A Restorative Historical Account of Victorian Holocausts..
Dear All: It is my pleasure to publish this guest post by Amitabh Soni on “A restorative Historical Account of Victorian Holocausts“…and how these Holocausts though bigger than Hitler’s Holocaust were kept a secret by the holier than thou British establishment. Read on…
*** A restorative Historical Account of Victorian Holocausts by Amitabh Soni ***
Over the past few months I have been reading horrid accounts of British Imperialism in India. I think, the greatest achievement of British Imperialism, was to tone down the “dislike” of the Indians towards them to such drastic levels that it started bordering towards “liking” them in many a ways. Don’t we always get to hear that the British gave us Railways, Parliamentary democracy, an administrative structure, an international language, science & technology, modernity etc . Most of us have very little idea about what & how much they took away from us. At school , I often heard my teachers saying in one way or the other, ‘Thank God ! The British came to India.” Truth be told, the ills of the Raj heavily out weigh its benefits. It is like somebody taking everything away from your house, burning it down & saying. “Hey ! Dont worry, have got this bike for you”. Would you then debate the benefits of the bike ? Unless you are made to believe that the worth of whatever you had was much less than that of the bike.
It isn’t that the British wanted to serve us some good & noble purpose & faltered midway. On April 29, 1875 Marquis of Salisbury, former Prime Minister of Great Britain,remarked,“As India must be bled, the lancet should be directed to the parts where the blood is congested, or, at least is sufficient , not to those which are already feeble from the want of it”
We believe that the British did provide us with an education system, but this is what John Bright said in the British Parliament in 1853, “While the government has overthrown almost entirely the native education that had subsisted throughout the country so universally, that a schoolmaster was so regular a feature in every village as the ‘Patil’ or headman, it had done next to nothing to supply the deficiency which had been created , or to substitute a better system.” (1)
The following is an extract from India Resource website on South Asian History,
The literacy in British India in 1911 was only 6%, in 1931 it was 8%, and by 1947 it had crawled to 11%! …… Perhaps – the British had concentrated on higher education ….? But in 1935, only 4 in 10,000 were enrolled in universities or higher educational institutes. In a nation of then over 350 million people only 16,000 books (no circulation figures) were published in that year (i.e. 1 per 20,000).( 2)
Some of us may think that famines could have been caused due to lack of rain or poor farming practices. But one of the main reasons for famines was over taxation. ”It is anything but a moderate tax, for I have shown in the above mentioned work , it is in all cases exorbitant ; and strange to say , in some instances even exceeds the gross produce of the lands or plantations on which it is.” Robert Rickards in evidence before Committee on East India Company’s affairs” 1831 (3)
The famine of Bengal in 1770 caused 10 million deaths (5). And yet the East India Company continued to urge “rigour” in tax collection. By then the famine was in full force.(6) ”All through the stifling summer of 1770 the people went on dying. The husbandmen sold their cattle;they sold their implements of agriculture; they devoured their seed grain; they sold their sons & daughters, till at length no buyer of children could be found; they ate leaves of trees and the grass of the field ; and in June 1770 the Resident at (Murshidabad) affirmed that the living were feeding on the dead… A third of the people of Bengal, numbering about 10 million, perished.”(7)
The famines of 1877 and 1878, of 1889 and 1892, of 1897 and 1900 killed 15 million of people. “The poverty of the Indian population at the present day is unparalleled in any civilised country; the famines which have desolated India within the last quarter of the nineteenth century are unexampled in their extent and intensity in the history of ancient or modern times. By a moderate calculation, the famines of 1877 and 1878, of 1889 and 1892, of 1897 and 1900, have carried off fifteen millions of people. The population of a faired-sized European country has been swept away from India within twenty-five years. A population equal to half of that of England has perished in India within a period which men and women, still in middle age, can remember.” Romesh Dutt, Lecturer in Indian history at University College London in (UCL) in 1901 (4)
Further, this is what Lord Curzon had to say in 1902 :
There is no spectacle which finds less favour in my eyes or which I have done more to discourage than that of a cluster of Europeans settling down upon a Native State and sucking from it the moisture which ought to give sustenance to its own people.(8)
The British sailed back to England in 1947 but chose to keep mum about the Victorian Holocausts they caused in India. But have our governments done any better? Has any effort been made till date to bring the causes these deaths in millions into mainstream public discourse? I can only recall my history books vaguely mentioning the Bengal famine. Why were these chapters not discussed in the Modern History of India? Were the British still ruling us even after their last ship reached London?
Nehru (First Prime Minister of India ) who studied at the posh Harrow School in London & then at Cambridge, went on to say that he would be the last British to rule India. Did he, and after him his people kept under the wraps the ugliest face of British Imperialism? Before, the British rule, India’s global output was about 25% & when the British left it was even less than 1 %. Clearly, even the British public was kept in the dark about the prosperity that that Imperialists brought back home. George Monbiot, who writes for “The Guardian” remarks, “It is not illegal to discuss the millions who were killed under our empire. So why do so few people know about them?” Most of the people born in “free India” lead exceedingly underprivileged lives with confused & broken beliefs about their prosperous past.
We grew up, with very little sense of history about what we owned & how much and when & to whom we lost our prosperity ?
Where did the prosperity chain break ? or did we always belong to the poorest of the poor in India ?
This confusion is understandable as this issue has been completely absent from mainstream discourse. Post independence, the Indian government wanted us to continue with sustaining our trivial & inconsequential lives & not bother with anything else. The Marxist, Leninist economists fed by Nehru did everything to keep us feeling ashamed and apologetic about our “Hindu social evils & stigmas” at different levels of our learning & education. As a result, generation after generations were brought up upon covertly administered injections of “Thank God the British came to India”. This essentially meant “Thank God they came & civilised us”.
After almost 65 years of Independence, one may ask, what is the way forward ? What are we to gain by merely exposing what has already happened, when it can’t be undone ? I have just 2 points to make :
1: Looks like now every citizen has to have a ”right to history”. Sounds absurd ? Yes it does, but what is more absurd that we are being made to demand the right to right history; Pure & unadulterated history ! History can not be deleted or added to suit a person’s or a group’s/ nation’s interests or shall we say disinterests. Of course, there can be different takes on history but the complete deletion of distinguishable historical events (like this one) or addition of fictitious events ( like the Aryan Invasion Theory) is unacceptable & criminal.
2: The natural flow of a nation is disrupted when it’s people have a perverted sense of history. A people who don’t know where they are coming from can’t determine where they are headed. They may well be headed backwards again, as during a nation’s journey many a big & complex round-abouts need to be negotiated & woven through.
During its past, a nation could have been dharmically (righteously) powerful & prosperous. After a deep slumber, it needs to know WHY & HOW could it sustain that status of eminence over long periods of time? What were the set of values and attitudes it was endowed with to achieve such grand prominence? What core competencies are naturally embedded in its civilisational genealogy that can be revived to reclaim that lost grandeur? Similarly, in its past, a nation could have been a victim or could have victimised another, needs to know WHY & HOW much it had bled or how much blood was/is on its hands ?
Which of its philosophies & policies gave the impression to other nations that its boundaries & the minds of its people were penetrable ? Or, which of its philosophies & policies gave it the impression that it had the burden to civilize “savages” of other nations? What set of doctrines, prompted them to kick the savages in their faces, to knock some sense into their brains ? What kind of “sense of being civilised’ was it to rob people of their wealth and make them crawl generation after generation for every single piece of bread ? Could people be said to have been civilised if they were devoid of any form of dignity, for centuries ? A nation that wishes to reflect back in time, will always get a flawed image of its own, if it sticks to ruptured & adulterated history. Hence, creating a false “self image”. It may appear be too beautiful or too ugly, but not necessarily true & genuine.
Unaltered & non perverted history enables a nation to re-align & retain its civilisational balance & momentum. The alignment of its fathomable past with it’s foreseeable future, precipitates learning for its own good & the greater good of humanity. Bearing all of the above in mind, we have made a humble beginning to bring to light the dark chapters of British imperialism in India. In due course we hope that the people & governments of both countries will make more serious & profound efforts in this direction. Until then we urge people to follow us on our Facebook page.
- John Bright, “Debates in Parliament on the India question in 1853
- http://india_resource.tripod.com/colonial.html. Statistics and data for the colonial period taken from Rajni-Palme Dutt’s India Today (Indian Edition published in 1947); also see N.K. Sinha’s Economic History of Bengal (Published in Calcutta, 1956); and “Late Victorian Holocausts” by Mike Davis
- Robert Rickards in evidence before Committee on East India Company’s affairs” 1831. Report of Committee, vol. V, Answer to Question 2827
- Preface pg VI, London 1901 “The Economic History of India under early British rule” sixth edition. From the rise of the British power in 1757 to the accession of Queen Victoria in 1837 by Romesh Dutt, CLE. Lecturer in Indian history at University College London (UCL), former commissioner of Orissa and member of the Bengal Legislative Council.
- Churchill’s Secret War – Madhusree Mukerjee, p xv
- Bose, Peasant Labour & Colonial Capital, 18
- Hunter – The Annals of Rural Bengal,26; Kumar & Raychaudhari, The Cambridge Economic History of India. Vol II,229
- Lord Curzon, former Viceroy of India, in a speech at Jaipur in November 1902.
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