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Colonial Relationship: Rape of Indian Women

In a ‘letter to a Member of the National Assembly,’ written in 1772, Edmund Burke (1729-1797) British statesman, parliamentary orator and political thinker, played a prominent part in all major political issues for about 30 years after 1765, and remained an important figure in the history of political theory, describes the colonial relationship between England and India as poised between courtship and rape: 1767, he declared, marked the year when the “administration discovered that the East India Company were guardians to a very handsome and rich lady in Hindostan. 

Accordingly, they set parliament in motion; and parliament….directly became a suitor, and took the lady into its tender, fond, grasping arms, pretending all the while that it meant nothing but what was fair and honorable; that no rape or violence was intended; that its sole aim was to rescue her and her fortune our of the pilfering hands of a set of rapacious stewards, who had let her estate run to waste, and had committed various depredations. By 1787, Burke amplified his criticism of Warren Hastings, the Governor General of Bengal between 1774 and 1785, charging him not only with promoting the economic rape of India but also with the literal rape of Indian women. Moved by his inflammatory rhetoric, Burke’s colleagues in the House of Commons initiated proceedings to remove Hastings from the seat he then occupied in the House of Lords. 

During the trial Burke enumerated his charges against Warren Hastings, proclaiming not only that he had countenanced the use of sexual violence as a strategy of control by his colonial subordinates but that he had also personally “undone women of the first rank” in India, noting especially his humiliation of the Princesses of Oude in 1772-1773. In one speech, Burke vividly catalogued the barbaric treatment that Indian women received at the hands of Hastings and his men: 

" Virgins, who had never seen the sun, were dragged from the innocent sanctuaries of their houses, and in the open court of justice…(but where no judge or lawful magistrate had long sat, but in their place the ruffians and hangmen of Warren Hastings occupied the bench), these virgins, vainly invoking heaven and earth, in the presence of their parents…publicly violated by the lowest and wickedest of the human race. Wives were torn from the arms of their husbands, and suffered the same flagitious wrongs, which were indeed hid in the bottoms of the dungeons in which their honor and their liberty were buried together…But it did not end there. Growing from crime to crime, ripened by cruelty for cruelty, these fiends….these infernal furies planted death in the source of life, where that modesty, which more than reason, distinguished men from beasts, retires from the view, and even shrinks from the expression, there they exercised and glutted their unnatural, monstrous, and nefarious cruelty." 

In short, Burke charged Hastings with implementing policies that destroyed “the honor of the whole female race” in India.

Burke’s criticism of the rapaciousness of the British colonial policy in India was minority voice at the time. Though his powerful descriptions of Hastings’s unspeakable colonial acts inspired agitation in the large audiences attracted to the trial, Burke failed, nonetheless, in his efforts to convict Warren Hastings, and, after a trial that lasted seven years, the latter was acquitted in 1795. Burke died two years later, so by 1797 his inimitable and inflammatory rhetoric about the rape of India by the lawless agents of the East India Company was silenced forever. 

One of the features that made Burke’s speeches about colonial policy in India so memorable was that they skillfully exploited the rhetoric of surprise, since most English readers, regardless of whether they endorsed or opposed state sponsorship of the East India Company or the colonial wars in India conducted in its name, were more likely have read Oriental tales that focused on seduction rather than reports of the violently transgressive acts of rape that he so vividly described. 

In cataloging the violence suffered by the colonized during the British retaliatory campaign after the massacre at Kanpur in 185, Manohar Malgonkar’s disturbing novel details, The Devil’s Wind: Nana Saheb’s Story, the “orgy of killing, rape, and vandalism” perpetrated by Colonel James Neill and his soldiers, events that are censored in nearly all British mutiny novels and, in fact, in many British nineteenth-century imperial histories as well.  

Thus, Malgonkar reveals why “romances” and “boys adventures” about the mutiny were the preferred form, since in these genres the moral uprightness of the heroes is an uncontested given, which means, as the narrator in G. A. Henry’s Times of Peril insists, that British soldiers simply do not rape.

Malgonkar counters such claims with numerous graphic representations of the rapes of Indian women by Englishmen that challenges colonial myths about the purity and righteousness of the British acts of “revenge.” Malgonkar’s novel thus invokes imperial history to correct it, by maintaining that British soldiers did, indeed, rape as well as pillage and burn as they swept through the countryside: “Women were dragged out screaming and pounced upon in bazaars, so that the word “rape” itself acquired a plurality, a collective connotation, and people spoke of villages and townships raped, not a single women.” 

(source: Writing Under The Raj: Gender, Race, and Rape in the British Colonial Imagination 1830-1947 - By Nancy L. Paxton).

" Every day ten or a dozen niggers are hanged. [Their corpses hung] by two's and three's from branch and signpost all over town ... For three months did eight dead-carts go their rounds from sunrise to sunset, to take down corpses which hung at the cross-roads and the market places, poisoning the air of the city, and to throw their loathsome burdens into the Ganges."     

-- Lieutenant Pearson - on the punishment of rebels in Allahabad, in a letter to his mother.

An Indian woodcut from around 1870 shows a train with separate carriages for Europeans and for Indians.

(source: Colonial Overlords: Time Frame Ad 1850-1900  - Time-Life Books. The Scramble for Africa ASIN 0809464667 Noon of the Raj. p. 22).


Divide and Rule by the British 

The year 1857, therefore, marked the beginning of a new British policy of exploiting the existing caste and communal divisions in the country for their imperial ends. Reorganizing of the British Indian army on caste and communal lines and the initiation of a policy to win over Muslim upper classes was the result. This policy was clearly set out by Sir John Stratchey, the Finance Member of the Government of India in 1874, in the following words: 

“The existence side by side of these (Hindu and Muslim) hostile creeds is one of the strong points in our political position in India. The better classes of Mohammedans are a source of strength and not weakness. They constitute a comparatively small but an energetic minority of the population whose political interests are identical with ours.” 

It was in pursuit of this policy that Anglo-Muslim alliance was forged through the M.A.O College which later became the Aligarh Muslim University. The command performance of Aga Khan in 1906 which according to the diary of Lady Minto “cut off sixty million Muslims from the seditious ranks of the Hindus” and the formation of All-India Muslim League in the same year were important steps towards reactivization of Muslim separatism and reversal of the process of Indianization of Islam and Muslims. 

(source: Indianization? - By Balraj Madhok).

It is a historical fact that the imperial British have been very faithful to their colonial policy of 'divide and rule' and then divide forever. The "serious mistakes", as a part of their country's colonial past and as recently admitted by British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, were not mistakes but deliberate policies towards this end. The most prominent victims of their policy are India and Pakistan (including Kashmir), Palestine and Israel, Greece and Turkey (Cyprus) and the skeleton in their own cupboard, Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Immediately after the War of Independence of 1857, jointly fought by Hindus and Muslims, when a commission of inquiry on the uprising was formed, Lord Elphinstone, the then governor of Bombay, sent to the commission a note that said: "Divide et impera was the old Roman motto, and it should be ours."

The secretary of state, Sir Charles Wood, in a letter of March 3, 1862, to Viceroy Lord Elgin, said: "We have maintained our power by playing off one part against the other, and we must continue to do so. Do what you can, therefore, to prevent all having a common feeling."



Thirst for revenge (for the Mutiny) ensured that all successes were thoroughly followed up, and retreating 'niggers', as they were habitually called, given no respite. Energetic pursuit was a hallmark of European colonial practice, Sir Colin Callwell was to emphasize. 'Asiatics do not understand such vigor and are cowed by it.' An Indian historian writes of Colonel James Neill at Allahabad letting his men loose to perpetrate all the 'cruelties and barbarities which human ingenuity could conceive.' 

(source: Colonial Empires and Armies 1815-1960 - By V.G. Kiernan p. 49-50). 
Please refer to chapter on Glimpses on
Kala Pani: The Andaman Cellular Jail is a historic monument that symbolizes British tyranny.

An elegant young English 'civilian' of the 1840s submits to being dressed by his Indian personal servants to face the rigors of the day.

(image source: Bound to Exile - By Michael Edwardes).

Refer to Loot: in search of the East India Company - By Nick Robins and How India became poor -


Why The British Hated the Brahmins

According to Meenakshi Jain

"The British were not wrong in their distrust of educated Brahmins in whom they saw a potential threat to their supremacy in India. For instance, in 1879 the Collector of Tanjore in a communication to Sir James Caird, member of the Famine Commission, stated that "there was no class (except Brahmins ) which was so hostile to the English." The predominance of the Brahmins in the freedom movement confirmed the worst British suspicions of the community. Innumerable CID reports of the period commented on Brahmin participation at all levels of the nationalist movement. In the words of an observer, "If any community could claim credit for driving the British out of the country, it was the Brahmin community. Seventy per cent of those who were felled by British bullets were Brahmins".

Watch video - Brahmins in India have become a minority

For more on Anti-Brahminism and Anti-Hinduism refer to The Indian Jews - By Jakob De June 20, 2008.

To counter what they perceived, a Brahminical challenge, the British launched on the one hand a major ideological attack on the Brahmins and, on the other incited non-Brahmin caste Hindus to press for preferential treatment, a ploy that was to prove equally successful vis-à-vis the Muslims.

In the attempt to rewrite Indian history, Brahmins began to be portrayed as oppressors and tyrants who willfully kept down the rest of the populace. Their role in the development of Indian society was deliberately slighted. In ancient times, for example, Brahmins played a major part in the spread of new methods of cultivation (especially the use of the plough and manure) in backward and aboriginal areas. The Krsi-parasara, compiled during this period, is testimony to their contribution in this field. Apart from misrepresenting the Indian past, the British actively encouraged anti-Brahmin sentiments. Apart from misrepresenting the Indian past, the British actively encouraged anti-Brahmin sentiments. A number of scholars have commented on their involvement in the anti-Brahmin movement in South India. As a result of their machinations non-Brahmins turned on the Brahmins with a ferocity that has few parallels in Indian history. This was all the more surprising in that for centuries Brahmins and non-Brahmins had been active partners and collaborators in the task of political and social management. 

(source: The Plight of Brahmins - By Meenakshi Jain - The Indian Express, Tuesday, September 18, 1990). For more refer to chapter on First Indologists).  Refer to The Myth of Saint Thomas and the Mylapore Shiva Temple. Refer to Jesus Christ: Artifice for Aggression - By Sita Ram Goel. Watch Scientific verification of Vedic knowledge

The Brahmins were identified as the ‘clergy’ or the priests of Hinduism. An explicit hostility towards the heathen priesthood was not helped by the inability of the messengers of God’s word to convert Brahmins to Christianity. In Brahmins, they came across a literate group, which was able to read, write, do arithmetic, conduct ‘theological’ discussions, etc. During the first hundred years or so, this group was the only source of information about India as far as the missionaries were concerned. Schooled to perform many administrative tasks, the Brahmins were mostly the only ones well-versed in the European languages – enough to communicate with the Europeans. In short, they appeared both to be the intellectual group and the most influential social layer in the Indian social organization. Conversion of the heathens of India, as the missions painfully discovered, did not depend so much on winning the allegiance of the prince or the king as it did on converting the Brahmins.   

As Francis Xavier saw the Brahmins:  "If there were no Brahmans in the area, all the Hindus would accept conversion to our faith."  

The Brahmins, by and large, were unimpressed by the theological sophistication of the Christian critique of paganism. This attack was born out of the inability of Christianity to gain a serious foothold in the Indian society. The ‘red race’ was primitive – it could be decimated; the ‘blacks’ were backward – they could be enslaved; the ‘yellow’ and the ‘brown’ were inferior – they could be colonized. But how to convert them? One would persecute resistance and opposition. How to respond to indifference? The attitude of these heathens towards Christianity, it is this: indifference. 

(source: The Heathen in His Blindness...: Asia, the West and the Dynamic of Religion - By S. Balagangadhara p.  82 -149). For more refer to chapter on First Indologists). For more refer to The War against Hinduism - By Stephen Knapp). Refer to Jesus Christ: Artifice for Aggression - By Sita Ram Goel

Anti-Brahminism have deep roots in Christian theology

To be against "Brahminism" is part and parcel of the political correctness of progressive scholars in twenty-first-century India. This indicates that something is very wrong with the Indian academic debate. Promotion of animosity towards a religious tradition or its followers is not acceptable today, but it becomes truly perverse when the intelligentsia endorses it.  In Europe , it took horrendous events to put an end to the propaganda of anti-Semitism, which had penetrated the media and intelligentsia. It required decades of incessant campaigning before anti-Semitism was relegated to the realm of intellectual and political bankruptcy. In India , anti-Brahminism is still the proud slogan of many political parties and the credential of the radical intellectual.

Both anti-Semitism and anti-Brahminism have deep roots in Christian theology. The contemporary stereotypes about Brahmins and the story about Brahminism also originate in Christian theology. They reproduce Protestant images of the priests of false religion. When European missionaries and merchants began to travel to India in great numbers, they held two certainties that came from Christian theology: false religion would exist in India ; and false religion revolved around evil priests who had fabricated all kinds of laws, doctrines and rites in order to bully the innocent believers into submission. In this way, the priests of the devil abused religion for worldly goals. The European story about Brahminism and the caste system simply reproduced this Protestant image of false religion. The colonials identified the Brahmins as the priests and Brahminism as the foundation of false religion in India . This is how the dominant image of "the Hindu religion" came into being. The theological criticism became part of common sense and was reproduced as scientific truth. In India , this continues unto this day. Social scientists still talk about "Brahminism" as the worst thing that ever happened to humanity.

Some Jews began to believe that they were to blame for what happened during the Holocaust; many educated Brahmins now feel that they are guilty of historical atrocities against other groups. In some cases, this has led to a kind of identity crisis in which they vilify "Brahminism" in English-language academic debate, but continue their traditions. In twentieth-century Europe , we have seen how dangerous anti-Semitism was and what consequences it could have in society. Tragically, unimaginable suffering was needed before it was relegated to the realm of unacceptable positions. In India , anti-Brahminism was adopted from Protestant missionaries by colonial scholars who then passed it on to the secularists and Dalit intellectuals. The question that India has to raise in the twenty-first century is this: Do we need bloodshed, before we will realise that the reproduction of anti-Brahminism?

(source: The Indian Jews - By Jakob De June 20, 2008). 

According to Guy Sorman, visiting scholar at Hoover Institution at Stanford and the leader of new liberalism in France:

"The British supported Ambedkar, though for wrong reasons, they felt that having three electoral colleges - Hindu, untouchable and Muslim - would work in their favor and allow them to rule longer." 

"If comparisons have to be made, it may be said that the endurance of the Brahmins in India has kept her elite intact; whereas in neighboring China the anti-intellectualism of communist peasants has completely wiped out the intelligentsia of that country." 

(source: The Genius of India - By Guy Sorman  ('Le Genie de l'Inde') p. 72).  Refer to The Myth of Saint Thomas and the Mylapore Shiva Temple

Karl Marx and Western Bias

Karl Marx (1818-1883), German social philosopher, the chief theorist of modern Communism, and author of Das Kapital, was not a sympathizer of  imperialism or capitalism. But he could not conceal his western  bias and prejudices against Indian culture, which is evident from  his writings of 1853 and about his expectations of the role the British had to play in India. He writes :

"England has to fulfill a double mission in India; one destructive, the other regenerating - the annihilation of the old Asiatic society, and the laying of the material foundation of western society in Asia."

According to Marx, Indian life had always been undignified, stagnatory, vegetative, passive, given to worshipping nature instead of putting the man on the pedestal as the sovereign of `Nature'. Karl Marx writes : 

"Whatever may have been the crimes of England" in India, "she was the unconscious tool of history" for the desired changes."

(source: First published in New York Daily Tribune, August 8, 1853.

Marx wrote that life in India was: "stagnant, vegetative and passive." 

The Genius of India - By Guy Sorman  ('Le Genie de l'Inde') p. 9).

Great Britain judged how “civilized” a colony was by how nearly it conformed to British politics, religion, and economic system. South Africa was full of “white perverts” (the Dutch Boers) and “black savages” Africa was not the only continent or colony judged “uncivilized." Clearly, although dark skin indicated a lack of civilization, the English held similar views about other races which were light-skinned, particularly the Irish.

The farther away from London, the farther away from the center of civilization. 

(source: They Cut Themselves with Cruel Kimes).

Taking his cues from die-hard imperialist writers, Marx tells us that India is no nation and it has no history. She is "the predestined prey of conquest", he says. "Indian society has no history, is but the history of successive intruders." To Marx, the British conquest of India was a blessing. The question, as he puts it, "is not whether we are to prefer India conquered by the Turk, by the Persian, by the Russian, to India conquered by the British." 

Here we find a complete convergence of Imperialism and Marxism. 

(source: On Hinduism Reviews and Reflections - By Ram Swarup p. 42-43).

To Marx, Hinduism "was the ideology of an oppressive and outworn society, and he shared the distaste of most Europeans for its more lurid features...he was as skeptical as his Hindu followers were to be of any notion of a Hindu 'golden age' of the past. 

(source: Dictionary of Marxist Thought - By Tom Bottomore p. 203-206).

Marx upheld the colonial view that India was not a country properly speaking, merely a stretch of land with a meek conglomerate of peoples passively waiting for the next conqueror. For him, the question was not whether it was right to colonize India, merely whether colonization by Britain was preferable (and in his view, it was) to colonization by the Turks or the Czar.

(source: Decolonising The Hindu Mind - Ideological Development of Hindu Revivalism - By Koenraad Elst p. 40).

In West Bengal, textbooks show Lenin as the inspiration of the Freedom Struggle. 

(source: India Today - September 13' 2002).

Karl Marx, "With Hindus, whom their religion has made virtuosi in the art of self-torturing, these tortures inflicted on the enemies of their race and creed appear quite natural, and must appear still more so to the English, who, only some years since, still used to draw revenues from the Juggernaut festivals, protecting and assisting the bloody rites of a religion of cruelty."

Setting the East Ablaze: Lenin's Dream of an Empire in Asia

Peter Hopkirk tells how Lenin and his revolutionary comrades tried, in the period between the world wars, to set the East ablaze with their heady new gospel of Marxism. Their "dream" was to liberate the whole of Asia, and their starting point was British India, the richest of all imperial possessions. The struggle that ensured, marked a dramatic twist in the Great Game. Among the players were British Intelligence officers, the armed revolutionaries of the Communists International, Muslim visionaries, Chinese war lords......

(source: Setting the East Ablaze: Lenin's Dream of an Empire in Asia - Peter Hopkirk).

"It never occurred to the English that they should follow the example of so many immigrants and conquerors before them and become Indians. The possibility was never even considered that the King-emperor might take up residence in Calcutta or Delhi; he remained a foreign ruler, which meant that there was always something provisional about the Anglo-Indian empire: despite all New Delhi's proud monuments, the shrewd English knew in their hearts that they could only play a limited part in this great subcontinent." 

(source: India - By Martin Hurlimann p. 24).




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