Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Being Indian - 3 : The 1000 Year Slavery

A cursory glance at Modern India will reveal a deepening line of historical misinterpretation in some fringe segments of our society which tends to place inordinate emphasis on the myth of Free Rule after 800 or 1000 years of slavery or foreign rule; the same fringe tends to place a huge emphasis on the mythical relatively heavier persecution during the Muslim Dynasties that ruled various parts of India from around 1150-1200 AD onwards  till around 1675-1700 AD. These people make the first and most glaring error when they claim Muslim Rule was till 1850AD or thereabouts, which is a sad comment on the state of our history education, which needs revamping in totality in my opinion.

The record shows that throughout the 18th century, from around 1700 AD or a few years before that, the pre-eminent rising power in India was the Maratha Empire, which by the mid-18th century was the most powerful ruler in India, and continued in that status till the Anglo-Maratha wars and their ultimate vanquishment, but that is another story to be told later. The same record also shows the rise of the Sikh power to the North of India, and their rising pre-eminence and importance in the equation. There may have been other powers of which I am not aware. Thus, one part of the narrative is demonstrably false; high time we examined this narrative in a little more detail to get a better perspective.

A slightly more detailed examination throws up many more spanners in the theory of 800 or 1000 years of alien domination, without even touching upon the fact that the invaders from outside made India their home, and all the wealth of India remained inside India. This examination will reveal the might of the Rajputs and their valiant defiance and indomitable spirit; it will reveal the story of Hukka and Bukka who formed the resplendent Vijaynagar Empire in the Deccan, and its unbelievable power.  It will reveal the co-habitation and increasing cooperation between Sanataanis {the actual term for Hindus} and Musliims, and the political alliances that were struck; it will also expose how rise to the uppermost echelons of power in the medieval nation was not dependent on religion, and that many a Muslim ruler had scores of Sanaatani Generals and Nobles, and vice-versa

But beyond all of this, and far more serious and worrying is the rhetoric, currently in the fringes and completely unimportant, is the myth that Sanaatanis were persecuted most heavily during Muslim rule, or should I say so-called Muslim Rule. Firstly, it is a fact that Muslim Rule was dependent in large part and was supported and set up by the unwavering loyalty and support of powerful feudal and noble leaders of all religious persuasions, as well as deep and highly successful political alliances with non-Muslim rulers in Medieval India.

While the above  may be argued, and quite convincingly at that, that there were vast differences between dynasties in this matter, the attendant rising rhetoric of the heaviest persecution of Sanaatan Dharm followers is pure nonsense, and has no basis in fact. While there were undoubtedly persecution examples that occurred in that era, the fact remains that this wasn’t even a patch on what all of India went through under British rule, which makes Muslim rule a Golden Period in comparison – which it was in many, many ways, while also being indirectly responsible for our fall from grace.  But, are the Muslim Rulers alone to blame for that? That is the topic of the next article; let us leave this line of thought here for the time being.

Even if we accept that some persecution happened in some periods of Muslim rule { Which we have to, given that some persecution undoubtedly did happen}, how is it a smart or even an acceptable retelling to exclusively focus on these sins that happened against Sanaatan Dharm followers, completely omitting the far more serious attacks on our culture, religion and way of life that happened between 1757 and 1947? Why this completely one-sided narrative? That itself is enough to raise deep questions, and convincing ones, on the accuracy of the rhetorical narrative that is gaining currency. A fair retelling would also acknowledge the extensive damage of the more recent period!

But the rhetoric focuses on only  the damage during one specific period of our history, without an attendant acknowledgement of the many documented benefits that accrued from the same period, or the continuous growth of the economic engine, or the continued performance of our many trade routes with Central Asia; or indeed the fact that the money remained within India, and was not bled away, or the performance of agriculture and the growth of the Merchants and Industrialists. Neither does this rhetoric acknowledge the control of Non-Muslims over vast swathes of India, or that Non-Muslims were an essential cog in the ruling Muslim rulers administrative as well as Armed Forces machinery! No attempt is made to examine the lives of the common folk even.

 Moving on, let us look at British rule and lay the facts of the persecution, and how it was much more severe than anything during the previous era.  British rule destroyed the core and the bedrock of every single aspect of our wonderful society: each-and-every-single-facet. Arts, culture, religion, society, caste, everything, Documented fact. There was a plan to make India 100% Christian : fact. There was a plan to Europeanise India {specific words : they will remain burned into my conscience for as long as I live : raise a European Element in the population}. {{USA / Australia / South Africa Anyone?}}

Arts were destroyed - repeat, destroyed. Or attempted to. Fact. Casteism hardened : fact. Religious equiilibrium destroyed : Fact. A land where corruption was not known, became corrupt as there was no other way to survive. Fact. Indianism denigrated at every level : fact. Education taken apart {oh yes, medieval India had Excellent schooling} : fact. Manufacturing base destroyed : fact. Agriculture productivity, earlier among the finest anywhere : destroyed : fact. :Landless labour created from nothing : fact. Crafts wrecked : fact.

No such dire poverty over so large an area was ever before known on the planet." : A report from a European on India, 1907. ". 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" {Ruin of India by British Rule - Hyndman, Stuttgart, 1907. I have read reports from as far back as 1757 as well that provide corroboration – Durant, 1930; RC Dutt, 1906; as well as several contemporary books, which give detailed numbers with original period evidence as proof of the loot that happened yearwise}

That is nearly 4 Billion Dollars per years surplus in today's money, or 25,266 Crores in Rupees. That is for JUST ONE YEAR. This had happened for 190 years. One hundred and ninety years! By the way. and by the by, that calculation above was an internet finance site that takes into consideration inflation rates only, which is neither here nor there. If we consider that the surplus went into building factories, amenities, funding research and development.... IMHO we can compound at an assumed arbitrary rate of 8%. That makes 11.4 BILLION Dollars for one year alone. Or 72464Crores rupees for ONE YEAR. This wealth stayed within India during the so-called bad Muslim Rule! Modern India’s current external debt interest payments are in the region of 9-10 Billion yearly. That puts the matter in the right perspective!

Neither is the contention of deaths maintainable in the light of documented facts; the famine record of British India alone would put the entire 9000-year history to shame shadow in the mortality rate. The number of deaths is thought to be in the region of 50-68 Million deaths attributable to the British policies – and this is just due to the famines. There was a massive famine in Bengal within a few years of British Rule that is known to have wiped out large parts of the entire population, accounting for well over 10 Million Deaths. The Famine of 1942-44, proven to be due to British rule, also was as bad, accounting for more than 5 Million deaths. Such things were not known in Muslim Rule.

The genocide of 1857, carried out against civilians, is well studied and documented, with an untold number of civilian deaths, with some records putting the toll at 10 Million! This genocide was carried out against an entire people, across large parts of India in a targeted strategy. The brutal suppression of revolt after revolt, and numerous freedom attempts is also a matter of record. Not one word of this reaches the fringe rhetoric, that is also a fact. But far more than these is the targeted destruction of the entire way of life that we used to live, our crafts, arts, religion, as well as our pride in our way  of life. That is what I take up in detail in the next part of this 5-part mini-series…

High time we Indians recognized that this is just a colonial hangover, and a direct gift of British Rule, and has no basis in reality. In order that India moves forward and stakes a claim at its rightful place at the top of the world, we need to overcome these insecurities as a people, recognize the rhetoric for what it is, and move on in time-honoured Indian style and tradition. High time we started to apportion the blame to the place they actually belong : the brutal colonial rape, and recognize and accept that the only slavery we had was from 1757-1947, and that we never were slaves for 800 or 1000 years…

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