hindus. He wants to be the leader of 1.1 billion Indians. Which underlines why the two words are not interchangeable



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British Raj in India:Myths and the Realities 
B.B. Kumar*

India as it was when the British came
India, when the British appeared on the scene, was the richest country of the world; it was also a highly educated country. India was the wealthiest country of the world even during the end of the Mughal rule. As Will Durant asserts, “It was the wealth of the 18th century India which attracted the commercial pirates of England and France.”1 
Sunderland also informs us about the wealth of India: “This wealth was created by the Hindus’ vast and varied industries. Nearly every kind of manufacture or product known to the civilised world — nearly every kind of creation of man’s brain and hand, existing anywhere, and prized either for its utility or beauty — had long, long been produced in India. India was a far greater industrial and manufacturing nation than any in Europe or than any other in Asia. Her textile goods — the fine products of her looms in cotton, wool, linen and silk — were famous over the civilised world; so were her exquisite jewellery and her precious stones cut in every lovely form; so were her pottery, porcelains, ceramics of every kind, quality, colour and beautiful shape; so were her fine works in metal — iron, steel, silver and gold. She had great architecture — equal to beauty to any in the world. She had great engineering works. She had great merchants, great businessmen, great bankers and financiers. Not only was she the greatest ship-building nation, but she had great commerce and trade by land and sea which extended to all known civilised countries. Such was the India which the British found when they came.”2 
Even Robert Clive, who defeated the Nawab of Bengal at Plassey, said thus about the riches of the country: “When I think of the marvelous riches of that country, and the comparatively small part which I took away, I am astonished at my own moderation.”3
Thomas Macaulay, in his address to British Parliament on February 2, 1835, revealed India’s moral and cultural status and how he wanted to change it. He said: “I have travelled across the length and breadth of India and have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values. People of such calibre that I never think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self esteem, their native culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation.”4
He further wrote: “We must at present do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern — a class of persons Indian in blood and colour, but English in tastes, in opinions, in morals and intellect.”
While even a colonial administrator like Macaulay saw both positives and negatives in India, there were many such as Ms Mayo, author of Mother India, and Charles Grant, a missionary, who saw only the negatives. For Grant, India was backward, depraved, wretched and amoral, as it was a Hindu and not Christian nation. The missionaries in India wanted complete liberty to denigrate Hinduism and convert Indians to Christianity.
Grant writes: “In the worst parts of Europe, there are no doubt a great number of men who are sincere, upright and conscientious. In Bengal, a man of real veracity and integrity is a great phenomenon; one conscientious in whole of his conduct, is to be feared, is an unknown character… Power entrusted to a native of Hindoostan seldom fails to be exercised tyrannically, or perverted to the purpose of injustice. Official or ministerial employment of all sorts, in all gradations is generally used as means of peculation… The distribution of justice… has generally become a traffic in venality; the best cause being obliged to pay for success and worst having the opportunity of purchasing it … Such is the power of money, that no crime is more frequent, hardly any less thought of, than perjury… The apathy, with which a Hindu views all persons and interests unconnected with himself, is such as excites the indignations of Europeans. Patriotism is absolutely unknown in Hindoostan.”5  
Strength of the Economy
The strength of Indian economy was due to healthy combination of the agriculture and industry. Indian handicrafts maintained millions of skilled artisans; trade and industries generated wealth. The British systematically destroyed them and thus its economy. 
Destruction of Indian Economy 
The destruction of Indian economy began soon after the assumption of Diwani of Bengal by the East India Company. It started with plunder and receipt of huge bribes by Clive and his men. Indian trade and industry was systematically destroyed.with tariffs and control; similar was the fate of agriculture by excessive taxation. Land taxes were increased many-fold, breaking the backbone of agriculture; such was the duress that two-third of the population of the provinces under the company fled.6 This happened soon after assumption of Diwani of Bengal by the East India Company. 
The destruction of economy was further caused due to huge drain of resources from India to Britain by various ways, such as excessive exports in comparison to that of imports. The British employees in India remitted their earnings to England. British maintained an Army in India at the cost of this pauperised country and thereby further starved it. The British Indian Army, maintained by Indian taxes not only fought fratricidal war to enslave this country, but also for the expansion and protection of the empire elsewhere. Even the development-oriented expenditure in India, such as for railway construction, as mentioned elsewhere, did not serve the economy of this country.
Destruction of Indian Trade and Industry
The plunder, which Clive started, continued even after he left. And what happened to the richest province of India after the British control? Macaulay writes: “During the five years which followed the departure of Clive from Bengal, the misgovernment of the British was carried to such a point as seemed incompatible with the existence of the society… The servants of the company… forced the natives to buy dear and to sell cheap… Enormous fortunes were thus rapidly accumulated at Calcutta, while 30 millions of human beings were reduced to the extremity of wretchedness.”7 
The situation was not better elsewhere. The same story of maladministration, extreme exploitation and utter pauperisation was repeated wherever the British control was extended in India. James Mill, writing about Oudh and Karnatak under British rule, was of the opinion that “two of the noblest provinces of India, were, by misgovernment, plunged into a state of wretchedness with which… hardly any part of the earth has anything to compare”.8 
The situation remained deplorable. A report of an investigating committee of the House of Commons 1804, said: “It must give pain to an Englishman to think that since the accession of the Company the condition of the people of India has been worse than before.”9 “Under no Government whatever, Hindu or Mohammedan, professing to be actuated by law, was any system so suppressive of the prosperity of the people at large as that which has marked our administration.”10
The fact exposed by a British administrator in Bengal to the House of Commons in 1857 was even more damaging: “The fundamental principle of the English has been to make the whole Indian nation subservient in every possible way, to the interests and benefits of themselves. They have been taxed to the utmost limit; every successive province, as it has fallen into our possession, has been made a field for higher exaction; and it has always been our boast how greatly we have raised the revenue above that which the native rulers were able to extort. The Indians have been excluded from every honour, dignity or office which the lowest Englishman could be prevailed upon to accept.”11
Will Durant has observed that the English in India objected to the competition of their domestic industry with that of India and “resolved that India should be reduced to a purely agricultural country, and be forced in consequence to become a vast market for British machine-made goods”. The Directors of the East India Company gave orders that the production of raw silk should be encouraged and the manufacture of silk fabrics discouraged; that silk-winders should be compelled to work in Company’s factories, and be prohibited under severe penalties from working outside.12 British Parliament discussed ways and means of replacing Indian by British industries. The export of Indian textiles into free trade England was discouraged by placing a tariff of 70-80%, whereas English textiles was imported and sold in India almost duty-free. To further kill the Indian textile industry, an excise tax was levied on Indian textile goods.13
R.C. Dutt cites the opinion of a British historian highlighting the injustice: “It is a melancholy instance of the wrong done to India by the country on which she has become dependent. Had India been independent, she would have retaliated, would have imposed prohibitive duties on British goods, and would thus have preserved her own productive industry from annihilation. This act of self-defense was not permitted her; she was at the mercy of the stranger. The British goods were forced upon her without paying any duty, and the foreign manufacturer employed the arm of political injustice to keep down and ultimately strangle a competitor with whom he could not have contended on equal terms.”14
Martin Montgomery sums up the situation thus: “We have done everything possible to impoverish still further the miserable beings subject to the cruel selfishness of English commerce. Under the pressure of free trade, England has compelled the Hindus to receive the products of the steam-looms of Lancashire, Yorkshire, Glasgow, etc., at merely nominal duties; while the hand wrought manufactures of Bengal and Behar, beautiful in fabric and durable in wear, have heavy and almost prohibitive duties imposed on their importation into England.”15
To avoid further competition, mineral wealth of India was not explored. British monopolised sea trade, too. Indians were neither permitted to build ships, which used to provide employment to thousands in the past16, nor organise a merchant marine of their own.17 As the development of the country was forcibly arrested, India became rural hinterland of industrial England.18 
Kuhn observed, “India was transformed into purely agricultural country, and her people lived perpetually on the verge of starvation” under the British rule.19 The end result was devastating, as Will Durant Observes: “The vast population which might have been comfortably supported by a combination of tillage and industry, became too great for the arid soil; and India was reduced to such penury that to-day nothing is left of her men, her women and her children but empty stomachs and fleshless bones.”20  
Purchasing India with Indian Money
During 1858, just after India’s “First War of Independence”, when the criminality of the East India Company was thoroughly exposed, “the British Government took over the captured and plundered territories as a colony of the Crown; a little island took over half a continent. England paid the Company handsomely, and added the purchase price to the public debt of India, to be redeemed, principal and interest (originally at 10.5%) out of the taxes put upon Hindu people. All the debts on the Company’s books together with accrued interest on these debts were added to the public obligations of India, to be redeemed out of the taxes put upon the Hindu people. Exploitation was dressed now in all the forms of Law—i.e. the rules laid down by the victors for the vanquished. Hypocrisy was added to brutality, while the robbery went on.”21 This was a unique case of the bankruptcy of the British morality. 
Enslaving India at the Cost of Indian Blood and Resources (Taxes)
In another similar case of the type, stated earlier, India was not only forced to pay for the Army used for fighting fratricidal war in this country and enslaving her, but also for fighting colonial wars for the benefit of the British elsewhere.
Thus, the British continued to utilise Indian men and resources (taxes) to enslave her and for colonial wars in Burma/Myanmar, Afghanistan, Africa, France, etc. Will Durant22 has mentioned about John Morley’s estimate of 111 wars fought by the British in India during 19th century, “using for most part Indian troops,23 millions of Hindus shed their blood that India might be slave. The cost of these wars for the conquest of India was met to the last penny out of Indian taxes; the English congratulated themselves on conquering India without spending a cent.24 Certainly it was a remarkable, if not a magnanimous, achievement, to steal in forty years a quarter of a million square miles, and make the victim pay every penny of the expense.”25
“India paid $45 crore for the “wars fought for England outside of India with Indian troops” during the 19th century. India contributed $50 crore to the war chest of the Allies, $70 crore in subscription to the war loans, eight lakh soldiers, four lakh labourers to defend the British Empire outside of India during World War I.26 This army of fratricide consumed 64% of the total revenue of India in 1922. The empire, which was starving 10 million Indians to death every year, was using its army at its cost to fight fratricidal war in Burma and to defend the empire on the fields of Flanders.27 No other army in the world consumed so large proportion of the public revenue.28 The same story was repeated during World War II. The drain became more acute after the creation of “Royal Indian Navy” with the intention of using it anywhere for the interest of the empire. 
England had to bring British troops during 1857 uprising in India, for which “it charged India with the cost not only of transporting them, maintaining them in India, and bringing them back home, but with their maintenance in Great Britain for six months before they sailed. 29 
Bonded Labour and Begar 
The British introduced the system of ‘bonded labour’ and beggar (forced free labour; taking work without payment; such system was prevalent in Europe, but not in India). Whenever British army used to pass through any region, people of 34-35 different occupation – sellers of flour/rice/sweets/tobacco/meat/vegetables/oil/ghee etc, weavers, carpenters, blacksmiths, coolies, etc — used to accompany them to provide free service. About 300-400 bullock carts, horses/mules/camels also used to accompany them to render them free service. Otherwise, the British army used to plunder the area and punish the people. Begar system, first introduced in India by the British in 1770, was utilised in big way throughout the country. A hill road, 300-400 miles long and four yards wide, was constructed with forced free labour in Shimla when the area came under British control.30 
Railways to Promote British Interests
The greatest revenue from Indian Railways during pre-Independence period was not from the transportation of goods, as in America, but from the third class passengers. This was, because the traders’ interests were taken care of by their representatives, who controlled the Railways. There used to be no Indian member in the Railway Board. The Railways were incurring loss every year and were helped by ever-increasing loans from the public revenue. The British Construction Companies, working under strict state monopoly, were guaranteed by the colonial Government a minimum rate of interest on their investment; had no risk of any kind. “All the losses” in running the Railways, as Will Durrant observed, “are borne by the people; all the gains are gathered by the traders”.31 
Like Railways, the construction of Irrigation works also did not benefit the Indian peasants due to over-taxation. The peasants remained equally bad off as before.32 Many new forest areas opened for cultivation by poverty stricken over-taxed farmers gradually became arid wastes due to lack of re-forestation.33 
Drain on India through Trade, Services and the Tributes
In the field of trade India suffered due to excessive surplus of exports over imports, which during the days of company, used to be even ten times, as $30,000,000 exports and $3,000,000 imports.34 Later, it was found to be in the ratio of 3:1. The most striking part was that the British created a shameless myth that India, which was almost starved and made naked by their immoral plunder and mismanagement, imported gold and silver with the excess money. Another explanation provided in 1853 was that the difference was the tribute which Britain received from this country.35
A document privately addressed by the British Government in India to British Parliament revealed other remittances to that country. It said: “Great Britain, in addition to the tribute which she makes India pay her through the customs, derives benefits from the savings of the services of the three presidencies (the provinces of Calcutta, Madras and Bombay) being spent in England instead of in India; and in addition to these savings, which probably amount to $500,000,000, she derives benefit from the fortunes realized by the European mercantile community, which are all remitted to England.”36
The fortunes, dividends and profits made in India were remitted to England. Not only every rupee of profit made by an Englishman was lost for ever to India,37 but also the salaries and pensions earned in this country by them. There were about 7,500 pensioners in England drawing $17,500,000 in pensions from the Indian revenue in the late 1930s. An Englishman serving in India was required to put 24 years of service, reduced by four years of furloughs, and then he was given generous pension for life. The officials usually sent their families or children to live in England with the funds derived from this country.38 They mostly consumed goods purchased from abroad, except for perishable food items.39 Two factors, related to employment of the officials by the British, which adversely affected Indian economy, need special mention. These were: (i) comparatively very high salary of the employees, especially the European ones; and, (ii) employment of the British/Europeans on the higher posts with higher salaries and perks, even when Indians of comparable or even higher abilities were available for the same. In reality, Indians were not employed on higher posts and were comparatively paid far less. This added to the drain of resources further from India to the England. 
Traditional Indian rulers used to live simple life. The situation changed after British takeover. The case of the Maharana of Mewar is cited in this paper. The topmost officer of Tipu Sultan, the governor of Chitradurga, was getting only Rs 100 per month. A labourer at that time was getting Rs 4 a month. The English District Collector and the member of the Governor’s Council started getting Rs 1,500 and Rs 6,000 to Rs 8,000 respectively soon after that. On the other hand, the wages of the labourers and the craftsmen fell to one-third or at best half in 1850 in comparison to that in 1760 in Karnataka.40 This story was repeated throughout the country. 
Industrial Revolution with the Stolen Fund of India
Edmund burke, as early as in 1783, predicted that the annual drain of Indian resources to England without equivalent return would eventually destroy India.41  As computed by Brooks Adam, the drain of India’s wealth to England within 57 years, between Plassey to Waterloo, was $2.5 billion to $5 billion42; and, “it was this stolen wealth from India supplied England with free capital for the development of mechanical inventions, and so made possible the Industrial Revolution.43 As estimated by Dutt in 1901, one-half of the net revenue of India flowed annually out of the country, never to return.44  
India became Land of Famines, Diseases and Death 
Ruthless exploitation and drain of resources converted India into the land of famines, diseases and death. RC Dutt says: “So great an economic drain out of the resources of the land, would impoverish the most prosperous countries on earth; it has reduced India to a land of famines more frequent, more widespread and more fatal, than any known before in the history of India, or of the world.”45 It needs mention that one-third of the Bengal’s population died due to famine during 1769-71, soon after the establishment of the British rule. Francois Goutier observes: “the greatest famine that happened in India was under the British rule. In 1947, there had been starvation. According to British statistics one million Indians died of famine during 1800-1825, 4 million Indians died between 1825-1850, 5 million between 1850 and 1875 and 15 million between 1875 and 1900. About 10% Indians died during the British rule.”46 According to RC Dutt, “There has never been a single year when the food supply of the country was insufficient for the people,”47 and yet millions died of starvation.
In this connection, the observation of Will Durant points to the naked reality: “It was hoped that the railways would solve the problem by enabling the rapid transport of food from unaffected to effected regions; the fact that the worst famines have come since the building of the railways proves the cause has not been the lack of transportation, not the failure of the monsoon rains (though this, of course, is the occasion), nor even over-population (which is a contributory factor); behind all these as the fundamental source of the terrible famines in India, lies such merciless exploitation, such unbalanced exportation of goods, and such brutal collection of high taxes in the very midst of famine,48 that the starving peasants can not pay what is asked for the food that the railways bring them. American Charity has often paid for the relief of the famine in India while the Government was collecting taxes from the dying.”49 
High Death Rates  
Death rate in India was shockingly very high during British rule. Half of the children born in Bengal used to die before attaining the age of eight. The infant mortality rate in Bombay in 1921 was as high as 666 per thousand. One-half of the death rates were preventable, according to a medical expert.50 A Conscientious Englishman, HM Hyndman, revealed the reality: “Even as we look on, India is becoming feebler and feebler. The very life blood of the great multitude under our rule is slowly, yet ever faster ebbing away.”51
To sum up, it may be relevant to quote Sir Wilfred Seawen Blunt: “India’s famines have been severer and more frequent, its agricultural poverty has deepened, its rural population has more hopelessly in debt, their despair more desperate. The system of constantly enhancing the land values (that is, raising the valuation and assessment) has not been altered. The salt tax… still robs the very poor. What was bad 25 years ago is worse now. At any rate there is the same drain of India’s food to alien mouths. Endemic famines and endemic plagues are facts no official statistics can explain away. Though myself a good Conservative…I own to being shocked at the bondage in which the Indian people are held;…and I have come to the conclusion that if we go on developing the country at the present rate, the inhabitants, sooner or later, will have to resort to cannibalism, for there will be nothing for them to eat.”52
Princely States were less oppressive, more benevolent
Contrary to the general perception due to myths created by colonial scholars and Indian Marxists, the princely states were less oppressive and more benevolent. The situation was better in the princely states. Some of the states, such as Baroda and Mysore, were far ahead of their time. English Bishop Heber wrote in 1826: “Peasantry in Company’s provinces are, on the whole, worse off, poorer and more dispirited than the subjects of the native princes.”53 This despite the fact that the British even tried — and in most of the cases were successful — in making the princes the partners in their plundering game. The pays/allowances/perks of the princes/employees were abnormally increased. The case of the Maharana of Mewar may be cited. As Toad has written, the Maharana was getting Rs 1,000 as the monthly allowance. The state was taken under the British protection in 1818 and within few months, the Maharana started getting Rs 1,000 per day. Most of the princes became self-indulgent. The expenditure under welfare schemes was gradually curtailed.54 
As if that was not enough, the British opened separate colleges for the princes at Ajmer and other places aiming at promoting emotional divide between the rulers and their subjects. Princely states — about 500 of them — were further burdened with keeping and maintaining part of the colonial army compulsorily stationed in their territories. 
Destruction of Community-maintained Indigenous Education
The British, during the early period of their rule conducted surveys in the Madras and Bombay presidencies to ascertain the state of indigenous education. Madras Report by the Governor, Sir Thomas Munro, was very extensive. Survey of Indigenous Education in the Province of Bombay was equally extensive. A Report on the State of Education in Bengal was an unofficial report by W Adam, published in three parts during 1835, 1835 and 1838. Punjab came late under British rule in 1849. A Report by GW Leitner, the principal of the Government College, Lahore, and sometime the Director of Public Instruction, Punjab, was published under the title, History of the Indigenous education in the Punjab since Annexation and in 1882. Eminent Gandhian scholar Dharmapal, basing on these surveys and reports and the data collected from British and Indian archives, wrote The Beautiful Tree: Indigenous Indian Education in the Eighteenth Century. These studies bring out realities of the status of education in India during British Raj.55
According to these studies, education was widespread in India. Practically every village in India had one or more school when the British arrived on the scene. According to Adam’s reports, there were then at least one lakh schools in Bihar and Bengal, whereas the number of villages at that time was 150,784. On an average, these states had one school for every 63 students. As the study indicated, even very poor families also used to send their children to the schools. According to Governor Munro, there was possibility of at least one school in every village in the Madras Presidency. He estimated that one-third of the children of the presidency were receiving education, out of which one-fourth were really attending the schools. Girls used to get education mostly at home. According to GL Prendergast, a senior officer of the Bombay Presidency, even a small village of the presidency during 1820 had a school and bigger villages had more than one. Leitner mentions that almost every village of Punjab had a school when the British occupation took place the state in 185056
The situation drastically changed after the arrival of the British. According to an expert, when they came, “there was, throughout India, a system of communal schools, managed by the village communities. The agents of the East India Company destroyed these village communities, and took no steps to replace the schools; even today, after a century of effort to restore them, they stand at only 66% of their number a hundred year ago.”57  All the efforts resulted into establishment of 162,015 primary schools, whereas the number of villages, at that time, stood at 730,000.58 Only 4% of the children (7% of the boys and 1.5% of the girls) received education.59 The tuition fee charged by such Government established schools loomed large to a family always hovering on the edge of starvation.60 The Bills, introduced by Gokhale in 1911 and Patel in 1916 for compulsory primary education in India, were defeated by the British and Government-appointed members.61 The teachers were poorly paid. Till 1921, a primary school teacher in the Madras Presidency was paid only $24-36 a year. 
The expenditure of the British India Government on education was only eight cents per head per year,62 whereas it spent 83 cents per head per year on army.63 Even major part of that meagre sum, total of which was less than one-half the educational expenditure in New York State,64 was spent on English medium secondary schools and universities, where, according to an American scholar, “history, literature, customs and morals taught were English, and young Hindus, after striving amid poverty to prepare themselves for college, found that they had merely let themselves in for a ruthless process that aimed to de-nationalise and de-Indianise them, and turn them into imitative Englishmen.65 Overall situation was so pathetic that the British India’s increase in appropriation for the fratricidal army during quarter of a century, between 1882 and 1907, was 21.5 times more ($43,000,000) than that on education ($2,000,000).66 The result was that this country lapsed into illiteracy and ignorance. The illiteracy increased to 93% during the colonial rule of a century-and-a-half in India during the 1920s.67
The facts, mentioned above, clearly expose the myth that the British brought with them education and enlightenment in India. There were other myths also finding currency among Indian intellectual for more than a hundred years about the Brahmins/Dwijas monopolising education. The educational surveys/reports and the study by Dharmapal have shown them to be baseless. These studies reveal that education in India was widespread; all sections of the society, including so-called Dalits, were benefited by the same as students and teachers. As mentioned above, the data counters the popular myth spread by the colonial administrators and Christian missionaries, and later on propagated by the Marxists/Communists, that education in India was monopolised by the Brahmins. In Madras Presidency, less than 25% students attending traditional elementary and advanced institutions of learning were Brahmins, (the percentage in today’s Tamil Nadu was still less); 48.8% were Shudras and 15.7% belonged to still lower castes, including untouchables. The percentage of Brahmin teachers was only 11% in Bihar and Bengal, and that of Brahmin students was less than 25%. Adam’s Report disproved the Christian missionary claim about the education of the Hindu lower castes. As his report shows, 13 missionary schools of Burdwan had only one Chandal, three Dom and not even one Mochi student; the traditional schools had 60, 58 and 16 students respectively of these communities.68 
Social Evils
The British were responsible for many social evils in Indian such as drinking and opium eating. India was a sober nation, well-known for the temperance of its people. Warren Hastings said, “The temperance of the people is demonstrated in the simplicity of their food and their total abstinence from spirituous liquors and other substances of intoxication.”69 The East India Company opened saloons for the sale of rum just after the establishment of the very first trading posts. It made handsome profits from the same; the revenue earned from the source in 1922 was thrice the appropriation for schools and colleges. The British introduced opium cultivation also in this country.70 
Crushing the Spirit of India, Defeatism and Self-denial
The British, apart from political subjugation, destruction of Indian economy and indigenous system of education, did all other things also which resulted into “pitiful crushing of the Hindu spirit, a stifling of its pride and growth, a stunting of genius that once flourished in every city of the land.”71 As stated, they worked with the fundamental principle to make the whole Indian nation subservient. Their policy in India has been one of political exclusion and social scorn and they gave shape to that policy in real practice. In reality, the English rule, even during the last two decades, “with all its modest improvements” was “destroying Hindu civilisation and the Hindu people.72 The British succeeded in cultivating deep sense of mental defeat, self-pity and inferiority among the Indians.73 This led to India’s self-denial, which persists even today after more than six decades of Independence.74 The British were a microscopic minority in India. For that, (i) they needed Indian intermediaries to help them in governing this vast country; introduced colonial system of education to produce them; (ii) they needed to weaken this country by dividing it socially; followed the policy of ‘divide and rule’; divided Hindus and Muslims, Aryans and Dravidians, Hills and plains, British India and princely states, and promoted similar divisions.
The British summoned European and Indian Scholarship in Service of the Empire. They churned out myths, misinterpreted and denigrated our history, culture, religion and traditions. Indology, anthropology and other social sciences in India basically developed as colonial disciplines. Even Indian history was given colonial orientation. The Indians with colonial education, Indian Marxists and the missionaries were the willing partners in this nefarious game. It needs mention that Karl Marx praised British colonialism. The net result was that the Indians lost self-image. They started viewing themselves, their nation, their society with borrowed eyes/ borrowed vision. 
Fossilised Colonial Systems 
In this country, the “education system, judiciary, everything was adopted without trying to put the Indian originality into it. Democracy was invented in India. No body says that, not even the textbooks”.75 The leftovers of the colonial period, education system, judiciary, system of policing in India, colonial system of administration, etc, tenaciously persists. The colonial myths persist. The latest discoveries say that Aryan Aggression Theory is a myth. It is still taught in the schools and colleges. We are creating clones in this country who have lost roots. The outdated pattern of Westernised education produces brightest students, but without much grounding in our own culture.76 Our intellectuals go on parroting the negatives discovered or fabricated by the British, forget to talk about positive developments. When the British came, Dalits were not poverty-stricken. They could proudly say, “We make shoes, we are also the soldiers.” They forget the fact that crores of Hindus mingle everyday in factories, mines, trains, trams, schools, colleges, market places, offices, etc, without enquiring about their castes and yet talk about untouchability. 
The positive findings about our society by Dharmapal and even many Western scholars are taboo for our intellectuals. England is still a model for them, as it was for Rammohun Roy, and others like him, who were ignorant about the realities of British society. Dharmapal, in his scholarly works, has brought out the fact that democracy and liberality of the British society upto early 19th century was a myth. As Francois Gautier has cited a case of Indians unduly blaming this country outside, he said: “Indians go outside and say that ‘in my country people are persecuted, there is no freedom’. What do you mean by freedom? I’ve found India the most secure place with my camera, my pads and all. Never was I marked. I had been in very dangerous places in India. I got no problems. As a journalist I can go anywhere, at any time. But in China you can not move so freely. A foreign journalist there needs a Government permission informing about the topic. You should appreciate India. Of course, there are problems. There are problems because of democracy, freedom. Separatism is here in India.”77
The British colonials have left; India is yet to get rid of the impact of colonialism. In reality, the system created by the British has fossilised; it has paralysed our mental faculty to such an extent that we have lost the capacity to bring change.
There is also a school of thought that the two hundred years of British rule was beneficial to India in many respects, including liberal education democracy, communications and a sense of geographical unity. The matter can be argued both ways, as this had followed the willful destruction of the Indian education system, economy and agriculture. The real test is to find out whether it was intended to be so or was an unintended fall-out of the various measures which the British took to strengthen their administrative control over the subcontinent and bolster their trade and commercial interests. Similar steps were taken by the British in their other colonies in Asia and Africa also. It would appear that it’s the civilisational resilience and strength of India which in the end triumphed the colonial designs to destroy and subjugate us culturally and politically. Civilisationally weak countries were overwhelmed, but India did not go under. The tolerant and inclusive cultural traits internalised what was good in the west and declined to be overwhelmed even at the worst of times. 
1 Will Durant,The Case for India, p. 6.
2. J.T. Sunderland, India in Bondage, p.367; quoted by Will Durant, p. 6. Sunderland’s book was banned in British India due to obvious reason.
3. Macaulay, Critical and Historical Essays, vol. I, p. 504. 
4. Macaulay’s address to British Parliament on February 2, 1835.
5. Quoted  in Transcending Conflict: Indian and Eastern way,  GFCH (India), New Delhi; p. 347.
6. R.C. Dutt, History of India under Early British Rule, p.61; Macaulay, T.B., Critical and Historical Essays, vol. 1, p. 529.
7. Macaulay, p. 528.
8. Quoted by Will Durant, The Case for India, p.110; Lajpat Rai, Unhappy India, p. 311.
9. Lajpat Rai, p. 333; Will Durant, p.11. According to a statement of Lt. Col. Briggs in 1857.
10. R.C. Dutt, p. 373.
11. Ibid.
12. Ibid, p. 256; Will Durant, p. 24.
13. Durant p. 24; Dutt, pp. 45, 256-57, viii-ix.
14. Ibid, p. 283.
15. Quoted in Dutt, p.290; from Martin Montgomery, Eastern India.
16. Durant, p. 26; quoted from J.T. Sunderland, India in Bondage, p. 365.
17. Lajpat Rai, p. 462; Durant p. 17.
18. Durant, p.25.
19. Will Durant, p. 25; quoted, Kohn, H, History of the Nationalism of the East, New York (1929) p. 101.
20. Durant, p. 25. 
21. Will Durant, p. 9.
22. Ibid, p. 10. 
23. Will Durant, p. 10; quoted Sunderland, p. 135. 
24. Will Durant, p. 10-11; refered Lajpat Rai, p. 343.).
25. Will Durant, p. 11; refered Savel Zimand, Living India, New York (1928), p. 46.
26. Oxford History of India, p.780; P.T. Moon, Imperialism and World Politics, p. 300; cited by Will Durant, p. 17. 25. Will Durant, p. 11; refered savel Zimand, Living India, New York (1928), p. 46. 
27. Durant, p. 17.
28. Ibid.
29. Durant, p. 17; Lajpat Rai, p. 346.
30. Dharmapal, Bharat ka Swadharma (Hindi), Allahabad, 1998: p. 53.
31. Durant, p. 26; refered Lajpat Rai, p. 382.
32. Dutt, pp. 173-74.
33. 33. 52, Durant, p.135; Lajpat Rai, pp.344-47; R.C. Dutt, p. xiii; Moon, p. 291
34. Durant, p. 27.
35. Ibid, p.28.
36. Ibid, p. 27. 
37. Ibid, 28.
38. Ibid, p. 29.
39. Ibid, p. 29; quoted Matma Gandhi.
40. Dharmapal, p. 52.
41. R.C. Dutt, p. 49.
42. Adam, pp. 259-65; Sunderland, p. 386; quoted by Durant, p. 29.
43. Adams, pp. 313f.; reference Durant, p. 29.
44. R.C. Dutt, p. p. xiii.104). 
45. Ibid, p. 420.
46. Quest, Guwahati, 2008, p. 19.
47. R.C. Dutt, Economic History of India under early British Rule, p. 7.
48. Ibid, pp. 51-52.
49. Durant, pp. 36-37.
50. Snderland, p140; Zimand, p. 179; refered by Durant, p. 37-38.
51. Lajpat Rai, p.350; cited by Durant, p. 39.
52. Durant, p. 30; referred Sunderland, p. 316; Lajpat Rai, p. 357. 
53. Quoted by Will Durant, p. 110
54. Dharmapal, p. 52
55. Dialogue, 9:2; October-December 2007; p.14.
56. Dharmapal, pp. 29-30. 
57. Will Durant, p. 31; quoted Lajpat Rai, pp. 24-25. 
58. Durant, p. 31; refered Moon, p. 308; sunderland, p. 259.
59. Ibid, p. 31; refered Indian Year Book, p. 398. 
60. Ibid, p. 31. 
61. Lajpat Rai, p.69.115.
62. Ibid, p. 55.
63. Durand, p. 32; referred Sunderland, p. 283.
64. Ibid, p. 32; referred Moon, p. 308.
65. Ibid, p. 32.
66. Ibid, p. 32; referred Sunderland, p.259.
67. Lajpat Rai, p. 42.118)
68. Dialogue 9:2; p. 14.
69. Durant, p.33120.
70. Ibid.
71. Durant, p. 21.
72. Durant, pp.12,18.
73. Dharmapal, pp.11-17.
74. Francois Gautier, India’s Self Denial, in Quest, Vol. I, January 2008, pp. 15- 28.
75. Ibid, p. 26.
76. Ibid, p. 24.
77. Ibid, pp. 24-25.



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Ruin of India by British Rule

Source: “Reports of the Social Democratic Federation, Ruin of India by British Rule ,” in Histoire de la IIe Internationale, vol. 16 (Geneva: Minkoff Reprint, 1978, 1907), 513-33;
Transcribed: by Thomas Schmidt.

The British Empire in India is the most striking example in the history of the world of the domination of a vast territory and population by a small minority of an alien race. Both the conquest and the administration of the country have been exceptional, and although the work has been carried on, save in a few directions, wholly in the interest of the conquerors, we English have persistently contended that we have been acting really in the interests of the subdued peoples. As a matter of fact, India is, and will probably remain, the classic instance of the ruinous effect of unrestrained capitalism in Colonial affairs. It is very important, therefore, that the International Social-Democratic Party should thoroughly understand what has been done, and how baneful the temporary success of a foreign despotism enforced by a set of islanders, whose little starting-point and head-quarters lay thousands of miles from their conquered possessions, has been to a population at least 300,000,000 human beings.

To begin with, India was conquered for the Empire not by the English themselves but by Indians under English leadership, and by taking advantage of Indian disputes. When the English, following upon the Portuguese, first landed in India for the purpose of commerce, they were almost overwhelmed by the wealth and magnificence of the potentates whose friendship they asked for and whose protection they craved. At the time their connection with this part of Asia began, India was a great and rich country whose trade had been sought after for centuries by the peoples of the West. If civilisation is to be gauged by the standard attained in science[1], art, architecture, agriculture, industry, medicine, laws, philosophy and religion, then the great States of India at that period were well worthy of comparison with the most enlightened and cultured parts of Europe and no European monarch could be reckoned as in any way superior to Akber, Aurungzib, Shah Jehan, or Sivaji; while it would be hard to name any European Minister of Finance equal to the Hindoo Rajahs Toder Mull and Nana Furvana. We still scarcely know how far we ourselves have been influenced in many departments by the science and thought which spread westward from the great Indian Peninsula. Even when full account also is taken of that “anarchy” of which nowadays we hear so much from Anglo-Indian bureaucrats, as having everywhere prevailed prior to English rule, we discover that there is little basis for all this pessimism of the past beyond the eagerness to exalt, however dishonestly, the superiority of European methods.

It is safe to say that never was the condition of India more anarchical than that of France, Germany, the Low Countries and Italy during a great portion of the Middle Ages. Thugs and dacoits were at no time more dangerous or more cruel than the bands of robbers and freebooters who roamed at will in those days through some of the finest regions of Europe. The exactions of the feudal nobles and chieftains were in many cases worse than the heaviest demands made by Rajahs or Nawabs; the dues to the Church were certainly not less onerous than the tithes to the Brahmins. Nadir Shah’s sack of Delhi was horrible; but not worse than the Constable de Bourbon’s sack of Rome. Yet he would be a bold man who should urge that the Pax Romana with its blight of the great slave-worked estates and constant drain of wealth to the Metropolis was better for the mass of the people than even the turbulence and oppression of the period of the Crusades. Progress was going on all the time, and we can now see that what has often been called anarchy was but the commencement of a new and more vigorous life. It may be that European interference checked a similar development in India following upon the gradual break-up of the Mogul Empire of Delhi. At any rate, Europeans have no right to claim that they have benefited the country, until evidence has been given that the mass of the people are really better off than they were, or than they are, under native rule. That is the test of the merit of all governments, home or foreign. Do they or do they not secure increased welfare for the body of the people governed?

Englishmen of all Western peoples are perhaps the least qualified to enter into and fully comprehend the national life and development of a number of Asiatic nations, bound together for a comparatively short time under our alien rule; but whose growth for thousands of years has gone on in conditions so entirely dissimilar that it requires an effort of the mind to reach back to the period when the two civilisations had a common starting-point.

Writing fifty years ago when the relations between Europeans and Indians were closer than they are to-day Mountstuart Elphinstone expressed himself as follows:

“Englishmen in India have less opportunity than might be expected of forming opinions of the native character. Even in England few know much of the people beyond their own class, and what they do know they learn from newspapers and publications of a description which does not exist in India. In that country, also, religion and manners put bars to our intimacy with the natives and limit the number of transactions as well as the free communication of opinions. We know nothing of the interior of families but by report, and have no share in those numerous occurrences of life in which the amiable parts of character are most exhibited. Missionaries of a different religion, judges, police magistrates, officers of revenue or customs, and even diplomatists, do not see the most virtuous portion of a native, nor any portion unless when influenced by passion or occupied by some personal interest. What we do see we judge by our standard. It might be argued in opposition to many unfavourable testimonies that those who have known the Indians longest have always the best opinion of them; but this is rather a compliment to human nature than to them, since it is true of every other people. It is more to the point that all persons who have retired from India, think better of the people they have left, after comparing them with others even of the most justly-admired nations.”

Few would venture to dispute Mountstuart Elphinstone’s knowledge of his subject or the justice of this statement. What was true then is still more true now. The pernicious nonsense supplied by Anglo-Indian pensioners and others to the press in India and in England concerning Indian cowardice, ignorance, slavishness and incapacity is written wholly and solely with the object of upholding a nefarious despotism; which, though less openly brutal, is more insidiously harmful even than that of Russia. The numerous races and peoples of India are still capable of great work in every field of human endeavour. Wherever they are allowed a free outlet they display the highest faculties; and it is absurd to contend that great States which managed their own business capably for thousands of years, which outlived and recovered from invasions and disasters that might have crushed less vigorous countries, would be unable to control their own affairs successfully if a handful of unsympathetic foreigners were withdrawn, or driven out, from their midst.

Previous invaders and conquerors of Hindostan mostly settled in the conquered territory and invariably employed the natives in the highest posts civil and military. Native ability was made use of in every department of the administration. Men of capacity, however humble their birth, might and did rise to be the highest functionaries of a Mohammedan monarch or became the heads of considerable Hindoo Empires themselves. The people were thus not crushed down by successive waves of interlopers who never make their homes in the country and drain away its produce steadily to a foreign land. But under English rule the old system has been completely changed. The result of the great battles of Plassey, Assaye, Wandiwash, Seringapatam and Gugerat has been to deprive 225,000,000 of Indians of all control over the policy and administration of their own country and to put even the great Native States, which still retain a nominal independence, increasingly at the mercy of the same despotic power. Up to the time of the mutiny, even to half-a-century ago, this system of complete domination was not so fully worked out as it has been since; and the rule of the famous East India Company which lasted till 1858 was far lighter and more considerate of the interests of the population than has been the Government of the Crown. Not a single one of the solemn pledges given by the late Queen of England and Empress of India, in favour of justice to Indians, has ever been fulfilled and the Indians find themselves to-day, after 150 years of British domination, in a far worse position, in regard to having any control over their own affairs, than they have ever yet been. Here and there an Indian is allowed to creep into the Civil Service on sufferance, or specially servile persons are rewarded by the Government with seats on the Legislative Councils, where they have no authority whatsoever; these, however, are but exceptions which prove the rule.

According to an official return to the House of Commons, obtained many years ago, with great difficulty, by the late Mr. John Bright, the conditions not having materially changed in the meantime, out of 39,000 officials who drew a salary of more than 1,000 rupees a year 28,000 were Englishmen and only 11,000 natives, or in the ratio of more than five to two. The Englishmen, however, received on the average in salaries more than five to one what the natives are paid. Of 960 civil offices which really control the civil administration of India, 900 are occupied by Englishmen and only 60 by natives. The Indians have no control whatsoever over their own taxation, nor any voice at all in the expenditure of their own revenues. The entire civil government is now carried on by men who live lives quite remote from the people they govern, who have no permanent interest in their well-being and who return home, which they have frequently visited in the meantime, at forty-five or fifty-five years of age with large pensions. India is, in fact, now administered by successive relays of English carpet-baggers, men who go out with carpet-bags and return with chests, having ordinarily as little real sympathy with the natives as they have any deep knowledge of their habits and customs.

These District Officers, as they are called, are the real rulers of India. They have the well-being of millions upon millions of people at their disposal. They land in India, nowadays, already full-grown young men, brought up and educated in a totally different society, by no means well-versed in the native languages, convinced of their own great superiority, and prejudiced on many points to a degree which even the best of them cannot materially overcome for years.

And these are the duties which the District Officer has to perform in a tropical country among a strange people: He is:

Collector of the Land Revenue.
Registrar of the landed property in the District.
Judge between landlord and tenant.
Ministerial officer of the Courts of Justice.
Treasurer and Accountant of the District.
Administrator of the District Excise.
Ex officio President of the Local Rates Committee.
Referee for all questions of compensation for lands taken up for public purposes.
Agent for the Government in all local suits to which it is a party.
Referee in local public works.
Manager of estates of minors.
Magistrate, Police Magistrate and Criminal Judge.
Head of Police.
Ex officio President of Municipalities.

Now what does this all mean? No human being, had he the versatility of an admirable Crichton and the endurance of a Hadrian, could possibly do this work efficiently himself. Consequently, the business falls into the hands of that worst class of natives, who are eager to play the part of jackals to the governing white minority. There have here and there been administrators of exceptional genius who, having landed early in India, became habituated to the ways of the people and were able to exercise reasonable supervision over their subordinates. But these cases were exceptional even under the Raj of the old East India Company: to-day they are almost unknown. According to practically universal testimony, European officials are becoming less and less capable of thoroughly understanding the people they are sent out to govern. The most important work also is perforce, done in a hurry and such work is necessarily bad work.

Such is the alien civil administration. The military is like unto it. In the last resort we English hold India by the sword. A well known Anglo-Indian official of high rank, walking with a great Afghan chieftain, many years ago, on the ramparts of Peshawur, held forth to him on the importance of the British power in India and the overwhelming forces it could bring to bear. “Your power in India” replied the Khan coolly “is 70.000 men well armed.” The European forces in India are now somewhat in excess of this and the native army, officered in all the higher grades by Europeans amounts, including reserves, to 180,000 men, without artillery since the mutiny. The cost of this army is entirely thrown upon the revenues of India and amounts to upwards of £19,000,000 a year – a terribly heavy tax in itself on a very poor population, and the heavier that so large a proportion is paid away in salaries to foreigners.

It is claimed by the supporters of European domination that this army, though admittedly entailing heavy charges, is cheaply purchased; seeing that, by its presence, peace is ensured from one end of Hindostan to the other. But the horrors of peace, even in the Western World, are often worse than the horrors of war, and in India this is unfortunately still more apparent. The vigour and intelligence of one-fifth of the human race is being kept down by this despotic peace. Beautiful arts are falling into decay. Native culture is being crushed out. Agriculture is steadily deteriorating. Anything in the shape of patriotism or national feeling is discouraged, and its advocates are persecuted and imprisoned. Denunciation of the wrongs of British rule is treason and legitimate combination to resist tyranny is a pernicious plot. Peace is not worth having at such a price, even if accompanied by increasing wealth. But when such peace goes hand in hand with growing impoverishment for the mass of the people, then clearly we are face to face with an utterly ruinous and hateful system.

It is true that India is inhabited by many races and peoples; true that there exist between them many racial and religious causes of quarrel; true, also, that the Mohammedan minority of 60,000,000 or so scattered throughout British and Native territory conceives at times that it has grave wrongs to adjust against the vast Hindoo majority of some 240,000,000 or 250,000,000. Internecine war is, therefore, quite possible, should we withdraw. But, even so, there are more terrible fates in the world than to die fighting, and the slow starvation of tens of millions of human beings is far worse than any slaughter on the battlefield yet heard of. The marvel is that India, overborne as she is by excessive, costly and unsympathetic administration in every direction, is able to hold her own at all, and that Indians under existing conditions ever show that high distinction in so many branches of human thought and learning that they unquestionably display.

But it may be urged: Look at the results of European management as applied to India. The great cities of Anglo-India, Calcutta, Bombay, Madras, Agra, Delhi give an impression of wealth and magnificence worthy to be ranked with anything that can be seen in the West. Fine railways admirably built and handsomely equipped conduct the traveller from one end of the Empire to the other; affording not only the best convenience for passengers but enabling transport of goods to be conducted with ease, cheapness, and rapidity thus, also, putting it in the power of districts which have a surplus of food to provide for the shortcomings of those where drought and short harvests prevail. Irrigation works on a large scale, though not equalling the complete systems of water provision which existed under the best of the old native rulers, are being pushed forward as rapidly as possibly, and rendering famine from drought practically impossible in those parts of the country where their influence is directly felt. Afforestation is being carried on under careful and systematic control, so that the harmful denudation of large districts observable in countries supposed to be much more advanced, such as the United States, is permanently averted. Elaborate arrangements have been made whereby in periods of famine relief works are at once started and the afflicted people are employed on useful enterprises close to their own homes. Disease, epidemic and endemic alike, is treated with a thoroughness and knowledge previously unheard of; while the best known principles of sanitation in tropical climates are applied wherever possible.

Not only so but many drawbacks of the ancient native society have been swept away. Thugs have been suppressed for three generations. Suttee was put down as long ago. Dacoity and highway robbery are rarely heard of. Justice is administered without corruption, and torture is now almost unknown. Indians, if not admitted to prominent posts in the government, have opportunities in the way of acquiring the higher European education never at their disposal before. The press is in the main fairly free and rights of speech and combination are allowed which no foreign prince certainly has ever consented to before.

Much of this if, not the whole of it, is correct. The English have introduced into India continuous peace and many of the advantages of Western civilisation. Had their influence then been confined to such work as was done by a few of the old East India Company’s servants, who knew, were known and were loved by the people; had they restricted their efforts to remedying admitted evils in Indian administration, as was done to some extent very successfully in more than one of the great independent States; had they recognised that what was needed for improvement was not complete Europeanisation but sympathetic cooperation of really capable white men, thoroughly versed in Indian habits and customs and divorced from constant life among Europeans, with the Indian themselves; had they in short regarded India always from the Indian standpoint: it is undeniable that great benefit might have resulted to the country. But, all this notwithstanding, had the economic relations remained the same, India would still have been as desperately impoverished as she is to-day.

The total gross value of all the produce of British India for 225,000,000 of human beings cannot be put at the outside at more than £1 per head. The late Mr. William Digby put it at not more than 12/6 per head. No such dire poverty over so large an area was ever before known on the planet. And the impoverishment is increasing. Mr. Digby, himself an official of one of the great Famine Agencies, and with special opportunities for obtaining information, calculated that the ryots in the Districts outside the permanent settlement get only one half as much to eat in the year as their grandfathers did, and only one-third as much as their great-grandfathers did, Yet, in spite of such facts, the land tax is exacted with the greatest stringency and must be paid to the Government in coin before the crops are garnered! Thus, apart from other drawbacks, our system forces almost the entire agricultural population into the hands of the native money-lenders, from whom alone money to meet the tax can be obtained; and then we hypocritically lament the usurious disposition of the men who lend on the crops! When it is remembered that every improvement which a ryot makes in his holding he is taxed for; that fallow land in British territory is taxed as high as cultivated land; and that little allowance is made for famine periods, it is easy to comprehend the crushing effect of our ruinous system upon the miserable agriculturists, who constitute four-fifths of the Indian population. But for the money-lenders – if, that is to say, the native usurers refused to lend on growing crops – the Government of India would at once be bankrupt.

It is argued, however, that, as population is increasing, the idea of impoverishment on any large scale is absurd and a German Social-Democrat, Mr. Edward Bernstein, who has been acting as advocate-in-chief on the continent for the British India Office, in place of M. Paul Leroy-Beaulieu retired from the field, contends on this and other grounds that English government in India has been beneficial. The same argument was used in relation to Ireland prior to 1847. Population was rapidly increasing in that island; therefore the people of Ireland must begetting richer in spite of all the absentee proprietors and of all the talk about the drain of wealth to Great Britain. In that year, however, came the cataclysm, in the course of which millions of people perished or were expatriated; and it was then discovered that Adam Smith himself had said that “poverty seems favourable to generation.” Not only seems but is; as Russia can testify as well as Ireland and India. There are more people in British India than ever there were, but they are living on an ever-falling standard of subsistence. How long we shall have to wait until the cataclysm comes in this case it is difficult to say; but is certainly not far off.

The evidence as to increasing poverty is absolutely conclusive. According to official report after official report it is clearly established that an increasing proportion of the population is yearly getting less and less to eat, and Mr. Digby’s contention is in the main verified. Taking only the period of direct British rule since the Mutiny in 1857, we have conclusive evidence from Viceroy Lord Lawrence down to Mr. C. J. O’Donnell, Mr. Smeaton and Mr Thorburn that, economically at any rate, our rule is a complete failure. None indeed has put the matter more clearly as to the impoverishment than Sir William Hunter, who for many years prior to his death had filled the post of literary advocate-general of British domination, and who admitted that even in 1880 no fewer than forty millions of our Indian population lived in permanent starvation. Matters have become very much worse since.

The reason for this continuous depletion of wealth and destruction of well-being is not far to seek. And this reason applies to the entire population under British control. Here, at any rate, race, colour, religion make no difference. All are subject to the same terrible disadvantage of the drain of produce away from India on English account without any commercial return. This drain, or economic tribute, from which most conquered dependencies suffer, is specially severe in the case of India. Making every possible allowance, it is clearly established that, comparing the Indian Exports and the Indian Imports, the overplus of Exports for which there is no commercial return now amounts to more than £35,000,000 a year, or considerably in excess of fifty per cent more than the total Land Revenue obtained from all British India[2] This drain has been going on in an increasing ratio, and necessarily with deepening effect, ever since the British occupation. It means that India, naturally a country with the greatest possibilities for wealth-production in every department, is being steadily bled to death, in order to pay pensions, interest, home charges, dividends and remittances in Great Britain to the capitalist and landlord classes with their hangers-on Wherever it is possible to throw a charge upon the Indian revenues this is at once done and, as the Indians are wholly unrepresented either in India or in Great Britain, they are unable to complain effectively in any way whatever. It is very doubtful whether the Spaniards ever exacted anything approaching to this tremendous tribute from their American possessions, even in the heyday of their ruthless extortions. When to this drain of £35,000,000 annually is added the amount paid for the services of Europeans in India, including the 75,000 white soldiers, which runs up to many millions Sterling, it is clear we need look no farther for the real cause of India’s frightful impoverishment and the continuous famine and plague which now steadily prevail in some part or other of our territory.

Yet when famine on a larger scale comes, as the inevitable result of this terrible drain of wealth to England, the possessing classes in Great Britain itself, who receive this huge tribute and fill the appointments in India with their relatives, consider they are performing a deed of wondrous beneficence if they return to India £500,000 in one-year out of the £1,000,000,000 or more they have taken out of the country in unpaid-for produce during the past fifty years. No wonder that under such circumstances the agricultural population is drifting into the hopeless position already referred to. The poor ryots overtaxed and heavily indebted “except in the richer irrigated lands eat or sell every saleable article the land produces, use the manure of the cattle for fuel, and return nothing to the soil in proportion to what is taken away. Every increase of population increases the danger. Crop follows crop without intermission, so that Indian agriculture is becoming simply a process of exhaustion. Even in some tracts of canal-irrigated land, where water is lavishly used without manure, crops have ceased to grow. An exhausting agriculture and an increasing population must come to a dead-lock. No reduction of the assessment can be more than a postponement of the inevitable catastrophe.”

This was written by the celebrated agriculturist Sir James Caird in his report as Special Famine Commissioner nearly thirty years ago. Mispredictions are being fulfilled under our eyes. The “catastrophe” he foresaw is close at hand.

To borrow money at interest from England in these conditions, in order to build more railways, is only to intensify the drain and multiply the number of syphons to suck out wealth for foreigners. Even to create more irrigation works, likewise with borrowed money, can have no permanently good effect, so long as the drain of produce without return goes on upon a greater scale. That drain and the excessive employment of Europeans in India at heavy rates of pay render ruin certain whatever else may be done. There are two Indias: Anglo-India with fine European quarters and luxurious arrangements battening upon the wholesale impoverishment of the country; and India proper, undergoing misery such as has never been seen on a like scale elsewhere, even under twentieth century capitalism.

But now matters are becoming so unendurable that the industrious, thrifty, patient Indians themselves are beginning to feel that some change must be made in their lot. The educated classes are beginning to understand what European tyranny, economic and social, means to all who are brought under it, and to know that their impoverishment is occasioned by British rule and not by the forces of nature. Famines occurred in India before our conquest; but continuous famine such as now afflicts some part of India every year was wholly unknown under Hindoo or Mohammedan rule. Black plague has been known as an epidemic in India for centuries; but black plague as an endemic pestilence working death all through the year had never been heard of till we brought to Hindostan, within the past generation, the full blessings of European civilisation.

This horrible disease with its ravages bids fair to do more to break up native society and to turn the mass of Indians against us than anything else. At the time of writing the mortality in India by plague alone is at the rate of 90,000 a week. Now plague is above all other dangerous sicknesses the disease of poverty. Where in hot countries there is great poverty, there the plague finds its most congenial habitat. No other proof of the increasing poverty of India is needed than the increasing fatality and persistence of this scourge. The natives are panic-stricken, and the very measures of scientific precaution taken by European doctors and their subordinates to prevent its spread, involving as they do constant interference with the most cherished and even sacred native customs, render the foreign despot more hateful than he was before. Such is the irony of events, when once an Empire has entered upon the downgrade. All the efforts of the unscrupulous Anglo-Indian press in India and at home to stir up the old ill-feeling between Mohammedans and Hindoos will have little influence as against the discontent and hatred engendered by the manufactured plague and the methods used for its suppression.

Meanwhile, too, a new spirit is being displayed in the towns. Meetings and protests against British mistakes are becoming rather the rule than the exception, when discontent is felt, even in patient Bengal. There is movement and stir in Bengal on political grounds; in Punjab and the Mahratta country on economic grounds; while all over India a propaganda in favour of boycotting European, meaning of course English, goods in favour of Indian and Asiatic goods is going steadily forward. Slowly but surely the economic situation of India is being appreciated and the cry of “India for the Indians” is being systematically raised. Even at the “Indian National Congress,” which meets every year, and which strongly protests its loyalty to the British Government, an advanced party has been formed, which undoubtedly looks to complete independence for India as the only hope of the future. This party is gaining strength daily and the more determined of its members have taken a vow never in any circumstances to serve under or to aid the foreign Raj. Indians visiting England are even more outspoken as to the future. They take courage from the example of Japan and argue that if it has been possible for little Japan to place herself in the front rank of the nations within a space of forty years, with very little assistance from Europeans, it is surely quite possible for India with her 300,000,000 of people, and her fighting races, whose numbers alone are fully treble the entire population of Japan, to take courage by her example and, even unarmed, to sweep out of Hindostan by one great and simultaneous effort the 200,000 of Europeans and Eurasians who at present despotically control her fortunes and are ruining her future.

There is no longer any hope of improvement by peaceful or constitutional means. Thirty years, perhaps even twenty years, ago it was still possible to have so reorganised British administration, by reestablishing native rule under British leadership and by stanching the drain, as to give India full outlet towards a new and prosperous period. But, lately, both capitalist factions in England have shown a firm determination to continue in the course of wrong-doing and tyranny. Mr John Morley, the sham Radical placeman acts as Secretary of State with even less of real sympathy or statesmanship towards Indians than the late Viceroy, the Tory Lord Curzon, who, by common consent of Europeans and natives of all grades in India, was the worst Governor-General Hindostan ever had. Attempts are even being made at the present time, in view of the growing discontent and threatening demonstrations against our system, to maintain our domination, as it was originally established, by stirring up internecine animosities. Even official organs are not ashamed openly to appeal to the fanaticism of Mohammedans against Hindus for the special purpose of weakening the rising agitation against unendurable economic, social and race oppression. But this shameful policy will be unsuccessful and neither Moslem bigotry nor European rifles and artillery can permanently maintain a foreign despotism which has proved a failure in every direction. White capitalist rule, now doomed to an early overthrow, will seem but a short and hideous nightmare in the long and glorious life of India. Upon the withdrawal of the English the Indians will begin afresh their old career of internal development, side by side with the other progressive peoples of the world.

But India is only the most conspicuous instance of the ruinous effect of European capitalism upon subject races. Other nations, so far as their opportunities permitted, have been as injurious in their dealing with the less-developed peoples as the British. France, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Belgium and now the United States and Germany have carried on the same system on a smaller scale. It is for the International Social-Democratic Party of the World, representing the classes that gain nothing whatever from the tyranny which, hitherto, while suffering under, they have helped to uphold, to organise and assist any efforts that may be made to destroy for ever the pernicious domination of capitalism in all its forms, and to bring about the emancipation of all mankind regardless of race, colour or creed.

May 1st, 1907.
H.M. Hyndman.

P.S. – Since the above paper was in type, affairs in India have assumed a more critical aspect. Not only is the black plague extending its ravages, but even by official accounts, which, of course, minimise matters as far as possible, the mortality has now mounted up to just 500,000 every month! This, so far, is chiefly in the Punjab. The arrest and deportation of Mr. Lala Lajpat Rai, without even the form of a trial, or any justification whatever for such a proceeding, has aroused a bitter feeling of indignation among the educated classes of India from one end of the Peninsula to the other. Mr. Lajpat Rai is a man who has devoted his life and his fortune to the service of his poorer countrymen when suffering from the disasters of famine and earthquake. He was engaged at the time of his arrest, as Mr. O. Donnell, M P., a late member of the Anglo-Indian Civil Service in this very district, has clearly shown, upon a perfectly legitimate, sober and reasoning protest against the action of the Government in raising the Land Tax to famine point, and in exacting payment for lands, reclaimed by the Punjabi peasants, which had been specially exempted from assessment at the time of their reclamation. All this has been proved to demonstration. But Mr. John Morley, the philosophic Radical, speaking as Secretary of State for India on behalf the Liberal Government, has justified his infamous Muscovite methods in the House of Commons, and Mr Lajpat Rai is being slowly done to death in gaol. Thus, in England as in other countries, the Liberals and Radicals are again showing what cowardly tyrants at bottom they are. No attempt has been made by the government of India to defend itself against the overwhelming charges of the deliberate bleeding to death of India, formulated against it by myself and others who thoroughly know the facts. It has been distinctly shown by members of the Anglo-Indian Government themselves that the terrible drain of produce from India for nothing; the excessive demands for the Land Tax as well as the manner in which it is collected in cash before the crop is grown; and the Salt Tax which, though reduced, still acts as the direct promoter of disease for men and cattle due to insufficient consumption of this necessary of life: it is being proved, I say, not by the adversaries of British rule but by its supporters, that these shameful extortions are the direct cause of the frightful impoverishment and plague mortality of the Indian people. The so-called “unrest” is meanwhile extending throughout the country, and men in high place, who have had 40 years experience among the Indians themselves, have warned the Government that, unless a complete change of system is made, the end of our rule in India is close at hand. What the economic effect of that collapse would be on the middle classes of this island, it is not necessary for me to describe at length here. Enough to say that it would mean an immediate deduction from the incomes of the non-producers of Great Britain of not less than £ 35,000,000 a year.

1. Those who wish to go farther into the question of Hindoo achievement in various directions will find an admirable summary, largely drawn from European statements and admissions, in “Hindu Superiority” by Har Bilas Sarda published in English at Ajmere in November 1906. In his laudable anxiety to uphold the reputation of his race and country the author may, perhaps, take a somewhat optimist view of the capacity of his own people; but the quotations given and the facts adduced in this book of more than 450 pages ought to silence for ever the foolish and ignorant sneerers at Hindoo inferiority. It is not so very many years ago that I remember hearing the Japanese spoken of with similar lofty contempt by English traders and travellers.

2. Ordinary readers rarely follow calculations in the text. I prefer therefore to put the figures of the Indian trade in a note. It must be borne in mind that no analogy whatever exists between such a country as the United States and India. The excess of Exports from the United States may be and as a matter of fact are represented by the unseen import of bonded and other indebtedness redeemed from abroad, or by investments in foreign countries, which, also, would not in this case appear in the trade returns. It is certain that India’s debts are not being repaid but being added to, and it is equally certain that she has made and is making no investments abroad. Consequently, the actual net surplus of exports from India over exports into India, the exports and imports of treasure being duly taken account of, represent the total amount of the actual drain of produce from India without commercial return. Now the total excess of exports for the last three years as given in the corrected official returns are for 1902-3 £18,570,811; for 1903-4 £24,961,773 and for 1904-5 £20,144,132 or an average of £21,500,000. But this is far from being the amount of the drain. In order to arrive at the true figures and in order to balance correctly, we have (as the estimate of values is made at the Indian ports) to add at least fifteen per cent to the total of the exports in order to make up for a similar amount for profit, insurance and freight charged on the imports at the points of debarcation. If this is done in regard to the three years named, it will be found that upwards of £14,000,000 on the average should be added to the £21,000,000 of excess exports Thus the real yearly drain of wealth from India represents at least £35,000,000In fact it is much more; as there can be no doubt whatsoever that much of the treasure retained in India on balance of treasure imported, as well as more than their proportion of trade imports, goes to the Native and Border States which are not under direct British control though their imports as well as their exports are calculated in with the figures of purely British territory.




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10 Evil Crimes Of The British Empire


At its height, the British Empire was the largest to have ever existed. Aside from covering most of the globe, it was responsible for some of the greatest advances in engineering, art, and medicine that the world will ever know. The Empire gave us steam engines, penicillin, radar, and even television.

However, life under the British wasn’t all just incredible inventions. Alongside the good stuff the Empire did sat a whole ream of not-so-good stuff, and alongside that a whole load of other stuff so evil it’d make Dick Dastardly balk.

10The Boer Concentration Camps

We all now know about the horrors of concentration camps, but during the time of Boer Wars, rounding up tens of thousands of innocent people and detaining them in camps seemed like a stroke of genius. The British needed the South African populace under control and had the means and manpower to detain them. What could possibly go wrong?

Try just about everything. Pitched under the white hot African sun and crawling with flies, the camps were overcrowded, underequipped, and lethally prone to disease outbreaks. Food supplies were virtually non-existent, and the callous guards would dock people’s meager rations for the slightest perceived offense. The result: sickness and death spread like wildfire, killing women by the thousands and children by the tens of thousands. In a single year, 10 percent of the entire Boer population died in the British camps—a figure that gets even worse when you realize it includes 22,000 children.

But the atrocity didn’t stop there. While rounding up the Boers, the British also decided to detain any black Africans they encountered, 20,000 of whom were worked to death in slave labor camps. All told, British policy in the war killed 48,000 civilians. That’s 18,000 more than the number of soldiers lost on both sides.


9Aden’s Torture Centers


Photo credit: Brian Harrington Spier

The Aden Emergency was a 1960s scramble to control the once-vital port of Aden in modern Yemen. Although the port had long been under British rule, a nationalist wave sweeping Yemen led to strikes, riots, and a general desire that the Brits leave as soon as possible. A desire the British decided to quell by opening torture centers.

Harsh and brutal, these centers housed the sort of horrors that would make Kim Jong-Un feel ill. Detainees were stripped naked and kept in refrigerated cells, encouraging frostbite and pneumonia. Guards would stub their cigarettes out on prisoner’s skin and beatings were common. But perhaps worst of all was the sexual humiliation. Locals who had been detained could expect to have their genitals crushed by guards’ hands, or to be forced to sit naked on a metal pole; their weight forcing it into their anus.

By 1966, an Amnesty report on these abuses had caused global outrage. Faced with international condemnation, the British apologized. They then kept right on using the torture centers for another full year.



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8The Chinese “Resettlement”


Photo credit: L joo

In 1950, the Empire had a problem. Armed Communist insurgents were trying to take over Malay and most of the population seemed willing to let them do so. Reasoning that their forces stood no chance against a hidden army that could call upon the peasants for supplies, the British hit upon an ingenious solution. Rather than fight, they’d simply imprison all the peasants.

Known as “New Villages,” the camps constructed to house Malay’s poor were heavily fortified and watched over by trigger-happy guards. Inmates were forced to do hard labor in return for scraps of food, and contact with the outside world—including family—was forbidden. Once in a village, you lost all right to freedom and privacy. At night, harsh floodlights flushed out the shadows to stop clandestine meetings. Expressing any political sentiment could get your rations docked.

But perhaps most uncomfortable of all was the racist nature of the camps. Of the 500,000 people detained during the decade-long Emergency, only a handful were anything other than ethnic Chinese. Outside the barbed wire walls, another half a million Chinese were meanwhile being deported, sent into exile, or forced from their homes. In short. it was a racist policy that harmed nearly a million people, all so the British could cut off supplies to a handful of rebels.

7The Amritsar Massacre

On April 13, 1919, thousands of peaceful protesters defied a government order and demonstrated against British rule in Amritsar, India. Men, women, and children all descended on the walled Jallianwala Gardens, hoping to make their voices heard. What happened next was one of the lowest points in British history.

At 4.30pm, troops blocked the exits to the Garden and opened fire on the crowd. They kept firing until they ran out of ammunition. In the space of ten minutes, they killed between 379 and 1,000 protesters and injured another 1,100. A stampede caused a lethal crush by the blocked exits. Over 100 women and children who looked for safety in a well drowned. Rifle fire tore the rest to shreds.

When the news reached London, Parliament was so shocked it recalled the man who ordered the massacre, Brigadier Reginald Dyer. In a depressing twist of fate, the British public labeled him a hero and raised £26,000 (around $900,000 in today’s money) for “the man who saved India.” He died peacefully, convinced right to the end that his mindless slaughter had been morally justifiable.



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6The Cyprus Internment

The big myth of the British Empire is that it nobly withdrew from its colonies when it realized the days of Imperialism were over. Yet one look at Cyprus proves the myth to be just a feel-good fairy tale. Between 1955 and 1959, the British responded to a Cyrpus rebel bombing campaign by rounding up and torturing 3,000 ordinary Cypriots.

The victims of this internment campaign were often held for years without trial and violently abused for being “suspected” terrorists. Detainees received regular beatings, waterboarding, and summary executions. Children as young as 15 had burning hot peppers rubbed in their eyeballs, while others reported being flogged with whips embedded with shards of iron. Those found guilty of rebel sympathies were relocated to London, where a UK opposition party inspection found inmates with their arms broken and jagged scars running across their necks. In short, it was an appallingly sadistic policy, one that showed the British to be even lower than the terrorists they were meant to be fighting.



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5Crushing The Iraqi Revolution

In 1920, the newly-formed nation of Iraq was tiring of British rule. Charged with guiding the new state towards independence, the Empire had instead installed puppet leaders. turning the place into a de facto colony. Fed up with their imperial overlords, the Iraqis turned to revolution, only for the British to unleash wave after wave of atrocities against them.

First the RAF conducted nighttime bombing raids on civilian targets. Then they deployed chemical weapons against the fighters, gassing whole groups of them. But the real horrors came in the aftermath, when the victorious British decided to use collective punishment against the offending tribes.

From that point on, any tribe that caused a fuss would have one of its villages randomly annihilated. Specific orders were given to exterminate every living thing within its walls, from animals to rebels to children. Other villages were subject to random searches. If the British found a single weapon, they would burn the place to the ground, destroy the crops, poison wells, and kill livestock. They’d sometimes target weddings to terrorize the population. In short, the British deliberately targeted civilians in a campaign that lasted the better part of half a decade, all because a few Iraqis had dared to ask for their country back.

4The Partitioning Of India

As a servant of the British Empire in 1947, Cyril Radcliffe has the distinction of killing more people with the stroke of a pen than anyone else in history. With almost zero time to prepare himself, Radcliffe was tasked with drawing the border between India and newly-created Pakistan that would split the subcontinent forever along religious lines. It was a tricky task, one that had the potential to cause massive displacement and ethnic violence even if handled carefully. Radcliffe, on the other hand, was asked to make some of the most-important decisions during the course of a single lunch.

The result was a border that made no ethnic or geographical sense. Terrified of being caught on the wrong side, Hindus in modern Pakistan and Muslims in modern India upped sticks and ran. The result was 30 million people trying desperately to escape one country or the other, a situation that quickly spiraled into mind-numbing violence.

Gangs of armed Muslims held up border trains and slaughtered any non-Muslims onboard. Hindu mobs chased and battered Muslim children to death in broad daylight. Houses were ransacked, villages burnt, and half a million people killed. It was a ridiculous waste of life, one that could have been largely avoided simply by giving the unfortunate Cyril Radcliffe enough time to do his job properly.



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3Exacerbating The Irish Famine

If you want to see why large parts of Ireland still despise anything remotely British, look no further than the Irish Famine. What started out as an ordinary if brutal famine soon became something more like genocide when London sent the psychopathic Charles Trevelyan to oversee relief work.

A proud Christian who believed the famine was God’s way of punishing the “lazy” Irish, Trevelyan was also a fierce devotee of Adam Smith. How fierce? Well, he passionately felt that government should never, ever interfere with market forces, to the extent that he refused to hand out food to the starving Irish. Instead, he instituted a public works program that forced dying people into hard labor building pointless roads so they could afford to buy grain. The only problem was he refused to control the price of grain, with the result that it skyrocketed beyond what the road builders could afford. Trevelyan thought this would encourage cheap imports. Instead it led to a million people starving to death.

To cap it all off, Trevelyan also launched a PR blitz in Britain that encouraged people to blame the Irish for their own poverty. Suddenly Irish emigrants looking for work found themselves unemployable and subject to violence, even as their friends and families starved to death back home. Because fate laughs in the face of justice, Trevelyan was later officially honored for his “relief work.”

2The Kenyan Camps


Photo credit: La Salle University

In the 1950s, the people of Kenya decided they wanted their nation back. Unfortunately, the people they wanted it back from just happened to be the same guys responsible for every other atrocity on this list. Fearing a countrywide rebellion, the British rounded up 1.5 million people and placed them in concentration camps. What happened in these camps will turn your stomach.

Under slogans like “labor and freedom” and other variations on ” Arbeit macht frei,” inmates were worked to death as slave labor filling in mass graves. Random executions were not-uncommon and the use of torture was widespread. Men were anally raped with knives. Women had their breasts mutilated and cut off. Eyes were gouged out and ears cut off and skin lacerated with coiled barbed wire. People were castrated with pliers then sodomized by guards. Interrogation involved stuffing a detainee’s mouth with mud and stamping on his throat until he passed out or died. Survivors were sometimes burned alive.

The official body count is under 2,000, but more reliable estimates place the total dead in the tens or hundreds of thousands. Most of them were civilians or children, detained on vague, trumped-up charges of aiding the rebels. And it was all for nothing. Kenya was declared independent in 1963. In using those camps, the British lost both their African outpost and their souls.

1The Bengal Famine

In 1943, a deadly famine swept the Bengal region of modern East India and Bangladesh. Between one and three million people died in a tragedy that was completely preventable. At the time, the extent of suffering was put down to an incompetent British government too busy dealing with a war to look after its empire properly. But in 2010 a new book came out claiming the lack of famine relief was deliberate and that the deaths of those millions had been intentionally engineered by one man: Winston Churchill.

According to the book, Churchill refused to divert supplies away from already well-supplied British troops, saying the war effort wouldn’t allow it. This in itself wouldn’t be too damning, but at the same time he allegedly blocked American and Canadian ships from delivering aid to India either. Nor would he allow the Indians to help themselves: the colonial government forbade the country from using its own ships or currency reserves to help the starving masses. Meanwhile, London pushed up the price of grain with hugely inflated purchases, making it unaffordable for the dying and destitute. Most-chillingly of all, when the government of Delhi telegrammed to tell him people were dying, Churchill allegedly only replied to ask why Gandhi hadn’t died yet.

If all this is true—and documents support it—then Winston Churchill, the British war hero who stood up to the Nazis, may well have starved to death as many innocent people as Stalin did in the Ukrainian genocide. Could the man who held out against Hitler really be capable of such an atrocity? Judging by the rest of this list, it wouldn’t be surprising.



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British Rule in India and Nazi rule. What is the difference?

DECEMBER 28, 2006

Indian History books teach the pros and cons of British rule

The subject of British rule in India is an emotional one for most Indians but even those Indians who are aware that Britain plundered India and treated locals as sub-humans and killed the indigenous industry, reluctantly admit that Britain did build infrastructure and made English popular in India. Guess if it wasn’t for British rule all those years ago I wouldn’t be writing this very piece in English, would I? And well, Britain did unite all those little kingdoms and gave all of us a pan Indian identity.
But if most Indians believe that British rule did some good (not everyone agrees about the high price paid) I think the credit is due to the way we were taught history. The advantages of British rule were clearly brought out.


Britain apparently teaches a biased view of the British Raj

What surprised me was a front page report in today’s Times of India (Mumbai). It said that British school children are not taught the evil aspects of British rule – in fact there is a controversy going on in Britain right now about teaching school-children about Jallianwala Bagh, where hundreds of peacefully protesting Indians were massacred (including women and children). It’s difficult to understand why Britain wants to brush this under the carpet..after all if German school children can be taught about the evils of Nazi rule, why can’t British school-children be taught about the evils of British rule in India? Sure, the Nazis did more damage in a short period of time and killed millions of Jews.

But who has calculated the damage that Britain did? Are there any records of the number of Indians killed and enslaved by the British during the British Raj? Are there any records of ill-treatment meted out on a regular basis to the Indians? Has anyone calculated the economic damage caused to India because of the East India Company and British rule? Ofcourse not.


Britain does not want to know
The truth is that the truth is too painful. And neither the Brits nor the Indians in Britain are trying very hard to do anything about it. On the other hand, it is because of the power of the Jewish community that Germany said sorry…and meant it. It is because of the Jewish people that today German school children know the truth. Surely, history is important?


Britain’s attempt to change the curriculum is being opposed

Britain is trying to change the curriculum to give British school-children a ‘valuable insight into shared, if painful and often controversial aspects of the relationship between Indian and Britain’ but there are groups opposing this because this kind of teaching is considered anti-British. How can the dissemination of truth be anti anything?


The root of racism

But then, this is the very root of racism. Children in developed countries are taught in school itself that they come from a ‘superior’ stock. They are taught to take on the ‘White Man’s Burden’. A burden which makes it mandatory for the ‘superior’ race to ‘civilize’ the ‘inferior’ races. This was the attitude of the British when they came to India. They came, they saw and they plundered. They believed it was their right as ‘rulers’. At the same time they came down heavily on some of the barbaric practices they saw in India.
Yes, some barbaric things went on in Indian society (and we are not completely rid of them) but what the British failed to see that what they were doing was equally barbaric. They robbed and enslaved not just a few people, but a whole country.
What Britishers did not realise was that India had a far longer history of ‘civilization’ than war-like Britain. The problem was that India’s civilization was cloaked in dhotis, saris and turbans and some ancient practices (not too far removed from equally medieval practices that took place in Britain). These differences convinced the shirts, skirts and trousers who came to India that India was uncivilized. Every culture and every country has it’s dark side…but the developed world can only see the evils of other countries…not their own.


What chance does truth stand?

What’s amazing is that the developed world today prides itself on freedom and democracy…so why not own up to the bad things of the past? True, Britishers were probably not as bad as the Nazis, but they did far greater harm than the Nazis by the very virtue of their being around for more than a hundred years. The British East India Company arrived in India as far back as 1757 (proxy rule by the British) and then direct British rule started in 1858, lasting until 1947. The Nazis under Adolph Hitler ruled only from 1933 to 1945 – which is just a dozen years! One does not need much of an imagination to realise the damage the British must have done to India.
The sad part is is that millions of young Britishers are growing up thinking that Britain did India a big favour by ruling her. Why, the Queen herself wears a diamond stolen from India in her crown. The Wikipedia calls this diamond the ‘spoils of war.’ Funny.

Update July 2012: The comments have changed the tone and context of this article substantially. In light of that I thought I would add a tailpiece here from LK Advani’s blog. To sum up he writes about international historians who called British Rule the greatest crime in all history. I do believe it, not just because of the contents of  that article. What no one writes about is that the British systematically murdered all those who rose up against their rule, and this was done for over a hundred years. In any society if the best and brightest are murdered, it affects the whole population, and the genes. It is like what the Nazis did, killing the brightest and the most rebellious Jews. The Nazis did it in a dramatic and quick fashion, but the British did it slowly over a hundred years. Anyway, it is now the past, and all that is needed is an acknowledgement from the British government that they did wrong. In other words an apology.  Indian history books also need to write that British Rule destroyed India economically. It was a systematic robbing and killing of a nation. The rape of a nation.

Unless you tell the truth about the past, it is difficult to move on. Today I have no grudge against the British people, not even a teeny weeny bit, but I do have a grudge against the British and the Indian governments who insist of drawing a curtain over the past.



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I was a school boy in Karachi when I first heard the name of Katherine Mayo, notorious author of a viciously anti-India book, titled Mother India. Mahatma Gandhi had condemned the book as a “gutter inspector’s report”!

katherine-copyMayo was an American journalist who wrote this book around 1927, stoutly defending British Rule in India. She also vehemently attacked Hindu society, religion and culture.

About the same time, I heard of two other American authors who had written almost as passionately in favour of India and against the Britishers. The first of these, Will Durant, had the reputation of being one of the world’s greatest historians, and philosophers. The other was a Church leader, Rev. Jabez Thomas Sunderland.

will-durant-arielWill Durant’s life time achievement is his eleven volume series “The Story of Civilisation” a monumental set of volumes written in collaboration with his wife Ariel. Will and Ariel were awarded the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-fiction in 1968.

Will Durant’s other largely popular work, The Story of Philosophy, brought philosophy to the lay person.

On his first visit to India in 1896, Sunderland met Justice Mahadev Govind Ranade and Bengali Nationalist Surendra Nath Bannerji. He was the first American to attend an annual session of the Indian National Congress.

I recall reading around 1945 a very powerful book of his, India in Bondage. Gandhiji and Rabindra Nath Tagore wrote to him letters of gratitude. The book was banned in India by the British Government.

Not many may be aware that when the British came to India in the eighteenth century this country was politically weak but economically very wealthy.

jabez-sunderlandThis wealth, wrote Sunderland in the above book, was created by the Hindus’ vast and varied industries.

“India was a far greater industrial and manufacturing nation than any in Europe or than any other in Asia.  Her textile goods – the fine products of her looms, in cotton, wool, linen and silk – were famous over the civilized world; so were her exquisite jewelry and her precious stones cut in every lovely form; so were her pottery, porcelains, ceramics of every kind, quality, color and beautiful shape; so were her fine works in metal – iron, steel, silver and good.  She had great architecture – equal in beauty to any in the world. She had great engineering works. She had great merchants, great businessmen, great bankers and financiers. Not only was she the greatest ship-building nation, but she had great commerce and trade by land and sea which extended to all known civilized countries. Such was the India which the British found when they came.


book-case-for-india-001I have, however, come upon lately a short book written by William Durant in 1930 titled “The Case for India”, but which had been out of print for many decades. Strand Book Stall of Mumbai and its Founder T.N. Shanbagh have done signal service to history by procuring a photo copy of Durant’s book from Mohandas Pai of Infosys and having it republished in 2007.

In his introductory note to his “The Case for India”, Durant writes:

“I went to India to help myself visualize a people whose cultural history I had been studying for The Story of Civilisation

“But I saw such things in India as made me feel that study and writing were frivolous things in the presence of a people-one-fifth of the human race - suffering poverty and oppression bitterer than any to be found elsewhere on the earth. I was horrified. I had not thought it possible that any government could allow its subjects to sink to such misery.

“I came away resolved to study living India as well as the India with the brilliant past; to learn more of this unique Revolution that fought with suffering accepted but never returned; to read the Gandhi of today as well as the Buddha of long ago. And the more I read the more I was filled with astonishment and indignation at the apparently conscious and deliberate bleeding of India by England throughout a hundred and fifty years. I began to feel that I had come upon the greatest crime in all history.” (Emphasis added)

Durant refers extensively to Sunderland’s writings and says that “those who have seen the unspeakable poverty and physiological weakness of the Hindus today will hardly believe that it was the wealth of eighteenth century India which attracted the commercial pirates of England and France”.

It was this wealth that the East India Company proposed to appropriate, Durant says.  Already in 1686 the East India Company’s Directors declared their intention to “establish …a large, well-grounded, sure English dominion in India for all time to come”.

In 1757, Robert Clive defeated the Rajah of Bengal at Plassey and declared his Company the owner of the richest province in India. Durant adds: Clive added further territory by forging and violating treaties, by playing one native prince against another, and by generous bribes given and received. Four million dollars were sent down the river to Calcutta in one shipment. He accepted “presents” amounting to $ 1,170,000 from Hindu rulers dependent upon his favour and his guns; pocketed from them, in addition, an annual tribute of $ 140,000; took to opium, was investigated and exonerated by Parliament, and killed himself.  “When I think”, he said, “of the marvelous riches of that country, and the comparatively small part which I took away, I am astonished at my own moderation”. Such were the morals of the men who proposed to bring civilization to India.

India-analysts often talk very disparagingly about India’s caste-system. Will Durant, however, used the casteist metaphor to substantiate his condemnation of British dominion over India as the greatest crime in all history.

Under sub-heading “The Caste System in India” Durant writes :

“The present caste system in India consists of four classes: the real Brahmans i.e. the British bureaucracy; the real Kshatriyas i.e. the British army; the real Vaisyas i.e. the British traders; and the real Sudras and Untouchables i.e. the Hindu people.”

After dealing with the first three castes the author writes:

“The final element in the real caste system of India is the social treatment of the Hindus by the British. The latter may be genial Englishmen when they arrive, gentlemen famous as lovers of fair play; but they are soon turned, by the example of their leaders and the poison of irresponsible power, into the most arrogant and over-bearing bureaucracy on earth. “Nothing can be more striking,” said a report to Parliament, in 1830, “than the scorn with which the people have been practically treated at the hands of even those who were actuated by the most benevolent motives”. Sunderland reports that the British treat the Hindus as strangers and foreigners in India, in a manner “quite as unsympathetic, harsh and abusive as was ever seen among the Georgia and Louisiana planters in the old days of American slavery”.

Durant then quotes Gandhiji saying that the foreign system under which India was governed had reduced Indians to “pauperism and emasculation”.

Durant comments “As early as 1783 Edmund Burke predicted that the annual drain of Indian resources to England without equivalent return would eventually destroy India. From Plassey to Waterloo, fifty-seven years, the drain of India’s wealth to England is computed by Brooks Adams at two-and-a-half to five billion dollars. Macaulay suggested long ago, that it was this stolen wealth from India which supplied England with free capital for the development of mechanical inventions, and so made possible the Industrial Revolution.”

Will Durant wrote his book “The case for India” in 1930. When some time later the book was noticed by Rabindranath Tagore, he wrote an article in the Modern Review of March, 1931 warmly complimenting Will Durant. Durant observed: “I was surprised when I noticed in Will Durant’s book a poignant note of pain at the suffering and indignity of the people who are not his kindred. I know that the author will have a small chance of reward in popularity from his readers and his book may even run the risk of being proscribed to us, not having the indecency to deal with an unwholesome calumny against the people who are already humiliated by their own evil fortune. But he, I am sure, has his noble compensation in upholding the best tradition of the West in its championship of freedom and fair play.”



William Durant and Ariel Durant shared a love story as remarkable as their scholarship. In October, 1981, William fell ill, and was taken to the hospital. After he was hospitalized, Ariel stopped eating. On October 25, she died. When William learnt that Ariel had died, he passed away on November 7.

L.K. Advani
New Delhi
15 July, 2012

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