TUESDAY, 7 FEBRUARY 2012
For every Englishman who came to India with original thought, there were 10 who were incapable of original thought, and 100 who were capable of only original evil; Satyagrah was known as passive resistance: nonsense – there was nothing passive about it – Shashi Tharoor
Shashi Tharoor has covered the ground with these 2 brutally frank lines that indict the british; Jaswant Singh far more detailed, as he examined in scholarly detail the divide and rule policy and the eyewash of governance; Versaikar detailed the 1857 reprisals in Jhansi by the british in an eyewitness account; Bipin Chandra covered some of it in his book on independence; Nehru gave in vivid detail the systematic destuction of the Indian People…. All the above are Indian writers; nearly all are great thinkers and patriots (Versaikar was a simple citizen who wrote an eyewitness account). None has covered the brutal destruction that charactarised colonial rule in vivid detail… this is where the current book – The Case For India written by a famed American Historian, Will Durant scores
“This was not the destruction of a minor civilization produced by an inferior people. It ranks with the highest civilizations of history, and some would place it at the head and summit of all – like Keyserling…. when the british cannons attacked…. the hindus surrendered at once lest one of the most beautiful creations of mankind be destroyed. Who, then, were the civilized people? (The Hindus or The English?) The British conquest of India was the destruction of a high civilization by a trading company utterly without scruple or principal, overrunning with fire, sword, bribery, murder a country temporarily disordered and helpless”
“India was a far greater industrial and manufacturing nation than any in Europe or Asia, producing textile, Metal works, Jewelry, Precious Stones, Pottery, Architecture. She had great merchants, businessmen, ship building – nearly every kind of manufacture known to the civilized world was already in India”
The book describes in graphic detail the atrocities of the so-called “civilized” Britishers (refer definition below!!!!!) in the chapter “The rape of a continent”. The difference is that he has quoted numbers and figures; unassailable facts and laws that graphically illustrate the systematic destruction of all kinds of local enterprise. For example, produce was taxed at 50%; the documented fact that tax rates rates were the highest in India across the world; Sample this:
“The fundamental principle of the british has been to make the whole indian nation subservient… they have been taxed to the utmost limit; the indians have been denied every honor, dignity or office”…. F J Shore testifying to the house of commons in 1857
“Under their dependence on the british – Oudh and Karnatic, 2 of the noblest provinces in India, were plunged into a state of wretchedness with which no part of the Earth has anything to compare” – Lt Col Brigs, 1830
“The Governments’ assessment does not even leave enough food for the cultivator to feed his family” – Sir William Hunter, 1875
“The Rajahs had taxed the people much less severely than the british…. ”
“The national debt of India rose from $35,000,000 in 1792 to $3,500,000,000 in 1929. These figures tell the tale”
The book is littered with such graphic details – all taken from western, and primarily british sources. It examines how the economic fabric of the country was destroyed, how for example its textile trade was wrecked; its impact on the prosperity of the nation. It also examines the specious claims of education improvement – there were more schools in India before the advent of the civilized british; how the number of schools diminished and were discouraged; It looks at the now-famous example of the british gift of railways – in the USA, railways were used largely for goods transport, whereas in India their function was for the imperial class travels; It examines how every activity of the british – right down to the bullets used to suppress revolts were exacted from Indians; It looks at the wages paid to Indians; It details tariffs of 80% on Indian products as opposed to zero tariffs on british imports; “The result was that Manchester and Paisley flourished and Indian industries declined. India was transformed into a purely agricultural country, and her mineral wealth was not explored; artisans etc were forced to live off the land; no competition was to be allowed to English industries- Kohn”. The book looks at the balance of trade, which was heavily against India and gives numbers – hard core numbers of the draining of wealth from what was one of the richest and most civilized regions of Earth. It looks at how local schools were destoyed by the british; it looks at british salaries and how the wealth from India went to England through salaries and pensions – quoting hard core numbers
So far, the book has dealt with what is largely unknown to us. From here, the book moves into familiar territory, and examines the powers of the so-called democratic institutions – the limited vote-bank; the powers of the british viceroy / governors etc to overrule the local bodies; how the local “elected” bodies had no powers; It looks at the divide and rule policy of the british, with separate voting for each community -issues which have been beautifully examined by Jaswant Singh, Bipin Chandra in their books, so I shall not dwell much on that point.
Then there is the chapter of Mahatma Gandhi, which first gives an biography of his life till 1930; But even here you find priceless tit-bits: “the british connection has made india more helpless… politically and economically… no jugglery of figures can explain away the evidence of the skeletons in many villages… I have no doubt that England and the towns of India will have to answer … if there is a God above, for this crime against humanity which is perhaps unparalleled in history – Mahatma Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi”
Then it goes on to detail in horrific stomach-turning detail the atrocities: “hindus to crawl on their bellies in the street”; school-boys flogged in public; prisoners bound with ropes and kept in open trucks for 15 hours; poured lime on naked bodies; cut off electric supplies to hindu houses; airplanes to drop bombs on labourors; The perpetrator of this very civlized, decent, morally consistent, gentle behavior was retired on a pension; exonerated; public supporters- all civilized, no doubt – raised $150000 as support… “there was not one bullet wound in the back – each bullet had struck home in the chest; not one Indian ran; there was passive submission in the highest forms of non-violence”… The brutal, inhuman retaliation of the british, for which they would very likely have been hanged in their own country, made the passive resistance movement one of the bravest, most active forms of struggle – a struggle unlike any other anywhere on Earth.
“I felt my skin creep and my hair stand on end as I saw those brave men… testicles crushed… body battered and broken… chest battered… every one whom I talked to gave the same stories of fiendish beating, torturing, thrusting lathi in anus, dragging…. what has become of the English Honour… English Justice – Miss Madeline Slade”
A book that is a must read for all Indians…
(Just to remind ourselves as to what being civilized means:)
Having a highly developed society and culture.; Showing evidence of moral and intellectual advancement; humane, ethical, and reasonable; Marked by refinement in taste and manners; cultured; polished.
the stage of human social development and organization which is considered most advanced;
the process by which a society or place reaches an advanced stage of social development and organization.;
This book systematically de-constructs all arguments in favour of colonial rule and its advantages. First, India was formed by the british: let us qualify that statement – India was formed as a response to the brutality of the british (in fact, a cursory glance at Indian history – and world history – will reveal that India has been under one rule at least 4-6 times for long periods, and has flourished); Education: there was better educational set-up before the british – and modern education would have come anyway (it should be remembered that India was a massive power with trade links to the entire world – hence simple logic dictates that eventually, modern techniques and methods would have come to our borders!) just as smelting, musket making, and various other techniques found their way to our nation. It similarly destroys all supposed advantages and exposes the morally corrupt nature of the Raj, which in its nature was the very antithesis of the claims to civilzation that were professed by its practitioners.
And lastly, this book brings home the fact that among all the ancient civilizations, the Indian civilization stands as the only civilization to have survived all through history – virtually unchanged. We were there during Babylon, we were there during the time of the Greeks, we were there when Rome was at its height, we were there when Europe was rising… and today,we are still present… with the same culture, same ethos, worshipping the same Gods as we used to 3500 – 5000 years ago, eating virtually the same kind of food… virtually unchanged. We are indebted to the pain of our forefathers, the tortures they bore, the indignities they went through – just so we, their children, could breathe free and with pride, justifiable pride in order that a new, modern India can be built. We owe it to them to make India truly modern, forward looking and progressive, strong – economically, socially and militarily. It is a book that will shake you to the core, brings tears to your eyes and leave you speechless. No wonder, then, that this book had been banned in the UK!
An internet interaction with a gentleman of opposite views has just made me realise how bad our history education has been… people- Indians – just do not realise what British rule meant; and actually regard it as a boon! I wonder what they will say to the sacrifices of Gandhiji, Bhagat Singh, Subhash Chandra Bose, Bal Gangadhar Tilak etc! Not only that, they are laying all the blame on Indian shoulders – and pointing to the current rampant corruption as evidence, totally ignoring the advances we have made since Independence in every sphere of life – take the example of Famines – all they have to do is compare famines before and after Independence! I am heartened by one fact, though – I have met a large number of Indians with views similar to mine, and with knowledge of our past that is much better than mine. Sometimes I wish we could make the British return the Koh-i-noor, ask them to apologise for their deeds (which they have never done – and some nations have for their misdeeds) and so on and so forth. Then I remember my teachings – forgive and move on. But forgive does not mean forget!
Posted by Vishal Kale at 01:02 http://reflectionsvvk.blogspot.in/2012/02/book-revew-case-for-india-will-durant.html