2ndlook

Demonization: Method; Mechanics & the Madness

Posted in America, British Raj, Desert Bloc, History, India, politics, Propaganda by Anuraag Sanghi on July 27, 2012

 

The day when Churchill will join Genghis Khan, Taimur Leng, Adolph Hitler for the top honors of being the greatest killer of humanity is not far off.

Extract from one of Churchill's 1897 newspaper reports  |  Image source & courtesy - dailymail.co.uk  |  Click for image.

Extract from one of Churchill’s 1897 newspaper reports | Image source & courtesy – dailymail.co.uk | Click for image.

For instance, in the Swat Valley, during the First Mohmand Campaign (1897-1898) in the picturesque part of North India (now in modern Pakistan), Churchill

gladly took part in raids that laid waste to whole valleys, writing: “We proceeded systematically, village by village, and we destroyed the houses, filled up the wells, blew down the towers, cut down the shady trees, burned the crops and broke the reservoirs in punitive devastation.”

He then sped off to help reconquer the Sudan, where he bragged that he personally shot at least three “savages.”

When the first concentration camps were built in South Africa, he said they produced “the minimum of suffering” possible. At least 115,000 people were swept into them and 14,000 died, but he wrote only of his “irritation that kaffirs should be allowed to fire on white men.” Later, he boasted of his experiences. “That was before war degenerated,” he said. “It was great fun galloping about.”

As war secretary and then colonial secretary in the 1920s, he unleashed the notorious Black and Tans on Ireland’s Catholics, to burn homes and beat civilians. When the Kurds rebelled against British rule in Iraq, he said: “I am strongly in favor of using poisoned gas against uncivilized tribes.” It “would spread a lively terror.”

Churchill believed the highlands, the most fertile land in Kenya, should be the sole preserve of the white settlers, and approved of the clearing out of the local “kaffirs.” When the Kikuyu rebelled under Churchill’s postwar premiership, some 150,000 of them were forced at gunpoint into detention camps, later called “Britain’s gulag” by the historian Caroline Elkins. Obama never truly recovered from the torture he endured.

Didn’t everybody in Britain think that way then? One of the most striking findings of Toye’s research is that they really didn’t: even at the time, Churchill was seen as standing at the most brutal and brutish end of the British imperialist spectrum. This was clearest in his attitude to India. When Gandhi began his campaign of peaceful resistance, Churchill raged that he “ought to be lain bound hand and foot at the gates of Delhi and then trampled on by an enormous elephant with the new Viceroy seated on its back.” He later added: “I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion.”

This hatred killed. In 1943, to give just one example, a famine broke out in Bengal, caused,by British mismanagement. To the horror of many of his colleagues, Churchill raged that it was their own fault for “breeding like rabbits” and refused to offer any aid for months while hundreds of thousands died.

This is a real Churchill (via Book Review – Churchill’s Empire – By Richard Toye – NYTimes.com).

Winston Churchill in the Hussars just before he saw action in North India  |  Image courtesy - dailymail.co.uk  |  Click for image.

Winston Churchill in the Hussars just before he saw action in North India | Image courtesy – dailymail.co.uk | Click for image.

Churchill was someone who excelled at reducing other people with a non-stop flow of derogatory labels, till the tide of opinion turned.

This ‘reduction’ process works in four stages:

  • Stereotype
  • Demonize
  • Genocide
  • Apologize

Let us see how this process has been used in the USA. This kind of

dehumanization can have deadly consequences.

Saturday, June 23, is the 30th anniversary of one of the watershed events in the formation of the Asian American community as we know it: The killing of Vincent Chin in Detroit, Michigan, by auto workers Ronald Ebens and Michael Nitz. Chin, due to be married in two days, was celebrating his bachelor party at a strip club called the Fancy Pants when Ebens and Nitz began verbally haranguing him. “It’s because of you m_____f_____ that we’re out of work,” shouted Ebens. A fight broke out, after which all of the participants were encouraged to leave.

Chin challenged Ebens to continue the fight outside. Ebens responded by going to Nitz’s car and procuring a Louisville Slugger baseball bat (ironically, a Jackie Robinson model). After chasing Chin and cornering him in McDonald’s parking lot, Nitz held Chin down as Ebens pummeled him with the bat, sending him into a coma from which he never awoke.

Ebens and Nitz were convicted in a county court of manslaughter. They were given three years probation with no jail time, fined $3,000 and ordered to pay court costs of $780. Though Ebens was later found guilty of violating Chin’s civil rights in federal court, and sentenced to 25 years in jail, the decision was overturned on appeal.

Neither of Chin’s killers spent any time in prison for his death.

News of the case galvanized the Asian American community, forcing many who had resisted political involvement in the past to consider the grotesque implications of Chin, a Chinese American, being mistakenly identified as Japanese, and then blamed by proxy for the decline of the U.S. car industry.

The upshot is that Chin’s killing was like a bad ethnic joke gone horribly wrong: “Chinese, Japanese? What’s the difference?” (via Is Your Font Racist? (Tao Jones) – Speakeasy – WSJ).

British officers and Indian troops from the 45th Sikhs Regiment in 1897 at Chakdara fort sent to subdue Indian militants  |  Image source & courtesy - dailymail.co.uk  |  Click for image.

British officers and Indian troops from the 45th Sikhs Regiment in 1897 at Chakdara fort sent to subdue Indian militants | Image source & courtesy – dailymail.co.uk | Click for image.

Or for that matter, it can also be brown-skinned people.

In 1943, some 3 million brown-skinned subjects of the Raj died in the Bengal famine, one of history’s worst. Official documents and oral accounts of survivors paint a horrifying portrait of how Churchill, as part of the Western war effort, ordered the diversion of food from starving Indians to already well-supplied British soldiers and stockpiles in Britain and elsewhere in Europe, including Greece and Yugoslavia. And he did so with a churlishness that cannot be excused on grounds of policy: Churchill’s only response to a telegram from the government in Delhi about people perishing in the famine was to ask why Gandhi hadn’t died yet.

British imperialism had long justified itself with the pretense that it was conducted for the benefit of the governed. Churchill’s conduct in the summer and fall of 1943 gave the lie to this myth. “I hate Indians,” he told the Secretary of State for India, Leopold Amery. “They are a beastly people with a beastly religion.” The famine was their own fault, he declared at a war-cabinet meeting, for “breeding like rabbits.”

Some of India’s grain was also exported to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) to meet needs there, even though the island wasn’t experiencing the same hardship; Australian wheat sailed past Indian cities (where the bodies of those who had died of starvation littered the streets) to depots in the Mediterranean and the Balkans; and offers of American and Canadian food aid were turned down. India was not permitted to use its own sterling reserves, or indeed its own ships, to import food. And because the British government paid inflated prices in the open market to ensure supplies, grain became unaffordable for ordinary Indians. Lord Wavell, appointed Viceroy of India that fateful year, considered the Churchill government’s attitude to India “negligent, hostile and contemptuous.”

The way in which Britain’s wartime financial arrangements and requisitioning of Indian supplies laid the ground for famine; the exchanges between the essentially decent Amery and the bumptious Churchill; the racism of Churchill’s odious aide, paymaster general Lord Cherwell, who denied India famine relief and recommended most of the logistical decisions that were to cost so many lives.

Churchill said that history would judge him kindly because he intended to write it himself. The self-serving but elegant volumes he authored on the war led the Nobel Committee, unable in all conscience to bestow him an award for peace, to give him, astonishingly, the Nobel Prize for Literature — an unwitting tribute to the fictional qualities inherent in Churchill’s self-justifying embellishments. (via Books: Churchill’s Shameful Role in the Bengal Famine – TIME).

For Indians the crucial lesson is that an enemy’s enemy need not be our friend.

He may be the second enemy.


 

US & China: How Will They Engage In The Next 25 Years

Posted in China, Current Affairs, India, Indo Pak Relations, Pax Americana, politics by Anuraag Sanghi on July 10, 2012

For any one to believe that countries do and governments do anything for reasons other than self-interest is delusional. But coming from a Chinese analyst …

A young Dalai Lama, and Indira Gandhi, during a visit to Nehru in New Delhi, on Sept. 4, 1959. It was the Dalai Lama's first visit to New Delhi since fleeing Tibet in March. - living in exile at Birla House in Mussoorie, India.

A young Dalai Lama, and Indira Gandhi, during a visit to Nehru in New Delhi, on Sept. 4, 1959. It was the Dalai Lama’s first visit to New Delhi since fleeing Tibet in March. – living in exile at Birla House in Mussoorie, India.


Peace and stability at last

To the Chinese people, after 50 years of dislocation and disaster, the communist victory brought promise of stability and direction.

Mao’s first decade (1949-1959) achieved three major things.

  1. China was cured of its opium addiction.
  2. China’s criminal gangs were busted.
  3. After many centuries Chinese peasants got land.

But these reforms were not likely to make China into a world power.

Baby steps to a world power

According to Mao, the path to China as a super-power was The Great Leap Forward.

Initiated in 1957-58, the Great Leap Forward saw famine and hunger across China. After the Communist takeover of China, land seized from land owners, was given to peasants in 1949. Ten years later, in 1959, the Chinese State took away the same land from the same peasant, during The Great Leap Forward. Food shortages, starvation followed. Western (questionable) estimates are that 30 million people died during this period.

Some speculate, the China’s war with India in 1962 diverted attention from two domestic catastrophes – after the disastrous Great Leap Forward and before the equally disastrous Cultural Revolution.

There could be another viable cause for the war.

Comfort of size

China had annexed Tibet in 1951, with the Dalai Lama being the nominal but ‘autonomous’ ruler. Seven years after annexation, in 1959, the Dalai Lama, fearing for his life, fled to India.

Three years after Dalai Lama’s defection to India, the 1962 war followed.

More probably, the 1962 War between India and China, also served to demonstrate Chinese determination to hold Tibet.

Alexei Kosygin (Soviet PM) & Lal Bahadur Shastri in Tashkent. Photo: RIA Novosti/AFP; courtesy - livemint.com

Alexei Kosygin (Soviet PM) & Lal Bahadur Shastri in Tashkent. Photo: RIA Novosti/AFP; courtesy – livemint.com


Middle Kingdom in a muddle

For China, 20th century began on an untoward note.

Failed Boxer War (1899-1900), followed by the fall of Qing dynasty (1912), Japanese occupation of Manchuria (1931 onwards), civil war (ended in 1949) – all this in a space of less than 50 years. To a China recovering from such difficult fifty years, size in itself was a comfort.

Sparsely populated, Tibet’s vast landmass gave bulk to the Chinese nation, making it the 4th largest in the world – nearly equal to USA (No.3) and Canada (No.2). Without Tibet, China would drop to 6th position – smaller than Brazil (No.5) and Australia (No.6). Remove Xinjiang, and another 16% of China gets reduced. Close to 45% of current China is Tibet and Xinjiang.

A larger population means a larger government – and a larger landmass means more raw-material sources, bigger markets. All in all, more economic heft.

On the negative side is of course, sluggish administration happens easily – and often.

Action shifts

In this quest for expanding Chinese frontiers, China took on the Soviet Russia – with unfavorable results.

April 1968, Prague, Czechoslovakia: A Russian soldier lights a cigarette as a Czech walks past a sign which equates U.S. policy in Vietnam with the Soviet (CCCP) occupation of Czechoslovakia (CSSR). A swastika painted inside a star (which is used as a symbol for both the Soviet and the American armies) completes the barb. Since Warsaw Pact forces invaded Czechoslovakia, signs like this were scrawled on walls, windows and even Russian tanks

April 1968, Prague, Czechoslovakia: A Russian soldier lights a cigarette as a Czech walks past a sign which equates U.S. policy in Vietnam with the Soviet (CCCP) occupation of Czechoslovakia (CSSR). A swastika painted inside a star (which is used as a symbol for both the Soviet and the American armies) completes the barb. Since Warsaw Pact forces invaded Czechoslovakia, signs like this were scrawled on walls, windows and even Russian tanks

While the Soviet Union with Khrushchev at its helm, was busy in Cuba (October 1962), expanding and deepening relations in Middle East, Vietnam, and in Russia’s own backyard in Eastern Europe, China started aggressive posturing against Soviet Russia on the border island of Zhenbao-Damanski.

Since this was an undeclared war from both sides, this aspect of international politics is rarely factored into most analysis.

Soviet Russia scaled down military operations against China after China was made to pay a price. The Russians even considered a nuclear attack on China. US support to China, against a nuclear attack stopped the Soviets from completely bull-dozing China.

This Chinese posturing alienated the Soviet Union.

June 7, 1969: Soviet Communist Party leader Leonid Brezhnev addresses the World Conference of Communist Parties in Moscow. In his speech, Brezhnev accused Red China of planning nuclear and conventional war against the Soviet Union. USSR Premier Alexei Kosygin, left, and President Nikolai Podgorny listen to his statement. | Photos: Bettmann/CORBIS; source: wired.com | Click for image.

June 7, 1969: Soviet Communist Party leader Leonid Brezhnev addresses the World Conference of Communist Parties in Moscow. In his speech, Brezhnev accused Red China of planning nuclear and conventional war against the Soviet Union. USSR Premier Alexei Kosygin, left, and President Nikolai Podgorny listen to his statement. | Photos: Bettmann/CORBIS; source: wired.com | Click for image.


When Russia thought of nuking China

Soviet Union launched a brutal response against China.

After a Russian diplomat in New Delhi probed for a probable American response to Russian nuclear attack on China, the dove-cote was aflutter. Chou En Lai, of China relayed Chinese concerns about Soviet intentions to Pakistan’s Air Marshall Nur Khan, who in turn briefed Henry Kissinger.

A few days earlier, another Russian diplomat in the U.S., with KGB connections, Boris Davydov had sought similar American reaction to a Soviet nuclear attack on China from William Stearman, of the US State Department. This Soviet approach was escalated to Henry Kissinger and President Nixon.

This was the opening that USA wanted.

Nixon visits China

Based on these developments, Nixon made an approach to the Chinese – and the Nixon-Mao meeting happened later (February 1972). China Daily, a publication that reflects the Chinese Government’s official stance, commissioned a special feature on the ‘40th anniversary of Nixon’s landmark visit to China’ – though diplomatic relations were finally restored only in 1979.

Nixon’s Asia and Pakistan policy was a significant departure in the mechanics. In 1965, before the India-Pakistan War, Johnson cancelled US trips by Pakistan’s General Ayub and India’s Prime Minister, LB Shastri.

Of course, for vastly differing reasons. US wanted to show displeasure to Ayub Khan for getting close to China. US did not want any criticism from Shastri on the Vietnam War.

China lets down all-weather friend Pakistan

Before the 1971 Bangladesh War, the punishment that the Chinese received in the Zhenbao-Damanski Island border (1969) conflict at the hands of the Soviets made the Chinese very careful. Aware of Soviet support to India, in the India-Bangladesh War – the Chinese adopted a complete hands-off attitude. The Chinese dreaded the Soviets.

But this does not explain 1965-Chinese neutral posturing in the India-Pakistan War. Was it fear that India could provoke the secession of Tibet – if China engaged itself with India in a military adventure?

If Tibet goes, would Xinjiang remain for long?

Chinese Talk and Walk

A hall-mark of the Communist Party foreign policy has been pragmatism. Deng reiterated Chinese thinking when he said, “Speak softly and carry a big stick,” echoing American President Teddy Roosevelt’s suggestion to an emerging USA.

How will China and US engage in the future?

Friends, Followers, Competitors, Collaborators, Rivals or Fr-enemies. Leader, follower. This following extract from a Chinese analyst is revealing.

China has undoubtedly benefited from the world system created and supported by the US. Richard Nixon’s journey to China in 1972 opened the door for China’s return to the international community.

Most of the next two decades were a honeymoon for Sino-US relations. On the economic front, the US not only granted China most-favoured-nation trade status, but also tolerated China’s mercantilist approach to international trade and finance, notably its dual-track exchange-rate regime. In the 1990s, bilateral economic ties continued to expand. US support for China’s integration into the world system culminated with the country’s accession to the World Trade Organization in 2001.

Of course, China’s inadequate intellectual property protection has damaged relations. And the role of China’s state-owned enterprises and official Chinese support for technological “national champions” have also hurt relations. (via Couples counselling for US and China – Views – livemint.com).

Were US actions based on benign benefit to the Chinese that will merit gratitude? Probably, he has never given the primer on modern foreign policy.

We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow” Lord Viscount Palmerston, 1848.

Does gratitude have a place in diplomacy?


1900-2000: How much change can 100 years make!

Posted in China, Desert Bloc, European History, History, India, politics, Propaganda by Anuraag Sanghi on July 5, 2012

A little over a hundred years ago, Western power, wealth and technology seemed overwhelming. How a hundred years can change everything. Everything.

Russia, Japan, Germany and England as Shylocks gather round a kneeling China (Antonio) and demand their pounds of flesh for the Boxer Rebellion, while Puck urges the US to step in as Portia and rescue China. by John S. Pughe for Puck Magazine / Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Collection; Subtitle on the cartoon reads:

Russia, Japan, Germany and England as Shylocks gather round a kneeling China (Antonio) and demand their pounds of flesh for the Boxer Rebellion, while Puck urges the US to step in as Portia and rescue China. by John S. Pughe for Puck Magazine / Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Collection; Subtitle on the cartoon reads:

The Dark Before Dawn

In the year 1900, China, seen as an effete, weak nation, could be bullied into submission. The West, suddenly rich, with wealth from piracy, slavery, sugar, tobacco, gold from America and Australia and Africa was in a position of supreme power.

In Cahoots

Ancient civilizations like India and China seemed to be in an interminable grip of the West. In the year 1900, the Chinese kingdom saw its 1857 moment. When the Chinese nation rose as one against the Western powers – under the leadership of Society of Right and Harmonious Fists (- 義和團 I He Tuan or I Ho Ch’uan; Boxers in English).

Empress Cixi, A Manchu Queen, who ruled over Han China.

Empress Cixi, A Manchu Queen, who ruled over Han China.

At the turn of the last century, with the European “Scramble for Africa,” as it was known, only recently completed, three assertive new major powers were fast emerging: Germany, Japan and the United States. Most of the world had already been claimed by more established actors. But decrepit, late Qing Dynasty China, with its hundreds of millions of people, centuries of accumulated wealth and vast territory, loomed as the final big prize on the imperial frontier. The New York Times at the time called China “the greatest potential market of the world,” and circling foreign powers, old and new, were drawn by its weakness and misrule.

The Boxer Rebellion. The war was the last of the West’s repeated armed confrontations with the Qing, but compared with other Chinese conflicts of the era, notably the midcentury, overlapping Taiping Rebellion and Second Opium War, it was a far smaller affair, both in duration and scale, essentially lasting through the long summer of 1900.

The war in a tradition that he says was long familiar to the British but brand-new to the Americans, one where empire is created “on the scene, and to the surprise of the mother county,” by free-lancing representatives of faraway Western capitals. In the case of the Boxer Rebellion, this meant a conflict that pitted the assembled forces of the world’s major powers against China. The unforeseen result, soon after the defeat of the Qing, was the end of thousands of years of dynastic rule and arguably the beginning of the end of the imperial age itself.

The Boxer Rebellion—its name derives from the uprising’s practitioners of martial arts—had its roots in China’s 19th-century demographic explosion, as well as crop failures and drought, which served as a catalyst for one of the era’s many Chinese peasant uprisings. What was different this time was the target. The Boxers, who arose in Shandong Province, were not mobilized against the Qing state but rather against the large Western presence in the country, especially that of Christian missionaries, who were attacked by the rebels in the summer and fall of 1899.

The Boxers’ problem was not with the Westerners’ religion per se. The rebels were incensed because, in the vacuum left behind by a failing Qing administration, the foreign church-based organizations were becoming local administrators. As such they were direct competition for the Chinese secret societies, like the Boxers, that were also moving to fill the void.

The Boxers were leaderless, largely illiterate peasant militants whose alliance in loose, improvised networks made them hard to stop. The movement quickly gained momentum in 1900, when spring rains failed to arrive: Unable to plant their crops, peasants were idled, frustrated and receptive to the Boxers’ recruiting efforts. In May, rallying under the slogan “Support the Qing. Exterminate the Foreigners,” the Boxers descended on Beijing and laid siege to the foreign quarter. Forced to choose sides, the Empress Dowager Cixi ordered foreign legations to quit the capital.

The war that ensued was fought by an uneasy but eager eight-nation coalition, including Austria-Hungary and Italy, who pushed to reach Beijing from the port of Dagu. Strange pairings were forged between rivals soon to be mortal enemies: the British and Germans, the Japanese and Russians, each eager to outdo the other.

China’s defeat—the country was forced to pay onerous reparations—marked the end of “a disastrous two years, part of a disastrous decade, [and] the end of a disastrous century,” Mr. Silbey writes. But the defeat also marked a turning point. British India, which had sent many troops to suppress the Boxers, was soon gripped by its own revolutionary movement. The Japanese learned from the war that “they held the whip hand in Asia” and would soon defeat Russia and later take over China.

Putting down the Boxer Rebellion had been a successful, coordinated display of imperial power—and a last hurrah. The new century had other plans for the victors.

From America’s recent, brief moment of unipolar pre-eminence, we have suddenly stepped into a new and uncertain age, with big, fast-growing new actors, China and India chief among them, rising to claim a place on the world stage. (via Book Review: The Boxer Rebellion and the Great Game in China – WSJ.com; Links supplied).

Boxer rebels, 1900 photograph. From Tōgō Shrine and Tōgō Association (東郷神社・東郷会), Togo Heihachiro in images, illustrated Meiji Navy (図説東郷平八郎、目で見る明治の海軍), (Japanese),   |  Source Wikipedia.  Click for image.

Boxer rebels, 1900 photograph. From Tōgō Shrine and Tōgō Association (東郷神社・東郷会), Togo Heihachiro in images, illustrated Meiji Navy (図説東郷平八郎、目で見る明治の海軍), (Japanese), | Source Wikipedia. Click for image.

Soon after the Boxer War, China’s ruling dynasty, the Qing fell in 1911.

Civil war followed.

This civil war lasted until Communist forces under Mao Zedong’s gained control over China in 1949.

Looking for a pattern.

There are a few things in common between War of 1857 and the Boxer War of 1900 in China.

One – No Leaders They Say

Western historians have a knack of describing all anti-Western uprisings and wars as leaderless. The War of 1857 was Mutiny. The War by the Boxers too was an Rebellion.

Even though the West did not rule over China, yet it was rebellion. Even though the War of 1857 saw major engagements across India, over 18 months, it was a Sepoy Mutiny.

Leaderless.

Killing Over Spoils

Just 15 years after this China’s Boxer War, the same 8 nations that had made an unholy alliance to subjugate China, were at each others throats.

More than 10 million people died in World War – I.

15 years before China’s Boxer War, billed by the hosts as the Kongokonferenz, or the Berlin Conference (1884-1885) in English, was organized by the Chancellor of a newly formed nation, Germany. Otto von Bismarck, Germany’s Iron Chancellor called for this conference to demarcate Africa between European Powers (plus the Ottoman Empire & USA).

These eight European powers could unite when it came strategy for undermining target-populations – and were equally capable of unprecedented slaughter when it came to sharing the spoils of loot.

A point though mentioned last,  as important as any preceding points, is how European residents in China could easily act and call upon their national Governments for aggressive military actions. European Tai-Pans in China or the Company Bahadur in India could easily switch roles from being traders to an extension of the European State.

Even today?

When you get up again

Looking back over the last 100 years, the most edifying observation that can be made is about India and China.

In 1900, it would have appeared to most that China and India would never recover. Today, both India and China have recovered.

But the real question today is – Will former colonial powers like Spain, Portugal, Britain and France go the way of Rome, Greece and Egypt.

Never to rise again.

A Troublesome Egg to Hatch by J.S. Pughe  |  1901 cartoon as Industrial powers’attempt to exploit China. US & Japan look on.  Image source & courtesy - historytoday.com  |  Click for larger image.

A Troublesome Egg to Hatch by J.S. Pughe | 1901 cartoon as Industrial powers’attempt to exploit China. US & Japan look on. Image source & courtesy – historytoday.com | Click for larger image.


British Raj: Expansion In India was Swift and Easy says British-American Historian

Posted in British Raj, History, India, Propaganda by Anuraag Sanghi on July 2, 2012

65 years after the loss of India, Britain tries recycling old propaganda – and selling it as cutting edge history.

James Gillray, (1756-1815), leading printmaker, lampoons Cornwallis after battlefield reverses in India in a work Title: The coming on of the monsoons, or, The retreat from Seringapatam Related Title: Retreat from Seringapatam  |  Published: London; on December, 6th 1791 by H. Humphrey  |  Click for image.

James Gillray, (1756-1815), leading printmaker, lampoons Cornwallis after battlefield reverses in India in a work Title: The coming on of the monsoons, or, The retreat from Seringapatam Related Title: Retreat from Seringapatam | Published: London; on December, 6th 1791 by H. Humphrey | Click for image.

Regret and rankle?

Why does it bother a British historian, that Indian-writers write good things about India, who are largely read in India? After 30 years in the employ of an American University!

Yet it does.

Writing smoothly, in the London Book Review (LRB) Perry Anderson uses more than 15,000 words to refresh British propaganda about the British Raj in India.

Full of gaps like

When the British arrived, it was the sprawling heterogeneity of the area that allowed them, after a slow start, to gain such relatively swift and easy control of it, using one local power or population against the next, in a series of alliances and annexations that ended, more than a century after the Battle of Plassey, with the construction of an empire extending further east and south, if not north-west, than any predecessor. (via Perry Anderson · Gandhi Centre Stage · LRB 5 July 2012)

Was the British imperial expansion in India, ‘swift and easy’ over ‘more than a century after the Battle of Plassey.’

Really?

Eh … Oh … Aah

Let us look at some history.

First: If the expansion was swift and easy, the decline and departure was faster. Between Plassey (1757) and the 1857 War was a hundred years. Between the 1857 War and Indian Independence (1947) was only ninety.

Indian independence, which had a large dose of non-violent protest, was preceded by British loss of initiative and control.

Remember dates.

English are nowhere

1600 – East India Company formed.

1683 – British Crown approves new charter for EEIC; which can now wage war.

1739 – Nadir Shah’s raid on India sees British missing in action.

1746 – Chauth for Bengal & Bihar ceded to Marathas by Mughals. British are still nowhere.

1757 – Battle of Plassey – an artificial landmark in Indian history; but important to British.

1761 – Ahmad Shah Abdali defeat Marathas at Panipat. Maratha powers starts to decline.

1764 – British take advantage of Maratha /Mughal weakness; and win the minor Battle of Buxar, 22 October; which lands them the Diwani of Bengal. British loot of India begins. Regular famines become feature of the British Raj.

English Appear Somewhere

1765-1785 – British win battles against European powers (French, Dutch, Danes) but lose wars against Indian kings.

1781 – Surrender of Lord Cornwallis, October 19, at Yorktown, America.

1786 – 23 February, Cornwallis appointed for India position. Departing in May, arrived at Madras – 22 August.

1799 – Tipu Sultan’s death. British power consolidates in India.

English Are Here in India

1818 – The Third Anglo-Maratha /Pindari War ends. English power arrives in India.

1839 – Death of Ranjit Singh.

1845-1849 – The Sikh Wars in which English gained supremacy over the last outpost of Indian power.

British power in India

1857 – Combined Indian forces, led by the Mughal-Maratha alliance declare war. Major battles continue for 18 months. English win.

British Loss of Power

1916 – April 16. BG Tilak declares Swaraj is my birthright; forms Home Rule League at the Bombay Provincial Conference held at Belgaum.

1927 – Indian polity refuses to negotiate with Simon Commission.

1930 – Bhagat Singh displays disinterest in the legal outcome of his trial.

1944 – India’s leading industrialists come together (Bombay Club) and make an economic-plan document for an India which is yet to be born; for a government that was yet to be formed.

1946 – Naval Ratings raise the Indian Flag of independence.

1947 – Britain out of India

Two: A recent British ranking included Rani Lakshmi Bai as sole woman entry in the list of Top-20 foes of the British Empire. More than 200 wars, battles, mutinies, bombings, armed uprisings, spread over the 190 years, in which more than 10 million people died, was not easy.

Three: The loss of India was recurring theme in the less than 200 years of British misrule in India. The British knew their hold on India was one-step away from losing it.

Voices From The Past

Lord Curzon, probably got the tone for the Raj, till its end 50 years later. In a letter, on 31 March 1901, (some suggest March 3), to the Conservative minister AJ Balfour; Curzon predicted in 1901,

governing of India was far and away the biggest thing that the British were doing anywhere. As long as we rule India, we are the greatest power in the world. If we lose it we shall straightway drop to a third rate power. (from – Curzon in India: Achievement; books.google.co.in; David Dilks – 1970.).

In 1857, soon after the outbreak of war, reporting on Europe’s reactions, were brothers Eliakim Littell and Robert S. Littell, for their American publication, The Living Age (Volume 55 – Page 113).

In a familiar manner they said,

India is not only an English, it is a European subject; and the face of the Continental press moves that it is so. “Will England lose India or not?” is a question mooted by friends and foes, with hopes and fears according to their feelings; and from what they say of our prospects, we may judge of their future ‘conduct in the event of any serious loss to our power. On the Continent, more than in this country, it seems to be felt, and is indeed here and there loudly proclaimed, that Great Britain will lose her European supremacy if she lose India.

In fact, the loss of India would be a deathblow to her commerce and industry. (From: The living age …, Volume 55; By Eliakim Littell, Robert S. Littell, Making of America Project.).

Further back, in 1829, writing in Gentleman’s magazine, (Volume 149), John Nichols summed up the mood in England.

It has been said that we might lose India, if, with the gospel of peace in one hand, and the code of English justice in the other, we thus legislate in a country whose superstitions are inveterate! Lose India !’ what is a man profited if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul!

Many Britishers said the opposite too. Churchill, the most famous of these Indian-doom predictors, thundered in the British Parliament,

In handing over the Government of India to these so-called political classes we are handing over to men of straw, of whom, in a few years, no trace will remain.

We now know whose predictions were right.

It can be safely said, that India was far from subdued, either easily or quickly, in the entire British Raj. A long enough search will produce one such analysis for each year where the British fear of losing India was exposed.

But the British lost power pretty fast.


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