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Indian Food: Centuries of Parallel Evolution, Now Converging?

January 13, 2013 2 comments

Indian cuisine has been regional for centuries. But, in the last thirty-five years, Indian food habits have undergone a sea-change.

Image source & courtesy - hindustantimes.com

Image source & courtesy – hindustantimes.com

Something very strange is happening across India.

Indian cuisine has been regional for centuries.

Image source & courtesy - hindustantimes.com

Image source & courtesy – hindustantimes.com

Rajasthan has a dry cuisine that concentrates on preservation. Konkan food is full of greenery, freshness and coconut. Andhra cuisine has an overload of chilly and tamarind. Some brahmin sects in Bengal and Konkan coasts, eat fish.

But for the first time in 5000-years of Indian history, India’s Bombay High Generation (1975-2000) changed that. In the last thirty-five years, Indian food habits have undergone a sea-change.

Image source & courtesy - hindustantimes.com

Image source & courtesy – hindustantimes.com

Dosas and Idlis are now a breakfast staple across India. How much have dosas penetrated? Seen at a corner atta-chakki (a house-hold size grain-flour mill), a Muslim householder, who wanted some dosa-atta to be dry-ground. Clueless on how to make dosa batter, the family had decided to go the dosa way due to children-pressure.

Punjabi paneer items are now lunch and dinner regulars across food tables in India. Modern Punjabi cuisine, perfected in the last 500-years of gurudwara-langar cooking has taken the country by storm.

Banarsi chaat has surely spread across the country. Remember, Banaras is the world’s oldest living city.

In all this, an analysis of the food composition will show a broad focus on two things.

  • One – A good mix of carbohydrates, proteins, fat and fibre.
  • Two – Maximum variety and increasing the number of elements that go into any preparation, which is the bedrock of vegetarian cuisine.
Image source & courtesy - hindustantimes.com

Image source & courtesy – hindustantimes.com

Here is an interesting post by Vir Sanghvi on Banarsi chaat.

I’m finally coming to terms with something I’ve always suspected about myself: my favourite food in the world is chaat. Give me caviar, give me white truffles and give me the greatest hits of Heston Blumenthal and Ferran Adrià, and I’ll probably be diverted for a while. But after a briefflirtation, I will return to my first love: chaat.

One of my friends is a TV big-shot who prides himself on his foodie skills though he has a misplaced admiration for his local Bihari cuisine and little understanding of the complexities of Gujarati food! and even he and his wife were stunned by the quality of the chaat. The secret of good chaat, he said, is that UP has the best chaat in India but that it does not come from Lucknow as is commonly supposed but from Benaras. The thing about the people of Benaras, he added, is that they are naturally shy and reluctant to leave their city and show off their skills to the world.

I phoned Marut and asked him what he thought. He agreed that UP was the centre of the chaat world. But he thought that, within UP, there were many chaat traditions. He gave me the example of what we call paani-puri in Bombay. In Lucknow and Kanpur, they use the term ‘batasha’ or possibly, ‘gol-gappa’. In Benaras, on the other hand, they call it a puchhka and the taste of the paani is subtly different from the Lucknow version.

Marut thinks that there are strong foodie links between Benaras and Calcutta, which is why the term ‘puchhka’ is used in Bengal as well. He reckons that perhaps chaatwallahs from the Benaras region moved to Calcutta and seeded the city’s flourishing chaat scene.
He may be right. The more I thought about it the more chaat seemed to be a UP thing. The Calcutta tradition is essentially a morphing of Benarasi recipes to suit the city’s Bengali and Marwari clientele. This is why Calcutta’s puchhkas are tarter than the Benaras version. In Delhi, on the other hand, the chaatwallahs probably came from Lucknow and Kanpur and gave the city its own gol-gappa, which I regret to say, is easily the least interesting example of the genre.

Neither Marut nor I could work out which part of UP Bombay’s chaatwallahs originally came from. We know for certain that chaat was transported to Bombay by UP Brahmins, most of whom used the surname Sharma. (Take a poll of the chaatwallahs at Chowpatty and Juhu. You will find that most of the long-established ones are still called Sharma.)

It is a tribute to Bombay’s culinary genius that the UP chaat tradition was able to successfully mate with the Gujarati snack/farsan tradition so that a new chaat culture was born. The Gujaratis took the principles of UP chaat (something fried, lots of crispy things for texture, chutneys, dahi, potatoes, etc.) and created new dishes. The most famous of these is bhel puri but there are many others.
The Bombay dahi batata puri has its roots in UP chaat but is very much an individual dish in its own right. Ragda pattice is a Gujarati adaptation of that north Indian standby, tikki with channa. And Marut reckons that Bombay’s pani-puri, which is the local variant of the gol-gappa/puchhka/batasha chaat is probably the best expression of this dish. (I love Bombay but here I disagree with Marut: my money is on the Calcutta  puchhka.)

The more Marut and I talked about it, the more convinced we became that we could trace nearly all genuine chaat dishes to waves of migration from UP. This explains why it is so difficult to find a chaat tradition south of Bombay: the UPites did not venture further down the Peninsula.

It is funny, though, that at a time when every state is doing so much to put its cuisine on the map, UP takes so little credit for being the home of chaat. Kerala may brag about its spices, Goa may trumpet the virtues of vindaloo and so on, but UP seems to have surrendered all claims to chaat, which is now seen as a pan-Indian favourite rather than a regional cuisine.

The public image of the food of UP leads only to the Awadhi haute cuisine of Lucknow and to pots of steaming biryani or animal fat kebabs. I love Lucknawi food as much as the next man but I doubt if it has been as influential or as popular as chaat. And yet, the chaat geniuses of Benaras, Lucknow, Kanpur and other UP towns get almost no recognition at all. Their wonderful tradition is disparaged as being ‘mere street food’.

But India lives and eats on its streets. And that night as I turned away all the fancy food that Marut and the Michelin-starred chefs had cooked and stuck to the Benaras chaat, I pondered the injustice. In America, they celebrate the hamburger and the hotdog; pizza is Italy’s global calling card; and Britain is known for fish and chips. So why, oh why, do we in India not give chaat the respect it deserves? Why is it without honour even in its home state?

I say this not just because chaat is my favourite food. I’m sure that millions of other Indians are also crazy about chaat. So, for once, let’s give haute cuisine a rest and stand up for what we really love: the cuisine of the Indian street.

via Rude Food: the cuisine of the street – Hindustan Times.


Snapshot of Bengal Partition

Lord Curzon used the State Efficiency argument to divide Bengal along communal lines.

Most such 'welfare schemes' cost more in administration than benefit the end user. (Graphic source and courtesy - firstpost.com.  Click for image.)

Most such 'welfare schemes' cost more in administration than benefit the end user. (Graphic source and courtesy - firstpost.com. Click for image.)

Thin is in

Classical Indian rulers, using भारत-तंत्र Bharat-tantra managed very thin governments – a structure that the British inherited.

To this thin structure the British added a huge army, which was used to subdue native polity. During WWII, when two million Indian soldiers were used to bolster the allied forces, the size of the Indian police force was increased.

This thin governance model has been progressively diluted over the last 800 years of regression from भारत-तंत्र Bharat-tantra.

Even today, the Indian Government is thin – by any measure. Expenditure to GDP ratio; no of government employes, et al.

Thorn in the flesh

This is not something that the Indian Government wants to continue with.

The Indian State is furiously finding ways to expand the role of the State – and Indian academia. which has become an extension of the State, finds ways to justify it. The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) and Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) are the latest shots in this direction.

This economic model needs a perpetual supply of victims to support this bureaucracy. | Cartoon by Bill Day; courtesy - cagle.com| Click for larger image.

This economic model needs a perpetual supply of victims to support this bureaucracy. | Cartoon by Bill Day; courtesy - cagle.com| Click for larger image.

Same ending – different starts

The story of State efficiency has been forwarded as another reason to expand the State.

Lord Curzon used this argument for the partition of Bengal.

united Bengal straggled over much of east India, with a population — of roughly 84 million — greater than that of present-day France. The viceroy of India between 1898 and 1905, Lord Curzon, thought a Bengal of that size too difficult to govern. Curzon held strong views on the inefficiency of big administrative bodies; in 1892, when he was undersecretary of state for India, he had argued that such bodies in India were “apt to diffuse their force…in vapid talk.”

But Curzon’s decision to divide Bengal was more canny that pragmatic, and it flowed smoothly from the British Raj’s broader policies of divide-and-rule. In an official note in 1904, H. H. Risley, the home secretary in the Government of India and an ethnographer who had codified the caste system in the 1901 census, wrote:

Bengal united is a power. Bengal divided will pull in several different ways. That is what the Congress leaders feel: their apprehensions are perfectly correct and they form one of the great merits of the scheme… One of our main objects is to split up and thereby weaken a solid body of opponents to our rule.

It was this advice that Curzon was acting upon. In a February 1905 letter to St. John Brodnick, the secretary of state for India, the viceroy explained:

Calcutta is the centre from which the Congress Party is manipulated throughout the whole of Bengal, and indeed the whole of India. Its best wire pullers and its most frothy orators all reside here. The perfection of their machinery, and the tyranny which it enables them to exercise are truly remarkable. They dominate public opinion in Calcutta; they affect the High Court; they frighten the local Government, and they are sometimes not without serious influence on the Government of India. The whole of their activity is directed to creating an agency so powerful that they may one day be able to force a weak government to give them what they desire.

Any measure in consequence that would divide the Bengali-speaking population; that would permit independent centres of activity and influence to grow up; that would dethrone Calcutta from its place as the centre of successful intrigue, or that would weaken the influence of the lawyer class, who have the entire organization in their hands, is intensely and hotly resented by them. The outcry will be loud and very fierce, but as a native gentleman said to me — “my countrymen always howl until a thing is settled; then they accept it.”

The creation of an East Bengal — comprising a significant Muslim population — was designed to pit one community against another, playing to the grievances of the poorer Muslims in the region. During a speech in February 1904 in Dhaka, Curzon outlined the benefits that east Bengalis would receive from the partition, including a “unity which they have not enjoyed since the days of the old Mussalman viceroys and kings.”

Bengal was formally halved on October 16, 1905; “the people of Calcutta,” the Ananda Bazar Patrika reported in an editorial the next day, “observed it as a day of mourning.” The partition had particularly stirred up the nationalist sentiments of Rabindranath Tagore. That September, in the midst of an especially prolific month, Tagore wrote the poems Banglar Mati, Banglar Jal (Bengali Earth, Bengali Water) and Amar Shonar Bangla (My Golden Bengal), the latter first sung at a Calcutta meeting to protest the impending partition.

The two fragments of Bengal were rejoined in 1911, only to come apart once more in 1947. (via The Long View: The Partition Before Partition – NYTimes.com).

‘British Raj was not a vampire empire’

October 1, 2011 5 comments

India must be bled, it must be done judiciously. The lancet should be directed to those parts where the blood is congested, or, at least, sufficient, not to those already feeble for the want of it. (Lord Salisbury – Secretary of State for India – 1866-1867; 1874-1878; Foreign Secretary – 1878-1880; Prime Minister – 1885, 1886 – 92, 1895 – 1902).

Hastings, unlike Clive, offered no personal defence. Instead he portrayed himself and the British Raj as the Saviour Of India. (Original by James Gillray titled 'The Political Banditti Assailing the Saviour of India', published by W. Holland in 1786 or 1788. Warren Hastings was attacked by Edmund Burke, Lord North, and Fox, in the House of Commons. See 1851 water color version from Bohn Collection at  http://goo.gl/a90mq). Click for larger image.

Warren Hastings, when attacked by Edmund Burke, Lord North, and Fox, in the House of Commons for corruption, unlike Clive, offered no personal defence. Instead he portrayed himself and the British Raj as the Saviour Of India. (Original by James Gillray titled 'The Political Banditti Assailing the Saviour of India', published by W. Holland in 1786 or 1788. Image source and courtesy - shijieminghua.com. See 1851 water color version from Bohn Collection at http://goo.gl/a90mq). Click for larger image.

Historians today, many in India too, promote  the myth that the British Empire

bore no resemblance to the ‘vampire empire’ created by King Leopold of the Belgians in the Congo, which was responsible for perhaps 10 million deaths, let alone to the genocidal Nazi empire or to Japan’s vicious and corrupt Greater East-Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.

Imperium et Libertas was a contradiction in terms. What it meant in a Roman mouth, as Gladstone said, was ‘Liberty for ourselves, Empire over the rest of mankind.’

Lord Salisbury (Marquess of Salisbury – then Secretary of State for India) himself exposed the truth. ‘If our ancestors had cared for the rights of other people,’ he observed, ‘the British Empire would not have been made.’ Its purpose was not to spread sweetness and light but to increase Britain’s wealth and power. Naturally its coercive and exploitative nature must be disguised. Bamboozle was better than bamboo, he considered, and ‘as India must be bled, the bleeding should be done judiciously.’
Actually, from the time that Britain had begun to transform its commercial dominance into political ascendancy, India was bled white. During the 1760s Bengal was so squeezed that the province, which the Mughals had called ‘the paradise of earth’, became an abyss of torment. It was ravaged by war, pestilence and famine. A third of the population died of hunger, some driven to cannibalism. Although relief efforts were made, British ‘bullies, cheats and swindlers’ continued to prey on the carcass of Bengal and some profiteered in hoarded grain. Meanwhile Indian revenues (which amounted to perhaps a billion pounds sterling between Plassey in 1757 and Waterloo in 1815) spelled the redemption of Britain, according to the Earl of Chatham. They were ‘a kind of gift from heaven’.

The history of the Raj was punctuated by further famines, which caused tens of millions of deaths. These were not, as Mike Davis claims, colonial ‘holocausts’. But the British failed lamentably in India, as they did in Ireland, in their duty of care. Condemning ‘humanitarian hysterics’ during the worst Victorian famine, Lord Lytton said that the stoppage of his 1876 durbar ‘would be more disastrous to the permanent interests of the Empire than twenty famines’. Despite pleas from the Secretary of State for India Leo Amery during the terrible 1943-44 Bengal famine, Churchill refused to divert scarce shipping to Calcutta. He thought that ‘the starvation of anyway underfed Bengalis’ was less serious than that of sturdy Greeks, particularly as Indians would go on breeding ‘like rabbits’.

After the Indian Mutiny soldiers such as Garnet Wolseley did much to fulfil their vow to spill ‘barrels and barrels of the filth which flows in these niggers’ veins for every drop of blood’ they had shed. During the South African War the British allowed a sixth of the Boer population, mostly children, to die in concentration camps.

British Empire was not only on “slave trade and the indentured labour traffic; cases of acquisitive aggression such the opium wars and the rape of Matabeleland; acts of vandalism such as the burning of the Emperor’s Summer Palace in Beijing and the destruction of the Mahdi’s tomb at Omdurman; squalid fiascos such as the Jameson Raid and the Suez invasion; crimes such as the use of dum-dum bullets and poison gas against ‘uncivilized tribes’ (Churchill’s phrase); massacres such as occurred at Amritsar in 1919, Batang Kali in Malaya in 1948 (the ‘British My Lai’) and Hola Camp in Kenya (1959).”

Piers Brendon does finally fall back on the usual thugee and suttee to justify British rule. And that is where Britain failed the most.

(Cheyte Sing rendering Homage to Warren Hastings. Illustration from The People's History of England; Cassell Petter & Galpin, c 1890). Click for larger image.

(Cheyte Sing rendering Homage to Warren Hastings. Illustration from The People's History of England; Cassell Petter & Galpin, c 1890). Click for larger image.

The truth behind Thugee

As though India was being overrun by thugs – and every traveller’s life was at risk. Defenceless Indian’s were waiting helplessly, for a saviour. And then the British anti-thugee campaign saved India.

As if Indians had no productive enterprise to engage in, thugee was the only option, for ‘backward’ Indians.

Till the British shone their bright light on us Indians. If Indians were busy with thugee, who was earning money that the thugs were looting? India could not have been the world’s largest economy, if India was Thug Nation.

After decades of loot-and-ravage, when it was suggested that the Indian economy was fragile, Lord Irwin responded,

It was surely unreasonable, to suggest that a country which had an enormous stock of gold and silver, and which was still drawing them in considerable quantities from the rest of the world, was so weak

Figures talk

If yes, why did the ‘Thuggee and Dacoity Department’ with William Sleeman as Superintendent in 1835, could capture no more than 3,000 highway robbers – of which only 400 were executed. Based mostly on the ‘identification’ by a few ‘hand-picked’ witnesses – from a bank of nearly 500 ‘approvers.’ In nearly a decade! In a population of possibly 25 crores.3,000 ‘thugs’ in a nation of 25 crores? Assuming that all the 3,000 accused ‘thugs’, were ‘guilty’, going by modern imprisonment standards, it remains low.

For instance, in modern Britain, there are nearly 17,000 prisoners for violent crime, in a population of little over, 6 crores (60 million). 3 people per thousand in Britain are criminally violent and in prison.

Were ‘thugs’ a bigger proportion of violent criminals in India. Going by modern British ‘norm’ of 3 per thousand, criminally violent Indians should have been close to 75,000 criminals. Just 3,000 ‘thugs’ out of the possible 75,000 criminally violent Indians?

In a population of an estimated 25 crores.

Some of the most infamous, like Behram was attributed to have committed more than 900 murders – for which he never faced any trial, for murders he confessed to, even after being captured. Most of these thugs were actually rebel peasants who were waging a war against the dispossession of the lands – like the Santhals, Bhils, Gujjars, etc.

Facts speak

Fact is India was not a criminal society then – and not one today.. India today has the world’s lowest police-to-population ratio – and the lowest prisoners-to-population ratio.


India’s Partition – Unknown Aspects

September 28, 2011 3 comments

There is some weight to the argument that even ‘Hindus’ wanted Pakistan.

A cartoon in the Amrita Bazar Patrika published in May 1947, graphically captured the doubts and confusion in people's minds.5 Titled, ‘Who is Right?’ it showed four key public and political figures, H. S. Suhrawardy, Shyamaprasad Mookerjee (the leader of the Hindu Mahasabha), M. A. Jinnah and M. K. Gandhi each with a placard with their supposed propositions. Thus Suhrawardy holds ‘United Bengal in Divided India’, Mookerjee ‘Divided Bengal in United India’, Jinnah ‘Divided Bengal in Divided India’ and Gandhi holds up a sign with ‘United Bengal in United India’ (Cartoon Source - journals.cambridge.org. Attribution - Figure 1. ‘Who Is Right?’Source: Cartoon in the Hindustan Standard, 17 May 1947, 5.). Click for larger image.

A cartoon in the Amrita Bazar Patrika published in May 1947, graphically captured the doubts and confusion in people's minds.5 Titled, ‘Who is Right?’ it showed four key public and political figures, H. S. Suhrawardy, Shyamaprasad Mookerjee (the leader of the Hindu Mahasabha), M. A. Jinnah and M. K. Gandhi each with a placard with their supposed propositions. Thus Suhrawardy holds ‘United Bengal in Divided India’, Mookerjee ‘Divided Bengal in United India’, Jinnah ‘Divided Bengal in Divided India’ and Gandhi holds up a sign with ‘United Bengal in United India’ (Cartoon Source - journals.cambridge.org. Attribution - Figure 1. ‘Who Is Right?’Source: Cartoon in the Hindustan Standard, 17 May 1947, 5.). Click for larger image.

Caught between a neo-colonial narrative jointly crafted by the British and Congress Governments in India, events have a way of being losing context and substance. Jinnah as the man behind partition, is a story that is only partly true.

Three interesting incidents in that crucial period make for a counter-balance to the Jinnah-as-the-villain story that is made out.

The Gallup Poll

Over a period of at least 50 years, successive British bureaucrats and propagandists sold India the story that Hindus and Muslims cannot live together.

On April 23, 1947, the ‘Amrita Bazar Patrika’ featured results of a poll where it had asked if Bengali Hindus wanted a “separate homeland”. An overwhelming 98.3% Bengalis voted in favour, and 0.6% voted against the division of the province. On being asked about this poll, both Dutta Gupta and Singha express concern and suspicion about this poll and many other public discourses that came to conclusions that completed neglected the voice of Hindus living in East Bengal. (via ‘We can only carry India in our hearts’ – Times Of India).

These surveys, were engineered by the Gallup Organization, a leading opinion-polling agency, which controlled India from UK. There was a large body of opinion and support for Muslim autonomy in Muslim majority areas – and ‘Hindu’ support for a Muslim Homeland was in this context. Also, must be the remembered that in polls like this, the question is more important than the answer.

And the reason for the result of this poll, was the questionnaire.

Lala Lajpat Rai asked for Pakistan

Another significant votary for Muslim autonomy in Muslim-majority areas was Lala Lajpat Rai – whose ideas are being projected as support for Pakistanand Partition of India.

(Cartoon by Ajit Ninan; on 4th May 2011; source and courtesy - timesofindia.com). Click for source image.

(Cartoon by Ajit Ninan; on 4th May 2011; source and courtesy - timesofindia.com). Click for source image.

The ‘innocent’ Indian Muslim

Just like ‘Hindu’ support for Pakistan is being twisted out of context, it is equally true of ‘Muslim’ support for Pakistan.

For another, we forget that Indian Muslims from India, Bangladesh and Pakistan did not vote for Pakistan or Jinnah.

It was a small minority, of less than 5 lakhs who voted for the Muslim League, carefully selected by the British, which was designated as representative of Muslim interests, that voted for Pakistan. From the nearly 10 crore Muslims. A fact we would do well to remember.

Indian Muslims did not chose the Muslim League. British policy in India made it seem that Indian Muslims had chosen the Muslim League. Of the nearly 10 crore Muslims, less than 5 lakhs voted for the Muslim League. Jinnah’s claim and bravado sprang from the backing of half a per cent of India’s Muslim Population.

Popular leaders like Sheikh Abdullah of Kashmir or the Deoband Seminary rejected emphatically Jinnah and his Pakistan theory. The ordinary Muslim had no truck with Jinnah or Pakistan. Meanwhile, Sachar Committee report notwithstanding, the ‘ordinary’ Muslim before Independence was behind the general population – and remains so.


Hindu Muslim Bhai-Bhai – End of an Era

September 1, 2011 1 comment

Urbane, educated, certain local and foreign elements served the British, Pakistani leaders, Indian princes, appealed to Hindus, Muslims using religion – and gained everywhere. But in each case, India lost.

Bhishma on the Bed of Arrows (image source and courtesy - http://www.harekrsna.com). Click for larger image.

Bhishma on the Bed of Arrows (image source and courtesy - http://www.harekrsna.com). Click for larger image.

My grateful  acknowledgments are due to His Highness the Nizam and His  Highness the ruler of Mysore for their princely donations. The  Nizam is a Mahomedan prince. Any contribution coming from him in aid of a work like the Mahabharata could not but  indicate His Highness’s enlightened sympathy for literature in  general, irrespective of the nation or the creed which that  literature represents.  As an administrator, Sir Asman Jah promises to rival the  fame of Sir Salar Jung. So long also as an officer like  Nawab Sayyed Ali Bilgrami is about the person of His Highness … (from the foreword of The Mahabharata of Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa (Anusasana Parva) Translated into English prose Published and distributed by Pratapa Chandra Ray Published 1893 by Bharata Press in Calcutta . Written in English).

What’s religion got to do with this?

Soon after the 1857 Anglo-Indian War of 1857, we had the remarkable instance of the Baroda Gaikwad commissioning a ‘Basra’ pearl carpet for the prophet’s tomb at Medina, which was recently auctioned for US$5.5 million.

And here we have the case of a Muslim king, the Nizam of Hyderabad, who partly funded the translation and publication of the Mahabharata in English.

Coming storm

But, this was soon to change.

In 1905, Bengal was partitioned along religious lines, by Lord Curzon. West Bengal, Orissa, and Bihar on one side and the erstwhile East Bengal and Assam were divided into the other part. All India Muslim League and All India Hindu Mahasabha followed. The official logic was that Bengal was too large a province to be administered by a single governor.

An India that seemed possible and probable was brokento two pieces - and a Kashmir legacy left behind.

An India that seemed possible and probable was broken in to two pieces - and a Kashmir legacy left.

This explanation did not account for communal boundaries – and did not explain Curzon’s tour of East Bengal in February 1904, where he promised a separate zone for Muslim Bengalis.

Protests against this partition in the form of Arandhan (no food was cooked across Bengal), boycott of British goods, and Tagore suggested that Raksha Bandhan would be observed in a spirit of brotherhood between Muslims and Hindus. Lord Minto’s ‘reforms’ in 1909, was the next major step in division of India along religious lines.

Simultaneously, soon after the publication of Tarana-e-Hind (Song of India) in 1905, of the sare-jahaan-se-achcha hai-hindustan-hamaraa fame, Iqbal was sponsored by British authorities for ‘modern’ studies in Europe in 1906. In England Allama Iqbal joined with Major Syed Hassan Bilgrami, ex-Indian Medical Service, to form and promote the Muslim League in England, in 1908.

The mechanics of divide et impera

Major Syed Ali Bilgrami wrote the text for Simla deputation, headed by the Sir Sultan Muhammad (the Aga Khan), who with seventy ‘representatives’ of the Muslim community, asked the Viceroy for elections along communal lines.

The immediate cause for the Simla deputation was the matter of language. Soon after 1857, at Benares in 1867, with the expanding role of the State, a case for using Devnagari script was made. This issue simmered and in 1900, the Urdu-Nagri Resolution was notified by Sir Anthony Macdonald, Lieutenant-Governor, United Provinces, in April 1900 giving parity to Hindi as a official-language along with Urdu in UP. Muslim paranoia was watered and nurtured by the British.

By creating claims and supporting counter-claims, responding to alternate parties, the British administration created frenzy around a simple administrative issue. Pakistani historians to this day see this as “the machination of Dr. Feelan, District Inspector of Schools and Anthony Mac Donald, then Collector of Muzaffarpur, the two bitterest antagonists of Urdu”.

Major Syed Ali Bilgrami wrote the Simla address - presented to the Viceroy on October 1st, 1906, calling for separate electorates. (Image source and courtesy - storyofpakistan.com).

Major Syed Ali Bilgrami wrote the Simla address - presented to the Viceroy on October 1st, 1906, calling for communal electorates. (Image source and courtesy - storyofpakistan.com).

The rest of the story, most of us know.

Behind the man

Major Syed Hassan Bilgrami, an academic from Lucknow, was also from the same family as Sayyed Ali Bilgrami. Sayyed Ali Bilgrami was selected for employment by Salar Jung, one of the nobles in Nizam’s kingdom.

Syed Ali Bilgrami (Image source and courtesy - themuslims.in).

Syed Ali Bilgrami (Image source and courtesy - themuslims.in).

Designated as Imud ul-Mulk Bahadur, he presided over the setting up of Dairatul-Maarifil-Osmania, Hyderabad (or the Osmania Oriental Publications Bureau) in 1888. For some time, he was the tutor to the future Nizam of Hyderabad,

Connections everywhere

Sayyed Ali Bilgrami donated his own collection of books, manuscripts and texts to form a core for the Asafia State Library (1891). Of the initial nearly 24,000 volumes, nearly 16,000 were Persian, Arabic or Urdu. Some 7600 were in English and other European languages. There was, of course, no place for any books in Hindi, Telugu, Sanskrit, Marathi, Kannada – which was the languages used by more than 95% of the Nizam Kingdom’s population.

Sayyed Ali Bilgrami studied at Kolkatta where he also learned Sanskrit – and later translated the Atharva Veda. That possibly explains Sayyed Ali Bilgrami links to Kisari Mohan Ganguli and the publication of Mahabharata by Pratapa Chandra Ray – and funding through the Nizam Government.

Soon after 1905, Sayyed Ali Bilgrami became an activist in affairs of Urdu and Muslim affairs. Another member of the family, active academically, was Syed Asghar Ali Bilgrami who published Ma ‘athir-i-Dakan (Hyderabad, 1925) in Urdu and another study in English, called Landmarks of the Deccan (Hyderabad, 1927).

Collaboration Chronicles

Urbane, educated, the Bilgramis served the British, Pakistan, Indian princes, appealed to Hindus, Muslims – and gained everywhere. Post-independence, some of the Bilgramis moved to Pakistan. A few members of the family chose to remain in Hyderabad, and other parts of India. Today, they can be found in the UK, Germany, UAE – and many emigrated to the US.

This translation of the Mahabharata, by Kisari Mohan Ganguli and publication by Pratapa Chandra Ray, for which one of the Bilgramis arranged funding, remains the most popular and accessible work of the last 100 years.

Below are book extracts from a rather revealing and well-researched work on British colonialism in India.

Chronicles of Collaboration. Excerpts from Jinnah, Pakistan and Islamic identity: the search for Saladin  By Akbar S. Ahmed, pages 56 and 64). Click to go source at books.google.com

Chronicles of Collaboration. Excerpts from Jinnah, Pakistan and Islāmic identity: the search for Saladin By Akbar S. Ahmed, pages 56 and 64). Click to go source at books.google.com

Indian Industry In 19th Century

February 8, 2008 Leave a comment

Understanding Business: A … – Google Book Search

The Vijaynagar kingdom (after the sacking in 1565, and the rump rulers)was the center of trade for India’s main exports – spices (from the South India and SE Asian archipelago), Wootz steel from the Deccan plateau, Shipbuilding (the British Navy was one of its major customers) was a major industry. Precision cutting tools was another area of expertise – remember that diamonds were an Indian monopoly till the mid-18th century.a multitude of silk centers from the Deccan and Southern coastal towns were the major exports.

India’s biggest import was gold.

3 significant sectors which contributed to this boom. Apart from significant agrarian output – spices, timber, Indigo, etc. Indian industrial output was a major item in our goods basket – fabric, gems and jewellery and metals. India was a technology leader in these
industrial sectors.

But at the end of the 19th century, Colonial India was de-urbanising. Populations in Indian agrarian network was increasing. Agricultural taxes were high. Hence, food production declined. Famines had become a regular feature. Industrial production was a distant memory. The cause – The rise of the West by use of slavery and the loot of gold. In America and Africa. Red Indians were wiped out. Australian aborigines have become tourist attractions. Blacks were enslaved. Rivers of Blood and fields of dead.

For More On Indian Industry click here

1857 – Some History … Some Propaganda

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