The Government of India seems frightened to tell the whole truth about what happened to India after the British?at first just the East India Company?came to our country first to trade and then to loot, lest it embarrass our former rulers. We haven'tgot out of our colonial mindset yet?sixty years after Independence. What we are presently indulging in, is entertainment, like holding marches of thousands of men from Meerut to Delhi, to commemorate the 1857 War of Independence. Even this was limited to the capital as if the rest of the country did not matter. There was revolt not just in north India but in south India as well.
Nothing of any substance concerning 1857 has been promoted in other parts of the country as if what Savarkar very aptly called the First War of Independence is of no particular importance. Why is the UPA government scared? Not that plenty of information on the subject is unavailable. One of the most damning indictments of British reign in India is Will Durant'sbook Case for India, published in 1930 by Simon and Shuster, New York, which was proscribed by the British Government. Durant does not need any special introduction. In his time he was an acknowledged American intellectual of high standing. As he saw it?and he spoke for the entire West? ?India was the motherland of our race, and Sanskrit the mother of Europe'slanguages, the mother of our philosophy, mother, through the Arabs, of much of our mathematics, mother, through Buddha, of the ideals embodied in Christianity, mother, through the village community of self-government and democracy.? He summarised the role of Mother India as ?in many ways the mother of us all?.
As Durant saw it, ?the British conquest of India was the invasion and destruction of a high civilisation by a trading company utterly without scruple or principle, careless of art and greedy for gain, over-running with fire and word a country temporarily disordered and helpless, bribing and murdering, annexing and stealing and beginning that career of illegal and ?legal? plunder which has now gone on ruthlessly for one hundred and seventy three years… .? He was writing then, of 1930. How did this happen? According to Durant ?it was a simple matter for a group of English buccaneers, armed with the latest European artillery and mortars, to defeat the bows and arrows, the elephants and primitive musketry of the rajahs??
India, before the arrival of the British, was a wealthy nation. The wealth, Durant wrote, was created by Hindus through ?nearly every kind of manufacture of product known to the civilised world?nearly every creation of man'sbrain and hand and prized either for its utility or beauty?. India was a far greater industrial and manufacturing nation than any in Europe or than any other in Asia. India had great engineering works. She had great merchants, great bankers and financiers and ?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?.
It was that wealth that the British sought to appropriate?in other words, steal. The story as told by Durant is painful to read. It begins with Robert Clive?the greatest brigand of them all?who bribed Mir Jaffer, his opponent at Plassey, forged and violated treaties, accepted ?presents? given him by whining Indian rulers to the tune of $ 1,170,000 and what the East India Company did was nothing short of rape of Indian industry and wealth. Goods bought in India were sold in England else where at five times the original price, the British traders refused to pay the normal tells levied by local rulers, forged documents and even restored Mir Jaffer as ruler in Bengal for $ 2,500, 825. Hypocrisy was added to brutality, Durant writes and the cost of wars waged by the British was recovered to the last penny out of taxing the very Indian people. Every penny the British spent on conquest was billed to the conquered Indian people themselves as national debt.
In 1792 this amounted to $ 35 million?a huge sum for those days. It became $ 150 million in 1829, rose to $ 215 million in 1845, to $ 500 million in 1860 and finally to $ 3,500 million in 1929. During the First World War, India coughed up $ 500 million to the British war effort, contributed $ 700 million in subscriptions to war loans and products worth $ 1,250 million were dispatched abroad to keep Britain and its allies fed. Besides, India provided 1,338,620 soldiers to fight Britain'swar, though not one Indian was granted a Commission. Indian soldiers outnumbered soldiers provided by the combined White Dominions of Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
It was the Indian troops who first turned back the Germans at the Marne. ?Never? wrote Durant, ?had a colony or a possession made so great a sacrifice for the master country.? How was that possible? Noted Durant: ?Until England came to her, India did not exist; there was no political entity called India but only a congeries to independent states??a point to be remembered even now. And these congeries of states would not unite. The British swallowed them up, one by one. But it was what Britain plundered from India that made it possible for Britain to rise from the gutter and become and industrialised state. India became the market for British goods. The conditions of the uprooted Indian craftsmen and artisans became unbearable. Some of them had their hands cut. We have this from Lord Willian Bentinck who wrote to the East India Company'sCourt of Directors that ?the bones of the cotton weavers are bleaching the plains of India?.
The Company'sarmies fought twenty wars between the ?Battle? of Plassey and 1857. In the five years preceding 1857, more than 21,000 estates of zamindars of a total of 35,000 were confiscated. In 1818 Sir Thomas Munro wrote: ?Foreign conquerors had treated the natives with violence and often with great cruelty. But none of them has treated them with so much scorn as we; none have stigmatised the whole people as unworthy of trust, as incapable of honesty?. It seems to me not only ungenerous, but impolitic to debase the character of a people fallen under our domination.?
The British went about systematically draining India of her wealth. According to a British historian, Monthomery Martin, writing in 1838, the annual drain of ? 3 million amounted in 30 years at 12 per cent compound interest to the enormous sum of ? 723,997,917 sterling. As Karl Max, of all people, commenting on this, wrote: ?There cannot, however, remain any doubt but that the misery inflicted by the British on Hindustan is of essentially different and infinitely more intensive kind than Hindustan had to suffer before.?
The total tribute which was drained from India in the form of ?Home Charges? and ?Excess of Indian exports? amounted to the colossal figure of ? 151, 830,989 or about ? 152 million. Half the annual land revenue paid by the Indians to the British Government went back to Britain. Chengiz Khan and Ghazni Mohammad would have been jealous of the British.
(This is the first of the three articles on a hitherto forgotten subject.)
(To be continued)