Imperialism Revisited

Just a few days ago i was watching David Cameron mesmerize his audience at the Infy campus and i must say that he was good. I was impressed for a moment. And i was ought to, after all the media Blitzkrieg which we faced “Biggest British delegation ever”, “Cameron wins Indian hearts” etc. He ashamedly stated that he wanted financial cooperation from India and that he got. Bharat is supposed to do business with BAE, Rolls Royce and other British companies in the field of Aerospace and defence. Like his predecessors he also looked India as a market and nothing else.

Many of my dear friends have argued time and again that if Britishers would have not educated India, we would have not seen the light of civilization. We were illiterate fools who knew nothing before they came to tame us and blessed us with technology and integrated us in one. If the Brits wouldn’t have come, we would have not been introduced to modern marvels like Railways, Aircrafts, Bridges and what not, they argue. I do not blame them as they say what they have read and understood.

On 15th August India will complete 63 years of her Independence from United Kingdom. British empire in India proved that they were one of the most savage civilizations on the face of Earth. It will be very tough for people to believe that till 18th century, India was so rich that commercial pirates of west could not resist setting shops here. (Yes, it may sound boastful and cliched to many of you but i also accept the political weakness of our nation which lead us to be captives.) This wealth was created by Hindu’s vast and varied industries. Almost every product known to the civilized world was manufactured here. Bharat had great architecture. Will Durant writes:

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……. She had great architecture — equal in beauty to any in the work. 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.

And how did the white man relieve himself of his burden? By 1918, for 24 crore people the expenditure on public health was reduced to $5,000,000! Approximately 2 cents per capita! Durant goes on to say, “Sir William Hunter, once Director-General of Indian Statistics, estimated that 40,000,000 of the people of India were seldom or never able to satisfy their hunger.  Weakened with malnutrition, they offer low resistance to infections; epidemics periodically destroy millions of them. In 1901, 2,72,000 died of plague introduced from abroad; in 1902, 5000,000 died of plague; in 1903, 800,000; in 1904, 1,000,000. In 1918 there were 125,000,000 cases of influenza, and 12,500,000 recorded deaths… We can now understand why there are famines in India. Their cause, in plain terms, is not the absence of sufficient food, but the inability of the people to pay for it. Famines have increased in frequency and severity under British rule.    From 1770 to 1900, 25,000,000 Hindus died of starvation;  15,000,000 of these died in the last quarter of the century, in the famines of 1877, 1889, 1897, and 1900.”

We were traditionally literate people, but all our indigenous ways of education were systematically eradicated which had made India a superpower in trade, arts, navigation, architecture, language and what not. At no time in history was India without a civilization. Our education system was explained by Macauley to parliament of UK as,

The question now before us is simply whether, when it is in our power to teach this language, we shall teach languages in which, by universal confession, there are no books on any subject which deserve to be compared to our own; whether, when we can teach European science, we shall teach systems which, by universal confession, whenever they differ from those of Europe, differ for the worse; and whether, when we can patronise sound Philosophy and true History, we shall countenance, at the public expense, medical doctrines, which would disgrace an English farrier [note: a horse shoer] -Astronomy, which would move laughter in girls at an English boarding school, History, abounding with kings thirty feet high, and reigns thirty thousand years long, and Geography, made up of seas of treacle and seas of butter. (Here)

The philosophies from Vedas and Geeta made philosophers like Schoepenhauer, Bergson, Thopea and Keyserling who openly admit the contribution of these ancient literature in developing their though process. Keyserling goes on to say, “India has produced the profoundest metaphysics that we know of.” And this education system had produced astronomical giants like Bhaskaracharya and Aryabhatta. But we were subjected to live in darkness. In 1915, when Gopal Krishna Gokhale introduced a bill for universal compulsory primary education in India, it was defeated by the representatives of Queen. In 1916, Patel introduced a similar bill which again was turned down by the govt. representatives. The money allocated for education was given to build colleges and secondary schools where the language used was English, Literature, arts, history, customs and morals taught were English. Young Hindus (Indians) had to be de-indianized if they had to earn bread and butter. After the eradication of industries only work left was to go in govt. service.

Durant writes, “Everything and anything in India was on sale. During the five years which followed the departure of Clive from Bengal, the misgovernment of the English was carried to such a point as seemed incompatible with the existence of 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 thirty millions of human beings were reduced to the extremity of wretchedness. They had been accustomed to live under tyranny, but never under tyranny like this … Under their old masters had they had at least one resource: when the evil became insupportable, the people rose and pulled down the government. But the English Government was not be  so shaken off. That Government, oppressive as the most oppressive form of barbarian despotism was strong with all the strength of civilization .”

“Let the late President of Union Theological Seminary, Dr. Charles C. Hall, speak:  The obvious fact stares us in the face that there is at no time, in no year, any shortage of food-stuffs in India. The trouble is that the taxes imposed by the British Government being 50% of the produce, the Indian starves that India’s annual revenue may not be diminished by a dollar.  80% of the whole population has been thrown back upon the soil because England’s discriminating duties have ruined practically every branch of native manufacture. The final item is the death-rate. In England the death-rate is 13 per 1000 per year; in the United States it is 12; in India it is 32. Half the children born in Bengal die before reaching the age of eight.  In a recent year (1921) the infant mortality in Bombay was 666 per 1000.” And i am not yet taking into count the countless massacres which my people had to face just to be civilized. People were killed, maimed and tortured by millions just in the name of civilization. God knows that the white man’s burden has been heavier for us than for them to carry. We still are carrying the legacy of fake accents, lack of self-confidence and Infant mortal deaths.

But i also understand the fact that we need to stop thumping our chests on our past or blame the past for our misfortunes and look at our present condition. The British ruled us for 200years and are probably responsible for the status that we are in. But it has been 63years since they left. Who will we hold responsible for the dismal state of our primary education now? Its not the Britishers for sure. Who is responsible for the dismal state of our primary health care? Who is responsible for the decaying beurocracy where nothing moves without greasing some palms? Is it still the British? Have we failed as a nation? I hope not.

I would request all to take a leaf out of our History and set a goal for our future. Let us try to make our country a place where no body has to sleep starving. Let us create a ‘Bharat’ where humanity and bravery go hand in hand. Let us not wait but create a new dawn…   And as far as i am concerned, my bias against Britain is here to stay!