Jambudveep's Blog

April 13, 2021

The Slavery of Bharatiyas(Indians) by the British- The case of Forced Labour in British India Part 2

Filed under: British Misrule — Yogeshwar Shastri @ 10:42 pm
Tags: , , ,

Note: By the end of this year, I will be bringing out a book on the subject of forced labour, wherein I will also explain the analysis methodology in detail. If you are interested in the book ( as and when it comes out) please fill in this form.

The readers who fill up the form will be offered a discount of 40% once the book is published.

This part continues where Part 1 left off.

To carry baggage of the Civilian White administrators: A good summary of some of the purposes for which forced labour (called “impressment”) was employed is given by a note from the Collector of Tinnevally in 1860:

 “Impressment was employed for the service of government not for the service of travelers; for example to supply carriage to a regiment ordered to march, to convey treasure to the presidency, to carry salt from the pans to the beach for shipment etc.”[i]

A judicial note from 1849 CE observes that it was extremely suspicious that none of the magistrates had reported a single case of forced labour in Bombay Presidency. It doubts whether people are even aware of the plethora of legislation which prohibits forced labour[ii]. Also, villagers near Mahabaleshwar were forced to work as forced labour for Europeans who left the hill station in monsoon. They were dragged away from their villages just as cultivation was about to begin and forced to provide every bullock for long distance travel. The court upbraided the collector of Thana for suppressing these facts, while the superintendent of Mahabaleshwar washed his hands off the affair. The ingenious ruse applied in this case was to force people from Satara, which was a princely state and theoretically independent, to work as coolies. This meant there were no complaints from British occupied territory.

One of the most common uses was to carry baggage for the Katcheri (government office) as it moved from place to place. Villages which were unfortunate to fall in the route of the katcheri as it meandered through the country were forced to provide free labour to carry the baggage of the katcheri. The baggage usually consisted of the Collectors files, personal luggage and heavy items which were necessary for this institution to function. As the Principal Collector of North Arcot district wrote,

Coolies for conveying the Katcheri baggage are not the regular coolies of the country. They are ryots, village watchers or any day labourers belonging to the village the Katcheri has to pass through. They are not accustomed to carry loads and consequently what is put upon them is not equal to that of a regular hired coolie”[iii].

To put this in context one only has to imagine going to the train station to drop a relation and the local police catching hold of you and forcing you to carry 30-40 kilos of luggage of an IPS officer on your head. And this was not for short distances, it was for at least 20-30 kilometres till the next stop of the Katcheri.

The collector of Savanuru, Karnataka, writing in 1874, has given a good idea of the number of bullock carts which were impressed to carry the official’s baggage[iv]. The number of carts varied depending on how junior or senior the officer was in the food chain. Needless to say, the more senior an officer was (for example collector) the more carts he impressed. Table 2 gives the approximate number of carts impressed by each grade of district official.

 Carts OfficeCarts personalTotal
1st assistant collector2810
2nd assistant collector268
Supernumerary collector156
District deputy collector246

Table 2 the number of carts needed by different district officials while travelling from place to place.

The magic number of 52 carts is representative of only one district, there were scores of such districts in each Presidency in British occupied Bharat. In fact, Savanuru was part of the Kanara district of Bombay Presidency in the 19th century and remained so for some years after Independence. The British-era Kanara district virtually covered the entire coastline of Karnataka and stretched a little into coastal Kerala as well. The collector of Kanara writes in 1874 CE that the collectors were travelling for nearly eight months of the year and each collector required a minimum of 5 carts [v]. He further adds that, “The necessary transport cannot be procured anywhere in Kanara without compulsion”. The core issue in all of this was really saving money for the British Occupation government. If it meant forcing people to provide transport for free, well that was for their own good.

Forced labour for White civilians.

While the use of forced labour by government officials might be rationalised on one level, as possibly one of the evils of the BOB, what is surprising is that white people who were not government servants, made full use of free labour.

 The Collector of South Kanara remarks in 1860 CE that as bullocks were hard to find in South Kanara, people were forced to work as coolies and pull the carts of European travellers [vi]. He further adds that people only agree to this inhumane and degrading practice as they believe that they are required to do so by the British government. This practice was not only winked at by British administrators but also actively advocated to prevent “inconvenience” to white travellers. In the same year, the assistant collector of Vishakhapatnam writes to his superior officer, that, as the availability of palakhi bearers is patchy throughout the district it is necessary to force people to act as bearers for white travellers[vii].

As was usual practice in other parts of Bharat, people were corralled by means of lower-level minions such as peons at each stage of travel in the district. The white attitude is made clear in the officials’ statement when he says that:

To remove bearers from all control whatever, would be to place travelers entirely at their mercy, which would subject them to insufferable annoyance and insolence, and would open a door to unbridled extortion and combination, besides subjecting females in particular to the risk of being helplessly left in unhealthy localities, objects of contempt and ridicule, and of incurring constant collision between male travelers and bearers”.

C-26 From M.R.Weld,.Esq., acting head assistant collector of Tanjore,to H.S. Thomas,Esq., collector of Tanjore,dated Mayaveram, 15-01-1876,No.16

He snidely adds that people must be happy with the current situation as otherwise someone would have complained by now!

White memsahibs also made utilised the free labour service as productively as possible. In my personal experience, having interacted with white “civilization” over the past two decades, it is the women who are the most racist. Anyway, coming back to the point, the memsahibs sent off their peons to drag the nearest tailor from his shop and forced him to sew curtains[viii]. The tailor would rarely be paid and if he was it was below the market rate.

What was the British opinion of Bharatiyas?

The British vultures characterised Bharatiya’s as notorious complainers, apathetic and lazy dolts, selfish, short sighted and insolent. A particularly positive characterisation was of us as “obedient children”. And how did these genocidal buggers see themselves? As “enlightened rulers”!

Notorious Complainers

Consider a case from 1830’s Rajamahendravaram, Andhra Pradesh. The Collector C.Grant is desperately trying to cover his back against a complaint by Jagannatha Rao. The complaint relates to government officials using people as forced unpaid labour (remember the British concept of “caste” wasn’t applied wholesale to Bharatiya society at that time).The Collector is also accused of withholding petitions by Bharatiyas against government excesses. And how does this rat C.Grant characterise the upright Jagannatha Rao?

The rancourous spirits and the unworthy motives which seem to have dictated the petitions of the informant did not at all surpise me, when I saw the notorious names appended to them…The informant, who is a Brahmin, comes forward as the avowed defender of the ryots of the lowest class of the community which his own caste have trampled upon for ages.[i]

So there you go! How dare the oppressive Brahmin fight for the rights of the downtrodden? Not happening in the enlightened English rule. Of course nothing ever comes out of these complaints.

Lazy and Apathetic

Bharatiya’s were reluctant to provide free labour to the government for which they were paying heavy taxes as well. This reluctance was attributed to us being lazy and apathetic for the common good (i.e. the British rulers). The reality was this: the British government in exchange for all sorts of taxes and cesses undertook the responsibility of maintain agricultural and irrigation works. This was previously done by the villagers who pooled in their efforts. But will all independence and incentive taken away from the village system there was nothing left except pay taxes and provide free labour. A related characterisation of Bharatiya’s was as “selfish and short-sighted”. The British officers believed that it was their birth right to make us work for free[i].

The whole difficulty as to the enforcement of the rules for the management of tank calingulas and as to the non-observance by the people of their ancient obligations to make the petty repairs to their irrigation works from time to time required arises, I think from the following causes: their indolence, their short sighted and selfish indifference to the feelings and interests and wishes of others, and their proneness to faction and consequent inability to combine.”[ii]

To remedy this situation the innovative British officers suggested framing new laws or enforcing existing ones like Act I of 1858 to force Bharatiya’s to labour for free. A sample of their thought process is given in the report by the Collector of Masulipatanam below:

From the late collectors circulars in the gazette, and from what I hear from the superintending engineer, I fancy the ryots here are very apathetic about giving their labour; but I think that, if section 6 of Act I of 1858,was enforced here and there, and the villagers are charged twice the value of earth work  done by imported labour, they will learn to get rid of their apathy.”[iii]

Obedient children

At the other end of the spectrum was the classification of Bharatiya’s as docile animals who would follow the white man’s orders. One officer from Belgaum in 1874 CE identified that the obedience stemmed from the farmers resignation to being exploited by their rulers.

Here if carts are required a certain amount of compulsion is often necessary; i.e. the order is given, and the cultivators send their carts with little or no objection, as they regard the having to do so as a necessary evil, and it is one to which they have always been accustomed.”[i]

On the other hand the Collector of Tanjore in 1877 CE lamented in his report that the natives were becoming less “obedient” compared to previous times.

In the old days the collectors order was all that was wanted; like good children the ryots never hesitated to yield a willing obedience, and the recusant few, if there were such a breed, were hustled into good behaviour by the common sense of the village.”[ii]

To be continued…

[i] Revenue Department No.495 of 1874,Letter to chief secretary of government, revenue department, Bombay, from H.B.Boswell, acting Collector of Belguam, 15-04-1874.

[ii] From H.S.Thomas.Esq., collector of Tanjore,to the acting secretary to the board of revenue, dated Tanjore, 13-03-1876,No.1013

[i] Revenue Department No.506 of 1874,Letter to the Chief secretary to government from  J.Moore, Acting Collector,of Khandesh, N.D, 10-04-1874,Camp Borad.

[ii] From H.W.Bliss , Esq., acting collector of  Madura,to the acting secretary to the board of revenue,dated  28-01-1876,No.34.

[iii] From G.D.Leman,Esq. acting collector of the Kistna district,to the secretary of board of revenue ,dated Masulipatam,27-03-1872,No.1038

[i] Complaint of Jagannath Rao on forced unremunerated labour,Rajamahendravaram ( MRO:BP:Vol 1558, Pro:15.5.1837,Nos.37,pp.5300-3).

[i] No.1974  From J.Silver, Esq., collector of Tinnevelly, dated Tinnevelly,25/04/1860,No.153

[ii] IOR: Board Collection 2337: No 122510: Draft Jdugement 117 (PC 6728): 70 pp

[iii] Principal collector,North Arcot to Board of revenue: 17.17.1837. ( MRO:BRP:Vol 1566,Pro 31.7.1837, No. 47, pp 8658-9)

[iv] Revenue Department No.1211  of 1874,Letter to revenue commissioner, S.D., from E.P.Robertson, Collector of Savanur, 20-04-1874

[v] Revenue Department No.1006 of 1874,Letter to chief secretary of government, from  A.R.MACDONALD Collector of Kanara, 24-03-1874

[vi] Consultation  of board of revenue 15-05-1860, No.2270,  From D.Williams, Esq., Ag.Hd.Asst.Collector in charge of South Canara,08/05/1860,No.67

[vii] C-26 Consultation of board of revenue 23-05-1860 Enc.1 From R.Davidson,Esq.,Offg.Asst.Collector of Vizagapatam.          To E.G.R Pane,Esq.Collector of Vizagapatam,dated Vizagapatam, 05-05-1860

[viii] No.3285,dated 30th august 1883 From- H.E. Perries, esq, commissioner and superintendent, Rawalpindi division.
To- The secretary to government, Punjab

April 1, 2021

The Slavery of Bharatiyas(Indians) by the British- The case of Forced Labour in British India Part 1

Filed under: British Misrule — Yogeshwar Shastri @ 2:35 am
Tags: , , , , ,
Eminent historian Sri Dharampal (Image taken from here)

Before launching into the article, I would like to remember the legendary historian of Bharata -Sri Dharampal. Readers will probably be familiar with his ground-breaking work on Bharatiya society on the eve of British occupation.

Over the course of decades, he diligently collected original material on British India and brought to light how the Christian British destroyed our industry, education system, distorted our culture and subverted Hinduism for their own ends. Most the material he collected from the India Office records ( stored in the British Library in London) in the United Kingdom. Without any prospect of remuneration or financial support he laboured on due to his love for the motherland.

This is what Claude Alvares, a scholar and publisher, whose publication house has brought out several of Dharampal’s works, has to say about the tapasya of Dharampal:

He did not have much of an income. There was also a family to support. But notwithstanding all this, he became a regular visitor to the India Office and the British Museum. Photocopying required money. Oftentimes, old manuscripts could not be photocopied. So he copied them in long hand, page after page, millions of words, day after day. Thereafter, he would have the copied notes typed. He thus retrieved and accumulated thousands of pages of information from the archival record. When he returned to India, his most prized possession was these notes, which filled several large trunks and suitcases.[i]

 From anecdotes on Twitter, his last years were particularly hard in terms of financial assistance towards his research. Not surprising, for the fate of gyana margi people in today’s Bharata is usually one of financial penury and societal neglect. When time permits, I will post the translation of a lament by G.H.Khare, an eminent historian (in the correct sense, unlike the Christo-Islamo-fascist eminences who pass for scholars) on the hardships he faced throughout his life.

A lot of the material Sri Dharampal selected has been put online by Centre for Policy Studies, Chennai. This amounts to nearly 15,500 pages of original British era records like Commissioners reports, collector reports, judicial reports etc. These have been very neatly categorized by the topic and size of the documentation. For every page Dharampal selected from the British archives, he would have to go through at several irrelevant pages. A lot of these he copied by hand and typed them up. Quite a few were cyclostyled by him.

Over the coming years I will be going through all this material and publish my analysis online and in book form.

Note: Some of the references are out of whack as I am still getting used to the new fangled WordPress editor. As they say you cant stop progress. I will sort these out as I get familiar with progress.

In this series of articles, I will be tackling the slavery of Bharatiyas by the British. This is euphemistically referred to in British records as “Forced Labour”. Just as Colonialism is a nice sounding label for outright genocide, similarly, forced labour is a term which blunts the true nature of the atrocities committed by the British. My curiosity in this topic was ignited years ago by a stray sentence in the introduction of one of Dharampal’s books (don’t remember which), where he mentions this as a topic which needs further investigation. Sometime in 2015, I came across the giant repository of Dharmapals documents uploaded by CPS and stumbled upon a folder titled “Dharampal Envelopes”. This again has several sub-folders which tackle different aspects of British oppression in Bharat. It is envelope series C-25 to C-30 which form the entire corpus relating to forced labour in Bharat. This runs close to 700 pages in total.

I went through around 700 pages of original British era records in the Dharampal archive to draw a true picture of how the British used Bharatiyas like beasts of burden, all free of cost. This analysis brings out some shocking and repulsive facts about how the British brought down our ancestors to the level of load carrying donkeys. I did this analysis on and off for nearly 6 years as it is very depressing subject for me personally. This is hardly the stuff that will brighten your day.

Along with the hidden facts of slavery of Bharatiya’s other darker secrets also emerged: the mass rape of Bharatiya women by the Christian British. This is another line of research and in the coming years I will bring out a detailed book on this subject. On a sidenote, these reasons ( alongwith the destruction of our economy) were the real reasons for the Bharatiya-Anglo war of 1857 CE. It is only morons who think that a pig and cow fat greased bullet caused people to magically rise in disgust and murder the white invaders.

I will spread out the content across several articles as it is too big to fit in one blog post. The method I used to analyse the documents is Grounded Theory , which if done properly brings out hidden aspects of the data.

By the end of this year, I will be bringing out a book on the subject of forced labour, wherein I will also explain the analysis methodology in detail. If you are interested in the book ( as and when it comes out) please fill in this form.

The readers who fill up the form will be offered a discount of 40% once the book is published.

All right, lets begin our journey to understanding forced labour in British occupied Bharat. In places I have used the terms “BOB” which stands for “British Occupied Bharat“.

What is forced labour?

Lets start with a textbook definition. Very simply put whenever you are forced to work against your will is recognised as forced labour. One of the definitions given by the International Labour organisation (ILO) for forced labour is:

Forced or compulsory labour is all work or service which is exacted from any person under the threat of a penalty and for which the person has not offered himself or herself voluntarily.” International Labour Organization Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29).”[i]

Right, so big deal! How does this concern us? What’s this got to do with things that happened in Bharat more than a century ago?

Let’s simplify things with an imaginary scenario. Imagine you are driving on the outskirts of Bhagyanagar in your swanky new car. You see a roadblock ahead manned by cops. You dutifully stop your car. Next thing you know is you are dragged out, your wife gets molested, and the cops commandeer your car. Beaten and bruised you are dumped on the side of the road, while the cops jump in the car and drive off to the next city, say Warangal.

Let’s take this a bit further. You send your wife back home to Bhagyanagar and hitch a ride to the Warangal. On making inquiries you find out that the car is standing in the police commissioners office. You present yourself in front of the police commissioner, who promptly throws you into a cell. Where, of course, you receive the next round of beatings. Twice beaten, once shy, you walk out of the police station and from the corner of your eye you see a surprise. Dumped near the wall is the body of the car with all its parts stripped out. Wiping a tear, you limp into the wide world.

Another scenario while we are at it: A night in the balmy Bharatiya summer. After a long day you are dozing in the compound of your house. A series of loud bangs on the door rouses you from deep slumber. Groggy and bumbling you open the front door of the house. Next thing you know is you are being pulled by a couple of peons from some government department and dragged outside the house. In the morning you find yourself with a 40-kilo weight strapped to your back and trudging through the rising heat. You look back and see a line of unfortunates like you cursing their fate. The stragglers scream as a peon lashes at their backs with a whip. Leading the front is the District Collector sitting comfortably in his Ambassador car.

In both situations you don’t get a single rupee or ten rupees for your troubles.

Outlandish? Difficult to imagine today? Replace the cars with bullock carts and turn the clock back a hundred years and you get an idea what it means when the English talk about forced labour in Bharat. While the current crop of bureaucrats and police officers, in Bharat, are a law unto themselves, they are toddlers (anari in Hindi) compared to their white forebears.

In this part and the following parts, I will touch on each aspect of this oppression practised by the Christian British in Bharat.

What was forced labour used for?

Forced labour was used to run the British occupation in Bharat. This included:

  1. Government works (canals, railways, roads, bridges etc.)
  2. For government officers and their families
  3. Movement of troops
  4. European travellers. Any white person in BOB was referred to as a European. The term travellers meant these were not connected to the British administration but were people travelling on personal business.

I will be addressing each of these points one by one. It is important to note that very rarely were Bharatiyas remunerated for their misery. Most of the time it was free slavery to the British. It didn’t matter if you were in the North, South, West or East of Bharata. The Christian British were equal opportunity enslavers. The below statement made in 1844 CE by a Magistrate in Uttar Pradesh leaves no doubt as to what went on:

It is believed that the commissariat officers on the formation of large camps and the aggregation of large bodies of troops have been in the habit of requiring the intervention of magisterial authority in procuring the attendance of trade people and artificers of various denominations to accompany such camps without remuneration… with such requisitions the magistrates have complied without objection and without reference to the illegality and injustice of such impressment.”[i]

1.      Forced labour for government works

 In terms of sheer numbers this category overwhelms all the other categories.  Indians in their lakhs were forced to work as “free” labourers on government projects and regular maintenance of existing infrastructure. This included:

  1. Construction of canals.
  2.  Railways.
  3. Repair of existing water sources.
  4.  For the trigonometrical survey of Bharat.
  5. Constructing houses of the rapist British soldiers and officials.
  6. Working as porters for British officials who moved from place to place.

Repair and Maintenance of Waterworks: An illustrative example is that of the repair and restoration of the West Yamuna canal in the 1840’s. The issue of forced labour caused heated correspondence between the Superintendent of West Yamuna canal works and the local magistrate. This debate was sparked off by a Court order in 1844 CE which prohibited the forced impressments of artisans and trades people by military authorities. But a bureaucrat  by the name of J.Thronton wrote back to the court saying that for emergency purposes it was still necessary to employ forced labour. So, by 1845 CE the Judge accordingly modified his order to exclude military “emergencies20. As was typical of the devious British government machinery almost everything was fitted into this convenient category.

To this court order a stronger reaction came from the Superintendent of Canals, west of the Yamuna, who threatened to quit if he was not given a free hand to collect people. He further expressed the wish that every canal officer is given a free hand in collecting any number of labourers, without fearing consequences from law. The Magistrate of Karnaul (Karnal near Delhi?), M B. Thornbull wrote back saying the canal works pay forced labourers 7 paise, whereas the “nerrick” (market rate) was 2 annas 6 paise and hence no one was prepared to work.

 The superintendent clearly mentions that 5, 18, 204 people were pressed as forced labourers for constructing the canal. This equated to roughly 43,000 people gathered monthly[ii]. And how were these people rounded up?

I have no hesitation in stating for the information of government, that to the best of my belief not a single large party has been collected unless by sowars, burkandazes, chaprasis, khalasis, malis or beldars of the canal establishment for purpose of bringing them together…” Comment by the Superintendent of Works, West Yamuna canal22.

The superintendent threatened to stop work on the canal if he was prevented from getting forced labour.

This was a pan-Bharat phenomenon and continued for a long time as evidenced from notes and records from all the four ends of the country. The British officials of North West Frontier provinces (now in Pakistan) have recorded in their letters of the growing anger in people due to impressment for canal works and repairs 89 . A note from the collector of the Godavari district in 1872 CE to the Board of Revenue clearly spelt out the free work that villagers were expected to do on canals and waterworks 24:

  1. Digging and repairing of channels by which water is immediately distributed to the fields from tanks or irrigation channels.
  2. Turfing the leaky bunds of tanks in order to prevent breaches,
  3. Making ring bunds when breaches occur.

The collector is very clear about the manner in which people were coerced when he says that, “No instance has come under my own observation in which the ryots of their own accord turfed the bund of a tank, but it is said to be recognized as a duty”27.

Repair and construction of roads:  In building roads the normal tactic to save money was to bundle of portions of the road to nearest village. Free labour was exacted for building roads throughout Bharat. This included the main highways (called as trunk roads and the ones connecting the villages to each other).  A document from 1849 CE mentions that till that time forced labour was used for building trunk roads in Salem district. The note further states that since Rs.9000 had been allotted for the repair of trunk roads, there was no need to force people to work for free 28.

Another alternative to get work done free of cost was to use convicts for road and public works. This was eerily similar to the “slave labour” employed by the Soviet Union where prisoners were forced to dig canals, build roads and do just about anything that the communist party desired (Library of Congress, 2010). An example of use of convicts with details of how much money was saved is given in a report by the public works department on the feasibility of using prisoners to build roads. This report deals with Salem in Tamil Nadu mentions that due to high death rate of prisoners, the use of convicts for road repairs and construction was temporarily stopped in 1844 CE. That this experiment was already tried elsewhere is demonstrated by the report writers statement that,

the employment of convicts in gangs, at a distance from their gaols has been peremptorily prohibited by the Honourable court of directors and the government of India. Chiefly on account of the sickness and mortality which followed the adoption of a similar plan in Bengal”[iii].

The following table gives details of the death rate vis-a-vis the total number of prisoners in the prison in Salem. The total number of deaths comes to a staggering 19,845 people in a short span of 7 years.

 Proportion of deaths to Numerical Strengths
 Convicts employed on road labourPrisoners in gaols
First half of 18398702665
Second half of 18395002630
First half of 18409272743
Second half of 18406863310
First half of 18415002016
Second half of 184118102737
Total Deaths19,845 
Table 1 The death rate of prisoners employed on road construction

 The British occupation government saved an enormous amount of money by experimenting in using convicts to do work instead of forced labor from people. As is presented in this volume there is irrefutable evidence that usually all public works were carried out with free labour. The key focus on saving money, nothing else. The conclusion of the board of public works in their report was, “It is satisfactory to find that the labour of the convicts has been very nearly as cheap as free labour28.

This meant the villagers were responsible for not only building the road for free but also maintaining it. And all the while they were paying high taxes for the “gift of white rule”. This was identified by in a report by the Board of Revenue of EIC:

When the road passes through jungly, or naturally barren lands, the villages are few, and the population very scant. This road labor then must be very oppressive for great lengths of road are portioned off to small villages and the workmen have to waste much time in going to and from.”[iv]

Like most other uses of forced labour, the use of forced labour for making road was a pan-Bharat phenomenon. This is attested by other documents which are from the other extremes of Bharat i.e., Himachal Pradesh, Arakan hills tracts (Myanmar), Dera Ismail Khan, and Assam.

In case of emergencies such as floods and major damage to roads it was almost certain that villagers would be corralled into the repair effort. In Dera Ismail Khan, sometime in 1883 CE, large number of villagers were forced to repair roads and a bridge which had been swept away in a flash flood [v]. This large number was usually in the thousands not hundreds. From the letter it is clear that this was hardly an one-off occurrence.

 In the 1860’s, Sir Henry Ramsey, placed in charge of Kumaon as Commissioner, ruled as a petty tyrant. He constructed dak bungalows and large number of roads from where British officials exercised tyranny over Indians. Kuli, bardaish and begar were different appellations of forced labour, mean, impressed labour with miniscule wages, labour without payment, and grabbing food articles etc. by Government officials without paying for them.

Begar was compelling of people to labour without any payment. Miles and miles of roads were cut into mountainsides by using free and forced labour. In the case of Assam, the deputy commissioner of Gaolpara states in 1881 CE that there were “two instances” of people being forced to work on repairing roads in the district [vi]. It needs to be kept in mind that the commissioner was referring to parwanahs which were essentially records of the orders given to grab people. However, a vast majority of instances were never recorded, being accomplished with verbal instructions to the subordinate Bharatiya officers.

Another instance is from Madras Presidency where a government circular from around 1849 CE which asks officials not to use forced labour in main highways also notes that use of free labour for the major trunk roads was a common practice[vii]. In 1880’s, in Kumaon (Himachal Pradesh) a similar practice existed where the villagers were forced to maintain district roads, while the trunk roads were maintained by the government [viii].

To maintain canals and water storage: A response to a demi-official circular from 1887 CE  asking collectors about the practice of forced labour in Punjab admits that it is common practice for the maintenance and clearance of canals. The local term used for this was “cher[ix]. The legal backing for this practice is cited as Part VIII of the Canal Act of 1873. The same demi-official circular evoked interesting responses for government officials across Bharata. One response from Bombay Presidency asserted that in addition to forced labour for transporting baggage of Europeans, for troops and forced confiscation of carts, it was also used to maintain canals [x]. This was the response from Madras presidency as well where the legal backing was cited as the Act I of 1858.The justification for forced labour is that people are paid rates which are higher than the market rate.

A very common use of forced labour for government works was done under the excuse of “customary village labour”. The word customary had nothing to do with what was traditionally the villager’s responsibility, it had everything to do with what the British civil servants thought the villagers should do. Customary forced labour was commonly used to maintain the water channels, clear riverbeds, repair breaches in the canals and dams etc.

Additionally, even British officials admitted that there was no clarity as to what customary labour constituted[xi]. The acting collector of Godavari district, H.E Sullivan, characterised customary labour in 1872 CE as a “flimsy pretence” to force people to work for free [xii] . It needs to be kept in mind that the villagers were paying a wide assortment of taxes to the British rulers to maintain the waterworks. Collectors and tehsildars routinely used the threat of punishment to force the villagers to look after the irrigation works [xiii]. By the second half of the 19th century forced labour had become a way of life for most Bharatiya’s. Hence, it is not surprising when the Acting Collector for Godavari district informed the Board of Revenue in Chennai 1872 CE that:

“(In this district) the obligation to furnish unpaid labour for petty repairs to irrigation work is recognized by the ryots, and there is no practical difficulty in exacting it.”[xiv]

A detailed list of what all the villagers were forced to do is given in a reply to the question of forced labour around 1874 [xv]:

  1. Fill up dry gullies or repair other injuries caused by rain or the action of the water to the tank bunds and supply channels.
  2. To clear bunds and channel banks of prickly pear and other weeds.
  3. To remove accumulations and deposits in supply channels and sluices.
  4. To perform minor repairs to the amount of rupees 15 or 20.
  5. To strengthen tank bunds in all dangerous places and to watch them carefully in the rainy season, and to turf those parts liable to be acted upon by the waves.
  6. To construct temporary dams across jungle streams to catch water.
  7. To construct ring dams where necessary.
  8. To clear sluices and to close or keep open calingulahs with reference to the state of supply in tanks.
  9. Erecting embankments in the beds of rivers to lead the water to the head of channels.

The fact that these extensive works were standard across the board in South India is shown by the consistency in the replies given by various collectors to the Board of Revenue’s query to collectors in the Madras Presidency in the early 1870’s. The list of activities clubbed under the label “customary labour” is consistent with a few variations according to the geographic location. Punitive fines which had no legal basis were levied on the farmers who refused to slave for free. Farmers were beaten into submission by the British overlords or their Bharatiya minions. They had little say in the matter as they were ignorant of their rights. One such fine was levied in Nellore district was called a “nagalu” and was levied by the Tehsildars to bring errant farmers into line [xvi].

Most collectors were of the view that fines should be imposed on those ryots who refused to perform free labour. In fact, often fines were imposed, irrespective of their legality, and the collector’s acted as demi-gods who could fine and punish the ryots. One method to make the ryots submit was to force them to pay double the cost of the earthworks or refuse to lighten their tax load in times of distress [xvii]. One collector even recommended that revenue officers should be given legal powers to impose a fine four times the value of the work and the ability to auction off the zamindars and ryots properties to realise the money [xviii].

Prior to British rule (i.e. before 1800’s) the usual practice was for farmers to maintain the village tanks and other water storage sources. The key point to understand is that taxation in money was unknown in Bharata and the ruling powers (the Hindu ones) did not expect the farmers to pay tax and also maintain the water tanks, canals etc. The revenue was taken in form of grains and an amount set aside for repairs of the water tanks. In a letter from 1872 the collector of Chennai observes that there existed 2,885 small tanks which “were constructed by individuals or village communities and not by the Circar (the British government), and many of them are ancient ruined tanks restored by the ryots[xix].

 In the early 1800’s the asura Munro introduced the ryotwari system which was the caused tremendous damage to the social and economic fabric of Bharata. This imposed a fixed money assessment i.e. every year the farmers paid a fixed amount depending on their landholding. This amount was paid in cash and did not vary with the dire straits that farmers often found themselves in. After the imposition of the fixed assessment the creative and devious government officials came up with ways to make the farmers work for free. One method was to make the farmers responsible for any repair works below a certain sum. For example, in Madras in the 1870’s farmers were expected to carry out repairs under the sum of Rs.25.

This was also attested by the collector of North Arcot in 1872, when he wrote that, “(when a) Taram assessment imposed by the British government the state than assumed the responsibility of maintaining all works of irrigation on this consideration, that the so-called Taram assessment is made up of a tax on the soil, plus a rate for the water which the government undertook to provide for raising wet crop”[xx]. That the government did not fulfil its part of the bargain was evidenced by the complaints made by the farmers regarding the poor maintenance of large water channels [xxi].

Force was almost always necessary to compel people to work for free. On occasions where hundreds of “coolies” were needed for works such as clearing the dry riverbeds, tehsildars were deputed to terrorise the people into submission [xxii].  Farmers paid taxes such as the “irrigation cess” which was around 1 to 5 annas per acre of wet land 44. This cess was used to maintain the water channels and ensure regular distribution to the villages. However in spite of collecting this cess, the British officials utilised “customary labour” to make up for any shortfall in the cess collection. The focus thus was on saving money and maximising revenue for the British machinery in Bharat.

To carry troop supplies:  Like rest of the government machinery the most atrocious use of Bharatiya’s was to act as mules for the genocidal white army in Bharat. As the British Indian Army was the sole means by which the British ensured their occupation, no complaints were entertained against the atrocious behaviour of the military 4.  The military officers used to pressurise the local civilian officials, such as district magistrates, and get them to round up people to carry their supplies. This was mostly “free” and in many cases resulted in losses for the Bharatiya’s, who had to leave their occupation and slave for the white oppressors. No varna or jati was free from this atrocity and anyone at hand was dragged to work as beasts of burden for the evil British. The troops could be under the command of Bharatiya traitors or White people, but the result was the same: loss of livelihood and acute distress to the Bharatiya people.

“When detachments are marched under the charge of European officers, sometimes pressed coolies are paid and sometimes they are not. Similar treatment occurs when officers are travelling in consequence of removals etc. as well as when other gentlemen pass through the country.”[xxiii]

This practice was common right from the time the English were fighting for military supremacy in Dakshina Bharata. A letter from 1773 CE from Sir Robert Harland to the Earl of Rochford, where the former decries the loot perpetrated by the officers of the East India Company in Arcot [xxiv].  At this point in time Arcot was ruled by the Nawab Muhammad Ali Khan Wallajah. The letter notes that, “The pressing of his people to serve as coolies, and their bullocks to carry baggage, which ought to be employed for the purposes of cultivation,are what would appear to be some of the Nabob’s greatest grievances.”

A note from the collector of Tinnevally in 1837 admits that, “the baggage for troops marching is invariably carried by carts or by coolies, engaged to perform service for the whole distance”[xxv].  This was hardly service done by Bharatiya’s out of love for their oppressors. The usual tactic was to get a white civilian officer to force them to work as slaves. Sometimes the carrot of a slight reduction in their taxes was used as inducement to try and get the Bharatiya’s to work for free.

Occasionally a right minded British civil servant such as a magistrate would protest against being made to forcibly impress Bharatiya’s of all walks in order to serve the British occupation army. One such honourable exception was the Magistrate of Kanpur who in 1843 wrote a strong letter to the commissioner of Allahabad division about the illegality of asking public officers to grab trades people whenever the military asked them to 52. He pointedly remarks that a majority of magistrates simply agree to whatever demands the military made in terms of impressing people. He further describes the method in which this was done, “Usual course was for the kotwal of the city to collect all the trades people; and they were forced to make up a purse among themselves with which they indemnified an individual of each craft, who was thus persuaded to go with the camp” 52. The military officials, referred to as the Commissariat, refused to compensate the tradesmen who were thus forced to accompany army divisions on the march, and insisted that they earn their living by selling goods within the army camp [xxvi]. The magistrate’s letter led the Lt. Governor of North-West Provinces (today’s Uttar Pradesh) to inquire with the Commissariat regarding the magistrate’s accusations. The commissariat flippantly replied that, “We would suggest that the magistrate be advised that it rests entirely with himself to refuse compliance52.  The Magistrate of Kanpur listed thirty-four types of tradesmen who were forced to accompany military units on the march. These tradesmen were forced to carry their tools and supplies for long distances without the guarantee of any payment for their trouble.

It is worth noting that till the advent of the mass manufactured automobile in the 20th century the main vehicle of travel and for carrying supplies was the bullock cart. When fighting with Bharatiya powers in the 18th and early 19th century, the British forced our people to give up their bullocks and carts in their thousands. A good example of this is the forced requisitioning of around 3000 to 20000 bullocks by Munro from Andhra Pradesh during the Second Maratha-Anglo war of 1803-1804 CE (Stein, 1989). Thousands of bullocks died during the war and the lack of bullocks for tilling the fields led to severe famine in coastal Andhra Pradesh (Ceded districts).

This became the routine even when the white tyrants had established their power in Bharat. Every time British troops and their local mercenaries marched through the country, carts and people were forcibly procured and used.  In the early 1820’s the Magistrate of Bellary in Karnataka, A.D Campbell, wrote to his seniors about the severe hardships the local people faced  from being forced to serve as coolies and to furnish supplies from detachment of troops [xxvii]. He details how in the short span of three months, eight corps and numerous smaller detachments marched through the district. The chief complain of the people was not about providing labour but about not being paid properly and being mistreated by the occupation forces. Campbell listed the following military formations which had marched in the district from around June to end of August 1820 CE: 1st of the 7th N.I, 2nd of the 16th N.I., 3 of the 17th N.I., 1st of the 19th N.I., 1st of the 20th N.I., H.M 3rd regiment, H.M 46th regiment, and  2 light cavalry besides smaller detachments.

The carts and their owners were dragged to wherever the soldiers were marching and this could be hundreds of miles away. They were rarely paid and had to come back empty thus forgoing their livelihood for many days altogether . To escape this tyranny villagers used to dismantle the carts and hide them in the jungle. The British resorted to keeping the “knowledge of the movements of troops in the background, as long as possible, so that district officers may, when the carriage is required, pounce down and seize every available cart” [xxviii]. This continued for a long time and in response to a circular from the Governor Generals office asking for details of forced labour, a reply was received from Bombay Presidency that forced labour was used for movement of troops [xxix].

It was not only carts and coolies that were commandeered by British troops, boats were requisitioned as well. This caused considerable hardship to the boatmen who lost their livelihood for as long as the occupation forces needed their service. The assistant commissioner of Sylhet (now in Bangladesh) writes about an incidence where boats were forcibly requisitioned to facilitate the movement of the 10th regiment of the N.I 55. The Bharatiya lower rung officials such as Mirasdars absconded when the assistant commissioner sent orders to grab boats and boatmen. These absconding officials were then taken to task by the commissioner for “neglecting” their duty. The commissioner details the whole disgraceful episode as ,

In the cold weather of 1880, when the 10th regiment N.I passed through the Karimganj subdivision en-route to Cachar, about 20 boats were impressed in the sub division and sent to Balaganj (20 hours journey downstream) to assist in transport. Boats and boatmen were impressed with considerable difficulty”.

Continued in Part 2

[i] Registrar Nizamut adawlut NWP to Magisterial authorities : 24.8.1844, no.1364

[ii] India revenue dispatch, March 1846: 1/Ap/NWP/N.4/1846 (extract) Registrar Nizamut adawlut NWP to Magisterial authorities : 24.8.1844, no.1364

[iii] Report from the Board of public works on the experiment of employing convict labour in construction of public roads. Ref: Appendix to the minutes of evidence taken before select committee, Appendix B, no .106,Public Works Department

[iv] Gratis, unpaid labour on road building in Madras Presidency (MRO:BR: PWD Cons: Vol.47, Cons: 25.11.1851, No.10-1, pp.1766-85,extract).

[v] No.385,dated dera ismail khan,10th august 1883 From- Lt.Col E.L. Ommanney, Officiating commissioner and superintendent, Derajat division To- The secretary to government, Punjab
[vi] No.391, dated Dhubri, 14/09/1881 From T.J.Murray, Esq, C.S., Offg. Deputy commissioner of Goalpara, To – the commissioner of the Assam valley districts

[vii] MRO:BR: PWD Cons: Vol.47, Cons: 25.11.1851, No.10-1, pp.1766-85,extract.

[viii] Northwestern provinces and Oudh ( Demi official, 07-05-1887)

[ix] Punjab ( Demi official, 28-04-1887)

[x] Bombay ( Demi official, 28-04-1887)

[xi] From  E.J Melville, Esq., acting collector of Vizagapatnam,  to the acting secretary to the board of revenue.dated  Vizianagrum, 14th February 1872, No.30

[xii] From H.E.Sullivan,Esq.Acting collector of the Godavery district,to the secretary to the board of revenue,dated Cocanada,22nd April 1872,No.96

[xiii] Proceedings of board of revenue, Consultation of 19-03-1860,No.1258 From J.Silver,Esq.Collector of Tinnevally, dated ?, 13-03-1860, no.96.

[xiv] Consultation of board of revenue 6-05-1876.From H.E.Sullivan,Esq.Acting collector of the Godavery district,to the secretary to the board of revenue, dated Cocanada,22nd April 1872,No.96

[xv] From G.Vans Agnew,Esq. collector of Nellore,to the secretary of board of revenue district,dated Nellore,26-06-1872,No.1441

[xvi] Rom G.Vansagnew, Esq.,Collector of Nellore,to the Secretary to the board of revenue, dated Nellore, 26th June 1872,No.1,441

[xvii]  G.D. Leman, Esq. Acting Collector of  the Kistna District, to the secretary  to the Board of Revenue, Dated Masulipatnam, 27th March 1872, No.1038.

[xviii] J.H Garstin,Esq., Collector of South Arcot, to the  Secretary to the Board of Revenue, dated Cuddalore, 26th March 1872, no.99

[xix] From W.Mcquhae, Esq., Acting collector of Madras, to the secretary to the board of revenue, dated 24th January 1872, No.21

[xx] From J.D Robinson, Esq., Collector of North Arcot, to the secretary to the board of reveneu, dated Gudiattum, 14th February 1872, No.63

[xxi] From T.A.N Chase, Esq., Collector of Kurnool , to the Secretary to the board of revenue, dated 23rd November 1871, No.386

[xxii] From W.S. Whiteside, Esq., acting collector of Trichinopoly, to the secretary to the board, board of revenue, dated 29th Febraury 1872, No.50

[xxiii] India Office Records: P/285/17 Madras Board of Revenue Proceedings 1st October 1795. (MRO: BRP: Vol.137: Pro 1.10.1795,No.12-13,pp 7354-64)

[xxiv] Home Mic. III East Indies 19,1773,Sir Robert Harland to Earl of Rochford (No XII) Recvd 10.4.1773

[xxv] collector,Tinnevelly to Board of revenue: 5.8.1837. ( MRO:Vol 1569,Pro 21.8.1837, No. 31, pp 9556-8)

[xxvi] From the magistrate of Cawnpoor to the commissioner of the 4th or Allahabad division on the administration of criminal justice for 1843, 28-02-1843,general remarks para 15

[xxvii] C-28, Magistrate  ,Bellary to Government, 31-8-1820 (MRO: Jud. Con.: Vol no. 151.B, coN 15.9.1820, Nos 9-13, pp.2203-68)

[xxviii] C-26 Letter to  Chief secretary to government, Bombay, from  J.W.Robertson, Collector, Tanna,  27-05-1874.

[xxix] Bombay Demi-Official ,05-05-1887

[i] https://www.infinityfoundation.com/mandala/t_es/t_es_agraw_dharampal_frameset.htm

[ii] http://www.ilo.org/global/topics/forced-labour/news/WCMS_237569/lang–en/index.htm

January 8, 2011

An Explanatory note on the Famines in India

Filed under: British Misrule — Yogeshwar Shastri @ 6:53 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

An Explanatory note on the Famines in India

Note: A pdf version of the article can be downloadedhere: An Explanatory note on the Famines in India.

From 1760 CE   till 1943 India was hit by terrible famines on a regular basis. More than 85 million Indians died in these famines which were in reality genocides   done by the British Raj.Contrast this to the fact that there have been no famine related deaths since independence!!

In the article below I will go over the causes and consequences of British made famines in India. I have used the words famine/genocide interchangeably as what happened in India was no different from genocide.

In the article I have tried to cover as many major points as I could, but it is inevitable that I will have missed quite a few. If brought to my attention I can add them sometime in the future.

1. What is a Famine?

Figure 1 Photograph of Famine Victims (taken from Wikipedia, year of Famine not known, possibly of the Terrible famine of 1899-1902)

A famine is defined as “A famine is a widespread scarcity of food that may apply to any faunal species. This phenomenon is usually accompanied and preceded by regional malnutrition, starvation, epidemic, and increased mortality.”[1]

It is better known in Indian languages as a अकाल (Hindi), દુકાળ (Gujarati) or as दुष्काल (Marathi).

Droughts are usually the root cause of famines. In turn droughts where there is a scarcity of life giving water for the crops, are usually the direct causes of crop failure in India. The failure of the crops in turn leads to a scarcity of food in the affected area.  Droughts are themselves usually caused by the failure of monsoons[2].

The failure of monsoons in turn is due to a periodic natural phenomenon known as ENSO (El Nino Southern Oscillation).ENSO occurs every five to seven years and causes extreme weather such as floods, droughts and other weather disturbances in many regions of the world[3]. Putting it simply, ENSO is like a natural seesaw which   causes the failure of monsoons over India while causing unnatural rainfall over the coast of South America.

So, is the process of famine in India as simple as sequential steps below?

ENSO causes monsoon failure  —> Drought —–> Crops fail—–>Famine——> Millions dead?

Are famines then a natural follow on from   the   droughts caused by ENSO?

Not at all, for the last two steps where there is a food scarcity leading to a famine and consequent deaths are completely avoidable. Even a severe drought can be stopped from developing into a killer famine by Government policies such as: banning export of food grains, rushing   adequate food supplies to the famine affected parts and ensuring equitable distribution, reducing the burden of taxation on people and in general making sure that there are enough reserves to tide through the crises. Famines always give advance notice as they are following on from droughts. With correct policy and timely government intervention   it can be ensured that there are no famine related deaths nor the immense human suffering that precedes a famine.

Post Independence though we have had quite severe droughts, some of them   even leading to famine (in Bihar in 1966-67), there have been no famine related deaths!!

Timely intervention   by the Government of India was the main reason why droughts did not lead to millions of Indians dead. It is to the great credit of the governments of Independent India that they did not let Indians perish due to starvation.

This is precisely why I have referred to   famines in British India as “British Made” (or Man  made) .Millions of lives could have been saved if the British had really been bothered about doing the right thing. Nowadays of course they hypocritically moan about the number of people “starving” in India and gleefully make crap movies like “Slumdog Millionaire” which make them feel good about themselves.

2. The Ideological Framework of Extermination

For any genocide or holocaust there is a certain ideology which drives the killing machine.eg the Islamic invaders committed horrifying massacres in India driven by the ideology of Islam, the Portuguese massacred Hindus in Goa motivated by their Christian faith and the Nazis had their fantasy about being a superior race leading to the murder of millions deemed inferior. Once the ideology provides the justification for mass murder, the methods used to achieve it are just the “tools”. e.g.  burning of Hindus at the stake for refusing to convert to Christianity would be a tool of genocide.

So accordingly the first question that we should be asking is: What was the ideology that was the driving force of the British Empire?

The straight answer to that is: Christianity. The British themselves were very clear about this; even a cursory glance at the documents of that period will make this clear. In addition there exists a multitude of books/papers which explore the synergy between missionaries spreading Christianity and the British colonization   efforts[4]. Hence from here on I will refer to the British rule in India as the Christian British Raj (CBR   for short).

The next question is: How was it possible for the Christian British oppressors to be completely devoid of any feeling towards the dead and dying Indians?

I f you consider people different to you as human beings, it is next to impossible not to be affected by their suffering. But once you start viewing them as “primitive savages” or “heathens”, similar to animals that need to be herded in a particular direction, normal feelings of humanity cease to exist.

How was this desensitisation brought about? From my limited reading it appears that two factors led to the life of the Hindu becoming worthless in his own land. I have arranged them below in order of priority; the most important factor is the first one.

1.1  The “Heathen Hindoo”

(*A Heathen is defined as an uncivilized or barbaric person[5].More commonly used in the sense of someone who does not believe in Christianity. This is a particularly insulting term used towards Hindus by Christian missionaries even today.)

The first step of dehumanising the vast Hindu population of India was to portray them as heathens or unbelievers who were immersed in the “darkness” of Hinduism. According to the missionaries it was the divine duty of the British rulers to “liberate” Hindus from Hinduism[6]. For this they had the active protection and support of the   Christian British Raj. In the doublespeak of Christianity the word “heathen” or “pagan” is equivalent to the “sub human” of the Nazis. i.e. someone whose life has little or no value unless he /she embraces Christianity.

The below  statement made by   a prominent missionary of the late 18th century and early 19th century, a person who had lived for many years in India, illustrates the general attitude towards Hinduism.

Claudius Buchanan, a chaplain attached to the East India Company, counted himself among those who had known the Hindus for a long time.  He had concluded, “Those, who have had the best opportunities of knowing them, and who have known them for the longest time, concur in declaring that neither truth, nor honesty, honour, gratitude, nor charity, is to be found pure in the breast of a Hindoo.  How can it be otherwise?  The Hindoo children have no moral instruction.  If the inhabitants of the British isles had no moral instruction, would they be moral?  The Hindoos have no moral books.  What branch of their mythology has not more of falsehood and vice in it, than of truth and virtue?  They have no moral gods.  The robber and the prostitute lift up their hands with the infant and the priest, before an horrible idol of clay painted red, deformed and disgusting as the vices which are practised before it.”[7]

Was this the ranting of a deranged mind or was this common place Christian missionary propaganda for the British masses? Vicious anti Hindu propaganda such as this was widely disseminated not only among the general public but   was fed to all British employees of the East India Company[8].In addition most of the British administrators/soldiers etc were indoctrinated at church run schools from a very early age[9].

It must be kept in mind that even till thirty-forty years back Britain was a very “Christian” country, where the church played a central role in people’s lives. Much of the negative portrayal of Hinduism in the West   today can be directly traced back to Christian missionary propaganda. Nothing has changed even in the present day as Christian missionaries continue to gather money overseas for conversion of Hindus in India.

Hence the  would be oppressors of India had already a very fixed image of Hindus and Hinduism in their minds. I would call this the primary level of ideology, where it was already decided that Hindus were “bad”.

1.2  Malthusian Mumbo Jumbo

Remember how  for a long time we were bombarded by media propaganda that “population growth is bad”?  Or that we are heading for a disaster as population grows beyond control?

All this screaming about the population explosion being dangerous was specifically directed towards India and China. Western countries   were only concerned about the “population explosion” as the ease with which they mercilessly exploit resources   would be under threat from India & China. The underlying   current   to these “concerns” is the racist fear of the “browns” (Indians), “yellow” (Chinese) and “black” (this referred to both Indians and Africans when racism could be publicly practised) would overrun “white” civilisation. Some   western authors have even made a career out of predicting millions of deaths in India and China due to famines etc!

All this propaganda about “population growth is bad” has died out a bit in recent years as a more realistic viewpoint has emerged .Turns out population growth is  not a “disaster” as was being screamed by the Western media and academics. India is especially poised to reap rich benefits from its population growth as a large segment of the population is of youth. China due to its short sighted “one child” only policy is going to face a rapidly ageing population in the coming years. Most of Europe and Japan are already heading for a demographic disaster as their population falls below replacement levels.

All this western fear of a population explosion derives from the theories proposed by   an academic nutcase by the name of Thomas Robert Malthus in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Malthus taught History and Political Economy at the East India College at Hayleybury in Britian. And it is no surprise that Malthus was   member of the Christian clergy (a priest for short) and was inspired by “Christian principles”.

Hayleybury College can be considered to be the gutter where “well mannered” white Christian men laid out plans for the conquest and decimation of India. This college was where the future British murderers in India were trained.Some prominent  alumni of Hayleybury include  Sir John Lawrence (Viceroy of India from 1864-68),Sir Richard Temple (governot of Bombay presidency from 1877-1880).All the crazy economic and social engineering theories which led to the genocides in India were taught here. We can think of this as similar to a Nazi propaganda centre.

The basic theory as given by Malthus boils down to this[10]:

·         Population growth is bad as population would grow to an extent that the resources would no longer be enough to support it.

·         Two types of checks hold population within resource limits: positive checks, which raise the death rate; and preventative ones, which lower the birth rate.

·         The positive checks include hunger, disease and war; the preventative checks, abortion, birth control, prostitution, postponement of marriage and celibacy.

The mass murderers who went under the title of “Viceroys of India” were all pass outs from the East India College and deeply influenced by the rubbish taught there. They actually saw the massive death tolls due to famines as a “positive check” on the population of Indians!

This is illustrated in a confidential note sent by to Lord Ripon by one of his subordinates (Ripon was viceroy of India from 1880-1884 CE),

“In the words of Couper: ‘If the famine mortality in 1879 be tested, it will be found that about 80 per cent of the deaths come from the labouring classes, and nearly the whole of the remaining 20 per cent from cultivators owning such minute plots of land as to be hardly removed from labourers.’ Although they died more rapidly than any other, ‘still they reproduce themselves with sufficient rapidity to overcrowd every employment that is opened to them.’”[11]

Malthusian theories still exert tremendous influence on Western governments and intellectuals, as is evident by the constant fears of population growth expressed by them. Added to the Malthusian theories of growth were the economic theories of free trade which emphasised   minimum government interference in trade and advocated maximising profits. I haven’t read much on them at this point in time, I will add more matter once I have read enough to form a reasonable opinion.

All these theories combined to form the Secondary Level of Ideology, which basically acted as the template to justify the genocides subsequently carried out in India.

3. Tools of Genocide

In the passages below I have tried to present as many of the direct causes of the massive deaths in the British   genocides of Indians as I could gather from my limited reading.

3.1 Feed the English, Starve the Indian

In all the famines which took place under the Christian British Raj, there never was a shortage of food in the country overall .In fact during the worst famines, surplus food grains were being exported from India. Nothing illustrates this point better than the graphs below which show that records amount of rice and wheat were being exported out of India, while millions of Indians were dying of starvation. This begs the question: If taking food from the mouth of a starving man while he dies of hunger is not deliberate murder, then what is?

Example 1: The Terrible Indian Famine of 1876-79

Figure 2  Food Exports during the years 1872-1879 (source: Famines in Bengal 1770-1943,K C Ghosh,from pages 28-29)

The terrible famine of 1876-79 was spread out across nearly the whole of southern, western and northern India (Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh).The most realistic estimate of deaths is nearly 10 million. Those who survived the starvation of the famine were finished off by outbreaks of cholera.

During the famine of 1876-79 CE   rice and wheat exports continued more or less as usual. Close to a million tonnes of rice were exported each year while millions of Indians were dying of starvation. As can be seen from   fig.1 in the peak famine year of 1877-78 a record three lakh tonnes of wheat were exported!!

The worst affected area by far   was South India, particularly the states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra (what used to be Madras Presidency and Bombay Presidency).

The worst affected districts were as follows:

Name of District
Kadapa Kurnool
Madurai Chingleput
Coimbatore Tanjore
Bellary Chennai
North Arcot South Arcot
Nellore Krishna
Salem Trichinopoly

Lord Lytton (or the “Butcher”) who was the Viceroy of India did not give a damn about the dying farmers. In fact he went out of his way to block any kind of help to the dying millions. An ardent believer of Malthusian mumbo jumbo, he believed that it was only right that the “surplus” Indians were being killed off by famine! The emphasis was always on saving money and he deputed his minion Sir Richard Temple to make sure “unnecessary” expenditure was not done on relief works.

Our culture dictates that hungry people should be given food without any conditions, it is considered reprehensible to make starving people work for food. But the inhuman British ethic was not to give any food unless half dead Indians had done some work in their relief camps.

Figure 3 A photograph of Famine Victims of 1877 CE , their bodies are skeletonised and are very near to death (source Wikipedia)

Temple went one step further and instituted relief camps which were not very different to Nazi concentration camps. People already half dead from starvation had to walk hundreds of miles to reach these relief camps, which   were hell holes (see fig 3 above for an illustration of a typical famine sufferers condition). Additionally he instituted a food ration for starving people working in the camps, which   was less than that given to the inmates of Nazi concentration camps. The rations given to prisoners by the Nazis at Buchenwald concentration camp in 1944 had a calorific value of 1627 calories, while the “Temple” ration for famine victims was 1500 calories[12]!

Half dead Indians were expected to work nine hours in the scorching Indian sun with only 450 grams of rice per day[13]. And this 450 grams of rice was supposed to cover the hunger of any dependents or relations of the worker. Mass death was inevitable on this concentration camp diet.

Temple’s policy was specifically designed to discourage people from using the relief camps and thus lessen the financial burden on the British government.  The British policy of systematic mass murder was very similar to the Nazi policy of getting rid of “undesirables”.

Figure 4 The architect of the terrible genocide of 1876-78, “Butcher” Lytton (image source: Wikipedia)

The situation of the people was desperate. But there was no relief from any quarter. Even as people fell dead outside the grain depots, the CBR took the “sensible” measure of posting armed guards in order   to prevent starving Indians from taking over the export depots[14]. Profits before humanity, that’s the British way!

Horrible scenes such as this were enacted throughout the country: “Scores of corpses were tumbled into old wells, because the deaths were too numerous for the miserable relatives to perform the usual funeral rites. Mothers sold their children for a single scanty meal. Husbands flung their wives into ponds, to escape the torment of seeing them perish by the lingering agonies of hunger. Amid these scenes of death the Government of India kept its serenity and cheerfulness unimpaired.”[15]

Or this one describing a scene from Tamil Nadu: “The greater part of the bed of the river is dry, and I was shocked to see that it had been selected as a burying- place where fresh ashes showed that several bodies had been recently burnt. There are pools of water here and there in the bed, and these are in an abominably foul state, owing to bodies out of the graves having been dragged to the water to be eaten. There were ten or twelve pariah dogs prowling about as fat as sheep, and unusually bold, and there were also vultures sailing overhead or perched on the ground. I had been positively assured that bodies were as often thrown down and left as buried, and that dogs could any day be seen eating them, so I resolved to satisfy myself fully of that. Accordingly, after a couple of minutes’ search, I came upon two dogs worrying over the body of a girl about eight years old. They had newly attacked it, and had only torn one of the legs a little, but the corpse was so enormously bloated that it was only from the total length of the figure one could tell it was a child’s. The sight and smell of the locality were so revolting, and the dogs so dangerous, that I did not stay to look for a second body ; but I saw two skulls and a backbone which had been freshly picked.”[16]

The mass murdering Viceroy, Lord “Butcher” Lytton had given specific orders that the news of the famine should be suppressed. But he went ahead with organising a grand durbar in Calcutta in honour of Queen Victoria .While this sham “durbar” was going on nearly 100,000 Indians died in Madras presidency of starvation.

In places like Mysore terrible atrocities were perpetrated on starving women and children. To quote from Mike Davis book, “When desperate women and their hungry children …attempted to steal from gardens or glean grain from fields, they were “branded, tortured, had their noses cut off, and were sometimes killed.”[17]

Example 2: The Terrible Famines of 1896-97 and 1899-1902

Figure 5 Food exports during the years 1892-1902 (source: Famines in Bengal 1770-1943,K C Ghosh,from pages 28-29)

The same dismal story is repeated again in the terrible famines of 1896-1902.As can be seen from fig 3 above rice and wheat exports soared to record levels in the years where the famine was at its peak. The most conservative estimates of Indians who died in these two killer famines are 8.4 million while the more realistic estimate is about 19 million.

Famines and epidemics went hand in hand. One of the main killers during famines was the sky rocketing prices of food grains which made it impossible for a majority of affected Indians to buy food. This same cause was responsible for the millions of deaths occurring during the epidemics[18]. Again the root cause was of course British economic rape of India.

3.2 The Economic Rape of the Indian Farmer

Why were farmers not able to tide over the particularly bad famine years under the Christian British Raj? It was not as if droughts, crop failures etc had never happened in India prior to the tyranny of the Christian British. So why did a few years of particularly bad drought lead to Indian farmers dying in their millions? Below are some of the main economic reasons for their   inability to survive the famines.

3.2.1        Exploitative Land Tax and Brutal collection methods:

The case of Bengal is illuminating to know how the British bled Indians white, even when farmers had nothing to eat. The British attitude towards tax and revenue extraction remained virtually unchanged till they left India. Bengal was the first to feel the devastating effects of the Christian British rule after East India Company became virtual rulers of the province post Battle of Plassey in 1757 CE. A devastating famine in   1768 CE killed off nearly ten million people in Bengal and Bihar.

Figure 6 Gross Revenue Collected during the Bengal Famine of 1768 (source: R C Dutt, The Economic History of India Under Early British Rule. From the Rise of the British Power in 1757 to the Accession of Queen Victoria in 1837. Vol. I, page 46)

But even while the dance of death was going on, record amounts of tax were recovered from the people by the most violent methods which included murder, rape etc.(see fig 4 above for a graphical representation of the revenues extracted by East India Company).

In Warren Hastings own words, “Notwithstanding the loss of at least one-third of the inhabitants of the province, and the consequent decrease of the cultivation, the nett collections of the year 1771 exceeded even those of I768. . . . It was naturally to be expected that the diminution of the revenue should have kept an equal pace with the other consequences of so great a calamity. That it did not was owing to its being violently kept up to its former standard.”[19]

And what was done to lessen the sufferings of the Indian people?

Absolutely nothing of course! The British   tyrants and the Indian traitors who collaborated with them forced farmers to   sell   seeds required for the next harvest and made immense profits by manipulating the prices of life saving grain[20]. Thus on one hand farmers were deprived of their sole source of future sustenance and on the other hand the sky rocketing prices of food made it impossible to buy life saving food grains!

3.2.2 The Quandary of Cash Crops

Farmers were forced to grow cash crops such as cotton, opium, indigo simply to keep paying off the extortionate demands of the British leeches. The Manchester Chamber of Commerce dictated and controlled the growth of cotton in fertile areas such as Berar (Vidarbha in Maharashtra).The entire social system of   Vidarbha was destroyed so that the British could put in place their own rapacious system known as   khatedari which was implemented in 1877 CE [21].The old landlord families were either destroyed or pauperised and the British government became the supreme owner of the farm lands.

Crops such as cotton grew readily in the fertile black soil of Deccan but had the side effect of destroying the fertility of the soil. In addition the British parasites even turned cow dung which had acted as a natural fertiliser, into a taxable revenue source[22].The   Manchester Chamber of Commerce pushed for the introduction of railways in Vidarbha so that it could have a vast   captive cotton growing plantation. The capitalists of Britain wanted a secure source of   raw cotton which they could turn to in case of any fluctuations in cotton supply from America. The poor farmers of Vidarbha were instantly exposed to the fluctuations in the world markets and had absolutely no share in the massive profits made by the British bloodsuckers. Thus when famine hit the impoverished farmers died in their lakhs.

Also increasing indebtness forced the farmers to sell their plots of land to sahukars (money lenders).This led to the concentration of fertile lands in the hands of a few thousand very rich non -resident landlords. The previously self sufficient farmer was forced to work as a labourer on his own land. Even those farmers who managed to hold on to their land, the acreage under their ownership was for most part between 5-6 acres, which was not sufficient to support the farmer and his family. Added to this was an influx of artisans, craftsmen etc   who had been thrown out of work due to the British murder of Indian industry. They had no option but to work as   labourers on bigger farms with virtually no resources to withstand a famine. The   grim story of Vidarbha was repeated in Bihar, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu etc.

3.2.3        The Tyranny of Taxation

The   amount of tax traditionally paid by the farmer   under the Maratha empire (or previously the Mughal regime) was between 16-17% of the   gross produce[23]. Again this was flexible depending on the conditions prevailing.ie if crops had failed the demand by the state would be reduced or in some cases suspended for the time being. What this used to do was to leave farmers with enough reserves to tide   them over though difficult times.eg under the Maratha Empire tax collection was flexible and kept in line with the circumstances of the day.

But under the Christian British Raj there was no such humanitarian response to the   life threatening crises faced by the Indian farmer. The tax itself came to about 33% of gross produce[24]. But this tax was not the end of things. On top of this basic tax were different taxes for roads, schools, post offices, dispensary, water tax etc. Taxes were levied on the most flimsy of excuses and the poor farmer had   no protection against the brutal force exercised by the British rulers. All these miscellaneous taxes added upto nearly   100% of the farmers real assets!![25]

The worst thing was that the British government would confiscate food stocks at the time of revenue collection. The ryots(farmers) had no option but to borrow money at rip off interest rates from money lenders to release their grain stocks[26].In fact the entire class of bloodsucking moneylenders came into existence because of the policies of the Christian British Raj.

The way taxes were raised was extremely arbitrary and without any basis in reality. The rise was based on the value of the land, so called “public works” done by the CBR (which included railways, roads, schools, dispensaries etc). The tax was raised irrespective of the fact whether the farmer was getting better prices for his produce or not. This inevitably led to the situation of the already beggared farmer paying over 100% of his earnings in tax. Also, the arbitrary rise in taxes could not be appealed in the courts in Bombay Presidency. Thus there was not even the illusion of justice.

Quite a few examples are given of   the unsustainable level of debt   burden carried by Indian  farmers in RC Dutts “Famine and Land Assessments”. To quote one of these,

Murar the Patel, a young man, farms sixty acres, but there has been no produce this year. The farm is mortgaged to the extent of about 3000 rupees. He estimates his last year’s produce at 375 rupees, of which he paid 104 rupees to Government. He had to buy four bullocks for 100 rupees, and pay 40 rupees for servants, and was therefore unable to pay anything to the money-lender. The other expenses of cultivation amounted to nearly 60 rupees. He kept the rest for himself, his wife, uncle, and two children. He has been served with notice of assessment. He had six bullocks, and has lost four”.[27]

The net effect of this crushing taxation was to strip away   any saving capability of the farmers in years when the harvests were good. The following observation by A K Connell illustrates this point well,

Against this calamity (drought) the cultivator, when unable to get a permanent water-supply from wells,* tanks, canals, or rivers, has provided   from, time immemorial by the storage  of grain in air-tight pits or earthen¬ ware jars. If war or taxation, levied in excess, or at times of distress, has depleted these stores, then the worst horrors of famine have swept over the land;”[28]

The farmers were permanently in deep debt to money lenders just to keep paying the extortionate tax demands. They had to sell even their reserve food stocks just to stay afloat. This left the   farmer with no   buffer   when famines hit   him. With every passing year the farmers sank deeper into desperate poverty and further into the clutches of money lenders. Every year lakhs of farmers were dispossessed of their small plots of land.

In fact   in the Bombay and Madras Presidencies   the land tax demands kept on increasing every thirty years by an extortionate amount. For e.g. when the remnants of the Maratha empire were finally conquered by the British in 1817 CE the revenue  from those parts was  80 Lakhs, within a year it went upto 115 lakhs and in a few more years it was 150 lakhs[29]. So   between 1817 and 1818   in a span of one year there was a jump of nearly 43% in the actual revenue collected!

How was this possible? Did the farmers of   Deccan feel so happy at being conquered by the British that they expressed their joy   by paying more tax? Or did the soil become super productive thanks to the British “genius”?

The reality was horrifying and dismal. Farmers were fleeced of every spare anna on their persons. Brutal collection methods were employed to force   farmers to part with their meagre savings. Unable to withstand the torture meted out by the British on non payment of taxes many farmers abandoned their lands and fled into the areas ruled by the Princely states[30].Millions of acres of previously fertile land went out of cultivation as farmers voted with their feet and abandoned their lands[31].

3.3   So….Where did the money go?

You   will be justified in asking the question  … “Where did all this revenue extracted by the British murderers go?”

The major part of the revenue was sent to Britain. Every year nearly   20-30 million pounds were drained from India[32].This did not include the enormous amount of   money paid as salaries to the white British who occupied nearly all the important positions in India. In 1892 itself the total value of the jobs reserved for white British was over 15 million pounds sterling while the value of jobs reserved for Indians was little over 3 million pounds[33]!

Additionally we need to add to the above amounts the huge amount of personal wealth accumulated by white traders, officers etc who remitted most of it back to Britain. For a better idea of the huge amounts of wealth drained out of India by the British parasites, I would recommend reading R C Dutts books.

Another big drain on India’s finances was the cost of   maintenance of   Britain’s armed forces and funding its wars overseas. To give an example: while butcher Lytton blocked any “excess” expenditure on saving the victims of the famine of 1876-78, he fully utilised Indian revenues to fund his disastrous afghan war adventure (this was the second Anglo-afghan war fought from 1878-1880 CE). The same thing happened during the genocide of 1898-1902; our money was used to fund the Boer war in South Africa and the Third Anglo-Afghan war. Strange as it may sound, we were actually paying the British to kill us and carry on their genocides elsewhere.

3.3.1 The Fraud of the “Famine Grant”

After the terrible holocaust of 1876-78, another money grabbing tax was dumped upon Indians. This was known as the “Annual Famine Grant”. Theoretically what it was supposed to do was to raise enough money to prevent another holocaust like that of 1876-78 recurring.

But the tax was hated by Indians as soon as it was levied in 1877 CE and for a very good reason. After   putting on a show that the funds were not being misused, the money collected in the name of the famine grant was quietly combined with the general revenue of the country[34]. This meant the British parasites could use the money as they wanted. By the time the next terrible holocaust of 1897-1902 hit, over 22 crore rupees had been collected under this fraudulent   tax, out of which only 17 crore rupees had been spent[35].

But how was this giant reservoir of Indian money used? Nearly 58% of the seventeen crore rupees (to the tune of 10 crore rupees) was spent on “protective railways” and in paying “interest upon Indian Midland and Bengal Nagpore railways”!  Hey wait a minute…. Weren’t Railways Good for India?

Wait a minute you say…Wasn’t spending money on developing railway infrastructure a good thing? After all   weren’t the British parasites spending the money on “creating” modern infrastructure in India? So, what’s the catch?

First of all, the money was being collected for a very specific purpose i.e. to make sure that a repeat of 1876-78 famine did not occur. Using it for anything else was simply a theft   of funds.

Secondly, the existence of railways did not help in any way saving people from famine. All they did was to make the transport of food grains towards the coastal ports easier, thus depriving inner provinces of much needed food grain .The advent of railways was directly linked to the rise in food prices[36].If food prices shot up in one area, the food price rise was transmitted to other areas as well. This only served to worsen the starvation problem as poor farmers already drowning in debt due to excessive taxation were simply unable to buy any food. By this stage the poor farmers had already sold their last stocks of grain to moneylenders thus leaving them defenceless in face of famine.

The railways were also carriers of epidemic diseases such as cholera, influenza etc. Indians died in their millions due to these epidemic, their immune systems destroyed by starvation. Plus the traditional water drainage and water conservation systems were destroyed by the haphazardly constructed railway embankments, tracks etc.

Could the government have interfered and made sure the food prices did not sky rocket out of the reach of the poor and could the railways have been used to rush life saving food grains? This should have been done but never was; the British policy was not to interfere with “free trade”. i.e. their profits should not be affected!

Instead each devastating holocaust was used as to reap more profits for the British vultures by using the excuse that “there was not enough railway to make sure starvation does not take place” and thus more railway tracks were laid at the Indian tax payers expense!!

By the time of the holocaust of 1898 almost   26,059 miles of railway track had been laid down in India Even at this stage R C Dutt describes the railways as being “overdone”.

Thirdly, most of the railway projects in India were specifically designed to make British speculators and capitalist vulture’s very rich. A minimum return profit of 5% was guaranteed by the British raj to British investors, irrespective of whether the railways made a profit or a loss[37]. Most of the railway lines made losses or served no practical purpose, but British investors still made a large profit as all losses were paid by the Indian tax payer. There are many examples of how speculators in London dictated what lines should be constructed and what profits they would extract from the Indian tax payer.

Fourthly, the forced expansion to railways in India was primarily for the benefit of British industry. Everything including coal, steel for tracks/bridges etc, railway engines, and rolling stock was imported from Britain[38]. In fact at one stage it was cheaper to buy British coal in Calcutta than Bengal coal[39]!

There was zero benefit to Indians from the “modern technology” dumped on our heads by the British leeches. For nothing was produced in India! Any attempt by Indians to set up manufacturing facilities in India was forcefully discouraged.

Freight on the railways was heavily subsidized, thus directly undercutting traditional transports such as boats which plied the major river systems. As any loss made by the railways was picked up by the Indian tax payer, the British Raj had no problems with the huge losses made by the railways. By 1884   the total loss made by the railways in India was staggering £37 million pounds sterling[40].

This was what an astute British observer had to say about railways being constructed in India (specifically with reference to districts of Raipur & Bilaspur in Chhattisgarh, Sambhalpur in Orissa):

At present there is no doubt that the peasantry in these districts are most prosperous. They make their own clothes ,they grow their own food; they have good pasture for their cattle, cheap fuel, and forests to attract rain. A railway will destroy the home weaving, absorb the profits of the carriers, cut down the forests, inflate wages and then depress them, and finally raise the land-tax. In twenty years’ time there will most probably be a famine.”[41]

The railway line in question was the Bengal-Nagpur Railway which was completed by 1890.This was a remarkably prophetic prediction as within ten years (in the holocaust of 1898) these districts suffered lakhs of deaths due to starvation and economic impoverishment. But wasn’t some of the Famine grant used for “Protective Irrigation”?

Along with the railways, irrigation works (i.e. canals, dams etc) are frequently trumpeted as an example of “good” that the British did in India. But the fact remains that they were only built in those areas where the British had a commercial interest in growing grains or cash crops.

Even where built, they had a devastating effect on the fertility of the soils and on the general health of the Indian people. Previously fertile soil was rendered saline and waterlogged, unfit for cultivation due to the seepage of water through the canals[42]. The construction of river embankments led to a blocking of the natural system of rich fertile alluvial soil being carried by river action to the low lying plains. This in turn rapidly made millions of acres of fertile land useless and considerably lowered the quality of drinking water. The natural drainage systems were further blocked by the “modern” system of canals and embankments leading to water logging and creation of mosquito breeding swamps[43]. Due to these, malaria, cholera etc spread on an epidemic scale in India; killing millions (the toll from the epidemics actually comes close to the famine toll).e.g. the Influenza epidemic of 1918-19 killed approximately 12-13 million Indians.[44]

Traditional Indian irrigation systems were neglected and allowed to fall into ruin. Here is a British officer’s description of the superb irrigation systems of pre-British India (the below refers to south India):

In no part of the world has so much been done by ancient native rulers for the development of resources of the country. The further south one goes ,and the further the old Hindu polity was removed from the disturbing influence of foreign conquest ,the more complete and elaborate was the system of agriculture and irrigation works connected with it….Every available source of supply was utilised ,and works in advance of supply have been executed, for tanks  have been very generally constructed, not only for general rainfall, but for exceptional rainfall…Irrigation from rivers and channels..was also carried on.[45]

The British had no economic benefit of maintain and extending this system, so they let it fall into ruin. If these systems worked fine, what was the point of constructing expensive canal works which led to disaster?

4. The Devastating Effect of the British made Holocausts

4.1 Stagnation of Population Growth & a Short Life Span

Due to the horrific death toll extracted by the successive holocausts of the 19th and 20th centuries population growth stagnated and in many areas of India even went into negative. (Unless otherwise specified, all the data has been taken from the census reports for the relevant years).

Decade Life Expectancy
1871-81 24.6
1881-91 25
1891-1901 23.8
1901-11 22.9
1911-21 20.1

Table 1 Average Life Expectancy of Indians from 1871-1921 (source:  Death in India, 1871-1921Author(s): Ira Klein, The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 32, No. 4 (Aug., 1973), pp. 639-659)

If you were an Indian living in the 1920’s the chances of your surviving beyond the age of twenty were extremely slim. The average life span of Indians went on steadily decreasing as the 1920’s approached. Table 1 above gives an idea of the average life expectancy of our people under the “beneficial” rule of the Christian British Raj.

Figure 7 Population in millions under British rule


Figure 8 Percentage increase in population from 1881-1941 under the Christian British Raj

From figures 6 & 7   above   it is clear that for most part of the British rule population growth was more or less stagnant. Over a period of 70 years the population grew by barely 100 million. The effect of devastating british made genocides can be seen in the census reports of 1881,1901,1921.What the graphs do not show is the terrible Bengal genocide of 1943 in which nearly seven million people died, as the last census under the Christian British Raj was done in 1941.

Now look at the same graphs below (fig 8 & 9) for population growth after independence in 1947.Keep in mind this does not include more than 33% of pre 1947 India. After 1947, Pakistan (Bangladesh and the present day rump remaining of West Pakistan), Burma etc were separated from India.

But even in the remaining Indian landmass the population has grown by over 500 million from 1961-2001!! From a simple glance at figures 6 and 8, it looks like some kind of a negative force has been taken off after 1947 and the population growth is back to normal.

The average percentage population growth after independence is around 23%!!

Figure 9  Population  growth in Azad Hind after 1947


Figure 10 Percentage increase in Population after 1947 in Azad Hind


4.2 Destruction of Traditional Indian Society

If we start talking about destruction of   traditional Indian village society, the logical question arises: “What was Indian society before the British conquest like?”

Going in detail is beyond the scope of this article, for a detailed description a reading of Sri Dharampal’s book “A Beautiful Tree” is highly recommended. For the time being as we are concerned with famine and traditional Indian society’s response to it, this short description by A K Connell will suffice,

The spirit of charity, deeply engrained in the native heart, has held the village society together, so that even the landless classes—with the exception perhaps of the very lowest outcasts—have been kept alive by their richer neighbours[46] .

This harmony and humanity of traditional Indian society was what kept droughts from developing into murderous holocausts. But this harmonious system broke down under the constant pressure and manipulation by the Christian British Raj. As we saw above, even in normal times simple survival had become a constant struggle for Indian farmers. Added to this the removal of traditional powers of the village chiefs   and into the hands of   inhuman British revenue/settlement officers destroyed the traditional village   accountability.

The horrors of the British made   holocausts destroyed traditional Indian society in more ways than one. As all hope of life ran out, village communities who had existed peacefully for centuries turned on each other for that last morsel of grain. Terrible violence followed as farmers fought for   the last stored supplies of grain[47].The Deccan region, covering Maharashtra and parts of Karnataka was worst affected in the holocausts of 1876 and 1898-1902.

Rural society in Maharashtra broke down under the relentless hammering of the British made holocausts. The   farmers in Maharashtra were traditionally militarised and had formed the backbone of the Maratha armies which brought down the Mughal Empire and kept the British parasites at bay for nearly a hundred years. But in the new circumstances groups which had traditionally lived and fought side by side, turned on each other[48].

Many villages were completely wiped off the map as almost all of their inhabitants died in the famines. Lakhs of Indians were forced by starvation to sign up as indentured labourers (a polite name for slaves) and shipped off to work in plantations in Sri Lanka, Mauritius, Guyana and Natal[49].

The condition of Indian women under the Christian British Raj was especially bad, but under famine it became even worse. Rape, sexual abuse and exploitation of Indian women were normal and accepted British practices. Under the racist justice system in India, white British and Anglo-Indians routinely got away with rape and murder.  Official British propaganda portrayed all Indian women (no exceptions) as “prostitutes” and carriers of sexually transmitted diseases (such as syphilis, gonorrhoea etc )[50].

In short the according to the British: Indian women had no honour and could be violated at will. In every military cantonment brothels (filled with Indian women) were constructed for the “exclusive” use of British soldiers[51].These were known as “sadr” bazaars. In times of famine, desperate starving Indian women were forced to work as prostitutes simply in order to survive and keep their children alive[52].Keeping in line with their hypocrisy, the British authorities simply designated them as professional prostitutes and subjected them to the degrading “medical examinations”. But white soldiers were exempt from being examined for sexually transmitted diseases as it would affect their morale!

In most   British orchestrated genocides such as the Bengal Famine of 1943, the death rate amongst male Indians was very high, leading to lakhs of women being left defenceless against being exploited by the British and their Indian collaborators. Mass prostitution resulted from the dire circumstances of the famine[53].

4.3 Harvesting the Dead

The main winners from these genocides apart from the British government, British people and speculators in London were   the Christian missionaries. I personally consider a Christian missionary to be the worst form of a human being. They thrive on the suffering, misery and distress of people. Their entire life revolves around converting non Christians by fraud, coercion or force. Their chief concern in life is “harvesting souls”, which is missionary speak for converting as many people as they can. Much like Islamic suicide bombers who are motivated by the promise of 72 virgin women in the next life, Christian missionaries are motivated by the premise of capturing the maximum number of souls before they depart this earth.

In India every famine/ disaster was a godsend for missionaries as they were able to convert lakhs of desperate people by holding out the promise of life saving grain. The interesting thing is that majority of   missionaries were white Europeans or Americans and had an ample supply of   food grains even when Indians were falling dead all around them.

In the later phase of British colonial rule, Indian converts to Christianity were increasingly used to ensure greater “penetration” of Hindu society. The spread of Christianity in India on a large scale closely coincides with the occurrence of famines/epidemics. Mahatma Gandhi called people who converted to Christianity under extreme circumstances as “rice Christians”.

Figure 11  Percentage Growth of Christians in India from 1871-1921 (all data sourced from Relevant census reports)

As can be seen from the graph there is a spurt in the number of Christians   in 1881 (right after the genocide of 1876-78), 1901 (during the genocide of 1898-1902), 1921 (after the influenza epidemic of 1918-1919).This shows as bogus the claims of missionaries that Hindus converted to Christianity to “escape” the caste system (or whatever vile reason they could come up with).

Here is an example of mass conversions during famine,

The high-water mark in the history of the Tinnevelly Church was reached in the year 1877. That year has been made ever memorable by the great famine which desolated the south. Ordinary missionary work was retarded in a heroic effort to save human life. Relief was rendered to Hindu and Christian alike ; hundreds were saved from starvation and death. In a few months 30,000 Shanans placed themselves under Christian instruction, not so much with a view to material gain as that they had felt the attractive power of love, ” The conviction prevailed “ so wrote Bishop Caldwell, “ that whilst Hinduism had left the famine-stricken to die, Christianity had stepped in like an angel from heaven with its sympathy to cheer them with its effectual succour.”[54]

Or this account of a Maharashtrian lady called Ramabai, who had converted to Christianity and zealously prayed for Hindu women to be widowed so she could convert them! The sickness of her mind can only be marvelled at!

The great famines of 1896-1897 and of 1900 gave Ramabai her opportunity. Before the earlier famine she asked that God would give her a great increase of conversions and prayed for a number of widows far in excess of anything her institution could hold. On the outbreak of famine she travelled to the Central Provinces. When the famine was over she had between five and six hundred women and children.”[55]

5.  In Conclusion: Famines as a Strategic British Weapon

Thanks to   Parag Tope ji, Brihaspati ji and Atri ji from Bharat Rakshak for pointing out the strategic aspect of the British genocides in India. I will very briefly go over the possible strategic reasons behind the British genocides in India. These are just brief outlines of selected areas, a determined patriot will need to do deeper research and connect the dots.

Maharashtra/Rajasthan: In heavily militarised societies such as in the Deccan and Rajasthan, even common people used to take up arms to fight invaders such as the Mughals, British etc. In fact the backbone of the Maratha armies were farmers from the Deccan. The pan Indian character of the Maratha Empire is illustrated by the fact that in the Anglo-Indian war of 1857, the main leaders (Tantia Tope, Rani Laxmi Bai, Nanasaheb Peshwa) were Maharashtrian, but the people of   Northern India threw their weight behind them in the war of liberation.

The destruction of this sturdy village society was essential to the British not only for easy economic exploitation but for total control over India. A heavily militarised society was bound to fight back against the injustices inflicted by the British. Once entire social classes were destroyed and people reduced to eating scraps for survival, the chances of a fully fledged pan Indian war were significantly reduced. The terrible famines of   1791-92, 1802-03, 1813-14, 1876-78, and 1898-1902 completely destroyed the social fabric of rural society in Maharashtra.

Uttar Pradesh: During the Anglo-Indian war of 1857, the British pursued a policy of   mass genocide by killing lakhs of villagers in Northern India. These villagers had been the main source of support and logistics to the freedom fighters. This genocide was directly responsible for the terrible famine of 1860 in Uttar Pradesh & Punjab. Over two million Indians died in this famine. The reason given for the famine of 1860 was that there was not enough land being cultivated due to a lack of   farmers who were either dead or had fled to safer areas during 1857.

Bengal Presidency: The two main famines which hit Bengal Presidency were in 1769-1772   and in 1942-44.Over 17 million people died in these two genocides. In 1769-1772 the famine was particularly advantageous for the British as they were facing ferocious resistance from armies of Sanyasis (immortalised in the great patriotic novel Anandamath by  Sri Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay).The death of nearly ten million people in the famine virtually destroyed the local support base of resistance to the British.

In 1942, the “brave” British armed forces were being thrashed black and blue by the Japanese. The Japanese had chased the British right till the gates of India. Leading the attack on the British were the patriots of the Azad Hind Fauj (Indian National Army) under the inspiring leadership of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. Once the INA   forces reached Bengal it was a certainty that the people of Bengal would join them. At that point it would be have been game over for the British in India.

To avert this, the British administration destroyed over 25,000 boats which were the lifeline of the people in Bengal. Plus food stocks were confisticated from  a large part of Bengal, thus condemning the people to death by starvation. Within months the Bengali people were fighting for survival and this destroyed the support base of the INA. The toll from the genocide of 1942-44 was horrific and over seven million Bengalis died in this genocide.

The above are just select examples of how the British pursued a genocidal scorched earth policy against our people whenever their rule was threatened.

Only by reading our history can we appreciate the magnitude of sacrifices made by Vasudev Balwant Phadke,Bhagat Singh, Chandrashekar Azad, Masterda Surya Sen and countless others. And we also can begin to understand why many of our freedom fighters performed the supreme sacrifice with Vande Mataram on their lips. We need to get out of the one track mind set which seems to pervade our country and become more alive to the threats from within and without.

वन्दे मातरम्

[2] Strictly speaking this type of a drought is known as a “meteorological drought”. There are two more types of droughts namely “hydrological” and “agricultural”. For simplicity I have mentioned only the meteorological drought. Although all three can be considered linked to one another especially in India.

[4] Susan Visvanathan, The Homogeneity of Fundamentalism: Christianity, British Colonialism and India in the Nineteenth Century, Studies in History, 2000,16:221

[6] Claudius Buchanan, Memories of the Expediency of an Ecclesiastical Establishment for British India: Both as the means of Perpetuating the Christian Religion Among Our Countrymen; And as a Foundation for the Ultimate Civilization of the Natives, London, 1805, Part II, para 6.quoted in Sita Ram Goel, History if Hindu-Christian Encounters AD304 to 1996,Chapter 8.availiable at : http://voiceofdharma.org/books/hhce/index.htm

[7] Ibid.

[8]Bernard S. Cohn, ‘Recruitment and training of British civil servants in India, 1600–1860’.quoted by  Ian Copeland, CHRISTIANITY AS AN ARM OF EMPIRE: THE AMBIGUOUS CASE OF INDIA UNDER THE COMPANY, c. 1813 –1858,The Historical Journal, 49, 4 (2006), pp. 1025–1054

[9] Ibid, see 7 above.

[10] I have taken this from the Wikipedia article on Malthus. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Malthus#1815:_The_Nature_of_Rent

[11] Malthusian Population Theory and Indian Famine Policy in the Nineteenth CenturyAuthor(s): S. Ambirajan. Source: Population Studies, Vol. 30, No. 1 (Mar., 1976), pp. 5-14

[12] Mike Davis,.Late Victorian Holocausts,El Nino Famines and Making of the Third World,pg 39,table 1.3.

[13] Mike Davis,.Late Victorian Holocausts,El Nino Famines and Making of the Third World,pg 38

[14] Digby quoted by Mike Davis,.Late Victorian Holocausts,El Nino Famines and Making of the Third World,pg 45.

[15] Osborne quoted by Mike Davis, Late Victorian Holocausts,El Nino Famines and Making of the Third World,pg 53

[16] Digby, William (1878), The Famine Campaign in Southern India: Madras and Bombay Presidencies and province of Mysore, 1876-1878, Volume 1,page105

[17] Klein & Elliott quoted by Mike Davis, Late Victorian Holocausts,El Nino Famines and Making of the Third World,pg 46.

[18] Death in India, 1871-1921Author(s): Ira Klein, The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 32, No. 4 (Aug., 1973), pp. 639-659,quoting

[19] R C Dutt,Famines and Land Assessments, pg.53,  quoting Hunter’s “Annals from Rural Bengal”.

[20] Ibid,page 44

[21] Mike Davis, Late Victorian Holocausts,El Nino Famines and Making of the Third World,pg 313

[22] Mike Davis, Late Victorian Holocausts,El Nino Famines and Making of the Third World,pg 327

[23] Ibid,page 19

[24] Ibid,page 23

[25] Ibid,page 26

[26] Mike Davis, Late Victorian Holocausts,El Nino Famines and Making of the Third World,pg 325

[27] Ibid,page 110

[28] Indian pauperism, free trade and railways: a paper read before the East India Association, 1884,Connell, A. K. Source: Bristol Selected Pamphlets, (1884),page 9

[29] ibid,page 43.

[30] Ibid,page 43

[31] Ibid, page 37

[32] R C Dutt, Indian Famines and Their Causes, page  10

[33] R C Dutt,Famines and Land Assessments, preface xix

[34] R C Dutt,Famines and Land Assessments, pg.78

[35] R C Dutt,Famines and Land Assessments, pg.79

[36] Economic History of India; From Pre-colonial Times to 1991,Dietmar Rothermund, page 34,table 4.1,quoting M.Mukherjee

[37] Economic History of India; From Pre-colonial Times to 1991,Dietmar Rothermund, page 32

[38] Economic History of India; From Pre-colonial Times to 1991,Dietmar Rothermund, page 33

[39] Economic History of India; From Pre-colonial Times to 1991,Dietmar Rothermund, page 33

[40] Indian pauperism, free trade and railways: a paper read before the East India Association, 1884,Connell, A. K. Source: Bristol Selected Pamphlets, (1884),page 6

[41] Indian pauperism, free trade and railways: a paper read before the East India Association, 1884,Connell, A. K. Source: Bristol Selected Pamphlets, (1884),page 6-7,footnote.

[42] Death in India, 1871-1921Author(s): Ira Klein, The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 32, No. 4 (Aug., 1973), pp. 639-659,quoting R. B. Lal and K. S. Shah

[43] Death in India, 1871-1921Author(s): Ira Klein, The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 32, No. 4 (Aug., 1973), pp. 639-659,quoting R. B. Lal and K. S. Shah

[44] Death in India, 1871-1921Author(s): Ira Klein, The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 32, No. 4 (Aug., 1973), pp. 639-659,quoting Census of India, 1921

[45] Mike Davis, Late Victorian Holocausts,El Nino Famines and Making of the Third World,pg 336,quoting Col.Anderson.

[46] Indian pauperism, free trade and railways: a paper read before the East India Association, 1884,Connell, A. K. Source: Bristol Selected Pamphlets, (1884),page 10

[47] Mike Davis, Late Victorian Holocausts,El Nino Famines and Making of the Third World,pg 49

[48] Mike Davis, Late Victorian Holocausts,El Nino Famines and Making of the Third World,pg 339,quoting Kaiwar

[49] Mike Davis, Late Victorian Holocausts,El Nino Famines and Making of the Third World,pg 112

[50] Venereal Disease, Prostitution, and the Politics of Empire: The Case of British IndiaAuthor(s): Philippa Levine, Journal of the History of Sexuality, Vol. 4, No. 4 (Apr., 1994), pp. 579-602,quoting:IOL, L/MIL/7/13810, Surgeon-General of Bengal to Director-General, Army Medical Department, London, June 9, 1884, Letter 9903-A.

[51] Venereal Disease, Prostitution, and the Politics of Empire: The Case of British IndiaAuthor(s): Philippa Levine: Journal of the History of Sexuality, Vol. 4, No. 4 (Apr., 1994), pp. 579-602

[52] Venereal Disease, Prostitution, and the Politics of Empire: The Case of British IndiaAuthor(s): Philippa Levine: Journal of the History of Sexuality, Vol. 4, No. 4 (Apr., 1994), pp. 579-602

[53] K CGhosh,Famine in Bengal 1770-1943,page 83

[54] S K Datta, The Desire of India ,Page 178-79

[55] S K Datta, The Desire of India Page 249

December 14, 2010

How many Indians died in the genocides committed by the British Raj?

Filed under: British Misrule — Yogeshwar Shastri @ 8:48 pm
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In Memoriam: In memory of the countless millions of Indians who perished in the genocides conducted by their British tormentors. You shall not be forgotten.

Approximate Number of Indians Killed by the British

Cause of Deaths

Number of Deaths


British-made Famines

85 million (approximately)

Please see Appendix I for a detailed breakup with references. For an  explanatory article on the famines click here.
Epidemics induced by Famines

Information is being gathered

Anglo-Indian Wars[i]

Information is being gathered

Indians Killed fighting for the British

Information is being gathered

Freedom Fighters martyred by the British

Information is being gathered

A   short poem in memory of the dead:

You Shall not be Forgotten

Voices of the past call out to us,

“Remember us, Remember us!”


Each voice has a tale to tell,

Of English “humanity” and “justice”.


With a heavy heart I hear their tales of woe,

“Stabbed with an English bayonet was I!”

“I was raped and left to die!”

“Dying of hunger, I was left to rot,

While my crops provided fodder for the English horse!”

“Did you see my village?

The firangis burnt it down in 1857.”

“I sold myself to save my child.”

There is no end to the mountain of grief,

Which befell our people in times gone by.


“There is no justice in this world,” they say in a voice,

“But let not our memories wither away,

What is more   cruel than to be forgotten by one’s own?”

“Remember us, Remember us!”


“Your memory shall be kept alive!”I say to them,

“On our shoulders the burden rests,

For we shall not let your memory fade!”


A brief Note on the rationale behind conducting this count…


“How many Indians were killed off by the British Raj?”

This   deceptively simple question was asked by a gentleman in the Bharat Rakshak forum. This got me thinking, “Surely there has to be a tally of the number of Indians killed by the British?” After all haven’t other mass genocides like that of the Jews by Nazi Germany been documented? A simple internet search will give you   estimates on how many Jews died in the Holocaust.

So why isn’t there any information on the total number of Indians killed off by the British in their “civilising” wars, manmade famines etc? Why have the “eminent” historians who set our educational syllabuses from their ivory towers in JNU (Jawaharlal University, Delhi) not brought out a simple tally of the Indians killed due to British imperialism? Have they done anything other than being Congress cronies and apologists for the Islamic mob? There is no surprise on their studied silence on British atrocities in India. After   all some of the more “eminent” historians owe their   sustenance and publicity to their lords overseas.

For the British government it is imperative that only the so called “positive” aspects of their tyranny in India are highlighted. Who would   want to own up to being responsible for multiple genocides?

At the end of the Second World War, a completely shattered Germany was forced to publicly atone for its war crimes. But the British pulled out of India completely intact, hence there was no “pressure” on them to repent for their genocides in India. Additionally, British academics and historians have played a pivotal role in denying outright or defending the role of their ancestors in the genocide .For e.g. take  the case of our First war of Independence of 1857.It is only recently that the Indian viewpoint has begun to emerge (“Operation Red Lotus” is a book I would recommend). For more than 150 years after the event the British version dominated mainstream narration of history.

Similarly in the case of other “Made in Britain” disasters, such as the terrible famines which hit India from 1768 till 1943 CE ( the last one occurred only four years before they left India in 1947 CE), British academia and their “brown sahibs” in India continually try to deny the British role in the deaths of millions. Case in point is   the Wikipedia entry for “Famines in India”. The lowest estimate of deaths is usually presented as the true one and every effort is made to absolve the British of the blood on their hands. One wonders who is editing those entries and why aren’t our people turning out in force to tell our version of history?

But the body of evidence regarding the deliberate murder of millions in the “good” times of the British Raj continues to pile up. It is heartening to see more and more mainstream books coming out outlining in detail the racist and deliberate policies pursued by British which directly led to the genocide of millions of Indians.

I am neither   a historian nor anything of that sort. I try to live by two principles in life: “Truth” and “Justice”. As far as the telling of our history is concerned, none of these two principles is present. This is my humble attempt to keep the memories of those who have passed away alive.

I have made a start on this long journey of compiling the number of our dead from a variety of different sources. The task is mind numbing and very painful for me personally, but it must be done.

I have started off with populating the total number of Indians killed in British-Made famines. As I populate each section I will add an Appendix which gives a detail break up with references and a short note from me. Each of the other casualty figures will be populated as I gather more information.

वन्दे मातरम्

[i] I believe the term “Anglo-Indian” war has been coined by Parag Tope in his book “Operation Red Lotus” for the war of 1857.However I have appropriated it to cover all the wars from the beginning of East India Company till the final suppression of large scale resistance in 1858 CE.

December 12, 2010

Appendix I: Breakup of the Famine death Total, with a list of Good books on the subject

Filed under: British Misrule — Yogeshwar Shastri @ 8:53 pm
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1. Breakup of the Total  Deaths:

Name of Famine Time Span of  the Famine Areas Affected by the Famine

Maximum Estimate of Deaths

Intermediate Estimate of Deaths

Minimum Estimate of Deaths

Most likely Estimate of Deaths

Bengal Famine of 1770 1769-1772 


Bengal (east and west),Bihar,parts of Orissa and Jharkhand 


10 million[i] 10 million
Madras Famine of 1782 & Chalisa Famine 




Madras Famine affected areas surrounding Chennai and parts of Karnataka. Chalisa affected Uttar Pradesh,parts of Rajasthan,Delhi and Kashmir 


11 million[ii] 11 million
Doji Bara (Skull Famine) 




Tamil Nadu, 


Andhra Pradesh,



11 million[iii] 


11 million 


Famine in Bombay Presidency 






High mortality but number of deaths not known[iv] 


High mortality but number of deaths not known 


Famine in Rajputana 




Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan 


Low mortality but number of deaths not known[v] 


Low mortality but number of deaths not known 


Famine in Madras Presidency 




Tamil Nadu? 


High mortality but number of deaths[vi] not known 


High mortality but number of deaths not known 


Famine in Rajputana 






2 million[vii] 


1.5 million[viii] 


2 million
Famine in Bombay Presidency of 1813 




Maharashtra, Gujarat(not sure?) 


High mortality but number of deaths not known[ix] 


High mortality but number of deaths not known 



Famine in Madras Presidency






Tamil Nadu?



High mortality but number of deaths not known[x]





High mortality but number of deaths not known


Guntur Famine/Famine in Madras Presidency 




Modern day Guntur and related districts of Andhra Pradesh which formed the Northern part of Madras Presidency during British Rule 


High mortality but number of deaths not known 


2 lakhs (this estimate is only for Guntur,many deaths in Nellore, Masalipatnam & Chennai not accounted for)[xi] 


2 lakhs (this estimate is only for Guntur,many deaths in Nellore, 

Masalipatnam & Chennai not accounted for)


Agra Famine of 1837-38 




Uttar Pradesh,parts of Rajasthan,Delhi, 

parts of Madhya Pradesh,parts of Haryana


1 million[xii] 


8 lakhs 


1 million
Famine in Madras Presidency 




Tamil Nadu? 


High mortality but number of deaths not known[xiii] 


High mortality but number of deaths not known 


Famine in Northern India 




Uttar Pradesh,Punjab 


2 million[xiv] 


2 million 


Orissa Famine of 1866 




Orissa,Parts of coastline of 

Tamil Nadu,

Andhra Pradesh,

parts of Bihar and Bengal


1.8 million[xv] 


1.8 million 


Rajputana famine of 1869 




Rajasthan? 2.7 million[xvi] 


1.2 million[xvii] 2.7 million
Bihar Famine of 1873-74 


1873-1874 Bengal, Bihar ,Uttar Pradesh 


no recorded deaths[xviii] 


no recorded deaths 


Great Indian Famine of 1876-78 




Tamil Nadu, 


Andhra Pradesh,


Uttar Pradesh,



Madhya Pradesh


10.3 million[xix] 


8.2 million[xx] 


6.1 million[xxi] 


10.3 million
Famine of 1880 





Andhra Pradesh (old Hyderabad state),Madhya Pradesh,Chattisgarh,

Uttar Pradesh


Famine was severe but number of deaths not known[xxii] 


Famine was severe but number of deaths not known 



Famine of 1884-1885







,Jharkhand, parts of Karnataka



7.5 lakhs[xxiii]





7.5 lakhs


Madras Famine of 1888-1889 




Orissa,parts of Bihar 


1.5 million[xxiv] 


1.5 million 


Famine of 1892 




Old Madras presidency (not sure if coastal Andhra which used to be part of Madras presidency and parts of Karnataka were affected),Maharashtra,Rajasthan,Bengal, 

Upper Burma


1.62 million[xxv] 


1.62 million 


Famine of 1896-1897 


Famine of 1899-1902


1896- 1897   & 

1899-    1902


Uttar Pradesh,Tamil Nadu(?Old Madras Presidency),Bengal, 

Madhya Pradesh,



Rajasthan,parts of Orissa,Sindh,



19 million[xxvi] 


8.4 million[xxvii] 




19 million
Famine of 1907-1908 


1907-1908 Uttar Pradesh,Uttarakhand 


3.2 million[xxix] 


2.1 million[xxx] 


3.2 million 


Bengal Famine of 1943 






7 million[xxxi] 


3.5 million[xxxii] 


1.5 million[xxxiii] 


7 million 


Total Deaths 85 million (approx.)

Essential Reading:

Before we go any further, I would like to recommend a few books which are essential reading for every Indian, irrespective of whether you like history or not.

1.      Late Victorian Holocausts: El Niño Famines and the Making of the Third World, Mike Davis, Verso Books.

The book has excellent research drawing on a variety of sources, both Indian and foreign to show the true nature of British rule in India. Gives detail explanations of the deliberate policy of maximising revenue while millions of Indians perished in the famines. Also explodes some myths of “progress” due to the British such as railways, telegraph etc. Get your hands on one and read from beginning till the end.

2.      “Famines and Land Assessments in India”, Romesh Chunder Dutt. Available for free download from : http://www.archive.org/stream/faminesandlanda00duttgoog

R C Dutt was a brilliant Bengali economic historian who had served for as a civil servant in the British government in India. His books lay bare the British policy of funnelling wealth and food out of India at the expense of millions of Indian lives.

3.      The Economic History of India Under Early British Rule. From the Rise of the British Power in 1757 to the Accession of Queen Victoria in 1837. Vol. I, Romesh Chunder Dutt.

The Economic History of India in the Victorian Age. From the Accession of Queen Victoria in 1837 to the Commencement of the Twentieth Century, Vol. II, Romesh Chunder Dutt.

The above two books are specifically focused on the economic loot of India from the time of East India Company (1757 CE onwards) till 1901-1902 CE.A must read to get an idea of the resources and wealth looted from India by the British.

4. Churchill’s Secret War: The British Empire and the Forgotten Indian Famine of World War II, Madhusree Mukherjee, 2010.

The above books   is about the terrible Bengal Famine of 1943 and presents evidence of British deliberately starving nearly 7 million Bengalis to death.

I believe the book is available at a very reasonable rate in India. We need to buy such books to encourage Indian authors to research and write the true version of our history.

References for Figures Listed in Table 1:

[i] Dutt, Romesh Chunder (1908). The economic history of India under early British rule, Pg 52

[ii] Grove, Richard H. (2007), “The Great El Nino of 1789–93 and its Global Consequences: Reconstructing an Extreme Climate Event in World Environmental History”, The Medieval History Journal 10 (1&2): 75–98

[iii] ibid

[iv] Reference 1: Digby,William.Prosperous British India,Pg.127.
Reference 2 : Dutt,RC.Famines and Land Assessments in India,Pg.3

[v] Reference 1: Digby,William.Prosperous British India,Pg.127.
Reference 2 : Dutt,RC.Famines and Land Assessments in India,Pg.4

[vi] Reference 1: Digby,William.Prosperous British India,Pg.127.
Reference 2 :  Dutt,RC.Famines and Land Assessments in India,Pg.4

[vii] Digby,William.Prosperous British India,Pg.127

[viii] RC Dutt.Famines and Land Assessments in India,Pg.4

[ix] Reference 1: Digby,William.Prosperous British India,Pg.127.
Reference 2 : Dutt,RC.Famines and Land Assessments in India,Pg.5

[x] Reference 1: Digby,William.Prosperous British India,Pg.127.
Reference 2 : Dutt,RC.Famines and Land Assessments in India,Pg.5

[xi] Reference 1: Digby,William.Prosperous British India,Pg.127.
Reference 2 : Dutt,RC.Famines and Land Assessments in India,Pg.6

[xii] Reference 1: Digby,William.Prosperous British India,Pg.127.
Reference 2 : Dutt,RC.Famines and Land Assessments in India,Pg.6-7

[xiii] Reference 1: Digby,William.Prosperous British India,Pg.127.
Reference 2 : Dutt,RC.Famines and Land Assessments in India,Pg.7

[xiv] Fieldhouse, David (1996), “For Richer, for Poorer?”, in Marshall, P. J., The Cambridge Illustrated History of the British Empire, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Pp. 400, pp. 132

[xv] Reference 1: Digby,William.Prosperous British India,Pg.127.
Reference 2 :  Dutt,RC.Famines and Land Assessments in India,Pg.9

[xvi] Digby,William.Prosperous British India,Pg.128.

[xvii] Dutt,RC.Famines and Land Assessments in India,Pg.9

[xviii] Reference 1: Digby,William.Prosperous British India,Pg.128.
Reference 2 : Dutt,RC.Famines and Land Assessments in India,Pg.9

[xix] Digby,William.Prosperous British India,Pg.128

[xx] A Maharatna, The Demography of Famine. quoted by Mike Davis,Late Victorian Holocausts,El Nino Famines and Making of the Third World,pg 7,table P1.

[xxi] R Seavoy,Famine in Peasant Societies,New York 1986,quoted by Mike Davis,Late Victorian Holocausts,El Nino Famines and Making of the Third World,pg 7,table P1.

[xxii] Digby,William.Prosperous British India,Pg.128

[xxiii] Digby,William.Prosperous British India,Pg.128

[xxiv] Digby,William.Prosperous British India,Pg.129

[xxv] Digby,William.Prosperous British India,Pg.129

[xxvi] The Lancet 16 may 1901, quoted in Mike Davis.Late Victorian Holocausts,El Nino Famines and Making of the Third World,pg 7,table P1

[xxvii] A Maharatna, The Demography of Famine. quoted by Mike Davis,Late Victorian Holocausts,El Nino Famines and Making of the Third World,pg 7,table P1.

[xxviii] Cambridge Economic History of India,Cambridge 1983;quoted by by Mike Davis,Late Victorian Holocausts,El Nino Famines and Making of the Third World,pg 7,table P1.

[xxix] Maharatna quoted by Mike Davis,.Late Victorian Holocausts,El Nino Famines and Making of the Third World,pg 174

[xxx] Ibid

[xxxi] Bengal Tiger and British Lion: An Account of the Bengal Famine of 1943,Richard Stevenson,Pg.139

[xxxii] Famines in Bengal:1770-1943,K C Ghosh,pg.111

[xxxiii] Famine Inquiry Commision Report,1943.Pg.110

December 4, 2010

Did the British Civilise us? Part 1:Science and Technology in India

Filed under: British Misrule — Yogeshwar Shastri @ 10:28 am
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Did the British civilise us? The general impression carried by most British people is that they “civilised India”, whatever that means. Even the more intellectual amongst them carry this opinion. The thrust of the   education system in the United Kingdom is to disseminate the myth amongst the British public that the British Raj was some kind of a charitable organisation. The general thinking is, “We gave you railways, education, telegraph, your democracy and we didn’t even charge you for it!!” (The first two were set up primarily to make the economic loot of India easier and enable rapid movement of British troops to any part of British India, their “modern education” destroyed any kind of basic educational access for millions of Indians, while the last one is an outright lie: what was the whole point of the freedom struggle if the British gave us democracy!! In my eyes justifying British colonialism is like saying: “Tough luck you got raped, but   look at the bright side: now you know what sex feels like!!)

Confront any British on the atrocities committed by the British in India and all you are going to get a hostile look of disbelief. For in their mind    that is simply not possible: after all the British Empire was a force for good in the world!!

Or the more common reaction from those who are more aware of the destructive nature of British rule is along the lines of, “Grow up and stop ranting about the past!” .Sanctimonious advice free of cost!

But why blame the British for covering up their genocides, rapes and loot in India? This is after all expected behaviour from a hardened criminal. They will never acknowledge their crimes till somebody brings them to  book.

What should really cause us to hang our heads in shame is the utter failure of our “esteemed” historians to educate Indians in the real character of the British rule. Not that common Indians need educating in how bad British rule was. Thankfully civilisational memories are stronger than the machinations of corrupt academics and apologists of the British raj. Memories of the genocide committed by the British in the suppression of the war of independence of 1857 still linger on in the collective consciousness of Indian people.

More than the common people it is the English educated elite of India which needs to be “educated” in the history of India, whether that is of Islamic or British misrule. The statement by Dr. Manmohan Singh while accepting an honorary degree from his alma mater Oxford University in 2005 that, “Today, with the balance and perspective offered by the passage of time and the benefit of hindsight, it is possible for an Indian Prime Minister to assert that India’s experience with Britain had its beneficial consequences too[i]” is indicative of the mental colonisation of the Indian mind. I’m sure that the millions of perfectly avoidable deaths, the billions looted were some of the “beneficial consequences” our esteemed Prime minister had in mind when he made the statement .Physical freedom is relatively easy to obtain however becoming mentally free is another thing all together.

Coming back to our topic: How do we define the word “civilise”? A definition I picked up from the Cambridge online dictionary defines it   as: “to educate a society so that its culture becomes more developed”.

So when the British gained supremacy in India in the late 18th and early 19th centuries were we a barbarous, primitive people who needed to be educated in the ways of modern society, science, technology, living etc? Were our educational institutions outdated and irrelevant? Was the administration system of the country a disorganised mess? Were we completely lacking in any kind of technological and scientific capability?

These and many more questions rose in my mind. And I found at least some of them answered in Shri Dharampal’s excellent books. This great son of mother India was not a professional historian but the research he did and the findings he presented in his books on the nature of Indian society in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries is unmatched. His biography and quite a few of his books can be found on this site: http://www.samanvaya.com/dharampal/

As a first step I will post some of the information regarding indigenous science and technology I gleaned from Sri Dharampal’s book. Below I am posting some extracts from his book “Indian Science and Technology in the Eighteenth Century” (you can download the pdf version of the book here: Indian Science and Technology-Dharampal. As far as I am aware there are no copyright restrictions. However if there are please let me know and I will take it down ASAP).

Part I: Extracts from “Indian Science and Technology in the Eighteenth Century”

Sri Dharampal’s book has original reproductions of several observations made by British administrators, travellers etc about the science and technology of the Indian people. I am only posting these here to stimulate curiosity, for a fuller appreciation reading the book is highly recommended.

1. Inoculation against Smallpox in mid and late 18th century India:

The following passage from 1767 CE is a small fragment of an eye witness account to the process of inoculation against small pox carried out in India before the British supremacy. It describes how trained Brahmins from various major cities like Varanasi etc spread out once a year all over the country to inoculate   common people against small pox.

Inoculation is performed in Indostan by a particular tribe of Bramins, who are delegated annually for this service from the different Colleges of Bindoobund, Eleabas, Benares, & c. over all the distant provinces; dividing themselves into small parties, of three or four each, they plan their travelling circuits in such wise as to arrive at the places of their respective destination some weeks before the usual return of the disease; they arrive commonly in the Bengall provinces early in February, although they some years do not begin to inoculate before March, deferring it until they consider the state of the season, and acquire information of the state of the distemper.”[ii]

The writer of the manuscript further elaborates on the actual process of inoculation, “The inhabitants of Bengall, knowing the usual time when the inoculating Bramins annually return, observe strictly the regimen enjoined, whether they determine to be inoculated or not; this preparation consists only in abstaining for a month from fish, milk, and ghee (a kind of butter made generally of buffalo’s milk); the prohibition of fish respects only the native Portuguese and Mahomedans, who abound in every province of the empire. When the Bramins begin to inoculate, they pass from house to house and operate at the door, refusing to inoculate any who have not, on a strict scrutiny, duly observed the preparatory course enjoined them. It is no uncommon thing for them to ask the parents how many pocks they choose their children should have: Vanity, we should think, urged a question on a matter seemingly so uncertain in the issue; but true it is, that they hardly ever exceed, or are deficient, in the number required. They inoculate indifferently on any part, but if left to their choice, they prefer the outside of the arm, midway between the wrist and the elbow, for the males; and the same between the elbow and the shoulder for the females. Previous to the operation the Operator takes a piece of cloth in his hand, (which becomes his perquisite if the family is opulent) and with it gives a dry friction upon the part intended for inoculation, for the space of eight or ten minutes, then with a small instrument he wounds, by many slight touches, about the compass of a silver groat, just making the smallest appearance of blood, then opening a linen double rag (which he always keeps in a cloth round his waist) takes from thence a small pledget of cotton charged with the variolous matter, which he moistens with two or three drops of the Ganges Water, an applies it to the wound, fixing it on with a slight bandage, and ordering it to remain on for six hours without being moved, then the bandage to be taken off, and the pledget to remain until it falls off itself; sometimes (but rarely) he squeezes a drop from the pledget, upon the part, before he applies it; from the time he begins the dry friction, to tying the knot of the bandage, he never ceases reciting some portions of the worship appointed, by the Aughtorrah Bhade, to be paid to the female divinity before mentioned, nor quits the most solemn countenance all the while. The cotton, which he preserves in a double callico rag, is saturated with matter from the inoculated pustules of the preceding year, for they never inoculate with fresh matter, nor with matter from the disease caught in the natural way, however distinct and mild the species[iii].

The description given by the Brahmins about what causes the disease is a perfect description of the small pox virus.

They lay it down as a principle, that the immediate (or instant) cause of the smallpox exists in the mortal part of every human and animal form; that the mediate (or second) acting cause, which stirs up the first, and throws it into a state of fermentation, is multitudes of imperceptible animalculae floating in the atmosphere; that these are the cause of all epidemical diseases, but more particularly of the small pox; that they return at particular seasons in greater or lesser numbers; that these bodies, imperceptible as they are to the human organs of vision, imprison the most malignant tribes of the fallen angelic spirits: That these animalculae touch and adhere to everyhing, in greater or lesser proportions, according to the nature of the surfaces which they encounter; that they pass and repass in and out of the bodies of all animals in the act of respiration, without injury to themselves, or the bodies they pass through; that such is not the case with those that are taken in with the food, which, by mastication, and the digestive faculties of the stomach and intestines, are crushed and assimilated with the chyle, and conveyed into the blood, where, in a certain time, their malignant juices excite a fermentation peculiar to the immediate (or instant) cause, which ends in an eruption on the skin”[iv].

2. Observatory at Varanasi:

Another account describes the existence of a large observatory at Varanasi.

We entered this building, and went up a staircase to the top of a part of it, near to the river Ganges, that led to a large terrace, where, to my surprise and satisfaction, I saw a number of instruments yet remaining, in the greatest preservation, stupendously large, immoveable from the spot, and built of stone, some of them being upwards of twenty feet in height; and, although they are said to have been erected two hundred years ago, the graduations and divisions on the several arcs appeared as well cut, and as accurately divided, as if they had been the performance of a modern artist. The execution in the construction of these instruments exhibited a mathematical exactness in the fixing, bearing, and fitting of the several parts, in the necessary and sufficient supports to the very large stones that composed them, and in the joining and fastening each into the other by means of lead and iron.”

About the antiquity of the observatory the writer further observes, “This observatory at Benares is said to have been built by the order of the emperor Ackbar; for as this wise prince endeavoured to improve the arts, so he wished also to recover the sciences of Hindostan, and therefore directed that three such places should be erected; one at Delhi, another at Agra, and the third at Benares”[v].

This observatory is apparently still in existence in a very sorry state in Varanasi and is known as “Man Mandir”.


3. Process of making Ice:

A novel Indian method of making ice is described in a manuscript from 1775 CE. The writer further says that this method was used on a large scale to preserve sherbets etc.

The methods he pursued were as follows: on a large open plain, three or four excavations were made, each about thirty feet square and two deep; the bottoms of which were strewed about eight inches or a foot thick with sugar-cane, or the stems of the large Indian corn dried. Upon this bed were placed in rows, near to each other, a number of small, shallow, earthen pans, for containing the water intended to be frozen. These are unglazed, scarce a quarter of an inch thick, about an inch and a quarter in depth, and made of an earth so porous, that it was visible, from the exterior part of the pans, the water had penetrated the whole substance. Towards the dusk of the evening, they were filled with soft water, which had been boiled, and then left in the afore-related situation. The ice-makers attended the pits usually before the sun was above the horizon, and collected in baskets what was frozen, by pouring the whole contents of the pans into them, and thereby retaining the ice, which was daily conveyed to the grand receptacle or place of preservation, prepared generally on some high dry situation, by sinking a pit of fourteen or fifteen feet deep, lined first with straw, and then with a coarse kind of blanketing, where it is beat down with rammers, till at length its own accumulated cold again freezes and forms one solid mass. The mouth of the pit is well secured from the exterior air with straw and blankets, in the manner of the lining, and a thatched roof is thrown over the whole”[vi].


In addition to the above there are a lot of other British eye witness accounts of Indian astronomy, knowledge of the binomial theorem by Indians, paper manufacture, agricultural inventions such as the drill plough, manufacture of iron etc are detailed in the book. As Dharampal points out in his introduction, these accounts only list those everyday innovations which were useful to the British. All the accounts are clear that these activities were part of the everyday life of the people and not niche activities confined to isolated pockets.

As I said, reading the book is an absolute must for every right minded Indian. I will keep posting further extracts regarding administration, economics etc as I   read Sri Dharampal’s other books.

[ii] Dharampal, Indian Science and Technology in the Eighteenth Century, page 154.

[iii] Dharampal, Indian Science and Technology in the Eighteenth Century, page 156-157.

[iv] Dharampal, Indian Science and Technology in the Eighteenth Century, page 160-161.

[v] Dharampal, Indian Science and Technology in the Eighteenth Century,  pages 39-40.

[vi] Dharampal, Indian Science and Technology in the Eighteenth Century,  pages 171-172.


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