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Indians Not Allowed:  A Humiliating Raj

Jawaharlal Nehru has remarked: "In India every European, be he German, or Pole or Rumanian, is automatically a member of the ruling race. Railway carriages, station retiring rooms, benches in parks, etc. are marked 'For Europeans Only.' This is bad enough in South Africa or elsewhere, but to have to put up with it in one's own country is a humiliating and exasperating reminder of one's enslaved condition."

(source: The Discovery of India - By Jawaharlal Nehru.  p.295).

Dogs and Indians?

"...dogs and Indians" were, by notification in that precise language, excluded from some of "Europeans only" clubs. Indians were not allowed to travel by railway carriages, or use railway waiting rooms, reserved for Europeans. Not only that, Indian judges were not allowed to try Europeans in the districts and the Ilbert Bill, introduced in 1883 during Lord Ripon's viceroyalty, to remedy the situation, had to be withdrawn in the face of vicious opposition by Europeans and Anglo-Indians.

(source: Colonialism and animals - By Hiranmay Karlekar - - March 5 2004).

In 1930 the Pahartali European Club, which bore the notorious sign 'Dogs and Indians not allowed'.

According to Zareer Masani, "Whites only places like the Delhi Club remained a symbolic reminder of the alien and humiliating side of foreign rule. The last of them, like the Breach Candy Swimming Pool in Bombay (Mumbai), excluded Indians till the 1960s and continues to operate discriminatory entry rules for visitors. The vast majority of Indians, of course, had no desire to enter European society. And the notion of segregation was by no means new in a caste-ridden society. What made Anglo-Indian racism unacceptable was that it was practiced by foreign rulers and affected precisely those Indians who were most westernized and had the strongest aspirations to equality. There was something particularly galling about a system which allowed in the most humble white, but excluded the most aristocratic Indian. 

The Royal Bombay Yacht Club, which barred Indians from entering, even if they happened to be Maharajas.

(image source: Indian Tales of the Raj - By Zareer Masani).


The racial exclusiveness and prejudice of Anglo-Indian society was not confined to social contact with Indians. Culturally, it took the form of an overwhelming rejection of and contempt for India's traditional learning and arts, with a corresponding emphasis on the superiority of Western values and education. Incidents of racial humiliation were an everyday occurrence for most Indians who encountered the British. The most visible symbols of white supremacy were the 'Europeans Only' or Indians and Dogs not allowed' in first-class railway carriages. 

This memory still rankles with Indian scholars like Sankara Menon, who is President of the Madras theosophists' educational center at Kalakshetra. "The British were a very blind people...except in the case of a very few people who were deep students, they did not make any attempt during their 250 years here in this country to contact Indian thinking. They wouldn't know what the Bhagavad Gita' contained, what the Upanishads contained....." The new imperialism brought with it the proselytizing work of Christian missionaries; and neglect of Indian art became a virtue in the campaign to win Indian converts. 

(source: Indian Tales of the Raj - By Zareer Masani p. 52-73).

Dr. Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy (1877-1947) the late curator of Indian art at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and author of The Dance of Shiva: Essays on Indian Art and Culture, has observed:

"The beauty and logic of Indian life belongs to a dying past, and the 19th century has degraded much and created nothing. It is an ungrateful and unromantic task to govern a subject race. England could not in any case have inspired a new life; the best she could have done would have been to understand and conserve through patronage and education the surviving categories of Indian civilization - architecture, music, handicrafts, popular and classic literature, and schools of philosophy - and that she failed here is to have been found wanting in imagination and sympathy. It should not have been regarded as the highest ideal of Empire "to give to all men an English mind."

(source: The Wisdom of Ananda Coomaraswamy - presented by S. Durai Raja Singam 1979 p. 32).

Mr. William Archer, in an article in the July, 1914, Fortnightly Review, describes the famous Yacht Club of Bombay, the social center of official European life in the city, and says:

"No one of Indian birth except the servants, not even the Rajput princes or the Parsee millionaire may set foot across its threshold. It is the same with the Byculla Club; indeed, every club in India practically follows this model and makes itself a little England representing exactly the interests, the comforts and the vulgarities of an English Club."   He further comments:

"Such a drawing of the color line is of course inexpressibly galling to a proud and sensitive people, who see their rulers, when the business of 'running the country is over, withdraw into impregnable caste-strongholds."

The following is declared an actual occurrence: An Indian Prince, the ruler of a Native State in India, visits England and by invitation dines with the King in the Buckingham Palace. He returns to India and finds himself not allowed to enter any English Club in Calcutta, Bombay, or any other leading city.

Says the editor of an Indian religious weekly: "Aside from the missionaries and the army the one meeting place of the British in this country, is the European Club of the neighborhood, the members of which form the most arrogant and exclusive body to be found. Those who know at first hand the types of people who constitute the members of these arrogant associations are tempted to say that with them an unblushing assumption of race-superiority takes the place of religion, club life is with them a substitute for church life, and their one aim is exploitation of the country and enrichment of themselves. The European clubs with this smart set are the most anti-Indian and reactionary bodies in the whole of India."

(source: India in Bondage: Her Right to Freedom - By Rev. Jabez T. Sunderland p. 80-82).

(Note: Please refer to interesting article - Hindi Controversy At Duke Continues - according to Jay Strader and Berin Szoka of Duke University: "Were it not for the British, whatever 'ancient traditions and rich culture' existed before their arrival would be enjoyed only by the very top of India's feudal case system," Sophomore Berin Szoka, editor-in-chief of the Duke Review, argued that the values of the West are superior to those of a "primitive, impoverished country like India".

Perhaps these Duke students should ponder as to how India became impoverished with the arrival of the British?

The spirit of Indian nationalism was intensified by the growing discontent and disaffection with British rule due to the racial arrogance of the rulers. In this regard, Sir Thomas Munro wrote in 1817, "Foreign conquerors have treated the natives with violence, but none has treated them with so much scorn as we; none have stigmatized the whole people as unworthy of trust, as incapable of honesty, and as fit to be employed only where we cannot do without them. It seems not only ungenerous, but impolite to debase the character of a people fallen under our dominion."

The social exclusiveness of the Englishmen, their arrogance and insolent treatment of Indians, particularly the immunity which they practically enjoyed for their criminal acts, including even the murder of Indians, were sources of grave discontent.

To the English-educated Indians who formed the main pillars of support for British rule, virtual exclusion from the higher branches of administration on purely racial grounds was the rudest shock.  

Jawaharlal Nehru wrote with sadness:

"Biologists tell us that racialism is a myth and there is no such thing as a master race. The whole ideology of this rule was that of the herrenvolk and the master race, and the structure of government was based upon it; indeed the idea of a master race is inherent in imperialism. More powerful than words was the practice that accompanied them and, generation after generation and year after year, India as a nation and Indians as individuals were subjected to insult, humiliation, and contemptuous treatment. The English were an imperial race, we were told, with the god-given right to govern us and keep us in subjection. "

(source: The Discovery of India - By Jawaharlal Nehru p.326).

"The Viceroy sat at the apex of a colossal pyramid of power, and British rule was founded on an idea of hierarchy as baffling in its complexity as the caste system of the Hindus themselves. The Hindus had their castes while the British had their classes, and in each case very fine distinctions sometimes separated one social level from the next. The subtleties of the British class system became elaborately codified in the Warrant of Precedence, which was designed as an infallible guide to hierarchy in India, indispensable to the proper arrangement of ceremony, conference or even of a mere dinner party."

(source: India Britannica - By Geoffrey Moorhouse p. 130). 

Rabindranath Tagore, Nobel Prize and Western Critics

After the announcement that the Nobel Prize was to be awarded to Tagore, Western critics sought to establish the superiority of the 'Caucasian race' over the 'Indian race' ; to discover in the poet, a dreamer with a 'narrow Western outlook' and a dated Western sensibility who had been favored by preferential treatment that was according to them, often meted out to 'colonials' for political exigency. They saw the award as something of a humiliation to which they were supposed to adjust themselves: 

"It is the first time that the Nobel Prize has gone to anyone who is not what we call 'white'. It will take time, of course, for us to accommodate ourselves to the idea that some one called Rabindranath Tagore should receive a world prize for literature."

(source: The Raj Syndrome: A Study in Imperial Perceptions - By Suhash Chakravarty. Penguin Books. 1991 59).

Winston Churchill's scornful view of India and her religion:

"I hate Indians (read Hindus). They are beastly people with a beastly religion."

(source: The Saffron Swastika - By Koenraad Elst Volume 1. p. 532).




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