But this outcome was averted precisely because the Empire itself was a gift of the patriotic, but jolly, Jack Tar and, it turned out, the 'nabobs', in the main, were happy to turn into salaried patriots who governed Colonies with a strict eye to what was best for the mother country.
What about India? Could any Indian say British rule was good for India? Sadly, the answer is yes. The alternative to British rule was French and Dutch and perhaps American and, later on, Japanese enclaves on the coast and endless proxy battles between the Indian war-lords who were their clients. Unlike China, India did not have a cohesive 'Mandarin' class or any accepted institutional mechanism by which the nation as a whole- if it really was a nation- could come together. Hindus might hope that every Hindu chieftain might get behind a Maratha or Sikh or Rajput or other potential 'Chakravartin' or Universal Emperor, and Muslims might harbor a similar hope for one of their own Princes. But even if the miracle came to pass, what was to prevent the division of the Empire between the heirs? This would mean that a generation or two down the line, war would once again raise its ugly head. The alternative- viz. primogeniture- carried the risk of brother turning on brother or Uncle on nephew or everybody trying to poison everybody else. Either way, internecine conflict and endless intrigue would be the order of the day. True, in the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, younger brothers are loyal to the eldest and, it is true, Lord Ram had only one wife, but the reality was quite different. Princes had many wives. Primogeniture was not well established. Unlike the limited monarchies of Europe, where monogamy also prevailed, the brothers of the eldest prince were not encouraged to remain dutiful. Democracy turned out to be a good way for members of a family to compete with each other without any blood being spilled. Look at Varun Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. They seem to get on quite well. Suppose the 'last Englishman to rule India' had decided to do away with Democracy. Then if a Nehru-Gandhi died suddenly, his brother or cousin would be suspected of cold blooded murder. The habit of fighting things out in Court or at the hustings could be considered Britain's gift to India's ruling classes. On the other hand, it could be argued that it was the service the Indians paid the Brits to perform or, alternatively, the service that had to be performed if economies of scope and scale were to be available to run India on a profitable basis from generation to generation.
Shashi Tharoor, who, sadly, is in Rahul's camp not the camp in which Varun retains his place in U.P politics, takes a different view.
Many modern apologists for British colonial rule in India no longer contest the basic facts of imperial exploitation and plunder, rapacity and loot, which are too deeply documented to be challengeable.
Nor do they contest the basic fact that there was less exploitation, plunder, rapacity and loot, as a result of Pax Britannica. Why? It is during war that the worst types of 'loot-maar' (killing and plundering) occur. The Rule of Law collapses as people are conscripted and goods and services are requisitioned.
Instead they offer a counter-argument: granted, the British took what they could for 200 years,
Which was less than India's 'consumer surplus' from having Pax Brittanica.
but didn’t they also leave behind a great deal of lasting benefit? In particular, political unity
Tharoor forgets that first Buddhist Burma and then Muslim majority provinces went their own way. Only Hindu India wanted democracy for the reason I have mentioned.
and democracy, the rule of law, railways, English education, even tea and cricket?
There may indeed by 'apologists' who don't get that you don't need to be ruled by Japan to take up judo or sushi. On the other hand it is certainly a fact that nobody whose ancestors weren't ruled by Italians can stomach pizza.
Indeed, the British like to point out that the very idea of “India” as one entity (now three,
four. Burma split off in 1937.
but one during the British Raj), instead of multiple warring principalities and statelets, is the incontestable contribution of British imperial rule.
Surely the fact that the British Raj no longer exists is the incontestable contribution of those who fought British rule? A more sensible way of looking at things is that Britain forcibly exported certain services to India. There were scale and scope economies to those services. Sadly these were not heritable for indigenous polities because of legal and religious and sociological constraints. The British understood this. Their solution was to gradually devolve power to elected assemblies which would get more and more involved in 'parish pump' issues. Localized fiscal policy (we would call this subsidiarity) would give rise to competing 'Tiebout models' (again this is a modern terminology) and a puerile type of 'identity politics' would give way to pragmatic, managerial, pan-Indian accommodation and cooperation.
Sadly, the Indian National Congress was opposed to 'cooperation' while the Socialists lived in a fantasy world.
Unfortunately for this argument, throughout the history of the subcontinent, there has existed an impulsion for unity.
Why didn't unity exist? Was there also an 'impulsion towards disunity'? Why did the latter prevail over the former? Tharoor, rather meanly, won't tell us.
The idea of India is as old as the Vedas, the earliest Hindu scriptures, which describe “Bharatvarsha” as the land between the Himalayas and the seas. If this “sacred geography” is essentially a Hindu idea, Maulana Azad has written of how Indian Muslims, whether Pathans from the north-west or Tamils from the south, were all seen by Arabs as “Hindis”, hailing from a recognisable civilisational space.
And we speak of Arabic speakers as Arabs whether they come from Kuwait or Qatar or Syria or Jordan or Algeria. So what? There is United Arab Republic of the sort Nasser and the Ba'athists dreamed of.
Numerous Indian rulers had sought to unite the territory, with the Mauryas (three centuries before Christ) and the Mughals coming the closest by ruling almost 90% of the subcontinent. Had the British not completed the job, there is little doubt that some Indian ruler, emulating his forerunners, would have done so.
Sadly, this is precisely what is highly implausible. Hindus didn't want to go back under Muslim rule and sided with the Brits where this appeared possible. But Muslims soon came to hold the same opinion about the undesirability of coming under Hindu rule. This leaves the question as to whether any Hindu or Sikh War-lord could unite the Hindu areas. Sadly, there were no plausible candidates for any such role.
Far from crediting Britain for India’s unity
India is unified only where Hindus (broadly defined) are the majority. Where they are not there is secessionism. Democracy was useful to Hindus because they needed to reform their religion and their inheritance and other laws- to put an end to competitive 'holier-than-thou' stupidity. Furthermore 'reserved seats' has worked out well because, it turns out, Dalit politicians tend to be better than average- or at least less stupid.
and enduring parliamentary democracy, the facts point clearly to policies that undermined it – the dismantling of existing political institutions,
like what? The Mughal Empire? It was powerless. It had been a puppet of the Marathas before the Emperor became a pensioner of the British
the fomenting of communal division
which existed before the Brits came and after they left.
and systematic political discrimination with a view to maintaining British domination.
Why did the Brits reward loyalists and punish seditionists? This was 'systematic political discrimination'! Worse still, Viceroy Sahib was refusing to wipe Mahatmaji's bum even though he wiped his own bum! This shows RACIST discrimination! You should wipe all bums without regard to color or creed.
In the years after 1757, the British astutely fomented cleavages among the Indian princes,
Very true. Indian princes used to cuddle and kiss each other all the time. British astutely got them to stop mounting each other affectionately. Later they were even criminalizing sodomy!
and steadily consolidated their dominion through a policy of divide and rule.
No. Their policy was unite and rule. Why? You get economies of scope and scale if you take over Princedoms. However, after 1857, the Brits back-pedaled on this. Why? They realized that Indians were better at beating and exploiting the fuck out of Indians. Indeed, they would pay for the privilege.
Later, in 1857, the sight of Hindu and Muslim soldiers rebelling together, willing to pledge joint allegiance to the enfeebled Mughal monarch, alarmed the British,
This is mad. The Brits were happy to see Hindu and Muslim soldiers working together in their own army and civil service. What alarmed them was that white peeps were being killed. They got very very angry and taught the rebels such a lesson that they remained quiet ever thereafter.
Tharoor may find it strange that Brits objected to having their throats slit. He may feel that their true motive in slaughtering rebels was alarm that maybe Hindus and Muslims would start kissing and cuddling and sucking each other off. But Tharoor is a silly billy.
who concluded that pitting the two groups against one another was the most effective way to ensure the unchallenged continuance of empire.
The Brits weren't that stupid. They knew that if Hindus and Muslims kept slaughtering each other then the Empire would cease to be profitable. Money matters. Hindus kissing and cuddling Muslims does not matter in the slightest.
As early as 1859, the then British governor of Bombay, Lord Elphinstone, advised London that “Divide et impera was the old Roman maxim, and it should be ours”.
Lord Elphinstone's Uncle, Mountstuart, had returned to England 30 years previously. He had been posted in Afghanistan and at the Peshwa's court in the first decades of the nineteenth century. He knew there was no need to do any dividing. Every Royal Prince was against his Royal brother. The Chief Minister was plotting against the King as was every other General. Indian division cried out for an Imperial force capable of uniting that benighted country. The point about 1857 is that it had horrified the Indians. 'Hindu-Muslim' unity had quickly dissolved. But so had the fabric of Society. The Meo tribesmen, though Muslim, raided the lines of the 'Ghazis' in Delhi. The shedding of British blood had opened the floodgates of a war of all against all. Thus, the propertied class welcomed the restoration of British rule. They wished to be 'assimilated' to British Justice and the Rule of Law. They no longer hankered for their own religious or clannish shibboleths.
Lord Elphinstone had acted very creditably during the Mutiny. He emptied his own province of men to go on the offensive against the rebels. There had been a grave risk of disorder and rapine in Bombay itself but experienced officers had acted swiftly and with decision.
The question remained- how arrange the army so that it wouldn't mutiny? This is where 'divide and rule' came in. The first imperative was to keep Whites apart from Natives. Why? The Whites were drunken scum. The 'prestige of the European' would be destroyed if native soldiers saw too much of their White colleagues save under battle conditions. The second point was to divide up the army such that natives were never in charge of artillery except on the Frontier. Turning to the point that Tharoor is seeking to make, firstly it should be borne in mind that it was believed that the 'passive' Bihari Hindu had come under the domination of the fanatical and warlike Muslim and thus it would be wise to separate them or, better still, do without them altogether. More generally, there was the familiar problem of how to keep the Army from becoming so cohesive that it might seek to advance its own agenda. The traditional answer was territorial regiments which viewed each other with suspicion on the parade ground but which vied with each other for the honors of battle. The same policy used in England must be used for the recruitment of the native portion of the Indian standing army.
Neil Stewart quotes a soldier of the period-
The Peel Commission in England came to the opposite conclusion- the Indian army should recruit from all classes and mix everyone up together. However, this would have to be compensated for by recruiting many more Europeans. In the end, 'divide and rule' prevailed and proved effective. Why? Greater esprit de corps was generated by soldiers who worshipped together and uttered the same battle cry. The British officers' willingness to act as a nominal Hindu or Sikh or Gurkha or Pathan or Coorgi or whatever, depending on which Regiment he served with, bound their Indian NCOs to them. Other reforms ensured that NCOs were of an age and had the skills to effectively discharge their functions.
Since the British came from a hierarchical society with an entrenched class system, they instinctively looked for a similar one in India.
Very true. Indian society wasn't hierarchical at all. Maharajas were frequently to be observed sweeping the streets. Since the British came from a Parliamentary polity with elected Members of Parliament they instinctively looked for something similar in India. On the other hand, since they didn't come from a country with a lot of elephants and camels, they instinctively didn't see any such beasts in India. This is the reason, throughout the nineteenth century, you would see British officers asking an elephant which constituency it represented. Camels, of course, were assumed to sit in the Upper House.
The effort to understand ethnic, religious, sectarian and caste differences among Britain’s subjects inevitably became an exercise in defining, dividing and perpetuating these differences.
Worse still, British zoologists started defining and dividing and perpetuating the difference between cats and dogs.
Thus colonial administrators regularly wrote reports and conducted censuses that classified Indians in ever-more bewilderingly narrow terms, based on their language, religion, sect, caste, sub-caste, ethnicity and skin colour.
This is why Indians no longer speak the same language or all follow the same religion or have the same skin color. Worse still, it explains why they are not all jammed into the same pair of underpants. Tharoor does not mention the colonial administrator's attempt to differentiate between dudes with dicks and chicks with titties. Previously all Indians were having lots of dicks and titties and vaginas all over their body. Evil Angrez Sarkar is reducing us to a condition of having either just one dick or just a single paltry vagina.
Not only were ideas of community reified, but also entire new communities were created by people who had not consciously thought of themselves as particularly different from others around them.
Very true. Many Indians used to think they were cows because they saw a lot of cows around them. Then Brits told them they weren't cows at all. This is what is causing some evil people to eat beef! They don't understand they are eating their own Divine Mother!
Large-scale conflicts between Hindus and Muslims (religiously defined), only began under colonial rule;
Yes. But this happened when Muslims colonized Hindu India a few centuries before the Europeans showed up.
many other kinds of social strife were labelled as religious due to the colonists’ orientalist assumption that religion was the fundamental division in Indian society.
Colonist's believe the fundamental division in society is between themselves and the natives they rule over. Sadly, the natives keep telling them that they aren't all a homogenous mass. Some are educated. Some belong to this religion. Others claim to be aristocrats. Indeed, a few hint that they might belong to one gender rather than another.
It is questionable whether a totalising Hindu or Muslim identity existed in any meaningful sense in India before the 19th century.
In so far as it is questionable whether a human identity as opposed to a bovine identity existed in any meaningful way at any point in Indian history. Tharoor himself, as a Minister affected by austerity measures, complained of having to fly 'cattle class'.
Yet the creation and perpetuation of Hindu–Muslim antagonism was the most significant accomplishment of British imperial policy: the project of divide et impera would reach its culmination in the collapse of British authority in 1947.
But Nehru claimed to be the last Englishman to rule India! Sadly he was shit at defending its borders.
Partition left behind a million dead, 13 million displaced, billions of rupees of property destroyed, and the flames of communal hatred blazing hotly across the ravaged land.
Partition occurred ten years after the Brits devolved power over everything ( save Defense, Diplomacy, Monetary Policy, Post Office etc) to elected provincial governments. It was Gandhi and Nehru and Jinnah and Shurawardy who were responsible for the blood-letting. They could have organized an orderly exchange of population. Instead they talked bollocks and left the minorities to their fate.
No greater indictment of the failures of British rule in India can be found than the tragic manner of its ending.
But that rule had been greatly watered down! It was the job of the Provincial Governments to maintain law and order. They couldn't be arsed. Gandhi said Congressmen in Bihar were responsible for the killing of innocent Muslims. Nehru threatened to send planes to bomb the Biharis. Was even one Bihari Congressmen suspended from the party- let alone arrested- for the communal riots there? No. Don't be silly.
Nor did Britain work to promote democratic institutions under imperial rule, as it liked to pretend.
They gave universal suffrage to Ceylon in 1931. They couldn't do so in India because all the minorities objected.
Instead of building self-government from the village level up, the East India Company destroyed what existed.
Because 'self-government from the village level up' was so utterly shit that a handful of foreigners from a distant isle were able to take over a much much more populous country.
The British ran government, tax collection, and administered what passed for justice.
Which was still better than the sort of shite 'self-governing villages' dished out.
Indians were excluded from all of these functions.
Because other Indians thought they were shit.
When the crown eventually took charge of the country, it devolved smidgens of government authority, from the top, to unelected provincial and central “legislative” councils whose members represented a tiny educated elite, had no accountability to the masses, passed no meaningful legislation, exercised no real power and satisfied themselves they had been consulted by the government even if they took no actual decisions.
They did pass laws which were so meaningful they are still with us today. An example is the law under which Rajiv Gandhi's government banned the Satanic Verses.
Tharoor admits that India's educated class was 'tiny' and powerless. What would have been the point of 'devolving' anything to them? The answer is that those guys knew the law and something about what rich peeps wanted by way of legislation. They delivered this. That was good for Britain and, like it or not, it was good for India.
As late as 1920, under the Montagu-Chelmsford “reforms”, Indian representatives on the councils – elected by a franchise so restricted and selective that only one in 250 Indians had the right to vote – would exercise control over subjects the British did not care about, like education and health, while real power, including taxation, law and order and the authority to nullify any vote by the Indian legislators, would rest with the British governor of the provinces.
Why didn't the Indians rebel? Were they all cowards? Perhaps. Still, facts are facts. In 1922, just when Ireland and Egypt and Afghanistan gained freedom, Gandhi unilaterally surrendered and went off meekly to jail. Then Motilal Nehru decided to go after the votes of the 'one in 250' Indians so as to get into the legislative council and show it was useless. Sadly, he and C.R Das only showed they themselves were even more stupid and useless than Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi may have been a crackpot but he was less stupid than Motilal and C.R Das.
Real power rested with the British but real money was coming into the hands of the guys who financed Gandhi & Co. The thing was a swindle. Indeed, the INC is nothing but a cretinous money making scheme.
Democracy, in other words, had to be prised from the reluctant grasp of the British by Indian nationalists.
Though, in 1922, Gandhi said India was shit. Even if, in a moment of 'mad fury', it chased the Brits away it would soon succumb to starvation and invasion. The country could not feed or defend itself. After independence, it fell to Nehru to go begging for American food and American armaments.
It is a bit rich to oppress, torture, imprison, enslave, deport and proscribe a people for 200 years, and then take credit for the fact that they are democratic at the end of it.
Is it though? Would Tharoor really feel better if the Brits kept saying 'You guys are shit. You used to oppress, torture, imprison, enslave, deport and proscribe each other for 1200 years. We turned a profit by getting you to go easy on that shite. Then we left because America wouldn't pay for us to stay and you guys got much weaker and poorer and fell farther and farther behind much smaller East Asian countries. South Korea was as poor as India 60 years ago. It is now 15 times as well off.'
We might reply 'Korea stopped being a democracy so as to rise. You fuckers pushed democracy down our throats. Fuck you very much indeed!'
A corollary of the argument that Britain gave India political unity and democracy is that it established the rule of law in the country.
India is Unitary democracy because of Hinduism. However, it can't be denied that its legal system was entirely the creation of the British.
This was, in many ways, central to the British self-conception of imperial purpose; Kipling, that flatulent voice of Victorian imperialism,
Kipling was a great poet. Tharoor is fatuous if not flatulent.
would wax eloquent on the noble duty to bring law to those without it.
Tharoor's party is now whining about Mamta's reign of terror in Bengal. But Mamta started off in the INC.
But British law had to be imposed upon an older and more complex civilisation with its own legal culture,
which was shit
and the British used coercion and cruelty to get their way.
No. You had to pay good money to access the Raj's courts. Still, it was worthwhile. Indeed, Indian firms still prefer to stipulate that adjudication of a contract should be done in England rather than India though court fees etc. are much lower back home.
And in the colonial era, the rule of law was not exactly impartial.
It was amazingly impartial compared to what came before or, more sadly, what would come afterwards.
Crimes committed by whites against Indians attracted minimal punishment;
and crimes committed by Indians against much poorer Indians attracted no punishment. During the Second World War a Muslim ICS officer in Bihar killed a maid servant. Everybody knew about it. Nothing was done. Par for the course really.
an Englishmen who shot dead his Indian servant got six months’ jail time and a modest fine (then about 100 rupees), while an Indian convicted of attempted rape against an Englishwoman was sentenced to 20 years of rigorous imprisonment.
He should have been tortured and killed. Without Englishwomen in India, the Raj would have soon gone to the dogs. Indians didn't want white women to be raped or their kids to be butchered. Why? Their own lives would turn to shit if the Raj degenerated into the regime of drunken, debauched, bullies. Come to think of it, much of Indian history could be described in no other terms.
In the entire two centuries of British rule, only three cases
six men were executed in all
can be found of Englishmen executed for murdering Indians, while the murders of thousands more at British hands went unpunished.
In the entire two millennia over which Tharoor's caste has tyrannized over Dalits in Kerala, how many Nairs have been executed? How many Afghans or Turks were executed for killing Hindus? How many Congress-wallahs have been executed for all the Sikhs they killed in 1984?
The death of an Indian at British hands was always an accident, and that of a Briton because of an Indian’s actions always a capital crime. When a British master kicked an Indian servant in the stomach – a not uncommon form of conduct in those days – the Indian’s resultant death from a ruptured spleen would be blamed on his having an enlarged spleen as a result of malaria. Punch wrote an entire ode to The Stout British Boot as the favoured instrument of keeping the natives in order.
Sadly, there was little need to wear out shoe leather in this manner. Indians would be happy to do your killing for you for a modest fee.
Political dissidence was legally repressed through various acts, including a sedition law far more rigorous than its British equivalent.
Why did Nehru & Co retain it? Why did Indira or Rajiv or Manmohan not get rid of it in the same manner as the Brits?
The penal code contained 49 articles on crimes relating to dissent against the state (and only 11 on crimes involving death).
But only Indira Gandhi made sedition a cognizable offence.
Of course the British did give India the English language, the benefits of which persist to this day. Or did they? The English language was not a deliberate gift to India, but again an instrument of colonialism, imparted to Indians only to facilitate the tasks of the English. In his notorious 1835 Minute on Education, Lord Macaulay articulated the classic reason for teaching English, but only to a small minority of Indians: “We must do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern; a class of persons, Indians in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals and in intellect.”
Macaulay was saying this class already existed- his fellow MPs would have remembered Ram Mohan Roy who had been lobbying Westminster to send out more White peeps to protect the Hindu from the rapacious Mussulman- and that this class wanted the Brits to stop wasting money on Sanskrit and Arabic instruction. English is useful. Indians can make money by it.
The language was taught to a few
No. A few greedy bastards paid money to learn it or get their kids to learn it so that they could get rich by fucking over their own people. On the other hand, the Brits and the Missionaries and so forth spent a lot of time and money learning Indian languages so as never to become dependent on any fucking 'native informant' or 'dubash' or 'dragoman' or whatever. The 'Mem Sahib' learnt a bit of Hindustani so as to swear at the cook and tell him she'd have him locked up in jail for any minor peculation.
to serve as intermediaries between the rulers and the ruled.
Who the fuck would trust an Indian 'intermediary'? Even Rahul can speak Hindi.
The British had no desire to educate the Indian masses, nor were they willing to budget for such an expense.
The same was true of the Indian masses.
That Indians seized the English language and turned it into an instrument for our own liberation – using it to express nationalist sentiments against the British – was to their credit, not by British design.
Why not just say 'fuck you Whitey' in your own lingo? Why do you have to say it in English? What is the point of 'expressing nationalist sentiments' against a handful of guys who had turned up from a distant island and then created a larger Empire in India than any Maurya or Mughal and who used the Indian army to project force on the European continent to such good effect that India was invited to join the League of Nations? Obviously, Indian politicians soon fucked up which caused Burma to go its own way (though this meant famine for Bengal) and then Pakistan to go its own way and then Khalistan- but extra judicial killing on an industrial scale put an end to that mischief.
The construction of the Indian Railways is often pointed to by apologists for empire as one of the ways in which British colonialism benefited the subcontinent, ignoring the obvious fact that many countries also built railways without having to go to the trouble and expense of being colonised to do so.
Some princely states built railways. The question is, why did Indian Railways turn to shit after Independence? How come the US has almost 4 times the amount of Rail mileage but pays less than half in total wages?
But the facts are even more damning.
The railways were first conceived of by the East India Company, like everything else in that firm’s calculations, for its own benefit.
Air India made a huge loss for the tax payer because it wasn't run for the benefit of its own bottom line. Thankfully, it has now been privatized so poor Indians no longer have to subsidize the flights of Ministers and M.Ps.
Governor General Lord Hardinge argued in 1843 that the railways would be beneficial “to the commerce, government and military control of the country”.
Which is why there was a country for the Indian National Congress to clamor to take over. Tharoor does not get that the Government must act in a self-interested manner if it is to survive. What was the outcome of John Company's policies? India was no longer invaded from the West or the East. It was kicking ass in Afghanistan, keeping the Chinese out of Tibet, and expanding into Burma. After Nehru took over, the country turned into a vast begging bowl.
In their very conception and construction, the Indian railways were a colonial scam.
No. The railways were real enough. It's just that they weren't managed very well. But that problem worsened after independence. Currently the Southern States are up in arms that the Government is putting almost all its railway budget into the North- much of it ruled by the BJP- while there is precious little for the South which pays proportionately more into the Central budget. That's the sort of thing Tharoor should be shouting about.
British shareholders made absurd amounts of money by investing in the railways,
No. They received an assured return which however, because of the lower risk premium associated with Pax Britannica, was much less than wholly independent Princely State would have been charged. The complaint of Gandhi's bania class was that they were kept out of Imperial finance from the Napoleonic period onward. But the bania's opportunity to squeeze Indians in the boondocks increased. Thus, under Gandhi, the banias were able to make a bid for paramountcy. But, like most British concerns taken over by Marwaris, they bankrupted anything they got their greasy little mitts on.
where the government guaranteed returns double those of government stocks, paid entirely from Indian, and not British, taxes.
Whereas India now has to pay a much bigger premium because Congress refused to back Manmohan when he proposed big ticket reforms so as to avert Moody downgrading.
It was a splendid racket for Britons, at the expense of the Indian taxpayer.
No. It was a safe but boring investment. The Indians preferred to pay taxes to the Brits rather than be periodically looted by its own Princes and Pindaris.
The railways were intended principally to transport extracted resources – coal, iron ore, cotton and so on – to ports for the British to ship home to use in their factories.
So, the Brits ran India in such a way that they made a profit on it. This is why it was credible that they would defend the place rather than decamp at the first whiff of trouble. Still, that option was always on the table. The Brits could run away from a Province or even take to the Sea and stay away till anarchy prevailed and they were invited back on more profitable terms. This is why the Brits had a higher threat point than the INC. The worst the Indians could do was kill a few Whites till they ran away. But then everybody would start massacring everybody. The Brits would get rich shipping in guns and taking looted gold in exchange. Then they would come back, because they controlled the Seas, in one form or another. It was actually more profitable to prop up a rapacious despot and help him extract primary resources rather than bother run a Civil administration.
The movement of people was incidental, except when it served colonial interests; and the third-class compartments, with their wooden benches and total absence of amenities, into which Indians were herded, attracted horrified comment even at the time.
Why did the Indians pay to travel in such horrible conditions? The answer is that the alternative was more expensive and worse. I believe some improvements were made in the Seventies but am old enough to remember conditions worse than Mahatma Gandhi described in 1917. On the other hand, it must be said, railway carriages filled with slaughtered bodies was the gift of 'Azadi'.
And, of course, racism reigned; though whites-only compartments were soon done away with on grounds of economic viability, Indians found the available affordable space grossly inadequate for their numbers. (A marvellous post-independence cartoon captured the situation perfectly: it showed an overcrowded train, with people hanging off it, clinging to the windows, squatting perilously on the roof, and spilling out of their third-class compartments, while two Britons in sola topis sit in an empty first-class compartment saying to each other, “My dear chap, there’s nobody on this train!”)
So, this was a 'post-independence' cartoon. The fact is that Whites were not slaughtered in railway carriages. It was Indians who took the sword to other Indians so as to fill them with blood as a way of celebrating 'Azadi'.
Nor were Indians employed in the railways.
Nonsense! White people could not do the heavy manual work involved. Anglo-Indians were employed as stokers and engine drivers and Telegraph clerks but the rest of the labor was left to Indians. Tharoor thinks white dudes were shoveling coal in India's 40 degree Centigrade heat!
The prevailing view was that the railways would have to be staffed almost exclusively by Europeans to “protect investments”.
Initially, there may have been something to this notion. However, it was cheaper and easier to substitute Indian labor even at the higher levels. Obviously, Indians were paid much less than Europeans- but this incentivized Indianization. By 1895, India was producing locomotives simply because that was cheaper. Sadly the technology moved on and, in any case, India had too small a market to gain economies of scale.
The railways finally became profitable some ten years later. Still, it is certainly true that the Raj's railways could have been much better managed. But independent India's railways could not have been worse managed. That is the achievement of Tharoor's party. He must be so proud.
This was especially true of signalmen, and those who operated and repaired the steam trains, but the policy was extended to the absurd level that even in the early 20th century all the key employees, from directors of the Railway Board to ticket-collectors, were white men – whose salaries and benefits were also paid at European, not Indian, levels and largely repatriated back to England.
This is nonsense. Eurasians were not considered 'White'. They did not repatriate salaries to England because they and their parents and their children lived in India. It must be said that 'insolence' by railway officials was less resented if carried out by genuine Brits. Equally, Eurasians and Indian staff often acted in a much more barbaric manner. An example from 1895 is booking clerk, Akshay Kumar Roy, calling Mrs. Ghosh- whose husband was a Post Office clerk- a fucking prossie. On another occasion a Eurasian ticket collector chucked out a respectable Bhadralok family to create space for some Eurasian ladies. The reason a British male official was more acceptable was because he was unlikely to call your wife a fucking prossie or chuck your family out to make space for his Aunty wot ran the Cantonment brothel.
There were disturbing complaints of rape by Indian assistant station masters and ticket collectors in the 1890s. However there were also incidents of rape by European guards. Though it was unprofitable to do so, the Railways had to pay more for educated White people of good character to come out to India and raise the standard of conduct, and public confidence, in the Railways. The alternative was every affluent family bringing their own body-guards who would be bound to get into fights with each other.
Incidentally, Surendranath Bannerjee- one of the founders of Tharoor's party- tried to make a stink about the gangrape of a 'Bosinob' girl by Eurasians. This backfired. Indians considered her a prostitute. Moreover, they didn't want more Indian ticket collectors and so on. They wanted Whites straight from Britain. But that was too expensive.
Racism combined with British economic interests to undermine efficiency. The railway workshops in Jamalpur in Bengal and Ajmer in Rajputana were established in 1862 to maintain the trains, but their Indian mechanics became so adept that in 1878 they started designing and building their own locomotives.
Also they built flying saucers and time travel machines. Evil Britishers got jealous and banned these useful inventions. On the other hand it is true that Jamalpur produced 'the Lady Curzon' locomotive in 1899.
Their success increasingly alarmed the British, since the Indian locomotives were just as good, and a great deal cheaper, than the British-made ones. In 1912, therefore, the British passed an act of parliament explicitly making it impossible for Indian workshops to design and manufacture locomotives.
I think that intervention was in 1903. India only produced 700 locomotives prior to independence. Why was this? The simple answer is lack of scale and scope economies. The market was too small. However, from 1912 onward, supply side bottlenecks were increasingly irrelevant. Indeed, because of the war, the shoe was on the other foot. Why, then, did this industry stagnate? The answer is political uncertainty as well as lack of a 'captive' domestic market. There was no guarantee that the Indian railways would buy Indian. However a well connected entrepreneur might have his losses absorbed by an Indian Railway company. But that was scarcely enough. The other factor which held back this type of industrialization was fear of a 'revolutionary' industrial proletariat. Obviously, a large scale locomotive industry would create a pool of skilled workers who would lap up Bolshevik propaganda.
Between 1854 and 1947, India imported around 14,400 locomotives from England, and another 3,000 from Canada, the US and Germany, but made none in India after 1912.
Technology had moved on. Other countries had substantial economies of scope and scale. But the bigger problem was that Indian financial capital was speculative in origin and needed state support and assured markets to develop. Congress was supposed to provide that support. Sadly, it failed to pay back its paymasters after Independence. Mahalanobis told Rudra that the Planning Commission would fuck up the private sector. There was no need for a Revolution when Bureaucracy could destroy the Bourgeoisie. But, what this meant was that India got neither Social Democracy nor rampant Capitalism. It got cretinous Rahul Baba type stupidity and 'sweat equity' seeking corruption.
After independence, 35 years later, the old technical knowledge was so completely lost to India that the Indian Railways had to go cap-in-hand to the British to guide them on setting up a locomotive factory in India again.
Because the technology had moved on. Tatas got into the locomotive business with German help. But because their sole customer was the Government they were in a vulnerable position and couldn't make a profit. Then, with TTK's help, they were able to get out of locos and into vehicles where they partnered with Mercedes-Benz. On the other hand the Chitaranjan Locomotive plant survived and did quite well under GoI. However, there is no question that India missed the boat both before and after Independence on a key infrastructure sector.
There was, however, a fitting postscript to this saga. The principal technology consultants for Britain’s railways, the London-based Rendel, today rely extensively on Indian technical expertise, provided to them by Rites, a subsidiary of the Indian Railways.
The Tatas were right to go to the Germans. British Rail, having spent a long period under Nationalization, turned to shit long ago. Still, its good to know that the loss making, tax funded, Indian Railways are subsidizing Brits albeit through a subsidiary. The Tatas too have been very generous to the British car and steel industry. Sweet of those darkies to give us so much money after so many years.
The process of colonial rule
like the process of Nehru-Gandhi dynastic rule
in India meant economic exploitation and ruin to millions,
the novelty was that it also involved pogroms against Muslims. Nehru refused to allow refugees who had crossed the border in panic in 1947 to return and reclaim Indian citizenship.
the destruction of thriving industries,
The Planning Commission was very good at this. It prevented India doing what every other poor country did- viz. grow its textile and other labor-intensive light industries. Instead it wasted money on white elephant capital intensive projects
the systematic denial of opportunities to compete,
Well, that's Socialism for you. Sad.
the elimination of indigenous institutions of governance,
Does Tharoor mean the rule of Maharajas and Nizams and so forth? He himself comes from a State which was ruled by hereditary Queens of his own caste.
the transformation of lifestyles and patterns of living that had flourished since time immemorial,
Why is Amarinder not ruling Patiala the way his daddy and grand-daddy did?
and the obliteration of the most precious possessions of the colonised, their identities and their self-respect.
Congress tried to destroy the self-respect of Hindus. It failed. The question is how Tharoor can have any self-respect sticking his big brown nose up the shitty bum of a dynasty that is dying nasty.
In 1600, when the East India Company was established, Britain was producing just 1.8% of the world’s GDP, while India was generating some 23% (27% by 1700).
Because Britain was small and had a tiny population. But the Brits became so productive and scientifically innovative that they rose and rose while India stagnated. It is a matter of shame that thirty years after liberalization, India has once again slipped behind Britain which is now the fifth largest economy in the world. Hopefully that situation will soon reverse itself. Britain itself benefits if a country with 20 times its population becomes a little less poor. This is because Britain exports highly income elastic goods and services.
By 1940, after nearly two centuries of the Raj, Britain accounted for nearly 10% of world GDP, while India had been reduced to a poor “third-world” country, destitute and starving, a global poster child of poverty and famine.
Which it remained into the Sixties and early Seventies. The difference was that India had also become a country unable- for the first time in 5000 years of its history- to defend itself against China. By contrast, under the Brits, India could project force and alter the balance of power on European and MENA battlefields.
The British left a society with 16% literacy, a life expectancy of 27, practically no domestic industry and over 90% living below what today we would call the poverty line.
Did things get better when they devolved power to elected Indian administrations in 1937? No. Things got worse. Bengal suffered huge, avoidable, famine deaths in 1943 under a Muslim League Government. But then the same thing happened after Bangladesh became independent and democratic in 1974.
The India the British entered was
so fucking weak and shittily run that a small bunch of merchant adventurers were paid by the Indians to take over the running of the country.
wealthy, thriving and commercialising society: t
also an Islamizing society where temples were turned into mosques and the demographic composition of vast provinces was changing rapidly. It is not often realized that Hindus were a majority even in Sindh in 1600.
That was why the East India Company was interested in it in the first place.
They weren't interested in ruling it. They just wanted to trade. It was the Indians who paid them and lent them money so they could take over the country.
Far from being backward or underdeveloped, pre-colonial India exported high quality manufactured goods much sought after by Britain’s fashionable society.
These were labor intensive. The Europeans did Scientific R&D and soon made better, cheaper, stuff which Indians eagerly bought because the product represented better value for money.
The British elite wore Indian linen and silks, decorated their homes with Indian chintz and decorative textiles, and craved Indian spices and seasonings.
While Indians didn't like English food or music. But they did want Pax Britannica and British style Courts and, later on, Legislative Assemblies and 'covenanted' Civil Services and a British style professional army. Sadly India continued to neglect the sea. The first Indian admiral was only appointed in 1958.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, British shopkeepers tried to pass off shoddy English-made textiles as Indian in order to charge higher prices for them.
Why did they stop doing so? Was it because the British product improved while the Indian product ceased to be remunerative for the emaciated artisans with the appropriate skills?
The story of India, at different phases of its several-thousand-year-old civilisational history, is replete with
wankers talking high falutin bollocks in a language quite different and alien to that of their own ancestors
great educational institutions,
like what? Nalanda? It was a Buddhist seminary.
magnificent cities ahead of any conurbations of their time anywhere in the world,
because of all the flying saucers zipping around
India invented ZERO. That was the one lesson drummed into us at School. Apparently some dude named Aryabhatta or Daalbhatta or something of that sort was responsible for this great discovery.
world-class manufacturing and industry,
produced in mud huts by guys living in mud huts
and abundant prosperity –
because of high mortality. That's how Malthusian involution works.
in short, all the markers of successful modernity today –
because Indian villagers produced I-pads in their mud huts.
and there is no earthly reason why this could not again have been the case, if its resources had not been drained away by the British.
But by why did this rich and technologically advanced country come under the paramountcy of a tiny number of foreigners from a far away island? That is the question Tharoor must answer. One reason, familiar to South Indian Hindus, is that British rule was preferable to forcible conversion at the tip of the sword of Tipu Sultan.
Mahatma Gandhi said in 1939
'Consider for one moment what can happen if the English were to withdraw all of a sudden and there was no foreign usurper to rule.
'It may be said that the Punjabis, be they Muslims, Sikhs or others, will overrun India. It is highly likely that the Gurkhas will throw in their lot with the Punjabis. Assume further that non-Punjabi Muslims will make common cause with the Punjabis. Where will the Congressmen composed chiefly of Hindus be? If they are still truly non-violent, they will be left unmolested by the warriors. Congressmen won’t want to divide power with the warriors but will refuse to let them exploit their unarmed countrymen. Thus if anybody has cause to keep the British rule for protection from the stronger element, it is the Congressmen and those Hindus and others who are represented by the Congress. The question, therefore, resolves itself into not who is numerically superior but who is stronger. Surely there is only one answer. Those who raise the cry of minority in danger have nothing to fear from the so-called majority which is merely a paper majority and which in any event is ineffective because it is weak in the military sense. Paradoxical as it may appear, it is literally true that the so-called minorities’ fear has some bottom only so long (as the British remain). But the British power will, so long as it so chooses, successfully play one against the other calling the parties by whatever names it pleases. And this process need not be dishonest. They may honestly believe that so long as there are rival claims put up, they must remain in India in response to a call from God to hold the balance evenly between them. Only that way lies not Democracy but Fascism, Nazism, Bolshevism and Imperialism, all facets of the doctrine of ‘Might is Right.’ I would fain hope that this war will change values. It can only do so, if India is recognized as independent and if that India represents unadulterated non-violence on the political field.'
The reason Gandhi unilaterally surrendered to the Brits in 1922 now becomes clear. Gandhi thought Hindus were shit at fighting. The Muslims would take over. They might not anally rape the Hindus- because of the magical power of AHIMSA- but they would take away any nice shiny stuff they might own. Sad. Brits must remain to make India independent and then feed it and defend it and wipe its bum. This is Tharoor's gravamen.
India used to be so nice. Then Indians came under British rule because....urm... British promised to wipe everybody's bum but Britain cheated! Viceroy did not come and lick clean every single native bum! Then Brits slyly fucked off! Come back Viceroyji! My bum needs cleaning! I'm too busy licking dynasty's arse, so Queenji should arrange the needful. Mind it kindly.
If there were positive byproducts for Indians from the institutions the British established and ran in India in their own interests, they were never intended to benefit Indians.
Only bum wiping can benefit Indians. Fuck you expect us to accomplish if a great big turd is protruding from our arseholes?
Today Indians cannot live without the railways; the Indian authorities have reversed British policies and they are used principally to transport people, with freight bearing ever higher charges in order to subsidise the passengers (exactly the opposite of British practice).
Which is why the economy stagnated. Still, India did have 'Freight Equalization' which fucked up the Bengalis. Come to think of it, maybe that's why Mamta looks so mad all the time.
This is why Britain’s historical amnesia about the rapacity of its rule in India is so deplorable.
But such rapacity was only possible because Indians were either arrant cowards or Tharoor level stooooopid. Thankfully, people like Amartya Sen- who predicted a big famine under Thatcher- serve to remind the Brits that Indians are as stupid as shit. My own efforts in this direction scarcely rate even a lifted eyebrow or sharp intake of breath. The truth is I'm just not educated enough to able to compete with Dr. Tharoor or Dr. Sen or Dr. Spivak.
Recent years have seen the rise of what the scholar Paul Gilroy called “postcolonial melancholia”, the yearning for the glories of Empire, with a 2014 YouGov poll finding 59% of respondents thought the British empire was “something to be proud of”, and only 19% were “ashamed” of its misdeeds.
British people should be proud of their Empire because it contributed greatly to the security and defense of the home islands. Beating natives in some shit-hole may have been a shitty job but it helped maintain the supply of rubber and petrol and saltpeter and other such vital supplies for 'the sinews of war'. On the other hand, the trans-Atlantic slave trade was an utter abomination though, no doubt, from about 1650 to 1750 it may have been necessary to achieve the Naval supremacy which was vital to the Kingdom's defense. But that horrible shite continued in an uneconomic, let alone unconscionable, manner for another fifty years.
All this is not intended to have any bearing on today’s Indo-British relationship. That is now between two sovereign and equal nations, not between an imperial overlord and oppressed subjects; indeed, British prime minister Theresa May recently visited India to seek investment in her post-Brexit economy. As I’ve often argued, you don’t need to seek revenge upon history. History is its own revenge.
No. Revenge is a good thing. It teaches a historical aggressor that they will get their head kicked in if they try those monkey tricks ever again. India did not revenge itself on the Brits because the truth is Indians invited them in and, when the US pulled the financial plug on Westminster, Indians were by no means pleased. One reason they continued to buy British into the late Fifties and Sixties was because they didn't like the vulgar Yank who would only provide India with food and armaments but did not even offer to wipe Indian bums! Fuck you Uncle Sam! Fuck you very much indeed! The Brits, on the other hand, never sent PL480 to feed an almost entirely agricultural nation. Thus there could be no question of quite literally biting the hand that fed India. Instead we can grumble that the Brits looted us and they can send Joanna Lumley over to hold our hand and try to cheer us up by mentioning Cricket or those marvelous steam trains you have and did I tell you my Daddy was the Resident in Gangtok?
I'm not saying that's what happened to me- but it still might and when it does I shall die content.