The great argument in favor of British Raj by Anglophiles and pro-British Raj group is that the British gave political unity to the country, democracy, a free press, a parliamentary system, and the rule of law.
They introduced the railways, tea, telegraph, and the English language. Most British historians of the empire have a benign view of British imperialism. While they will often accept that there were some abuses, even occasional crimes, they feel that overall the empire was a force for good.
Indeed The British Imperialism did more harm to India than good. For example, the Bengal Famine seriously dents benign picture. Consequently, the famine has been airbrushed from the picture.
Sashi Tharoor has shown great courage in rebutting the so-called positive contributions of British Raj in his newly written book. It was a pleasure interacting with him during the Apeejay Lit Fest 2017.
The railways were built more for the British exploitation of Indian resources rather than for Indians. But it was constructed on Indian money. Tea, telegraph, and the English language were an integral part of British exploitation.
Lord Macaulay’s education system destroyed the traditional education systems keeping millions of Indians illiterate.
The unity which they gave us is the biggest myth. They thrived on the policy of divide and rule.
In 1750, India and China were contributing 75% of the world GDP. In 1600, Britain was producing 1.8% of the world GDP. When Britain left India in 1947 after 200 years of rule, Britain was contributing 10% 0f the world GDP and India was reduced to a pathetic 1.8%. India’s rich maritime trade and highly developed banking system was brought to a grinding halt under the brutal colonial rule
India was held in English thraldom by an Indian army maintained at the cost of India.
75,000 Indian soldiers were killed during World War I and an equal number were wounded in a fight involving the European powers. Their stories have been largely omitted from British histories.
2,065,554 Indian soldiers were raised for the Second World War, and around 149,225 soldiers died between 1939 and1945.
In just 10 years 1891-1900, 19 million people died in India due to famines alone. The famines were the biggest colonial holocausts, and is right at the top of some of the most brutal inhumanities in modern times’
– Winston Churchill
The British had a ruthless economic agenda when it came to operating in India. Under the British Raj, India suffered countless famines. But the worst hit was Bengal. The first of these was in 1770, followed by severe ones in 1783, 1866, 1873, 1892, 1897 and lastly 1943-44.
The first of these famines was in 1770 and it killed approximately 10 million people, millions more than the Jews incarcerated during the Second World War. It wiped out one-third the population of Bengal. The British increased agricultural taxes from10-15 per cent during Mughal rule to 50 percent.
Partial failure of a crop was quite a regular occurrence in the Indian peasant’s life. That is why the surplus stock, which remained after paying the taxes, was so important to their livelihood. But with the increased taxation, this surplus deteriorated rapidly. In past, the Indian rulers would waive their taxes and see compensatory measures, such as irrigation to provide relief to the farmers stricken with drought.
After taking over from the Mughal rulers, the British had issued widespread orders to cultivate indigo, poppy. Hence there was no backup of edible crops in case of a famine.
Between one and three million died of hunger in 1943. Winston Churchill stopped emergency food aid for millions in Bengal left to starve as their rice paddies were turned over to jute for sandbag production and supplies of rice from Burma stopped after the Japanese occupation.
Churchill hated the Indians and thought that they bred like animals. He said:-
“I hate Indians,” he told the Secretary of State for India, Leopold Amery. “They are a beastly people with a beastly religion.” The famine was their own fault, he declared at a war-cabinet meeting, for “breeding like rabbits.”
Churchill the situation in Bengal by ordering the diversion of food away from Indians and toward British troops around the world.
Hence we can conclude that British rule in India was a reign of Darkness