Think it over
Who looted India more?
By M.S.N. Menon
The British, say the ignorant Hindus. And they are not a few in this country. The talk is always of colonial exploitation. Of Jalianwala massacre.
It is also said that the British transferred huge amounts to Britain and that they tried to maximise revenue collections in India.
What are the facts? Prof. Dharma Kumar of the Delhi School of Economics refutes the charges. He writes: “This is very far from the truth and may indeed be more true of the Mughal rulers, if one takes the texts of the period and the work of the Aligarh school of historians seriously.”
And he goes on to quote the first volume of the Cambridge Economic History of India, which says that ?a tiny ruling group consisting of the Mughal Emperor and 8,000 or so nobles (of a total population of 100 million ) actually collected over half to one-third of the GNP as revenue.” According to the US economist Raymond Goldsmith, the income appropriated by the top group in Mughal India was the highest known to man. The only exceptions were the Egyptian and Mesopotamian theocracies.
True, the British tried to collect as much as they could, but they were a people used to low taxation. In fact, in the first budget speech after the 1857 Mutiny, it was said that Hindu taxation law was generous to the rulers. Prof. Kumar says that the British might have collected 7 per cent of Gross National Product (GNP) in 1872-73 as revenue. During the World War II, the revenue collection was by no means high, he says. Thus during the World War II, it was not more than 12 per cent. Tax revenue fluctuated between 6 per cent and 7 per cent of the national income between 1900 to 1947.
In the last year of British rule, land revenue constituted. less than one-tenth of the total tax revenue. The land revenue probably did not exceed 5 percent of gross agricultural output in the 20th century for the country as a whole. This is in contrast to the Mughal period, when land tax was the highest. In fact, Britain was reluctant to impose high land tax after the rise of nationalism.
Prof. Dharma Kumar writes: “Indian historians are too often obsessed with the exploitative nature of colonialism and generations of students have learnt from them. It is true the British exploited, but they were also building a new modern India.”
As against this, after imposing their rule over India for over seven centuries, the Muslim rulers remained as foreign dynasties and refused to identify themselves with India. In these seven centuries, they did not build one great school or hospital. All they did was to build palaces and gardens for their enjoyment, tombs to perpetuate their memory and forts for their security. In fact, India continued to be a Dar-ul-Harb for the Muslim rulers, whereas India was the jewel of the British crown.
In the long period of the Muslim advent, the Muslim invaders and rulers did not spare one Hindu or Buddhist temple or Vihara. Everything was looted for gold and precious stones. The destruction was complete in the north. The number of temples destroyed by Aurangzeb alone is estimated to five, if not six, digits, according to his own court chroniclers. There was nothing left for the British to loot in India. In any case, they never indulged in looting the temples.
India was the richest country in the world till the advent of Islam. All the great diamonds belonged to India. India knew mining and processing of diamonds. The Mughals had two underground rooms of a capacity of 150,000 cu. ft., each packed with precious metals, diamonds and stones.
Mohd. bin Qasim robbed Sind of 630 million dirhams in the 11th century. Mahmud Ghazni raided India 17 times to loot temples and palaces. The sultanates sent looting expeditions to the south. On the invasion of Ghazni, Nehru writes: “From Thaneswar he took away, it is said, 200,000 captives (for sale) and vast wealth. But it was at Somnath that he got the most, for this was one of the great temples and the offerings of centuries had accumulated there.”
The Muslim armies had plans to loot the rich cathedrals of Europe, but they were routed by the French. Similar ambitions to loot China were frustrated by the Mongols who devastated the Muslim empire and destroyed the Caliphate.
Loot was the first objective of every Muslim invader, not conversion. This is sanctioned by Islam. It says : “Eat what you have taken as booty. It is lawful and good.” (The Spoils 65) ( As against this , the Isha Upanishad says: “Enjoy what God has given the. Covet not that which belongs to another. “)
The legitimisation of plunder by Islam was what made the Islamic advent in the world so gory.
But our Indian “comrades” are ever ready to distort history. Prof. Prabhat Patnaik of JNU for example writes: “Every act of the British… was meant to serve rapacious colonial interests. ” No sensible thinker can pen such nonsense. Was the creation of the Asiatic Society also a “rapacious colonial” enterprise? More men of eminence are on record in British history, who opposed colonialism.