Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The case for India

Through a chance conversation on twitter, I realized that a book by a name, "The case for India" written by Will Durant had been republished by Strand book house thanks to Mohandas Pai.

As Indians, this is a must read book for us. And a great read for those who still hold the view (and there are several of them even today) that British rule was good for us.

Interestingly, the book actually makes a case on both sides - so in that sense it is actually quite a balanced read.

But the part which caught the eye for me was the first section, where in paragraph after paragraph, the author references English documents apart from his personal experience to bring about the atrocities that were carried out in India in the name of civilizing the natives.

His introduction documents it thus,

"...one-fifth of the human race - suffering poverty and oppression bitterer than any to be found elsewhere on the earth. I was horrified. I had to thought it possible that any government could allow its subjects to sink to such misery."

"...And the more I read the more I was filled with astonishment and indignation at the apparently conscious and deliberate bleeding of India by England throughout a hundred and fifty years. I began to feel that I had come upon the greatest crime in all history."

Note: This book has been written without the knowledge or co-operation, in any form of any Hindu, or of any person acting for India.

He lists how the East India company profiteered at the countrys expense. How they took over state after princely state. How India fought for the British and paid for it. He talks about divide and rule. About the high percentage of taxes. The figures of the national debt of India.

"The result is a pitiful crushing of the Hindu spirit, a stifling of its pride and growth, a stunting of genius that once flourished in every city of the land."

He talks about economic destruction, social destruction and death.

"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 no 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."

And then after a chapter on Gandhi, he speaks about how the revolution began. The divide and rule policy and its manifestations. And a fairly graphic account of Jalianwallah Bagh.

Many of these things like the Montague-Chelmsford reforms, the Rowlatt act - we had studied in history but in an antiseptic way. This book gives it in black and white.

The places which were administered by natives like Travancore, Baroda actually did much better than English rule.

He also has a second part in the book where he lays out some of the good parts of English rule and so on. And frankly the part where he says that Gandhis spinning wheel won't solve Indias problems rings true even today.

All in all a good read to know another perspective on Indias colonial past.

We may talk English, walk English today - but we have also lost a substantial part our heritage, a large of indigenous knowledge and perhaps, most of all, somehow overlooked the brutality of the colonial rule and what it did to the country. And I wish that people read more such books that brings out the real truth behind many of these atrocities in India. 

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