The Chinese are wiping out Tibet – Mrinal Suman

Policemen review the oath that they took when they joined the Communist Party of China (CPC) in front of Potala Palace in Lhasa

Mrinal SumanThe story of Tibet is a saga of the world’s apathy and indifference to the cultural genocide of Tibetan Buddhism. Brutal decimation of an ancient, rich and peace-loving culture by ruthless China has been ignored nonchalantly. – Maj. Gen. Mrinal Suman

Tibet continues to be an enigma to all visitors. My two visits have been no different.

One sees massive Chinese investment in road and railway infrastructure. Modern skyscrapers are coming up at a frenetic pace to house migrants from the mainland. Yet, Tibet presents a sight of a state under foreign siege.

A deceptive calm hides the underlying tension. There is no cheer in the air.

The story of Tibet is a saga of the world’s apathy and indifference to the cultural genocide of Tibetan Buddhism. Brutal decimation of an ancient, rich and peace-loving culture by ruthless China has been ignored nonchalantly.

China annexed Tibet in 1950. Although the estimates vary considerably, it is believed that up to one million Tibetan natives have been killed by the Chinese to suppress their demand for freedom.

As the Tibetans are highly religious by nature, the Chinese have methodically targeted their places of worship and learning with a vengeance.

Over 6,000 monasteries have been destroyed or ransacked. Damage done to Tibet’s relics, heritage and architecture has been truly horrendous; and beyond redemption.

Tibet has been amalgamated in China as the Tibet Autonomous Region. It is autonomous only in name; the Chinese government exercises total and unbridled control. The locals have no say.

Even though TAR has an ethnic Tibetan as the chairman, he is only a titular figure. He is subordinate to the branch secretary of the Communist Party of China (the real power wielder) and he is always from the Chinese mainland.

Wu YingjieWu Yingjie, a hard-nosed Han Chinese from Eastern China, is the current appointee.

There is minimal interaction between the Chinese and the natives. The Chinese behave like the rulers and treat the natives with disdain.

The Hans from mainland China occupy all senior government posts and are running prosperous businesses. They enjoy a much higher standard of living and strut around like rulers, demonstrating all the trappings of an occupation force.

On the other hand, the Tibetans are treated with suspicion and have been condemned to menial jobs. Their condition is worse than that of the slaves of the olden days. All janitors, sweepers, load carriers and labourers are Tibetans. Some manage public toilets to make a living. Many peddle in local stones and other produce.

It is sad to see a once-proud community degraded to the status of bonded labour. Poverty continues to afflict most.

Despite 66 years of occupation, China has not been able to crush the Tibetan spirit for independence.

On the contrary, grave atrocities committed through political and religious repression have strengthened their resolve further.

The Tibetans abhor the Chinese and the Chinese know it. The Chinese sense of insecurity is evident from the fact that Google, Facebook, WhatsApp and such other social media have been banned in Tibet. Here are some other indicators:

  • At Taklakot, foreigners are asked to disembark from the bus and spread out their luggage on the roadside for inspection. Policemen rummage through each item to ensure that no material relating to the Dalai Lama is smuggled into Tibet. Printed material is closely examined. Worse, visitors are asked to show all pictures stored on their cameras and cell-phones.
  • Every street and building in Tibet is embellished with innumerable Chinese flags, as if to constantly remind the locals that Tibet is under the Chinese rule. Similarly, billboards read ‘Welcome to China’s Tibet’.
  • Every house is mandated to fly the Chinese flag on the roof-top; and its height must be more than that of the Tibetan prayer flags that traditionally adorn all houses. Non-compliance is construed as an act of defiance of the State authority and is dealt with harshly. Punishment may include imprisonment for anti-national proclivity.
  • Tibetans are denied passports. They can visit the Chinese mainland, but cannot travel abroad. They are captives in their own country. China does not want them to interact with the world, lest their atrocities get exposed.
  • Foreign visitors are not welcome in Tibet. Every tourist bus is accompanied by a policeman during travel in Tibet. He ensures that the permitted route is diligently followed. No deviations are allowed. Contact with the locals is discouraged. Military areas, police posts and even armed guards cannot be photographed. Yes, Tibet is a police State.
  • Local authorities regulate the number of monks that a monastery can accommodate. Monks need official permission to visit other monasteries in large numbers. Armed soldiers invariably accompany them to monitor their activities.

Although the Tibetans are wary of expressing their views openly, they never fail to express their gratitude to India for giving asylum to their temporal head and millions of other Tibetan refugees.

A middle-aged woman vendor shoved a handful of walnuts in our hand, as if to say ‘thank you’.

Traditionally, the Panchen Lama is considered second to the Dalai Lama in hierarchy and plays a critical role in selecting the next Dalai Lama.

Gedun Choekyi NyimaAfter the escape of the current Dalai Lama to India in 1959, Panchen Lama Choekyi Gyaltsen sided with Communist China and supported the suppression of the 1959 rebellion. However, by 1962, he was a disillusioned man and accused China of smothering Tibetan culture.

He was imprisoned in 1964 and subsequently kept under house arrest. He died suddenly under mysterious circumstances at Shigatse in 1989. He was only 51 years old. Locals are convinced that he was poisoned by the Chinese.

A boy named Gedhun Choekyi Nyima was chosen to be the next Panchen Lama by the Dalai Lama and the then-incumbent abbot of Shigatse’s Tashilhunpo monastery. However, the boy went missing soon after his nomination and is untraced to date. It is alleged that he is still being held in captivity at an unknown location in China.

In his place, the Chinese government conspired to select Gyaincain Norbu (son of two Communist Party members) as the 11th Panchen Lama. Most Tibetans do not recognise Norbu as the Panchen Lama and consider him to be a stooge of the Chinese.

Although the Panchen Lama traditionally lived in his official seat at the Tashilhunpo monastery in Shigatse, Norbu has chosen to reside in Beijing.

Hatred for him amongst the Tibetans is so intense that whenever he visits Shigatse, the city is converted into a police fortress to ensure his security. Locals are coerced to send two persons per family to attend his public addresses and are even paid money for the same.

Non-attendance is viewed seriously and can even invite police action.

China has been adopting a three-pronged approach to ensure the total integration of Tibet—demographic offensive, obliteration of Tibetan identity and undermining the standing of the Dalai Lama.

The Tibetan population consists of three broad ethnic groups—nomads, agriculturists and urban dwellers. Whereas the demographic make-up of the first two groups remains largely undisturbed, it is the third ethnic group that is undergoing a worrisome change with the massive influx of Chinese migrants.

The Chinese government considers demographic swamping to be the ultimate solution. It is feared that the Han population will overwhelm the locals in the next two decades.

As the Chinese consider the knowledge of Mandarin to be essential for building national cohesion, the Tibetans are compelled to learn Mandarin. As a result, the local Tibetan language is being allowed to die.

Secondly, having failed to crush the ethnic pride of the Tibetans, China has been systematically targeting symbols of Tibetan uniqueness.

Recent demolitions at the Larung Gar Buddhist Academy and the Jhada Gon Palden Khachoe Nunnery are symptomatic of the Chinese efforts to subvert the local culture.

14th Dalai Lama Tenzin GyatsoLarung Gar is said to be the biggest Tibetan Buddhist institute (academy and monastery) in the world and is keeping Buddhist knowledge alive. Under the garb of decongesting, it is attempting to curtail its influence.

Finally, as regards the Dalai Lama, the Chinese government suffers from acute phobia. It has forbidden referring to him as His Holiness. However, for the Tibetans, His Holiness the Dalai Lama continues to be the supreme head. They hold him in great esteem.

When told that we were from India, a young hotel boy told us that his sole ambition in life was to visit India to pay respects to His Holiness. With moist eyes, he rued his helplessness to acquire a passport.

Having failed to win over the 80-year-old Dalai Lama, China is waiting for his demise to install a pro-China boy as the next Dalai Lama. It has already started manoeuvring itself to be in a position to have its say.

Support of the lackey Panchen Lama will help considerably.

As per China’s past track record, if the followers of the current Dalai Lama select a boy living in Tibet, he will be eliminated by China and replaced by a loyalist boy.

With the support of a pliable Dalai Lama, China will tighten its grip over the religious and spiritual facets of Tibetan culture further. That shall prove to be the final and fatal blow.

A rich culture will soon get wiped out and lost forever. Ominous signs are already discernible.

The world must hang its head in shame for being a mute spectator to the ‘cultural holocaust’ in Tibet. –, 13 October 2016

» Major General Mrinal Suman (retd) commanded an Engineer Regiment in the Siachen Glacier area and was awarded the gold medal for being “the most outstanding engineer of the year” He was the Task Force Commander at Pokharan and was responsible for designing and sinking shafts for the nuclear tests, for which he was duly honoured by the President of India.

Tibetan family outside the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa, Tibet

July 4th, The Original Brexit:  Evolving identities and contested interpretations – Bharavi

Statue of Liberty

Man Sitting Under Tree IconThe thirteen colonies formed a new nation in a political sense, but their colonizing tendencies were still of impeccable British vintage. For, these thirteen united states … grew by a process of colonization, conquest and even outright purchase—of the lands of Native Americans (“Red Indians”), or of lands conquered by Spanish or French or Russians from the natives—until it attained the form it has today. – Bharavi

A rocket snakes its way purposefully through the inky black night.  There is a momentary flash, and a shower of sparks lights up the sky, silhouetting the skyscrapers with a surreal glow. Like a monstrous flower with lurid colors, the display persists for a second, and dies out in a rain of glowing embers, but wait! Other rockets are on their way, as if to take the place of the spent one, and overdo it in size and color.  Many are the hues, myriad are the forms, and night seems to be beating a temporary retreat over the distant horizon ambushed by this flood of light. Alongside, from hidden speakers and amplifiers, radios and recorders, swell the strains of well-loved melodies—O say can you see…. The crowd sways gently, and all eyes are agog, aloft.

A man exhibiting significant cutaneous pallor remarks “Ah, this is truly what makes America great!”  He is an elder in this land in a manner of speaking, descendent of European families that settled in this land more than three centuries ago.  From those homesteaders and pioneers, he proudly traces his descent. He need not even do so much as speak about this—all he needs to do is speak—his accent will do the rest of the talking.  We ask him where he has hails from—and he says “Boston”—whence the accent.

The original Brexit

As the exit of Britain from the European Union has become fait accompli earning the descriptor “Brexit,” we ponder another “exit” that happened more than two centuries ago. Rebels in thirteen New World colonies originally founded by British settlers, voted to secede from the mother country, and even fought a war to enforce the secession.  In this, they were helped along by the French, the arch-enemies of Britain, who, later gifted to the  American nation a huge statue of a woman in flowing robes holding aloft a torch, idolized as “Lady Liberty.” The thirteen colonies were the original “United States” that had “united” against a common foe—imperial Britain.  Even though the declaration of independence of the fledgling national experiment emphasized the “rights of man” it was clear that a more utilitarian purpose united the states—resisting the imposition of taxes on the colony.  “No taxation without representation” was the refrain.

The thirteen colonies formed a new nation in a political sense, but their colonizing tendencies were still of impeccable British vintage. For, these thirteen united states (i.e., states that historically united during a political crisis) grew by a process of colonization, conquest and even outright purchase—of the lands of Native Americans (“Red Indians”), or of lands conquered by Spanish or French or Russians from the natives—until it attained the form it has today.  In the process, several native groups just vanished without a trace, or ceased to exist as distinct cultural entities, or in some cases, continued to eke out a precarious and marginalized existence in one of the earlier version of concentration camps—known now by the innocuous term of “Reservations.”  The irony of 21st century America having a “Bureau of Indian Affairs” that has absolutely nothing to do with U.S. foreign policy towards the world’s most populous democracy (India), is sadly lost on Americans and Indians alike.            

Pudd'nhead WilsonThe making of identities

While the thirteen colonies were fairly cohesive in their identity as ex-Britons, the later acquisition of additional territories along with their inhabitants, and the legal continuation of slavery for more than a century after independence led inexorably to heterogeneity. People who couldn’t understand the idea of rebellion against a British tax, however unjust, and identified with other, more immediate and personal struggles, eventually formed a significant underclass. Even the “white” Anglo-Saxon Protestant component, still the majority, is not entirely as homogeneous as it seems. At the time of “independence” from Britain, they voted for English over German as the official language of the union, indicative of a submergence of several continental identities for political expediency. This process of submergence, referred to as a “melting pot” has continued well into modern and recent times, but it continues to throw up some arresting sidelights as it bubbles along.

For example, the 35th President of the United States, John F. Kennedy, externally as “white” a man as any Anglo-Saxon, was nevertheless notable for being America’s first Catholic president, again indicative of America’s submerged identities—Irish in this case—historical adversaries of the English on points of both territory and theology.  Barack Obama, the current president represents several identities—not only that of recent, non-European immigrants, but also that of the African Americans. The latter identity reflects, at best, a partial ethnic affinity and an honorary membership based on skin color, but not an actual sharing of historical experience with the general African American population. Most African Americans are descendants of slaves who were “imported” from Africa during the early days of the republic, but Obama’s parentage is distinctly different and of very recent vintage, his father being a Kenyan student in America who happened to marry a “white” woman—the de facto “American Native” of today. However, the racial segregation (though not genetic segregation, but that’s another very complicated “his-(and-her)-story”) followed in early America usually means that the offspring of such mixed marriages usually opt for a “social identity” that best fits their external appearance to allow for that convenient (and demonstrably imaginary) binary distinction—“white” or “coloured/black.”  

The white American humorist Mark Twain wrote Pudd’nhead Wilson in which a white child is replaced with a “colored” one born of a female slave, but whose skin is acceptably “white.” For these children, the imagined social identities they grow into become so integral to their self-description and spontaneous behavior that they both undergo crises of identity when the subterfuge is discovered, thanks to fingerprint records preserved by Wilson. And the “African” or “black” identity itself is a product of the collective enslavement of several groups of ethnically very diverse African peoples, mostly on the basis of one clearly distinguishing biological feature—skin color—from the dominant Anglo-Saxon strain.  Ahsanti, Yoruba or Zulu, all became “black” much as multiple Europeans—English, German or Dutch—became “white.”

At the borders of these dominant strains and identities exist other significant ones. One such is the so-called “Latino” or “Hispanic” i.e., Spanish-speaking Americans, acquired by immigration (dry- or wet-back in local disparaging parlance) and the conquest of Spain’s “latinized” territories like California. More difficult to master than the “white” or “colored” identities, they are, to different extents, descendants of Spanish conquerors and women from several different native “Indian” communities. Even those of them without a trace of actual Spanish blood in their ancestry nevertheless share two external social characteristics that make up the “Latino” identity—Catholicism and Spanish. A similar analysis may reveal interesting patterns in the other communal identities as well, but this should suffice for now. An investigation of how vast tracts of the “New World” came to be known as “Latin America” and how their peoples’ self-image has evolved would be likewise interesting.

The many interpretations of “Independence”

With this brief historical background, we find that for the Bostonian at the beginning of our story, no great explanation or emphasis is needed for July 4—he just needs to be himself and tribal folklore fills in the details, investing ritual actions with meaning. But, what would constitute “independence day” for the “others?” The Native Americans in their reservations who have found employment in “unreserved” America may just treat it as a useful holiday from work that enables them to journey back to their reservation, and they might even thank the British policy that enraged the original rebels in the first place, as a proximate cause for this temporary relief. The idea of a “just cause” in this context would be totally lost on such an individual, who finds himself as part of an increasingly fragmented and rapidly ebbing communal identity. As for the Latinos or Hispanics, one could conceive of debates on the desirability and merits of Spanish/Mexican dispensation versus that of the current white Anglo-Saxon Protestant rulers. For the Afro-Americans, perhaps the date of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation (January 1, 1863) or the Civil Rights Act (April 11, 1968) might resonate better with their historical experience.  

Much stands to be gained by documenting the past histories and the present views of varied peoples and communities that spontaneously congregate in public spaces to watch the customary July 4 fireworks. What does it really mean to them, beyond an event in the park? Do they really feel themselves as being part of a multitude with a common destiny and shared historical triumph, or are they merely onlookers, impelled by normal human curiosity towards the unfamiliar, and a sense of wonder towards the unknown?  After all, these fireworks unfailingly attract a sizable number of foreign visitors as well and, to complicate matters further, many of them share ethnic roots with full citizens while legitimately professing entirely different (and in some cases, hostile) national loyalties. Thus the hoary melting pot runneth over, and spews forth ever so many distinct entities, indicative more of a jigsaw puzzle, the position of whose pieces are determined by historical contingency and shared folklore. The notion of “independence,” when contextualized appropriately and interrogated sensitively, lends itself to multiple interpretations representing a kaleidoscope of lived experiences and incidental occurrences that present a creative and essential challenge to the received wisdom of a unitary, normative and universal “independence” on July 4, in whichever year.

Boston Tea Party

Ruin of India by British Rule – Henry M. Hyndman

British Army Calcutta

Henry M. HyndmanReport on India of the Social Democratic Federation (GB), Stuttgart, 1907, by Henry M. Hyndman

The British Empire in India is the most striking example in the history of the world of the domination of a vast territory and population by a small minority of an alien race. Both the conquest and the administration of the country have been exceptional, and although the work has been carried on, save in a few directions, wholly in the interest of the conquerors, we English have persistently contended that we have been acting really in the interests of the subdued peoples. As a matter of fact, India is, and will probably remain, the classic instance of the ruinous effect of unrestrained capitalism in Colonial affairs. It is very important, therefore, that the International Social-Democratic Party should thoroughly understand what has been done, and how baneful the temporary success of a foreign despotism enforced by a set of islanders, whose little starting-point and head-quarters lay thousands of miles from their conquered possessions, has been to a population at least 300,000,000 human beings.

To begin with, India was conquered for the Empire not by the English themselves but by Indians under English leadership, and by taking advantage of Indian disputes. When the English, following upon the Portuguese, first landed in India for the purpose of commerce, they were almost overwhelmed by the wealth and magnificence of the potentates whose friendship they asked for and whose protection they craved. At the time their connection with this part of Asia began, India was a great and rich country whose trade had been sought after for centuries by the peoples of the West. If civilisation is to be gauged by the standard attained in science[1], art, architecture, agriculture, industry, medicine, laws, philosophy and religion, then the great States of India at that period were well worthy of comparison with the most enlightened and cultured parts of Europe and no European monarch could be reckoned as in any way superior to Akber, Aurungzib, Shah Jehan, or Sivaji; while it would be hard to name any European Minister of Finance equal to the Hindoo Rajahs Toder Mull and Nana Furvana. We still scarcely know how far we ourselves have been influenced in many departments by the science and thought which spread westward from the great Indian Peninsula. Even when full account also is taken of that “anarchy” of which nowadays we hear so much from Anglo-Indian bureaucrats, as having everywhere prevailed prior to English rule, we discover that there is little basis for all this pessimism of the past beyond the eagerness to exalt, however dishonestly, the superiority of European methods.

It is safe to say that never was the condition of India more anarchical than that of France, Germany, the Low Countries and Italy during a great portion of the Middle Ages. Thugs and dacoits were at no time more dangerous or more cruel than the bands of robbers and freebooters who roamed at will in those days through some of the finest regions of Europe. The exactions of the feudal nobles and chieftains were in many cases worse than the heaviest demands made by Rajahs or Nawabs; the dues to the Church were certainly not less onerous than the tithes to the Brahmins. Nadir Shah’s sack of Delhi was horrible; but not worse than the Constable de Bourbon’s sack of Rome. Yet he would be a bold man who should urge that the Pax Romana with its blight of the great slave-worked estates and constant drain of wealth to the Metropolis was better for the mass of the people than even the turbulence and oppression of the period of the Crusades. Progress was going on all the time, and we can now see that what has often been called anarchy was but the commencement of a new and more vigorous life. It may be that European interference checked a similar development in India following upon the gradual break-up of the Mogul Empire of Delhi. At any rate, Europeans have no right to claim that they have benefited the country, until evidence has been given that the mass of the people are really better off than they were, or than they are, under native rule. That is the test of the merit of all governments, home or foreign. Do they or do they not secure increased welfare for the body of the people governed?

Englishmen of all Western peoples are perhaps the least qualified to enter into and fully comprehend the national life and development of a number of Asiatic nations, bound together for a comparatively short time under our alien rule; but whose growth for thousands of years has gone on in conditions so entirely dissimilar that it requires an effort of the mind to reach back to the period when the two civilisations had a common starting-point.

Writing fifty years ago when the relations between Europeans and Indians were closer than they are to-day Mountstuart Elphinstone expressed himself as follows:

“Englishmen in India have less opportunity than might be expected of forming opinions of the native character. Even in England few know much of the people beyond their own class, and what they do know they learn from newspapers and publications of a description which does not exist in India. In that country, also, religion and manners put bars to our intimacy with the natives and limit the number of transactions as well as the free communication of opinions. We know nothing of the interior of families but by report, and have no share in those numerous occurrences of life in which the amiable parts of character are most exhibited. Missionaries of a different religion, judges, police magistrates, officers of revenue or customs, and even diplomatists, do not see the most virtuous portion of a native, nor any portion unless when influenced by passion or occupied by some personal interest. What we do see we judge by our standard. It might be argued in opposition to many unfavourable testimonies that those who have known the Indians longest have always the best opinion of them; but this is rather a compliment to human nature than to them, since it is true of every other people. It is more to the point that all persons who have retired from India, think better of the people they have left, after comparing them with others even of the most justly-admired nations.”

Few would venture to dispute Mountstuart Elphinstone’s knowledge of his subject or the justice of this statement. What was true then is still more true now. The pernicious nonsense supplied by Anglo-Indian pensioners and others to the press in India and in England concerning Indian cowardice, ignorance, slavishness and incapacity is written wholly and solely with the object of upholding a nefarious despotism; which, though less openly brutal, is more insidiously harmful even than that of Russia. The numerous races and peoples of India are still capable of great work in every field of human endeavour. Wherever they are allowed a free outlet they display the highest faculties; and it is absurd to contend that great States which managed their own business capably for thousands of years, which outlived and recovered from invasions and disasters that might have crushed less vigorous countries, would be unable to control their own affairs successfully if a handful of unsympathetic foreigners were withdrawn, or driven out, from their midst.

East India Company FlagPrevious invaders and conquerors of Hindostan mostly settled in the conquered territory and invariably employed the natives in the highest posts civil and military. Native ability was made use of in every department of the administration. Men of capacity, however humble their birth, might and did rise to be the highest functionaries of a Mohammedan monarch or became the heads of considerable Hindoo Empires themselves. The people were thus not crushed down by successive waves of interlopers who never make their homes in the country and drain away its produce steadily to a foreign land. But under English rule the old system has been completely changed. The result of the great battles of Plassey, Assaye, Wandiwash, Seringapatam and Gugerat has been to deprive 225,000,000 of Indians of all control over the policy and administration of their own country and to put even the great Native States, which still retain a nominal independence, increasingly at the mercy of the same despotic power. Up to the time of the mutiny, even to half-a-century ago, this system of complete domination was not so fully worked out as it has been since; and the rule of the famous East India Company which lasted till 1858 was far lighter and more considerate of the interests of the population than has been the Government of the Crown. Not a single one of the solemn pledges given by the late Queen of England and Empress of India, in favour of justice to Indians, has ever been fulfilled and the Indians find themselves to-day, after 150 years of British domination, in a far worse position, in regard to having any control over their own affairs, than they have ever yet been. Here and there an Indian is allowed to creep into the Civil Service on sufferance, or specially servile persons are rewarded by the Government with seats on the Legislative Councils, where they have no authority whatsoever; these, however, are but exceptions which prove the rule.

According to an official return to the House of Commons, obtained many years ago, with great difficulty, by the late Mr. John Bright, the conditions not having materially changed in the meantime, out of 39,000 officials who drew a salary of more than 1,000 rupees a year 28,000 were Englishmen and only 11,000 natives, or in the ratio of more than five to two. The Englishmen, however, received on the average in salaries more than five to one what the natives are paid. Of 960 civil offices which really control the civil administration of India, 900 are occupied by Englishmen and only 60 by natives. The Indians have no control whatsoever over their own taxation, nor any voice at all in the expenditure of their own revenues. The entire civil government is now carried on by men who live lives quite remote from the people they govern, who have no permanent interest in their well-being and who return home, which they have frequently visited in the meantime, at forty-five or fifty-five years of age with large pensions. India is, in fact, now administered by successive relays of English carpet-baggers, men who go out with carpet-bags and return with chests, having ordinarily as little real sympathy with the natives as they have any deep knowledge of their habits and customs.

These District Officers, as they are called, are the real rulers of India. They have the well-being of millions upon millions of people at their disposal. They land in India, nowadays, already full-grown young men, brought up and educated in a totally different society, by no means well-versed in the native languages, convinced of their own great superiority, and prejudiced on many points to a degree which even the best of them cannot materially overcome for years.

And these are the duties which the District Officer has to perform in a tropical country among a strange people: He is:

  1. Collector of the Land Revenue.
  2. Registrar of the landed property in the District.
  3. Judge between landlord and tenant.
  4. Ministerial officer of the Courts of Justice.
  5. Treasurer and Accountant of the District.
  6. Administrator of the District Excise.
  7. Ex officio President of the Local Rates Committee.
  8. Referee for all questions of compensation for lands taken up for public purposes.
  9. Agent for the Government in all local suits to which it is a party.
  10. Referee in local public works.
  11. Manager of estates of minors.
  12. Magistrate, Police Magistrate and Criminal Judge.
  13. Head of Police.
  14. Ex officio President of Municipalities.

Warren HastingsNow what does this all mean? No human being, had he the versatility of an admirable Crichton and the endurance of a Hadrian, could possibly do this work efficiently himself. Consequently, the business falls into the hands of that worst class of natives, who are eager to play the part of jackals to the governing white minority. There have here and there been administrators of exceptional genius who, having landed early in India, became habituated to the ways of the people and were able to exercise reasonable supervision over their subordinates. But these cases were exceptional even under the Raj of the old East India Company: to-day they are almost unknown. According to practically universal testimony, European officials are becoming less and less capable of thoroughly understanding the people they are sent out to govern. The most important work also is perforce, done in a hurry and such work is necessarily bad work.

Such is the alien civil administration. The military is like unto it. In the last resort we English hold India by the sword. A well-known Anglo-Indian official of high rank, walking with a great Afghan chieftain, many years ago, on the ramparts of Peshawur, held forth to him on the importance of the British power in India and the overwhelming forces it could bring to bear. “Your power in India” replied the Khan coolly “is 70.000 men well armed.” The European forces in India are now somewhat in excess of this and the native army, officered in all the higher grades by Europeans amounts, including reserves, to 180,000 men, without artillery since the mutiny. The cost of this army is entirely thrown upon the revenues of India and amounts to upwards of £19,000,000 a year—a terribly heavy tax in itself on a very poor population, and the heavier that so large a proportion is paid away in salaries to foreigners.

It is claimed by the supporters of European domination that this army, though admittedly entailing heavy charges, is cheaply purchased; seeing that, by its presence, peace is ensured from one end of Hindostan to the other. But the horrors of peace, even in the Western World, are often worse than the horrors of war, and in India this is unfortunately still more apparent. The vigour and intelligence of one-fifth of the human race is being kept down by this despotic peace. Beautiful arts are falling into decay. Native culture is being crushed out. Agriculture is steadily deteriorating. Anything in the shape of patriotism or national feeling is discouraged, and its advocates are persecuted and imprisoned. Denunciation of the wrongs of British rule is treason and legitimate combination to resist tyranny is a pernicious plot. Peace is not worth having at such a price, even if accompanied by increasing wealth. But when such peace goes hand in hand with growing impoverishment for the mass of the people, then clearly we are face to face with an utterly ruinous and hateful system.

It is true that India is inhabited by many races and peoples; true that there exist between them many racial and religious causes of quarrel; true, also, that the Mohammedan minority of 60,000,000 or so scattered throughout British and Native territory conceives at times that it has grave wrongs to adjust against the vast Hindoo majority of some 240,000,000 or 250,000,000. Internecine war is, therefore, quite possible, should we withdraw. But, even so, there are more terrible fates in the world than to die fighting, and the slow starvation of tens of millions of human beings is far worse than any slaughter on the battlefield yet heard of. The marvel is that India, overborne as she is by excessive, costly and unsympathetic administration in every direction, is able to hold her own at all, and that Indians under existing conditions ever show that high distinction in so many branches of human thought and learning that they unquestionably display.

But it may be urged: Look at the results of European management as applied to India. The great cities of Anglo-India, Calcutta, Bombay, Madras, Agra, Delhi give an impression of wealth and magnificence worthy to be ranked with anything that can be seen in the West. Fine railways admirably built and handsomely equipped conduct the traveller from one end of the Empire to the other; affording not only the best convenience for passengers but enabling transport of goods to be conducted with ease, cheapness, and rapidity thus, also, putting it in the power of districts which have a surplus of food to provide for the shortcomings of those where drought and short harvests prevail. Irrigation works on a large scale, though not equalling the complete systems of water provision which existed under the best of the old native rulers, are being pushed forward as rapidly as possibly, and rendering famine from drought practically impossible in those parts of the country where their influence is directly felt. Afforestation is being carried on under careful and systematic control, so that the harmful denudation of large districts observable in countries supposed to be much more advanced, such as the United States, is permanently averted. Elaborate arrangements have been made whereby in periods of famine relief works are at once started and the afflicted people are employed on useful enterprises close to their own homes. Disease, epidemic and endemic alike, is treated with a thoroughness and knowledge previously unheard of; while the best known principles of sanitation in tropical climates are applied wherever possible.

Not only so but many drawbacks of the ancient native society have been swept away. Thugs have been suppressed for three generations. Suttee was put down as long ago. Dacoity and highway robbery are rarely heard of. Justice is administered without corruption, and torture is now almost unknown. Indians, if not admitted to prominent posts in the government, have opportunities in the way of acquiring the higher European education never at their disposal before. The press is in the main fairly free and rights of speech and combination are allowed which no foreign prince certainly has ever consented to before.

Much of this if, not the whole of it, is correct. The English have introduced into India continuous peace and many of the advantages of Western civilisation. Had their influence then been confined to such work as was done by a few of the old East India Company’s servants, who knew, were known and were loved by the people; had they restricted their efforts to remedying admitted evils in Indian administration, as was done to some extent very successfully in more than one of the great independent States; had they recognised that what was needed for improvement was not complete Europeanisation but sympathetic cooperation of really capable white men, thoroughly versed in Indian habits and customs and divorced from constant life among Europeans, with the Indian themselves; had they in short regarded India always from the Indian standpoint: it is undeniable that great benefit might have resulted to the country. But, all this notwithstanding, had the economic relations remained the same, India would still have been as desperately impoverished as she is to-day.

The total gross value of all the produce of British India for 225,000,000 of human beings cannot be put at the outside at more than £1 per head. The late Mr. William Digby put it at not more than 12/6 per head. No such dire poverty over so large an area was ever before known on the planet. And the impoverishment is increasing. Mr. Digby, himself an official of one of the great Famine Agencies, and with special opportunities for obtaining information, calculated that the ryots in the Districts outside the permanent settlement get only one half as much to eat in the year as their grandfathers did, and only one-third as much as their great-grandfathers did, Yet, in spite of such facts, the land tax is exacted with the greatest stringency and must be paid to the Government in coin before the crops are garnered! Thus, apart from other drawbacks, our system forces almost the entire agricultural population into the hands of the native money-lenders, from whom alone money to meet the tax can be obtained; and then we hypocritically lament the usurious disposition of the men who lend on the crops! When it is remembered that every improvement which a ryot makes in his holding he is taxed for; that fallow land in British territory is taxed as high as cultivated land; and that little allowance is made for famine periods, it is easy to comprehend the crushing effect of our ruinous system upon the miserable agriculturists, who constitute four-fifths of the Indian population. But for the money-lenders—if, that is to say, the native usurers refused to lend on growing crops—the Government of India would at once be bankrupt.

It is argued, however, that, as population is increasing, the idea of impoverishment on any large scale is absurd and a German Social-Democrat, Mr. Edward Bernstein, who has been acting as advocate-in-chief on the continent for the British India Office, in place of M. Paul Leroy-Beaulieu retired from the field, contends on this and other grounds that English government in India has been beneficial. The same argument was used in relation to Ireland prior to 1847. Population was rapidly increasing in that island; therefore the people of Ireland must begetting richer in spite of all the absentee proprietors and of all the talk about the drain of wealth to Great Britain. In that year, however, came the cataclysm, in the course of which millions of people perished or were expatriated; and it was then discovered that Adam Smith himself had said that “poverty seems favourable to generation.” Not only seems but is; as Russia can testify as well as Ireland and India. There are more people in British India than ever there were, but they are living on an ever-falling standard of subsistence. How long we shall have to wait until the cataclysm comes in this case it is difficult to say; but is certainly not far off.

First War of Indian Independence (1857)The evidence as to increasing poverty is absolutely conclusive. According to official report after official report it is clearly established that an increasing proportion of the population is yearly getting less and less to eat, and Mr. Digby’s contention is in the main verified. Taking only the period of direct British rule since the Mutiny in 1857, we have conclusive evidence from Viceroy Lord Lawrence down to Mr. C. J. O’Donnell, Mr. Smeaton and Mr Thorburn that, economically at any rate, our rule is a complete failure. None indeed has put the matter more clearly as to the impoverishment than Sir William Hunter, who for many years prior to his death had filled the post of literary advocate-general of British domination, and who admitted that even in 1880 no fewer than forty millions of our Indian population lived in permanent starvation. Matters have become very much worse since.

Churchill's Bengal famine of 1943The reason for this continuous depletion of wealth and destruction of well-being is not far to seek. And this reason applies to the entire population under British control. Here, at any rate, race, colour, religion make no difference. All are subject to the same terrible disadvantage of the drain of produce away from India on English account without any commercial return. This drain, or economic tribute, from which most conquered dependencies suffer, is specially severe in the case of India. Making every possible allowance, it is clearly established that, comparing the Indian Exports and the Indian Imports, the overplus of Exports for which there is no commercial return now amounts to more than £35,000,000 a year, or considerably in excess of fifty per cent more than the total Land Revenue obtained from all British India[2] This drain has been going on in an increasing ratio, and necessarily with deepening effect, ever since the British occupation. It means that India, naturally a country with the greatest possibilities for wealth-production in every department, is being steadily bled to death, in order to pay pensions, interest, home charges, dividends and remittances in Great Britain to the capitalist and landlord classes with their hangers-on Wherever it is possible to throw a charge upon the Indian revenues this is at once done and, as the Indians are wholly unrepresented either in India or in Great Britain, they are unable to complain effectively in any way whatever. It is very doubtful whether the Spaniards ever exacted anything approaching to this tremendous tribute from their American possessions, even in the heyday of their ruthless extortions. When to this drain of £35,000,000 annually is added the amount paid for the services of Europeans in India, including the 75,000 white soldiers, which runs up to many millions Sterling, it is clear we need look no farther for the real cause of India’s frightful impoverishment and the continuous famine and plague which now steadily prevail in some part or other of our territory.

Yet when famine on a larger scale comes, as the inevitable result of this terrible drain of wealth to England, the possessing classes in Great Britain itself, who receive this huge tribute and fill the appointments in India with their relatives, consider they are performing a deed of wondrous beneficence if they return to India £500,000 in one-year out of the £1,000,000,000 or more they have taken out of the country in unpaid-for produce during the past fifty years. No wonder that under such circumstances the agricultural population is drifting into the hopeless position already referred to. The poor ryots overtaxed and heavily indebted “except in the richer irrigated lands eat or sell every saleable article the land produces, use the manure of the cattle for fuel, and return nothing to the soil in proportion to what is taken away. Every increase of population increases the danger. Crop follows crop without intermission, so that Indian agriculture is becoming simply a process of exhaustion. Even in some tracts of canal-irrigated land, where water is lavishly used without manure, crops have ceased to grow. An exhausting agriculture and an increasing population must come to a dead-lock. No reduction of the assessment can be more than a postponement of the inevitable catastrophe.”

This was written by the celebrated agriculturist Sir James Caird in his report as Special Famine Commissioner nearly thirty years ago. Mispredictions are being fulfilled under our eyes. The “catastrophe” he foresaw is close at hand.

To borrow money at interest from England in these conditions, in order to build more railways, is only to intensify the drain and multiply the number of syphons to suck out wealth for foreigners. Even to create more irrigation works, likewise with borrowed money, can have no permanently good effect, so long as the drain of produce without return goes on upon a greater scale. That drain and the excessive employment of Europeans in India at heavy rates of pay render ruin certain whatever else may be done. There are two Indias: Anglo-India with fine European quarters and luxurious arrangements battening upon the wholesale impoverishment of the country; and India proper, undergoing misery such as has never been seen on a like scale elsewhere, even under twentieth century capitalism.

But now matters are becoming so unendurable that the industrious, thrifty, patient Indians themselves are beginning to feel that some change must be made in their lot. The educated classes are beginning to understand what European tyranny, economic and social, means to all who are brought under it, and to know that their impoverishment is occasioned by British rule and not by the forces of nature. Famines occurred in India before our conquest; but continuous famine such as now afflicts some part of India every year was wholly unknown under Hindoo or Mohammedan rule. Black plague has been known as an epidemic in India for centuries; but black plague as an endemic pestilence working death all through the year had never been heard of till we brought to Hindostan, within the past generation, the full blessings of European civilisation.

This horrible disease with its ravages bids fair to do more to break up native society and to turn the mass of Indians against us than anything else. At the time of writing the mortality in India by plague alone is at the rate of 90,000 a week. Now plague is above all other dangerous sicknesses the disease of poverty. Where in hot countries there is great poverty, there the plague finds its most congenial habitat. No other proof of the increasing poverty of India is needed than the increasing fatality and persistence of this scourge. The natives are panic-stricken, and the very measures of scientific precaution taken by European doctors and their subordinates to prevent its spread, involving as they do constant interference with the most cherished and even sacred native customs, render the foreign despot more hateful than he was before. Such is the irony of events, when once an Empire has entered upon the downgrade. All the efforts of the unscrupulous Anglo-Indian press in India and at home to stir up the old ill-feeling between Mohammedans and Hindoos will have little influence as against the discontent and hatred engendered by the manufactured plague and the methods used for its suppression.

A. O. HumeMeanwhile, too, a new spirit is being displayed in the towns. Meetings and protests against British mistakes are becoming rather the rule than the exception, when discontent is felt, even in patient Bengal. There is movement and stir in Bengal on political grounds; in Punjab and the Mahratta country on economic grounds; while all over India a propaganda in favour of boycotting European, meaning of course English, goods in favour of Indian and Asiatic goods is going steadily forward. Slowly but surely the economic situation of India is being appreciated and the cry of “India for the Indians” is being systematically raised. Even at the “Indian National Congress,” which meets every year, and which strongly protests its loyalty to the British Government, an advanced party has been formed, which undoubtedly looks to complete independence for India as the only hope of the future. This party is gaining strength daily and the more determined of its members have taken a vow never in any circumstances to serve under or to aid the foreign Raj. Indians visiting England are even more outspoken as to the future. They take courage from the example of Japan and argue that if it has been possible for little Japan to place herself in the front rank of the nations within a space of forty years, with very little assistance from Europeans, it is surely quite possible for India with her 300,000,000 of people, and her fighting races, whose numbers alone are fully treble the entire population of Japan, to take courage by her example and, even unarmed, to sweep out of Hindostan by one great and simultaneous effort the 200,000 of Europeans and Eurasians who at present despotically control her fortunes and are ruining her future.

There is no longer any hope of improvement by peaceful or constitutional means. Thirty years, perhaps even twenty years, ago it was still possible to have so reorganised British administration, by reestablishing native rule under British leadership and by stanching the drain, as to give India full outlet towards a new and prosperous period. But, lately, both capitalist factions in England have shown a firm determination to continue in the course of wrong-doing and tyranny. Mr John Morley, the sham Radical placeman acts as Secretary of State with even less of real sympathy or statesmanship towards Indians than the late Viceroy, the Tory Lord Curzon, who, by common consent of Europeans and natives of all grades in India, was the worst Governor-General Hindostan ever had. Attempts are even being made at the present time, in view of the growing discontent and threatening demonstrations against our system, to maintain our domination, as it was originally established, by stirring up internecine animosities. Even official organs are not ashamed openly to appeal to the fanaticism of Mohammedans against Hindus for the special purpose of weakening the rising agitation against unendurable economic, social and race oppression. But this shameful policy will be unsuccessful and neither Moslem bigotry nor European rifles and artillery can permanently maintain a foreign despotism which has proved a failure in every direction. White capitalist rule, now doomed to an early overthrow, will seem but a short and hideous nightmare in the long and glorious life of India. Upon the withdrawal of the English the Indians will begin afresh their old career of internal development, side by side with the other progressive peoples of the world.

But India is only the most conspicuous instance of the ruinous effect of European capitalism upon subject races. Other nations, so far as their opportunities permitted, have been as injurious in their dealing with the less-developed peoples as the British. France, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Belgium and now the United States and Germany have carried on the same system on a smaller scale. It is for the International Social-Democratic Party of the World, representing the classes that gain nothing whatever from the tyranny which, hitherto, while suffering under, they have helped to uphold, to organise and assist any efforts that may be made to destroy for ever the pernicious domination of capitalism in all its forms, and to bring about the emancipation of all mankind regardless of race, colour or creed.

(Signed)  H. M. Hyndman, May 1st, 1907

P.S. – Since the above paper was in type, affairs in India have assumed a more critical aspect. Not only is the black plague extending its ravages, but even by official accounts, which, of course, minimise matters as far as possible, the mortality has now mounted up to just 500,000 every month! This, so far, is chiefly in the Punjab. The arrest and deportation of Mr. Lala Lajpat Rai, without even the form of a trial, or any justification whatever for such a proceeding, has aroused a bitter feeling of indignation among the educated classes of India from one end of the Peninsula to the other. Mr. Lajpat Rai is a man who has devoted his life and his fortune to the service of his poorer countrymen when suffering from the disasters of famine and earthquake. He was engaged at the time of his arrest, as Mr. O. Donnell, M P., a late member of the Anglo-Indian Civil Service in this very district, has clearly shown, upon a perfectly legitimate, sober and reasoning protest against the action of the Government in raising the Land Tax to famine point, and in exacting payment for lands, reclaimed by the Punjabi peasants, which had been specially exempted from assessment at the time of their reclamation. All this has been proved to demonstration. But Mr. John Morley, the philosophic Radical, speaking as Secretary of State for India on behalf the Liberal Government, has justified his infamous Muscovite methods in the House of Commons, Lala Lajpat Raiand Mr Lajpat Rai is being slowly done to death in gaol. Thus, in England as in other countries, the Liberals and Radicals are again showing what cowardly tyrants at bottom they are. No attempt has been made by the government of India to defend itself against the overwhelming charges of the deliberate bleeding to death of India, formulated against it by myself and others who thoroughly know the facts. It has been distinctly shown by members of the Anglo-Indian Government themselves that the terrible drain of produce from India for nothing; the excessive demands for the Land Tax as well as the manner in which it is collected in cash before the crop is grown; and the Salt Tax which, though reduced, still acts as the direct promoter of disease for men and cattle due to insufficient consumption of this necessary of life: it is being proved, I say, not by the adversaries of British rule but by its supporters, that these shameful extortions are the direct cause of the frightful impoverishment and plague mortality of the Indian people. The so-called “unrest” is meanwhile extending throughout the country, and men in high place, who have had 40 years experience among the Indians themselves, have warned the Government that, unless a complete change of system is made, the end of our rule in India is close at hand. What the economic effect of that collapse would be on the middle classes of this island, it is not necessary for me to describe at length here. Enough to say that it would mean an immediate deduction from the incomes of the non-producers of Great Britain of not less than £ 35,000,000 a year.


1. Those who wish to go farther into the question of Hindoo achievement in various directions will find an admirable summary, largely drawn from European statements and admissions, in “Hindu Superiority” by Har Bilas Sarda published in English at Ajmere in November 1906. In his laudable anxiety to uphold the reputation of his race and country the author may, perhaps, take a somewhat optimist view of the capacity of his own people; but the quotations given and the facts adduced in this book of more than 450 pages ought to silence for ever the foolish and ignorant sneerers at Hindoo inferiority. It is not so very many years ago that I remember hearing the Japanese spoken of with similar lofty contempt by English traders and travellers.

2. Ordinary readers rarely follow calculations in the text. I prefer therefore to put the figures of the Indian trade in a note. It must be borne in mind that no analogy whatever exists between such a country as the United States and India. The excess of Exports from the United States may be and as a matter of fact are represented by the unseen import of bonded and other indebtedness redeemed from abroad, or by investments in foreign countries, which, also, would not in this case appear in the trade returns. It is certain that India’s debts are not being repaid but being added to, and it is equally certain that she has made and is making no investments abroad. Consequently, the actual net surplus of exports from India over exports into India, the exports and imports of treasure being duly taken account of, represent the total amount of the actual drain of produce from India without commercial return. Now the total excess of exports for the last three years as given in the corrected official returns are for 1902-3 £18,570,811; for 1903-4 £24,961,773 and for 1904-5 £20,144,132 or an average of £21,500,000. But this is far from being the amount of the drain. In order to arrive at the true figures and in order to balance correctly, we have (as the estimate of values is made at the Indian ports) to add at least fifteen per cent to the total of the exports in order to make up for a similar amount for profit, insurance and freight charged on the imports at the points of debarcation. If this is done in regard to the three years named, it will be found that upwards of £14,000,000 on the average should be added to the £21,000,000 of excess exports Thus the real yearly drain of wealth from India represents at least £35,000,000. In fact it is much more; as there can be no doubt whatsoever that much of the treasure retained in India on balance of treasure imported, as well as more than their proportion of trade imports, goes to the Native and Border States which are not under direct British control though their imports as well as their exports are calculated in with the figures of purely British territory. – Sourced from

» Henry Mayers Hyndman (7 March 1842–20 November 1921) was an English writer and politician, and the founder of the Social Democratic Federation and the National Socialist Party.

End of the Moghuls : Capture of Bahadur Shah II by William Hodson at Humayun's Tomb in 1857

Delhi Durbar 1911

Nizam of Hyderabad at the Delhi Durbar 1911

Cultural heritage a target in times of strife – Lee Keath

ISIS vandalising Hatra, Iraq

In this image made from an ISIS video posted on YouTube in April 2015, an IS jihadi militant hammers away at a face on a wall in ancient Hatra, a large fortified 3rd century BCE Seleucid (Greek) city in Iraq recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

A nearly 2,000-year-old temple in the Syrian city of Palmyra in August was the latest victim in the Islamic State group’s campaign of destruction of historic sites across the territory it controls in Iraq and Syria.

The group has destroyed ancient buildings and artifacts, as well as shrines to Shiite and Sunni Muslim saints (looting some sites for profit) all in the name of purging what it considers symbols of idolatry to create a society dedicated solely to its extreme and violent interpretation of Islam. The IS campaign has horrified many around the world with a scope of destruction that hasn’t been seen for decades.

Still, it isn’t unprecedented.

Throughout the centuries, invaders, religious fanatics and colonizers have targeted works of art, houses of worship and other pieces of heritage. The goal is often to uproot, eliminate, replace or impose control over the culture and heritage of their opponents. Nearly every ethnic or religious conflict across history has seen at least some cultural destruction, along with genocides like the Nazi Holocaust against the Jews.

Below is a look at some examples:


The Islamic State group’s rabid ideology against shrines and historical sites is rooted in Wahhabism, the ultraconservative Sunni Muslim interpretation preached by Sheikh Muhammed Abd al-Wahhab, who lived in the 1700s in what is now Saudi Arabia. Allied with the powerful Saud family, Abdul-Wahhab’s followers destroyed anything they saw as promoting idolatry or polytheism, including shrines of Shiite and Sufi saints, and the destruction of a major Shiite shrine at Karbala in what is now Iraq. Today, the alliance with Wahhabism remains one of the foundations of rule by the Al Saud royal family.

Protestant Reformation

During the Reformation in 16th century Europe, Protestant preachers railed in sermons against Catholic statues of saints and other religious relics as forms of idolatry. Mobs of Protestants attacked hundreds of Catholic churches, particularly in France, Germany and the Netherlands, destroying statues and images. In England under King Henry VIII, churches were stripped of their relics and riches. The result erased from Europe’s cultural landscape untold numbers of works of art.

Muslim invasion of Spain

During the Muslim invasion of Spain in the 8th century, churches were often destroyed or turned into mosques. Conversely, when Christians took back the peninsula in the centuries-long Reconquista, completed in the 15th century, they destroyed mosques or turned them into churches. Also, after King Ferdinand II and Queen Isabella ordered the expulsion of Jews from the peninsula in 1492, synagogues were turned into churches.

Second Jewish Temple, Jerusalem

Roman armies destroyed the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem in 70 A.D. after a revolt against Roman rule. The temple, built 500 years earlier to replace the first temple destroyed by the Babylonians, was the heart of Judaism. The first temple had held the Ark of the Covenant, which vanished after the Babylonian conquest. All that remains of the second temple is its Western Wall, which is today the holiest site in Judaism, located at the base of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount.

Aztecs’ Templo Mayor

Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes conquered the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan, in 1521, bringing to an end the empire that ruled over much of what is now Mexico. To root out the local religion, Cortes ordered temples destroyed, including the Templo Mayor, the giant step pyramid at the center of Aztec spiritual culture, and site of their human sacrifices. The temple was leveled, and a Catholic church built on its remains. Parts of the temple were uncovered in the 1970s during the digging of a metro in Mexico City.


From the 15th to 17th centuries, Benin (in modern-day Nigeria) was one of the grandest capitals in Africa. In the late 19th century, negotiations with the British trying to dominate the area and its trade turned bloody, with Benin’s troops killing a British expeditionary force. In retaliation, British troops captured the city and burned it to the ground, destroying its palaces and religious sites. They also carted off some 2,500 works of art, including bronze and ivory sculptures and plaques and the palace’s carved wooden gate.

Beijing’s Old Summer Palace

During the Second Opium War, waged by Britain and France against China to force it to open up markets and legalize the opium trade, British troops in 1860 destroyed the sprawling Old Summer Palace in retaliation after the Chinese tortured and executed members of a British diplomatic mission. Built some 100 years earlier, the palace was a sprawling complex of palaces, pavilions and gardens filled with works of art. After orders came from Britain’s High Commissioner in China, Lord Elgin (notorious for his looting of marbles from Greece’s Parthenon) it took 3,500 troops three days to burn down and tear apart the palace.

Babri Mosque

Hindu activists tore down the 16th-century Babri Mosque in northern India in 1992, sparking riots across the country that left at least 2,000 people dead. Hindu groups claim the mosque was built after a temple dedicated to the Hindu god King Rama was destroyed by Muslim invaders, though that claim is disputed by some historians. Still, it’s undisputed that over the centuries, Muslim invaders of South Asia did destroy Hindu holy sites. For example, the Somnath Temple in western India was destroyed multiple times by Muslim rulers, the first time in the 11th century.

Modern-day Islamic militants

For decades in the 20th century, Islamic militant groups in the Middle East, including al-Qaida, put little emphasis on destroying shrines or historical sites. But al-Qaida’s ally the Taliban brought back the tactic in dramatic fashion in 2001 when they blew up the two towering 1,500-year-old statues of Buddha carved into a mountain in the Afghan region of Bamiyan, stunning the world.

Since then, the tactic has gained prominence among Islamic extremists as a way to tout their claim to “purify” society and create their vision of an Islamic state. Sunni hard-liners have increasingly attacked shrines across the Middle East.

In the West African nation of Mali, Islamic radicals in 2012 overran Timbuktu, the historic city of Islamic culture. The militants destroyed 14 of the city’s 16 tombs of prominent figures and thinkers and also targeted the library of camel-skin-bound manuscripts dating back to the 13th century that included ancient learning in astronomy, law, history and philosophy. They set fire to the institute where many of the manuscripts were stored, destroying an estimated 4,000, though the majority were successfully spirited out of the city by the library’s custodians. – Herald & Review, 3 October 2015

Aurangzeb's general order for the demolition of Hindu temples (9th April 1669) included the Somnath Temple in Gujarat.

Somnath Temple ruins in 1869.

Somnath Temple

India’s painful history dealing with bellicose, deceitful China – Vinay Kaura

Vinay Kaura“India has been forced into boundary negotiations with a revisionist state whose own claim to the territory in question is highly debatable and defies all logic. Chinese claim on Tibet is akin to Saddam Hussein’s claim, following his invasion of Kuwait in 1990. … If Indian response to China’s guile continues to be a mixture of complacency and skittishness, Tawang is inevitably destined to become a forgotten footnote in the long, painful history of India’s humiliation.” – Prof Vinay Kaura

Ajit DovalRepresenting India in the special representative-level boundary talks with China, national security adviser Ajit Kumar Doval is performing the most challenging diplomatic trouble-shooting tasks on behalf of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Only a few days after Narendra Modi’s China visit, Mr Doval, while delivering the annual K. F. Rustam Lecture on May 22, exposed China’s double standards in boundary negotiations with India. Expressing surprise that China had recognised the McMahon Line only till erstwhile Burma, but did not accept beyond it, he sounded worried: “We are particularly concerned about the eastern sector, where the claims have been made on Tawang, which is totally in contravention of accepted principles”. Predictably, China reacted strongly. Terming the McMahon Line as “illegal”, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying reaffirmed Beijing’s claims on Arunachal Pradesh. Obviously, China has once again demonstrated its commitment to ruthless pragmatism while negotiating long-standing boundary dispute.

Hua ChunyingChinese leaders, absorbed by China’s phenomenal economic success and driven by the inflexibility of their strategic orientation towards India, will find it extremely difficult to reconsider their “approach on issues that hold us back from realising full potential of our partnership”, as Mr Modi would like them to. If past is any guide to the future, China is not likely to mind if their diplomats would keep talking to their Indian counterparts — already 18 rounds of negotiations between special representatives — and do not seem to be getting anywhere. Mr Modi’s appeal for clarification of Line of Actual Control (LAC) has fallen on deaf ears as China’s deputy director general of the Asian affairs at the foreign ministry, Huang Xilian, has openly expressed Chinese reservations on clarifying the LAC and instead shown preference for a pact with India on a code of conduct to maintain peace along the border. In other words, China wants procedure should take precedence over substance. For India, procedural details should not make the contending parties lose sight of the bigger picture.

Indian and Chinese SoldiersAccording to Mr Doval, for improving “the bilateral relations with China, border is the critical and vital issue”. For those who have assumed that a growing economic relationship between India and China would lead to strategic stabilisation and an eventual resolution of the two countries’ border disputes, the latest expression of Chinese bellicosity immediately after Mr Modi’s “landmark” China visit may have come as a shock. Predictably, expectations of a transformation have given way to profound disillusionment and a cloud of pessimism again seems to be enveloping Sino-India relations. Last year’s military face-off in Ladakh during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s India visit, growing maritime competition in the Indian Ocean region, and the absence of progress on resolving the boundary dispute, have all given strength to those sceptical about the optimistic premises on which India’s China policy is built.

Sino-India relations remain a prisoner of the past. William Faulkner said it best: “The past is never dead. It isn’t even past”. Having won power in 1949, by defeating the Kuomintang in conventional military battles, Communist China became a highly secretive, authoritarian and militarised society. Like all militant nationalists, they too desired to restore China’s borders to former historical levels. The People’s Liberation Army forcibly entered into Lhasa in 1950 and occupied Tibet. Not only this, they also marched into Xinjiang and plunged into a series of major conflicts over the former Qing dynasty tributary states of Korea and Vietnam. The Chinese armies finally invaded in October 1951, overwhelming the poorly equipped Tibetan troops.

14th Dalai Lama in 1950, when he was asked to take charge of the Tibetan state in the face of a Chinese invasion.  The greatest surprise of the Tibetan collapse was not that it happened — though that was shocking, strange and startling enough — but the absence of a credible strategy to counter it. The de facto takeover of Tibet was made de jure when the Dalai Lama was made to accept the 17-point agreement of May 1951, which consisted of unenforceable commitments from China. This crucial agreement became the basis of the nullification of all Tibetan claims to independence. Consequences for India were decisive: the buffer zone provided by the Tibetan plateau disappeared overnight. Nehru’s efforts to convince the Chinese to maintain a relationship of suzerainty over Tibet failed miserably. To cut the long story short, the Panchsheel Agreement, subsequent diplomatic negotiations, empty slogan of “Hindi-Chini bhai bhai”, and finally the ill-conceived “forward policy” could not help India reach a just and peaceful conclusion on the contentious border issue. And finally, China inflicted a crushing defeat on India in 1962, thoroughly exposing the incompetence and inadequacy of its defence preparedness.

As the cliché goes: it’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up. India has been forced into boundary negotiations with a revisionist state whose own claim to the territory in question is highly debatable and defies all logic. Chinese claim on Tibet is akin to Saddam Hussein’s claim, following his invasion of Kuwait in 1990.

Tibetan demonstration against ChinaChina is a tough negotiator whose obdurate positions and tough demands have always slowed down the negotiation process. Chinese claims in the eastern sector have changed from some parts of the state of Arunachal Pradesh to the entire state. What is the basis of China’s claims on Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh? The answer has continued to perplex all sensible observers except diehard communist supporters. The Chinese demand on Tawang is premised on its historical and cultural importance to Tibetan Buddhism, which is hardly convincing.

During the then Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao’s visit to India in April 2005, India and China had signed an agreement on the political parameters and guiding principles for the settlement of the India-China boundary question, whose article VII read: “In reaching a border settlement, two sides shall safeguard due interests of their settled populations in border areas”. It was interpreted as softening of China’s stance on Tawang, whose population is favourably inclined towards India.

Narendra Modi during his visit to Terracotta Warriors Museum, in Xi'an, ChinaChina upholds international norms when they are in sync with its national interests, but if they are found to be at odds with China’s strategic aims, they are brazenly and conveniently “forgotten”. Sensing the strategic significance of Tawang in maintaining complete ideological control over Tibet, the Chinese have retracted from the 2005 agreement, as is clear from their renewed insistence on Tawang. India’s lament is understandable, as reflected in Mr Doval’s statement: “the fact is there is settled population in these areas particularly in Tawang and other areas which have been participating in the national mainstream all through”.

While dealing with as dominant and deceitful an adversary as China, there is no escaping the past mistakes on Tibet. If Indian response to China’s guile continues to be a mixture of complacency and skittishness, Tawang is inevitably destined to become a forgotten footnote in the long, painful history of India’s humiliation. – Asian Age, 14 June 2015

» Prof Vinay Kaura is an assistant professor in the department of international affairs and security studies, and coordinator at the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, Sardar Patel University of Police, Security and Criminal Justice, Jodhpur.

Tawang Town

Atrocity literature as a tool to silence Hindus and Christianize India – Sandeep Balakrishna

Sandeep Balakrishna“Christian atrocity literature is one-sided without exception in all cases. … It ignores missionary conversion attempts which lead to conflict when they are met with resistance from the local Hindu population. Only acts of Hindu resistance—which sometimes lead to violence—are reported across international media and other forums as acts of Hindu fascism and state-sponsored violence against hapless Christians.” – Sandeep Balakrishna

Gun CrossThat the Christian Church has been one of the foreign policy arms of Western powers since the colonial era is a given. As we witness geopolitical developments around the world today, we notice that this selfsame policy has remained unchanged. From denying the US visa to the then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi to triggering protests against developmental and nuclear energy projects in India, the global Christian network continues to wreak havoc across the world from Africa to Asia.

Including India.

With unlimited funds at its disposal and both covert and overt support of powerful Western Governments, the global Evangelical industry uses every trick in the book to subvert regimes and cause irreparable damage to societies. And it is this last point that needs urgent attention as far as India is concerned.

As we see over the last six decades, perfectly harmonious social equations have been violently disrupted the moment missionaries have succeeded in weaning away enough numbers into the Christian fold. The Rwandan genocide is the best example of this in recent times. The present condition of almost the entire North East is another classic case. Odisha continues to boil under Church-sponsored and engineered social disruptions. Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu seem all set to follow Odisha’s lead.

Devasahayam PillaiIntroduction to Atrocity or Outrage Literature

One of the more effective techniques that the global Evangelical nexus adopts to push its agenda both on the global and local stages is to generate what is known as atrocity or outrage literature.

Atrocity or outrage literature can be defined as material—including written, audio and video—produced by the global Christian network that highlights and exaggerates historical, social, political, ideological and other fault lines in non-Christian societies with the deliberate aims to show how:

  • These societies are backward, regressive and in a state of perpetual internal conflict.
  • Only Christianity has the means and equipment to end such conflict and rescue these societies.
  • There is a need for political intervention from powerful White Christian Western countries to aid the work of these Evangelicals.

The first and only aim of atrocity or outrage literature is to completely Christianize non-Christian nations. Both missionary activities on the ground and the generation of atrocity literature go hand in hand. In a way, atrocity literature is both a subset of and a companion to hard-core evangelical literature.

Infanticide in the Ganga according to Christian missionaries!History of Atrocity Literature

To be sure, atrocity or outrage literature isn’t a new phenomenon. It has a history of nearly four hundred years in India and elsewhere as we shall see.

The first Evangelists who set foot in India undertook a painstaking process of studying every single aspect of the Hindu society and identified practices, traditions, heritage, heroes, languages, grammar, laws, epics, prose, poetry, puppetry, sculpture, art, painting, dance, and drama that glued it together. And then they developed elaborate strategies to unglue the Hindu society. These strategies were multi-pronged, ranging from outright abuse of Hindu gods and goddesses, modes of worship, practices etc, to showing that their “roots” actually lay in Christianity. As we see today, they have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.

Today, the average Hindu is woefully ill-informed and/or ignorant about almost every aspect of his/her own religion and there is no dearth of well-meaning Hindus who subscribe to the “all religions are equal” screed.

Jawaharlal Nehru was the archetypical Indian brown sahib.Nehruvianism as a destructive force

Even worse, the post-Independence political and economic policies of India has opened up the entire Hindu society as a vast and fertile field for Christian conversions. The blame for this singularly lies at the doorstep of the double-blow that Jawaharlal Nehru dealt to Hindu society: his state policy was designed to place Hindus at a disadvantage in religious, legal and social domains given his advertised disdain for Hinduism. His economic policies impoverished millions of Hindus who, faced with a hunger crisis, converted to Christianity which was open about bribing destitute Hindus with money, education and healthcare in exchange. Thus, Swami Vivekananda’s words that “you cannot preach philosophy to an empty stomach” strikes us as extraordinarily clairvoyant when we recall them now. The same clairvoyance was also reflected in his brutally honest as well shall see at the end of this essay:

[Hindus] shall otherwise decrease in numbers. When the Mohammedans first came, we are said—I think on the authority of Ferishta, the oldest Mohammedan historian—to have been six hundred millions of Hindus. Now we are about two hundred millions. And then every man going out of the Hindu pale is not only a man less, but an enemy the more. – Prabhuddha Bharata, April 1899

John Dayal: Professional Christian agent provocateur and mischief-maker.Colonial discourse on India as an enduring success

One of the earliest and enduring successes of atrocity literature remains in the domain of caste. It has now become an article of faith to blame almost every negative aspect and/or problems of Hindu society on caste, specifically Brahmins.

For example, the All India Christian Council (AICC), which often allies itself with Dalit Freedom Network (DFN)—an organization run by White Evangelical Christians—produces a distorted version of India’s so-called caste system and exaggerates caste atrocities. The recent “success” of the DFN is the successful passage of the anti-caste legislation in the British Parliament. And this legislation is derived directly from the same colonial narrative on caste. And a key member of the AICC is John Dayal who has a history of working against India.

The other domain that the Evangelical machinery has successfully exploited happens to be the status of Hindu women. The early days of colonialism witnessed narratives of how the socio-religious practices of the natives like idol worship and nature worship were identified with Satanism which victimised women and children. Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy’s powerful rebuttals—most notably, in his Status of Indian women and Indian Images with Many Arms—highlight the mischiefs in this Church-inspired narrative. Equally, Veena Oldenberg’s book Dowry Murder gives detailed instances of British officials encouraging Indians to narrate dowry cases in an exaggerated fashion in order to pin the blame on the native culture. Today’s aggressive feminist literature and laws unjustly favouring women are direct holdovers of this narrative.

Common characteristics

More fundamentally, the Church-inspired atrocity literature against non-Christian cultures in the world from the early days of colonialism share a few common characteristics:

  • In the early days of colonialism, around the 17th and 18th century, the European settlers portrayed the natives of the Americas, Africa and Asia as primitive savages who needed to be civilised by God-fearing Christians.
  • All conflicts between colonisers and natives were presented as clashes between native barbarism and civilised Christians. This narrative justified the brutalities inflicted upon the colonised natives.
  • These narratives eventually went mainstream and justified racist theories like the Aryan Invasion Theory and the White Man’s Burden. These theories were therefore taken as the justification for their own colonialism because they were “saving” the oppressed Dravidians from the Aryans.
  • While the oppressed natives were shown as barbaric, the Western colonisers saw their own ills like racism, misogyny, and slavery as incongruities that can be corrected.

Much later, when the mirror was shown to the justifiers of colonialism, they mounted their defence in the form of whitewashing colonial brutalities—racism, misogyny and slavery—as mere “incongruities that can be corrected” while continuing to uphold the Church-inspired discourse on Dalits and tribals.

Fake dalit Kancha Ilaiah is one of India leading cultural traitors. He enjoyed the beef biryani at the recent Osmania Beef Festival but has not had the courage to demand a pork festival for his Christian students from the universtity administration.Dalit discourse Christianized

The selfsame DFN and AICC in many instances, use the Aryan-Dravidian clash to paint a gruesome picture of Dalits being brutalised in India by the descendants of the Aryans. One of the leading proponents of this variety is Kancha Ilaiah who believes that India is a fascist state which tortures its Dalit constituents. Other proponents include Angana Chatterji, Gail Omvedt, V.T. Rajshekar and Vijay Prashad. Such is the pervasive influence of this poisonous discourse that based on the DFN’s propaganda, US Congressman Edolphus Towns identified India as a theocratic tyranny.

Indeed, over at least four hundred years, atrocity literature has found its way even to fiction, plays and films. The theme of academic theories such as the White Man’s Burden have been portrayed in these genres as showing that colonized countries were grateful to the colonisers for civilizing them.

Swami Lakshmanananda SaraswatiAtrocity literature is one-sided

Atrocity literature is one-sided without exception in all cases. In every single case, it ignores missionary conversion attempts which lead to conflict when they are met with resistance from the local Hindu population but only acts of Hindu resistance—which sometimes lead to violence—are reported across international media and other forums as acts of Hindu fascism, and state-sponsored violence against hapless Christians.

Perhaps the best (or worst) representative example of this sub-genre of atrocity literature which was disseminated widely across the globe is in the aftermath of the 80-year old Swami Lakshmananda’s brutal murder in Kandhamal, Odisha. He was gunned down by Maoists at the behest of Evangelicals but Hindus were blamed both in the Indian and international media as committing atrocities against Christians in Odisha.

Today, a mini-sub-genre of the same atrocity literature is emerging in the form of denunciations against ghar wapsi (homecoming) initiated by many Hindu groups engaged in reconversion attempts of their Hindu brethren who were converted to Christianity or Islam by force or fraud or both.

The Vice President, Shri Mohd. Hamid Ansari releasing the book entitled “Muslims in Indian Cities”, edited by Laurent Gayer and Christophe Jaffrelot, in New Delhi on September 10, 2012.Gujarat riots cottage industry as national security threat

If the Kandhamal discourse is representative of one type of atrocity literature, there’s yet another and bigger representative: the discourse on the 2002 Gujarat riots.

This discourse gave birth to a phenomenon for which the noted columnist Rajeev Srinivasan coined a new term: the Gujarat Riots Cottage Industry. Indeed, there was no columnist, academician, analyst, author, media outlet, filmmaker, playwright, psychoanalyst, poet, activist, NGO, Mullah, and Evangelist who was not a member of this cottage industry—or who did not profit from it.

To be sure, this industry was centred exclusively on demonising exactly one man: the current Prime Minister of India. The international seminar and lecture circuit was deluged by precisely these Indian suppliers of atrocity literature to the West. Among other things, such concerted efforts resulted in getting the US to deny a visa to Narendra Modi, then the Chief Minister of Gujarat.

During that period, the French scholar Christophe Jafferlot was instrumental in providing significant amounts of atrocity literature about the 2002 Gujarat riots, which then flooded the Western media. Even worse, some prominent members from the Indian Christian lobby and its affiliates—Indian citizens to be sure—testified against a constitutionally elected Chief Minister on foreign soil, before the USCIRF. Members of this lobby include—but are not limited to—John Dayal, Father Cedric Prakash, Teesta Setalvad, Kamal Mitra Chenoy, and John Prabhudoss. If this was not enough, in 2013, 65 Members of the Indian Parliament wrote to Barack Obama to maintain status quo on Narendra Modi’s visa to the US. Indeed, the 2002 Gujarat riots discourse demonstrated with frightening aplomb the casual disregard for Indian sovereignty, the scary power of and the threat the Christian lobby poses for national security.

Sonia Gandhi with Major Archbishop George Alencherry, head of the Syro Malabar Church in Kerala.Indian vendors of Atrocity Literature

This then brings us to yet another dangerous aspect of atrocity literature in the present day—Indian Christian (and other) groups who regularly supply material for atrocity literature to their sponsors in the West.

Again, the AICC acts as the Indian arm of the said global Evangelical network. Even more worrying is the fact that US-based mainstream think-tanks with enormous political clout use these inputs from India to fashion the US government’s India policy. Among others, these are the notable right-wing think-tanks: The Policy Institute for Religion and State (PIFRAS), Federation of Indian Christians of North America (FIACONA), Freedom House, Asia Society New York, RAND Corporation (which characterizes the RSS as the Hindu equivalent of Al Qaeda), and the Ethics and Public Policy Center (EPPC).


And so the deadly and tragic history of atrocity literature which when it began, was produced exclusively by the missionaries (and used effectively by the colonial British administration), stands transformed thus today:

  • It is produced in copious amounts by foreigners directly and indirectly working for or on behalf of the worldwide Evangelical machinery.
  • It is produced equally in copious amounts by Indian Christians—both neo-converts and otherwise—who are Indian citizens living in India and abroad, some even working in Government and government-funded institutions, and some working actively in the pay of Evangelical organizations/NGOs of various hues.
  • It is produced by Hindus—even by well-meaning Hindus—who are working in NGOs, educational institutions and other charitable/service organizations which are fronts for Evangelical work.
  • It is also disseminated by Hindu organizations and media outlets which make apologies for and whitewash even genuine instances of Church brutalities and the widespread phenomenon of child abuse in the Church—all for the sake of career prospects, money, fame, influence and similar considerations.

In the end, we need to call out atrocity literature for what it really is: a determined, focussed and premeditated atrocity against India’s civilizational ethos, which is Hindu first and last. As history is witness, attempts to paint it otherwise or to fail to clearly discern sophisticated attempts at deception have only resulted in greater erosion of this civilizational ethos.

As I mentioned earlier, Swami Vivekananda was extraordinarily clairvoyant. – IndiaFacts, 12 January 2015 

Denial is not a cure for historical abuse, truth is – Amish Tripathi

Amish Tripathi“Examine honestly the troubling episodes of our history; accept the truth and learn from it. Forgive, but do not forget. This truth will kill the poison that is coursing through a few extremists in India. Denial is not a cure for historical abuse. Truth is.” – Amish Tripathi

Victoria & African ChiefOne of the greatest gifts that children can receive from their parents is an emotionally stable childhood. Materialistic trappings cannot compensate for the bliss of growing up in a well-adjusted, happy family; one where the child is not exposed to domestic violence, warring parents, physical or emotional abuse. Sadly, both research and anecdotal evidence indicate that many children are deprived of this blessing and grow up in dysfunctional families. They develop coping skills to handle traumatic experiences: Sometimes denial (convincing their conscious mind that no abuse happened) and at other times unfocused anger (allowing inner rage to poison their mind to the extent that they become hateful, even towards those unrelated to the abuse). One doesn’t need to be a psychologist to know that both approaches are unhealthy. 

As it is with children, so it is with countries. Few countries can rightfully claim that they have no ‘history’ to contend with. But it is easier to gaze charitably at the past with quiet confidence when the country is successful. During my recent travels across the United States on a fellowship programme, it was apparent that the Anglo-Saxon American mind was unscathed by the oppression of British colonial rule (the African-American mind is another matter). My journey through the Arab world, however, told a different tale. They still cringe at the memory of the persecution and oppression they had suffered for centuries through Mongol, Turkish and later European conquests. The present-day outbursts of ‘unfocused anger’ in the Arab world could well be strongly associated with this historical abuse — besides other issues, I admit. 

The psychological strategy of ‘denial’ however — where the victim convinces himself that no (or minimal) abuse happened — finds almost matchless expression in India. 

Winston ChurchillOne example of this is the attitude of many Indians towards the British Raj. 

Many believe that, while there may have been some injustices meted out during the British Raj, overall, colonial rule was beneficial. Some even claim that the British created India, as, apparently, we weren’t a nation before their arrival. If one draws up a list of the excesses of the British Raj, the worst, we are told, was the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, where over 1,000 Indians were killed in cold blood. But is this the worst that they did? Not by a long shot. In the early 1940s, Winston Churchill consciously ordered a scorched earth policy in eastern India to halt the advancing Japanese army, which led to the death of 1.5 to 4 million Indians. That’s nearly as many as the number of Jews that Hitler ordered to their deaths. Late Victorian Holocausts by Mike Davis gives troubling accounts of the vast numbers — in the millions — killed by British policies. A little-known fact in India is that the edifice of the British Raj (and the white man’s ‘civilising mission’) was built on the biggest drug-running racket in the history of humanity. The British forced Indian farmers to grow opium, which was then smuggled into China. The Chinese economy — not to mention the lives of millions of Chinese — was destroyed through this trade. At the same time, millions of Indians died as food crops were forcibly replaced with opium (besides other crops for British trade), leading to recurring food shortages and famines. 

These events have been carefully airbrushed from Indian history books. Why? Some will say that those who have dominated the Indian imagination for most of its independent history — the Indian anglicised elite — have obscured these facts due to loyalty to the country of their cultural ancestors: Great Britain. But I think that would be too grave a charge. I have interacted with many members of the anglicised elite. I admit that most of us would find it difficult to understand their strangely eccentric culture, but they are not Zahir-ud-din Muhammad Baburtraitors. They do love India in their own peculiar way; but many of them believe that Indians cannot handle the truth and ‘social peace’ can only be maintained by ‘airbrushing’ history to remove the ugly portions. Besides the British era, this also includes other painful historical episodes, like the brutal Turkic invasions of India in the medieval period, rated as one of history’s bloodiest conquests (read Tarikh-i-Ferishta to know more). 

But denial leads to the repressed truth finding expression in ugly forms, resulting in hatred and anger, as we see in some parts of India today. It’s healthier to accept the truth and learn to handle it. Forgive, but do not forget. We should have detailed sections in our history books on the famines caused by British policies; and also on the massive British drug-smuggling business. We should honestly teach Indian students the truth about the horrific brutality of medieval Turkic invaders. 

But we must also teach that history should not extend itself into the present and colour our evaluations of a people today. For example, we don’t need to settle scores with today’s British for the actions of their ancestors. And furthermore, if Indian Christians are not blamed for British excesses just because the British happened to be Christians, why should Indian Muslims be blamed for the vicious Turkic/Mongol/Persian conquests, just because these foreigners happened to be Muslims? We were slaves under foreign rule for 800 years. Let’s not blame our fellow Indians for the crimes of those barbaric foreigners. 

Many civilisations have at some point of time been victims, and at other times, oppressors. Present conduct rather than past ills should determine the way a people are judged today. 

IndiaMy suggestion: Examine honestly the troubling episodes of our history; accept the truth and learn from it. Forgive, but do not forget. This truth will kill the poison that is coursing through a few extremists in India. 

Denial is not a cure for historical abuse. Truth is. Satyamev Jayate. – Hindustan Times, 21 November 2014

» Amish Tripathi is a banker who has become the best-selling author of the Shiva Trilogy. He is passionate about history, mythology and philosophy.