This is the title of Will Durant's awesome book on India. As I mentioned in my earlier posts, I've been reading a lot of India books lately, and this one is probably the last on the list. Written in 1930, the book, banned by the British government, and God knows why, never resurrected by the Indian governments, is an excellent account of how the country was raped, with the connivance of our own people, for over 200 years by the British.
The figures are amazing. Robert Clive, the resident governor of Bengal, getting an annual tribute of US $140,000, in 1930s money. The national debt of India, which was really caused by twisted pricing of goods, rising to a whopping 3.5 billion dollars by 1929, the cost of maintaining the British army in India was paid by Indians, to the tune of 200 million dollars a year, wars, in which Indian troops fought for the British were paid by taxes on Indians, to the tune of 1.2 billion dollars in the late 1800s, all of these reducing India from the second largest economy in the world in the 1820s to a basket case by 1947.
The book talks of how Indian industry was broken and how farmers were driven to penury in supporting the opulent lifestyles of company and British officials. What is more shocking is the kind of torture inflicted upon the common men by the British:
"A troop of English soldiers had reached the spot, and without warning, began firing into a crowd that had women and children. [...] Some people got as many as twenty-one bullet wounds in their bodies. [...] A young Sikh boy stood in front of a soldier and asked him to fire at him, which the soldier unhesitatingly did. Similarly, an old woman [...] came forward, was shot, and fell down wounded. [...] The police snatch off the men's garments, twist and squeeze the testicles, and even batter them until the victims foam at the mouth and become unconscious."
Madeline Slade, an eyewitness, says: "And so we went on from this house to another. [...] 1.Lathi blows on head chest, stomach and joints, thrusts with lathis in private parts, tearing off loin cloths and thrusting of sticks into anus, dragging of wounded by legs and arms, beating them, throwing of wounded men into thorn hedges or salt water, thrusting of pins and thorns into men's bodies..."
What stands out in the book are these:
- The extent of torture and exploitation of the British
- Active connivance of Indians in the British services, including the police force
- The bravery and determination with which "ordinary" Indians fought for freedom.
After reading this though, I started to wonder. As a country, we have such a poor sense of history. Our Moronic PM, intoxicated by a doctoral degree, praises British rule. Common people have no clue about how we won our freedom. Even educated people think the positives of India are the grace of the British.
Read this book. Buy this book. At 140 pages, it is not a long read. And let me know, if like me, you kept wondering whether we have simply replaced a white brute with a brown one after Independence.
Happy Republic Day folks!