Abraham Lincoln once remarked that “There is no nation good enough to govern another”. The rule of one country over another is basically and therefore, essentially, unnatural. That is why all such empires crumbled after a time. The British rule in India, counting from the Battle of Plassey (1757), lasted 190 years and it clearly demonstrated the correctness of these memorable words of Abraham Lincoln.
English domination over India facilitated the most unscrupulous exploitation of India, its people and its resources. In other words, it led to the short-lived prosperity of England at the cost of the poverty and misery of the Indian people.
A recent publication by SAGE ‘British Rule in India’ details how the British acquired territories by sly and dishonourable treaties and how their rule led to extremely large-scale economic exploitation. It painstakingly traces the history of the deliberate destruction of Indian industry and the plundering that went on under the guise of development. This book by Pandit Sunderlal, an eminent Gandhian and freedom fighter covers the period from 1805 (Second Maratha War), a turning point for the East India Company, to 1858, when the East India Company had to cede control to the British Crown.
East India Company evolved and adopted several methods for the exploitation of India’s resources in the interests of England. Some of them were the Railways that were constructed and run by the money collected from Indians in various ways. The Railways were intended and used chiefly for cheap and quick transport of wheat, cotton, and other raw materials to the ports of embarkation for being shipped to England, and for similarly transporting the goods made in and exported from England to every nook and corner of India. The benefit to India, if any, was only a by-product of the railways. Another methods of exploitation was the Cultivation of Cotton. Berar, Sindh and the Punjab were annexed primarily because those regions were famed for growing cotton. There were several other approaches such as all Special Privileges and all responsible posts were limited to English only.
The book is in sharp contrast to narratives by British historians, who stressed that India was in a state of arrested development before the British arrived. The book clearly explicates that British had no purpose other than the draining of the India’s wealth to England. To sum up, the rule of one country over another cannot but be, in the very nature of things, detrimental to the best interests of any third country, although the worst sufferer is always the country under the foreigner’s heel.
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