A sordid, violent history is the legacy that the British Raj left behind, which has hobbled India’s growth even long after gaining Independence. By Vickram Sethi
In the temple of Athena was a beautiful priestess called Medusa. It was said that when she smiled, flowers bloomed and when the wind blew through her hair, there was celestial music. For, truly, Medusa was the prettiest woman in the land and also much desired by all the gods. To be the priestess of the temple of Athena, she had to be a virgin. It was her aim to be the high priestess of the temple of Athena and with this purpose she rejected all the advances made by Poseidon and the other gods.
One day, Poseidon entered the temple and forced himself upon her. Her calls to Athena did not yield any help. On finding out she was no longer a virgin, Athena was angry and cursed her. That she would become a monster and her head will become a crown of snakes and her gaze would turn anyone into stone. And that she would never find love anywhere ever again.
Medusa was horrified and turned to the other gods for help, she petitioned Athena for pardon. Pleading that Athena was responsible for protecting her as she was held captive in Athena’s temple. Once cursed, the spell could not be annulled but after much persuasion it was modified and Medusa would be banned from Athena’s temple for a hundred years and banished into a land completely surrounded by water.
The moon god granted her succour and a boon that at every full moon she would become a pretty maiden, once again enjoy all the carnal pleasures and have all the lovers she desired.
When the moon ebbed and the night became darker, her snake crown and scales would come back, and she would become the evil monster once again. On the dark night before the new moon, she would give birth and these humans would soon grow up and become adults. On the full moon night, they would copulate with each other and produce more children on the dark night. And this cycle would go on for a hundred years.
Medusa’s lover was Lucifer, he was the handsomest of them all and in a hundred years, the island was overwhelmed with the population of evil people. That is when the gods and Athena agreed that Medusa had to be exterminated as evil had firmly taken root on earth.
The children were white as the moon, evil as Medusa and Lucifer. The cycle of copulating on the full moon night and giving birth on the dark night continued for a hundred years. And that island became the kingdom of Lucifer. When these evil beings died, their souls became the evil spirits that even today are commanded by Lucifer and they roam the earth at his will. The wheel of time moved on and the island came to be known as Great Britain.
You have to be of evil birth with evil genes to perpetuate so much misery in the world. Britain ruled over 25 per cent of the land covering 13 million square miles and ruled over a population of 458 million people. If the history of Great Britain were to be written, the word genocide, murder, loot, atrocities, starvation would make the preamble of the book.
One million people died in the Irish famine. 50,000 people died in the Boer concentration camp. The British forcefully transported slaves from Africa – 12-15 million people of which 3 million died from various diseases and their bodies were thrown into the sea.
The British also killed 25,000 Iraqis crushing the Iraqi revolution and similarly in Aden another 50,000 died. And in the Mau Mau uprising, the British were responsible for killing 90,000 Kenyans and in the Malay uprising over a 1,00,000 Malays died.
To perpetuate so much of evil genocide, brutal murder, atrocities you have to have the genes of Lucifer and Medusa. The British were the most cruel race in modern history.
The Jallianwala Bagh Massacre
Let me put it in another perspective. It is a Sunday morning at the Chelsea flower show and an army battalion guns down all the visitors. I wonder how the modern-day British would react to this. This is exactly what happened in Jallianwala Bagh in the year 1919.
A group of Punjabis celebrating the spring festival, Baisakhi, had gathered in a public garden in Amritsar. There was only one main entry and four narrow entries from bylanes through which barely one or two people could navigate at a time. A British Army officer Colonel Reginald Dyer got a battalion of his troops who fired indiscriminately on the unarmed crowd of thousands of civilians assembled in the garden to celebrate the Baisakhi festival. The objective was of killing them. The battalion continued firing for 10 minutes killing the thousands of civilians assembled in the garden. He then ordered the gates to be shut so that no one could escape and ultimately no help came to the rescue of the poor helpless victims who were injured and the dead. For two days, no entry was allowed in the garden and people died in the most miserable condition.
Rather than court-martial for murder, Col Dyer was felicitated and awarded a government pension and a title. Why should the Punjabis ever forget this? Like I said earlier, the British were the most cruel race in the history of the world.
Winston Churchill and the Bengal Famine of 1943
The British crippled agriculture in India by their taxation policy, land reforms and insufficient agricultural input. All culminating in one of the deadliest famines in the history of the world. A lot has been written about the Bengal famine. This is about Winston Churchill, the then prime minister, who ordered that all the food grains should be exported from Calcutta to England.
Indians were dying like flies. The secretary of state appealed to Churchill for help, but he turned him down saying the Indians do not deserve charity because it would make them lazy. If they cannot live within what they produce then they deserve to die. Finally, he turned around and said: “I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion. The famine was their own fault for breeding like rabbits.” At the height of the famine between January and July, Britain exported more than 70 million kilograms of grains and around 10 million Indians died of starvation. In the Bengal famine, the British took our grain from the starving people of Bengal to fill the bread basket of London.
I wonder what he would have made out of this famine if children with these names would have also died – Julian, Celia and Edwina, Winston and Churchill, Nicholas, Emma, Charlotte, Rupert and Jeremy.
When conscience-stricken British officials wrote to him pointing out that people were dying because of his decision, he wrote on the file: “Why hasn’t Gandhi died?”
On another occasion, Churchill commented, “It is alarming and nauseating to see Mr Gandhi, a seditious Middle Temple lawyer, now posing as a fakir… striding half-naked up the steps of the Vice-regal Palace. We should be rid of a bad man and an enemy of the Empire if he died.”
The world now wakes up to the fact that Winston Churchill was racist. During his tenure as minister for war and air in 1919, he wrote a memo: “I am strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilised tribes,” advocating the use of chemical weapons primarily against Kurds and Afghans.
Justifying the genocide against the Red Indians of America and the Aborginals of Australia, he said, “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.”
The fact is that a stronger race, a higher-grade race, a more worldly-wise race had come in and taken their place. For a man who was educated at Harrow and Sandhurst, and knighted by the Queen, Winston Churchill was probably the world’s No 1 murderer. Hitler in comparison comes across as a high school bully.
Partition of India
The Partition of India on the basis of religion was no less a tragedy than the Holocaust. Across the Indian subcontinent, communities that had coexisted for a millennium attacked each other in a terrifying outbreak of sectarian violence. Hindus and Sikhs on one side and Muslims on the other. In Punjab as well as in Bengal. A savage intense genocide and carnage that the country had never witnessed before. Fifteen million people had been uprooted and over 5 million were dead. The comparison of the Partition to the Holocaust is not as farfetched as it may seem.
The Loot from India
As we look back, we realise that the British plundered India in so many different ways that it would be impossible to cover all in a small 2000-word essay. An economic study conducted by Utsa Patnaik for the Columbia University Press concludes that the British took 45 trillion pounds out of India in 200 years of rule. Nobody in the government seems to contradict these findings, hoping that people would forget.
Systematically, the British plundered India. They now claim that they built infrastructure – the railways, the fact is these railways were built to connect the areas of produce to the port to ship it back to England. The railways didn’t connect towns or places of pilgrimage which people would have liked to visit. They destroyed the handloom industry by breaking the looms of the weavers and cutting off their thumbs. From being a world famous exporter of fabric – silks, muslin, cotton… – India became a net importer of British fabric. Every action of the British was to loot and plunder India for the benefit of Britain.
The Indians fought alongside the British in the first and the Second World War. Some 50,000 Indians lost their lives and Indian taxpayers actually coughed up a 100 million pounds.India supplied 17 million rounds of ammunition, 600,000 rifles and machine guns, 42 million garments were stitched and exported from India, and 1.3 million Indians served in the war. For this, the British promised us independence but changed their minds. We need to recognise that Britain retained control of India not out of benevolence but for the sake of plunder, and violently plunder they did.
The men who came to work in the India subcontinent were from the most distressed background of the midlands who were so poor that if they didn’t come to work in India all they would have is bread to eat. Having come to India, they lived as the aristocracy that they had left behind, large colonial houses and a retinue of servants. A vast majority of them were corrupt. They looted the kingdoms and sent back artefacts, precious stones, idols from various temples and even dismantled a large stupa and shipped it back to Britain. It is on display at the British museum.
Walk in to the Indian section and you will see the loot that is on display and this is just 10% of what they have in stock. Every single museum in Britain has Indianartefacts that have been looted by the British. In fact, the entire British museum has stuff stolen from all over British colonies.The Governor General of British IndiaLord Bentinck wanted to dismantle the Taj Mahal and take it to England, marble slab by marble slab. They had already stolen the silver doors and the precious stones embedded in the marble.
The idea that the British gave India independence is a myth.The fact is that post the World Wars, Britain was in a terrible financial crisis. And there was no other way but to let India go. India’s freedom struggle goes back to 1857; it wasn’t the Second World War that created this aspiration for freedom. In fact, the irony of it is that the oppressiveness of the British brought the Indians together to fight for independence. The worst thing that the British did was to steal India’s soul. A district magistrate was required to create a Hindu-Muslim riot which he engineered with the help of the local kotwal. A pig head was thrown in the front of a mosque and a cow head in front of the temple. This is no exaggeration and it is said that their promotion depended on how many riots they could engineer. Eventually the British planted so much of poison and hatred that they divided India on the basis of religion. Unfortunately, the hatred is still there.
As a nation, we should institute a trial of war crimes against the British perpetrators of cruelty, murder, genocide and other crimes, that men across the 200 years committed. Try them in absentia and award them suitable punishment. This trial must be conducted in England just so that the present-day Britain has a better idea of its past.
Finally, the Kohinoor diamond. It is well-known that Maharaja Dilip Singh didn’t gift the diamond to Queen Victoria. The British put a gun to his head and took it. To me, the Kohinoor which the British sovereign wears on her head is the symbol of 200 years of loot, murder, genocide and all the evil things that human beings can do. It is the biggest symbol of sin. And if the sovereign wears this symbol of sin on her head, so be it. This is the biggest blood diamond in the world for all to see.