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Economic and Social Destruction

From Jewel in the Crown to Third World

Sir Charles Trevelyan, Finance Minister of India in the 1860s, was anxious to see the disappearance of the Indian weaver as a class, a development he thought best for both Britain and India: India would benefit because the weaver, faced with competition from machine-made goods, would be forced to give up his craft and turn to agriculture; the increased labor supply would then raise output and England would benefit since makers of cloth would be converted into consumers of Lancashire goods."

(source: Decolonizing History: Technology and Culture in India, China and the West 1492 to the Present Day - By Claude Alvares p. 152).

"British historian William Digby ('Prosperous' British India) and the Indian historian Rajni Palme Dutt (India Today) would agree, the Industrial Revolution would not have taken place had it not been for the 'venture capital' provided by loot from Bengal. Note the amazing coincidence: the Battle of Plassey, 1757. The spinning jenny, 1764; the water frame, 1769; the steam engine, 1785. Money chased innovations -- and the innovations appeared."

(source: The predatory State - Rajeev Srinivasan

The people flock to the factories because the land cannot support them; because it is overtaxed, because it is overpopulated, and because the domestic industries with which the peasants formerly eked out in winter their gleanings from the summer fields, have been destroyed by British control of Indian tariffs and trade. For of old the handicrafts of India were known throughout the world; it was manufactured  - i.e  hand-made – goods which European merchants brought from India to sell to the West. In 1680, says the British historian Nicholas Orme, the manufacture of cotton was almost universal in India, and the busy spinning wheels enabled the women to round out the earnings of their men. But the English in India objected to this competition of domestic industry with their mills at home; they resolved that India should be reduced to a purely agricultural country, and be forced in consequence to become a vast market for British machine-made goods.   

As a British historian put it: “It is a melancholy instance of the wrong done to India by the country on which she had become dependent….Had India been independent, she would have retaliated, would have imposed prohibitive duties upon British goods, and would thus have preserved her own productive industry from annihilation. This act of self-defense was not permitted her; she was at the mercy of the stranger.” 

And another Englishman wrote: “We have done everything possible to impoverish still further the miserable beings subject to the cruel selfishness of English commerce…..Under the pretense of free trade, England has compelled the Hindus to receive the products of the steam-looms of Lancashire, Yorkshire, Glasgow etc…while the hand-wrought manufactures of Bengal and Bihar, beautiful in fabric and durable in wear, have heavy and almost prohibitive duties imposed on their importation into England.”   


Indian weavers.


The result was that Manchester and Paisley flourished, and Indian industries declined; a country well on the way to prosperity was forcibly arrested in development, and compelled to be only a rural hinterland for industrial England.  The mineral wealth abounding in India was not explored, for no competition with England was allowed. 

“India, “ says Hans Kohn author of A History of Nationalism in the East  “was transformed into a purely agricultural country, and her people lived perpetually on the verge of starvation.” 

Commerce on the sea is monopolized by the British even more than transport on land. The Hindus are not permitted to organize a merchant marine of their own. All Indian goods must be carried in British bottoms, an additional strain on the starving nation’s purse, and the building of ships, which once gave employment to thousands of Hindus is prohibited. 

As early as 1783 Edmund Burke predicted that the annual drain of Indian resources to England without equivalent return would eventually destroy India. 

From Plassey to Waterloo, fifty seven years, the drain of India’s wealth to England is computed by Brooks Adams at two-and-a-half to five billion dollars. He adds, what Macaulay suggested long ago, that it was this stolen wealth from India which supplied England with free capital for the development of mechanical inventions, and so made possible the Industrial Revolution.  

"Two of the stark statistics that reveal the colonial plunder and neglect are: At the end of British colonial rule, life expectancy in India was 27 years and literacy 8 percent; after fifty years of independence, life expectancy is 62 years, and literacy 52 percent."

Anglophilic apologists, take note: British colonial rule in India was the organized banditry that financed England's Industrial Revolution."

Britain not only took money from India but also technology. According to American Historian Will Durant, India had flourishing ship building industry besides expertise in steel making and textiles. All these came to ruin once Britain took over.

Not only India financed England's industrial revolution but also that of American growth and economic prosperity. For about hundred years in 19th century US levied stiff tariffs on any goods imported from Britain. Usually this calls for reciprocal measures. But Britain did not care since it had the empire to absorb the iniquity. And Americans thus enjoyed advantage in trade with Britain. India thus financed American economy as well.

In 1901 Dutt estimated that one-half of the net revenues of India flowed annually out of the country, never to return. “So great an economic drain out of the resources of the land,” says Dutt, “would impoverish the most prosperous countries on earth; it has reduced India to a land of famines more frequent, more  widespread, and more fatal, than any known before in the history of India or of the world.” 


Social Destruction: 

From such poverty come ignorance, superstition, disease and death. A people reduced to these straits cannot afford education, they cannot afford the taxes required  to maintain adequate schools. 

When the British came there was, throughout India, a system of communal schools, managed by the village communities. The agents of the East India Company destroyed these village communities, and took steps to replace the schools; even today, after a century of effort to restore them, they stand at only 66% of their number a hundred years ago. Hence, the 93 % illiteracy of India. 

Instead of encouraging education, the Government encourages drink. When the British came India was a sober nation. “The temperance of the people,” said Warren Hastings, “is demonstrated in the simplicity of food and their total abstinence from spirituous liquors and other substances of intoxication.” With the first trading posts established by the British, saloons were opened for the sale of rum, and the East India Company made handsome profits from the trade.  Seven thousand opium shops were operated in India,  by the British Government in the most conspicuous places in every town. Thus the health, courage, and character of the Hindu people have been undermined through this ruthless drugging of a nation by men pretending to be Christians.

(source: The Case for India - By Will Durant Simon and Schuster, New York. 1930

V S Naipaul said in 1967:  "Indians are proud of their ancient, surviving civilization. They are, in fact, its victims."

Neera K Sohoni writes:

"Earlier books in my own or my children’s student days echoed the British, therefore the ruler’s, take on events. Here is an effort to interpret British rule in terms of how it benefited the British but harmed India and the people England ruled. The book offers some harsh facts about the negative impact of British rule on Indian economy, agriculture, crafts, and development.

In my time, one had to wait to read Economic History of India at the graduate level before getting an inkling of the exploitative impact of British policies. The textbook speaks bluntly of the racialism practised by the British, rather than the one-sided ‘fair and enlightened rule’ gibberish we were fed with. "

(source: Reclaiming our story - by Neera K Sohoni -


The Raj and the Reich

Michael Portillo, a Conservative Minister for Kensington and Chelsea in the British government, in early 1995 compared one-time British government in India - the so-called 'Raj' - with the Nazi regime. 

The fact remains that British rule in India was largely rule with an iron fist, even though it may most often have been in a velvet glove. As an conquering and occupying power, the British East India Company were largely free from legal control from Britain and could virtually make their own laws to subdue, divide and rule these states and their peoples. These laws were made just as draconian as the demand for control of India's resources, draining its economy for huge profits and ensuring the ascendancy of the British white man demanded.

After the so-called 'Mutiny' the British lived more and more as an isolated ruling caste, with all too widespread disdain and hardened attitudes towards most peoples in the sub-continent. The British thought and behaved as a 'master race' towards their subordinates. Among the many sins of the British was the recruitment under false pretences and promises of Indian workers to labor in their other colonies in Africa and the West Indies. Their exile was permanent as they could not get the means to return to India and were exploited thoroughly - bonded laborers under virtual slavery in all but name, often held in their places by systems of unjust debts.

In Place of Slavery - Indentured laborers

Slavery was abolished in Suriname in 1863. Between 1873 and 1940 more than 34,000 British Indians entered Suriname and effectively replaced the former slaves. Deplorable condition of Indian labor: 

"Under the colour of a Bill for protecting the Indian labourers, it is proposed to legalize the importation of them into the colonies." "Hundreds of thousands of poor helpless women and children are now to be abandoned to want, that the growth of sugar in the West Indies may not languish."  Indentureship recruitment, the Indo-Trinidadian scholar Kenneth Permasad reminds us, "took place in an India reeling under the yoke of colonial oppression." Colonialism induced massive transformations in Indian economy and society, and the increase in famines under colonial rule, the destruction of indigenous industries, and the proliferation of the unemployed all attest to the heartlessness of colonial rule. From Calcutta and Madras Indian men, and a much smaller number of women, especially in the first few decades of indentured migration, were herded into "coolie" ships, confined to the lower deck, the women subject to the lustful advances of the European crew. Sometimes condemned to eat, sleep, and sit amidst their own waste, the indentureds were just as often without anything but the most elementary form of medical care. Many did not survive the long and brutal "middle passage"; the bodies of the dead were, quite unceremoniously, thrown overboard.

Discipline was enforced with an iron hand, and the whip cracked generously: as a number of Indian laborers in Surinam were to state in a complaint in 1883, "if any coolie fails to work for a single day of the week, he is sent to jail for two or four days, where he is forced to work while day and night kept under chains. We are tortured very much. For this reason two to three persons died by swallowing opium and drowning themselves." Indians are apt, like many other people, to associate the phenomenon of slavery solely with Africans, but it is not realized that indentured labor was only, in the words of Hugh Tinker, "a new form of slavery".

(source: Manas - Indentured Labor). For more information refer to chapter on Glimpses III).


Feeling of inferiority in Indians   

Jim Corbett, the renowned tiger hunter even commented that the Indians were so obedient that otherwise it was impossible for 30,000 to rule 300 million.


The abject feeling of inferiority in India was the result of a different set of circumstances, brought about principally by total subjection to British rule. Unlike the Chinese, Indians adapted at first to the roles that Empire required. The psychological and moral effects of British conquests and Indian subjection gradually spread and deepened. The disappearance of the warrior element in Indian society (the Kshatriyas) marked the disappearance too of basic components such as courage and encouraged more superficial doubts among Indians about their technical ability to do anything about the overthrow of British rule.    



      Memsahib with her Tailor  and This lithograph of first-class travel, a privilege of "whites-only" is from the 19th century.  


British rule succeeded in making clear to the Indians themselves that they lacked power, and it strengthened the imperial opinion that qualities of passivity, weakness, and cowardice were in fact norms of Indian culture and character. The process no doubt aided when the British concentrated on providing educational and related service opportunities that required the tamer skills and temperament of the office rather than the scepter and sword. On the other hand, Britons were led to think that the superiority of English power and culture was an inherent rather than a historical phenomenon. What is even more surprising, the devaluation of Indian culture led to a contempt for the Indian physique. 

“The physical organization of the Bengali is feeble even to effeminacy. He lives in a constant vapor bath. His pursuits are sedentary, his limbs delicate, his movements languid. ….” Wrote John Strachey in his book, India, its administration & progess which was written at the turn of the century and a standard training assignment text at the time for Englishmen undergoing probation in the Indian Civil Service.

(source: Decolonizing History: Technology and Culture in India, China and the West 1492 to the Present Day - By Claude Alvares p. 186-187).

British administrators, missionaries, and European Indologists -- Arun Shourie cites extensively from historical documents to establish that these three groups colluded in essential agreement that "India is a den of ignorance, inequity and falsehood; the principal cause of this state of affairs is Hinduism; Hinduism is kept going by the Brahmins; as the people are in such suffering, and also because Jesus in his parting words has bound us to do so, it is a duty to deliver them to Christianity; for this, it is Hinduism which has to be vanquished."

Macaulay's notorious minute instituting English as the medium of instruction in India, says Shourie, "was laced with utter contempt for India, in particular for Hinduism, for our languages and literature: of course, Macaulay did not know any of those languages... his ideas about Hinduism had been formed from the calumny of missionaries .... But the breezy, sweeping damnation-- even a century and a half later, the imperialist swagger takes one's breath away."

(source: Missionaries in India - By Arun Shourie).

The Christian Conquest of India

Bishop James M. Thoburn (1836-1922) wrote in his book, The Christian Conquest of India in 1906, about the Millions Waiting to be converted in the British Empire: 

“In her most palmy days Rome ruled over only one hundred and twenty million people, while in India today nearly three hundred million souls are subject, more or less directly, to the rule of the King-Emperor. China alone among the great kingdoms and empires of the world can compare with India in population at the beginning of this new century, and this splendid realm has opened all her gates and doors to the Christian missionary. Instead of the wretched little vessels in which Paul coasted around the Mediterranean ports, the Indian missionary has floating palaces to convey him at sea, while palatial cars await him when he wished to travel by land. God has opened his pathway to even the most remote tribes, while a sympathetic and enlightened government protects him from hostile persecution, or even the menace of danger. The original commission to evangelize the nations still stands, while God, who rules over all nations, sets an open door before his servants who are willing to enter and evangelize the waiting millions.” 

“The time is auspicious, and the missionaries of India should not lose a day or an hour in sounding the trumpet for a great forward movement. As Paul, the ideal missionary for all lands and all times, aimed first at Greece and next for Rome, so should the missionaries of our modern day aim for all the great centers of population, commerce, and political rule in the empire. This does not mean that outlying and distant places are to be negated, but only that the great centers of power and influence should be quickly seized and strongly held. A wide and firm grasp is needed. The word should be passed all along the line that India is to be won for Christ, and that the greatest movement ever attempted in the history of Christianity is now at hand. Nothing in all modern history, nothing since the day of Pentecost, has been equal to the present opportunity.  

The old may rejoice that they have lived to see this day, but the young may rejoice still more in the hope of seeing a day when a million souls will be found inquiring the way to Zion in North India, a  million in West India, a million more in Burma, and still a million more in South India. A million? Why not ten million? Why not the Christian Conquest of India? 

(source: The Christian Conquest of India - By Bishop James M. Thoburn p. 244-245). Refer to Jesus Christ: Artifice for Aggression - By Sita Ram Goel

India ’s North-east
All Roads Lead to the British Empire

The British Empire survived, and then thrived, through identification, within the subcontinent, of various ethnic and sub-ethnic groups and their conflict points; and then, exploited those conflict points to keep the groups divided and hostile to each other. India and the other South Asian nations failed to comprehend that it was suicidal to allow a degenerate colonial power to pursue such policies against their nations.

The die was cast in the subversion of the sovereignty of an independent India by the British Raj in 1862, when it laid down the law of apartheid, to isolate “the tribal groups.” The British came into the area in the 1820s, following the Burmese conquest of Manipur and parts of Assam . The area had become unstable in the latter part of the 18th Century, following the over-extension of the Burmese-based Ahom kingdom, which reached into Assam . The instability caused by the weakening of the Ahom kingdom prompted the Burmese to move to secure their western flank. But the Burmese action also helped to bring in the British. The British East India Company was lying in wait for the Ahom kingdom to disintegrate.

Lord Palmerston’s Zoo

The British plan to cordon off the north-east tribal areas was part of its policy of setting up a multicultural human zoo, during the 1850s, under the premiership of Henry Temple, the third Viscount Palmerston. Lord Palmerston, as Henry Temple was called, had three “friends” - the British Foreign Office, the Home Office, and Whitehall .
The apartheid programme eliminated the North-east Frontier Agency from the political map of India , and segregated the tribal population from Assam , as the British had done in southern Africa and would later do in Sudan . By 1875, British intentions became clear, even to those Englishmen who believed that the purpose of Mother England’s intervention in India , and the North-east in particular, was to improve the conditions of the heathens.

Apartheid also helped the British to function freely in this closed environment. Soon enough, the British Crown introduced another feature: It allowed Christian missionaries to proselytize among the tribal population and units of the Frontier Constabulary. The Land of the Nagas was identified as “virgin soil” for planting Christianity.

Among a people so thoroughly primitive, and so independent of religious profession, we might reasonably expect missionary zeal would be most successful,” stated the 1875 document, as quoted in the “Descriptive Account of Assam,” by William Robinson and Angus Hamilton

Missionaries were also encouraged to open government-aided schools in the Naga Hills . Between 1891 and 1901, the number of native Christians increased 128%. The chief proselytizers were the Welsh Presbyterians, headquartered in Khasi and the Jaintia Hills. British Baptists were given the franchise of the Mizo (Lushai) and Naga Hills , and the Baptist mission was set up in 1836.

(source: South Asian Terrorism: All Roads Lead to the British Empire - By Ramtanu Maitra -


Gorham D. Sanderson has written:

"The British army in India expressed most of the crude realities of militarism. The bayonet was within striking distance of every man, woman, and child in India. British militarism in India was founded upon a principle which tolerated swift and ruthless destruction of civilian life and property. The purpose of militarism in India was to compel obedience by terror. Massacres, bombings, and other atrocities occurred frequently enough to spread fear and submissiveness. Protected by British bayonets, tax gatherers, plantation owners, police, judges, prison keepers, and British citizens were able to carry their purpose with impunity. The use of force to extract profits and satisfy privileged appetites is no pretty picture anywhere.

(source: India and British Imperialism - By Gorham D. Sanderson p. 249).

Winston Churchill on Colonial bondage and Terrorism

Winston Churchill (1874 - 1965) served as a soldier and journalist in India.  He had opposed limited self-government for India because he cherished, Britain's imperial history. A Labour MP asked in the British House of Commons whether the principles of the Atlantic charter would apply to India and elicited the celebrated reply from Winston Churchill that he had not become the first minister of His Majesty’s government to preside over the liquidation of the British empire.  

As Secretary of State at the War Office (1919), W Churchill authorized the RAF Middle East Command to use chemical weapons "against recalcitrant Arabs as an experiment", dismissing objections by the India Office as "unreasonable".

"I do not understand this squeamishness about the use of gas. I am strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilized tribes. (to) spread a lively terror." (The tribes were the Kurds of Iraq and the Afghans.) "We cannot acquiesce in the non-utilisation of any available weapons to procure a speedy termination of the disorder which prevails on the frontier", adding that chemical weapons are merely "the application of Western science to modern warfare".

Lesser breeds?

"I do not agree that the dog in a manger has the final right to the manger even though he may have lain there for a very long time. I do not admit that right. I do not admit for instance, that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America or the black people of Australia. I do not admit that a wrong has been done to these people by the fact that a stronger race, a higher-grade race, a more worldly wise race to put it that way, has come in and taken their place."

Basing itself on lessons learnt in its Indian colonial possession as well as its wartime experience in Iranian Kurdistan, Britain cast around for pliable Kurdish figures whom it could appoint to positions of authority, focusing especially on tribal leaders - even going to the extent of 're-tribalising': For all its talk of its 'civilising mission' to non-Christian and non-white peoples, therefore, Britain was deliberately attempting to turn back the clock of social development, in the naked pursuit of its own capitalist interests.  

The British imperial General Stanley Maude, who, after marching his military forces into Baghdad in 1917 in order to establish British Empire rule, declared, “Our armies do not come into your cities and lands as conquerors or enemies, but as liberators.”

(source: Winston Churchill on Terrorism and and Churchill - Drunk With Thrill Of Genocide - By Chris Floyd and and Refer to Jesus Christ: Artifice for Aggression - By Sita Ram Goel

(Note: Churchill is named Time’ magazine’s man of the year for 1940. and U.S. News and World Report have dubbed Winston Churchill "The Last Hero" in a 2000 cover story).

Winston Churchill and Mahatma Gandhi

"It is alarming and also nauseating to see Mr. Gandhi, a seditious Middle Temple lawyer, now posing as a fakir of a type well-known in the East, striding half-naked up the steps of the Viceregal palace, while he is still organizing and conducting a defiant campaign of civil disobedience, to parley on equal terms with the representative of the King Emperor."

(source: India Britannica - By Geoffrey Moorhouse p. 240). For more refer to Mahatma Gandhi.

Winston Churchill favoured letting Gandhi die if he went on hunger strike, newly published Cabinet papers show. The UK's WWII prime minister thought India's spiritual leader should be treated like anyone else if he stopped eating while being held by the British. But his ministers persuaded him against the tactic, fearing Gandhi would become a martyr if he died in British hands. The Viceroy of then British-run India, Lord Linlithgow, said he was "strongly in favour of letting Gandhi starve to death". "He is such a semi-religious figure that his death in our hands would be a great blow and embarrassment to us," said Sir Stafford Cripps, then Minister for Aircraft Production.

(source:  Churchill may have let Gandhi die - BBC).

"The British mentality is the same as Hitler's. In their own estimation they are the master race born to govern. Only those who successfully show fight get what they want from Britian. She always interferes on the side of reaction, and the League of Nations itself is just another link in the chain of bondage, for the status quo clause would fetter India for ever as Britain's subject."

(source: India Reveals Herself - By Basil Matthew p. 90).




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