By Dinesh K. Sharma
NEW DELHI: That the white man did incalculable damage to India under 200 years of British colonialism goes without saying.
As former Union minister and author Shashi Tharoor points out in this lecture at Oxford University this week, India accounted for over 24 percent of the world’s GDP when the British landed in India in the 17th century. And India’s share of the world was down to below 4 percent by the time the British left India in 1947.
India actually financed Britain’s industrial revolution in the 18th century. India was de-industrialised to finance Britain’s industrial revolution. India’s cotton raw material was shipped to Britain to starve the country’s famous handloom weavers. While British cotton mills in Manchester and elsewhere thrived on Indian raw material, world-famous Indian weavers were reduced to beggars. India was forced to buy finished cloth from Britain, turning it into the colonial empire’s biggest cash cow.
As Shashi Tharoor has rightly pointed out that it is wrong to give the credit for expansion of Indian Railways to the British. The British created only those railway lines which could carry material from the Indian hinterland to ports so that it could be shipped to Britain. Railway lines to hill stations in India were built so the British could enjoy the summers in Indian hill stations.
True, we stupid Indians paid for our own oppression by colonial Britain. Our dark-skinned rajas and maharajas flounted their friendship their white firangi masters just like our NRIs in the West today flaunt on Facebook their pictures with some semi-literate white legislators.
The British cunningly destroyed the Sikh empire, and looted its precious possessions, including the famous Kohinoor. The British took away Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s little son Duleep Singh, converted him to Christianity and shipped him to Britain. How shameful!
Hundreds of thousands of Indian soldiers died defending their colonial masters Britain in two World Wars and today their descendants flaunt their Victoria Crosses or military medals. How shameful! They were slave soldiers, after all.
While these Indian soldiers were fighting for their colonial masters, the British in India caused the deaths of four million Indians in the Bengal famine.
Before the cunning white man left India in 1947, they had already sown the deep seeds of the Hindu-Muslim divide. Without the British, India would have remained undivided.