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The British Raj: Finally Afraid Of Beggars

September 16, 2012 3 comments

By 1945, British imperial leadership had taken on air of defeatism and resignation – going by cartoons and documents of the era..

British politicians 'protesting' against the 'dominance' of the Indian negotiators during the Independence negotiations. People depicted - Musso; (David Low's dog); Low; David (1891-1963); Pethick-Lawrence; Frederick William (1871-1961); Attlee; C. R. (Clement Richard) (1883-1967); Jinnah; Mahomed Ali (1876-1948); Gandhi; Mahatma (1869-1948)| Artist: David Low (1891-1963) Published: Evening Standard, 26 Sep 1945

British politicians ‘protesting’ against the ‘dominance’ of the Indian negotiators during the Independence negotiations. People depicted – Musso; (David Low’s dog); Low; David (1891-1963); Pethick-Lawrence; Frederick William (1871-1961); Attlee; C. R. (Clement Richard) (1883-1967); Jinnah; Mahomed Ali (1876-1948); Gandhi; Mahatma (1869-1948)| Artist: David Low (1891-1963) Published: Evening Standard, 26 Sep 1945

As Indian Independence struggle resonated across the world, the Raj found itself isolated. An embattled British Raj, saw ghosts under every bed – and an enemy in every Indian.

More than 5,000 documents and files dated from 1930 to 1991 have been declassified and made accessible as part of a public archive inaugurated last week at Raj Bhavan.

These documents include a treasure of historical oddities, such as a 1943 note from the general administration department to the governor’s secretary, outlining the menace of beggary and emphasising increased punishment for beggars.

“As soon as the beggar profession know that we mean business, it will melt away from Bombay,” the document states.

There are letters from an Indian Mauritian requesting some part of the ashes of Mahatma Gandhi after his death, so that “the Indians of Mauritius may also pay their homage”.

via From the archives: Paranoia of beggars and much more – Hindustan Times.


Readings from January 1931 – Time Magazine

Time magazine nominated Gandhiji as Man of The Year – even as the First Round Table was in the air. Interesting extracts from the reportage of that period.

"Saint Gandhi": Man of the Year  | 1930  |  Time magazine cover; Monday, Jan. 05, 1931

"Saint Gandhi": Man of the Year | 1930 | Time magazine cover; Monday, Jan. 05, 1931

“Saint Gandhi”: Man of the Year 1930Monday, Jan. 05, 1931

Curiously, it was in a jail that the year’s end found the little half-naked brown man whose 1930 mark on world history will undoubtedly loom largest of all. It was exactly twelve months ago that Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s Indian National Congress promulgated the Declaration of Indian Independence (TIME, Jan. 13). It was in March that he marched to the sea to defy Britain’s salt tax as some New Englanders once defied a British tea tax. It was in May that Britain jailed Gandhi at Poona. Last week he was still there, and some 30,000 members of his Independence movement were caged elsewhere. The British Empire was still wondering fearfully what to do about them all, the Empire’s most staggering problem. (via “Saint Gandhi”: Man of the Year 1930 – TIME).

A British journalist of standing lately revisited India and reported his finding to North American Newspaper Alliance. Journalist Henry Noel Brailsford is a graduate of Glasgow University, where he remained for a time as assistant professor of Logic. Later he was a leading writer of the Carnegie International Commission in the Balkans (1913), and editor of the New Leader (1922-26).

“In India I saw what no one is likely to see again,” reported Briton Brailsford. “Bombay obeyed two governments. “To the British government, with all its apparatus of legality and power, there still were loyal the European population, the Indian sepoys, who wear its uniform, a few of the merchant princes, and the older generation of the Moslem minority. “The rest of Bombay’s population has transferred its allegiance to one of the British Government’s too numerous prisoners: Mahatma Gandhi.”

Carefully Briton Brailsford described the system of parallel government in Bombay, whereby members of the Indian National Congress themselves marshal and police their demonstrations. He reported that the Gandhiwomen who picket shops selling British goods, and who fling themselves down to be trodden on by any Indian determined to enter, will stand aside for occidental shoppers. “The shopkeepers themselves signed a requisition to the effect that they made no complaint against this peaceful picketing, and for a time there were few arrests.”

In and around Bombay, Ahmedabad, Delhi and Benares, Mr. Brailsford examined many Indian men and women bearing “wounds on teh feets or bruises on the stomach, made with the butt end of a rifle . . . one man with a terribly swollen arm, fractured or dislocated, hanging in a sling . . . a woman [with] a badly swollen face caused by a blow.”

In the opinion of Briton Brailsford, “cold English brains” devised the system whereby bands of native police, especially in the rural districts, set upon individual Indian men & women and beat them. “The execution [of this plan] was left to hotter heads and rougher hands,” notably to Mohuntal Shah, chief Indian official of the Borsad Taluka in Kaira District, who, Mr. Brailsford reports, has not only presided at numerous pouncings and beatings, but also “occasionally assisted with a heavy walking stick.”

Individual beatings are applied, in the main, to extort from the victim his land tax. Mr. Brailsford traveled through district after district where the peasants had taken and kept this vow: “We will pay no taxes until Gandhi is released from jail.” (via “Saint Gandhi”: Man of the Year 1930 – TIME).

millions of individual Indians are taking individual beatings which they could, escape by paying what His Majesty’s Government call, quite accurately, “nor-mal taxes.” Physical extortion, even of taxes, is in law virtually everywhere a crime. Briton Brailsford reports that the Indian agents of the British Government have pursued tax evaders out of British India into the native State of Baroda and beaten them there. This is a crime for which the Man of the Year in Yerovila Jail at Poona is to blame. He is to blame because, although His Majesty’s Government have got him in a jail staffed by British jailers, they have not yet stopped him from producing writings which are smuggled out somehow, week after week, to his people.

What Chance Success?

The Viceroy of India last week admitted at Calcutta that “some concessions” will have to be made to the Indian Nationalism, which for twelve months he has been trying to stamp out. Meantime, in London, before adjourning for the holidays, the Indian Round Table Conference decided “in principle” that the upper and lower houses of the new Indian Legislature which they are trying to create, shall be called the “Senate” and .the “House of Representatives.”

Stock reasons why Britain must hold India: 1) “she cannot relinquish her trust”; 2) deprived of the Pax Britannica, India would be torn with Hindu-Moslem civil war; 3) “Britain is the only sure defense of the Untouchables,” some 45,000,000 souls; 4) politically Indians are too “childish” to rule themselves. In India Last Week:

¶ A newspaper straw vote among the occidental community in Bombay brought 1,000 ballots, 830 of them for granting India “dominion status.”

¶ The Indian National Congress maintained its grip on the entire native market for foreign cloth in Bombay (several hundred shops), which has been closed for six months. Nevertheless Bombay (chief commercial city) and Bombay Presidency are not India, and imports to the entire continent fell only 25% during the first eight months of 1930. Mr. Gandhi’s boycott is credited with reducing imports (i. e., sales by Britain) 5%, the rest of the decline, 20%, being charged to “Depres-sion.” (via “Saint Gandhi”: Man of the Year 1930 – TIME).

¶ Strikes and mass demonstrations have decreased in frequency throughout India, but in the punjab (north) and Calcutta (east), the districts furthest from Gandhi-land proper (the Bombay Presidency), the Government faces much spontaneous violence: assaults, attempted assassinations, assassinations of British officials, particularly the military. The British Inspector General of Prisons in Bengal (east) was recently assassinated. (via “Saint Gandhi”: Man of the Year 1930 – TIME).

If. finally, the Round Table breaks down, enough spontaneous violence is expected to give His Majesty’s Government enough provocation to use at strategic points the weapon of massacre, so effective when Brigadier-General Dyer sprayed with machine gun bullets and killed some 400 Indians at Amritsar in 1919. General Dyer received the censure of the House of Commons by a vote of 230 to 129, was endorsed by the House of Lords 129 to 86, and finally accepted from the Morning Post a large sum of money spontaneously made up by individual Britons. (via “Saint Gandhi”: Man of the Year 1930 – TIME).

For crying out loud …

November 9, 2010 8 comments

Why is English-speaking India so eager to give credit to the West where none is due.

Indian Economy  |  Cartoon By Marty Two Bulls; Image source & courtesy - bimedia.net  |  Click for image.

Indian Economy | Cartoon By Marty Two Bulls; Image source & courtesy - bimedia.net | Click for image.

Saurabh Srivastava, co-founder of the National Association of Software and Service Companies in India, explained that for the first 40 years of Indian independence, entrepreneurs here were looked down upon. India had lost confidence in its ability to compete, so it opted for protectionism. But when the ’90s rolled around, and India’s government was almost bankrupt, India’s technology industry was able to get the government to open up the economy, in part by citing the example of America and Silicon Valley. India has flourished ever since.

“America,” said Srivastava, “was the one who said to us: ‘You have to go for meritocracy. You don’t have to produce everything yourselves. Go for free trade and open markets.’ This has been the American national anthem, and we pushed our government to tune in to it. And just when they’re beginning to learn how to hum it, you’re changing the anthem. … Our industry was the one pushing our government to open our markets for American imports, 100 percent foreign ownership of companies and tough copyright laws when it wasn’t fashionable.”

If America turns away from these values, he added, the socialist/protectionists among India’s bureaucrats will use it to slow down any further opening of the Indian markets to U.S. exporters.

It looks, said Srivastava, as if “what is happening in America is a loss of self-confidence. We don’t want America to lose self-confidence. Who else is there to take over America’s moral leadership? American’s leadership was never because you had more arms. It was because of ideas, imagination, and meritocracy.” If America turns away from its core values, he added, “there is nobody else to take that leadership. Do we want China as the world’s moral leader? No. We desperately want America to succeed.” (via It’s Morning in India – NYTimes.com).

Cartoon Posted By Vicki McClure Davidson on May 27, 2009 @ Frugal Café Blog Zone. Click to enlarge.

Cartoon Posted By Vicki McClure Davidson on May 27, 2009 @ Frugal Café Blog Zone. Click to enlarge.

Doors and windows

For sixty years now, India has been closing doors and opening windows. And no, the US, Great Britain had nothing to do with it.

Between the 1950-1960, all the British patronized and protected companies were asked to restrict imports and become self-reliant. Monopolies were taken away. Many of these companies went under. Out went products like cars from GM, watches from Switzerland. I presume you want to ‘credit’ the Americans and British with this?

The sixties was about Indian industry updating itself with buying technology. Bajaj made a winning move in two-wheeler segments. Daimler Benz trucks tied up with Tata Motors for heavy trucks. Indian agriculture was given tax reliefs – which allowed Indian peasants to start breathing again. Food shortages started easing. No, the UK and USA and nothing to do this.

The Seventies was about oil. Especially Bombay High. This discovery of oil allowed India to stand up for the first time. Indian space program got a boost. India’s atomic explosion announced India’s entry into the atomic club. Multinational monopolies and cartels like IBM and Coke were simply told, “Or else!” You think the USA and UK had anything to do with this?

The Eighties saw the beginning of relaxation in licensing. Automobile sector saw new licences which made India into a world-class competitor in automobile ancillaries over the next 20 years. Telecom and computing technology were declared as ‘missions’ – and we saw India gain a cutting edge position in the next twenty years. Currency devaluations partially corrected the rupee overvaluation of the previous 30 years. Who was pushing this – UK and USA?

The Nineties was finally ‘The Great Push’ – driven by policy formulations of the previous 40 years. Industrial licensing was abolished. Capital markets were freed. New private sector banks were set up. Import restrictions were removed. Telecom industry was made competitive with the entry of private sector. India’s unsung Unix revolution was copied in Silicon Valley – which changed the computing landscape forever. You will want to hand-over all this credit to the USA again, I surmise!

Will we ever credit this poor, vernacular, dhoti-wearing man some credit? (Cartoon character - RK Laxman's Common Man).

Will we ever credit this poor, vernacular, dhoti-wearing man some credit? (Cartoon character - RK Laxman's Common Man).

Open your mouth – ha-ha-ha

Saurabh Srivastava!

Open your mind and shut your mouth. The deal goes something like this. If people think you have the smarts, don’t open your open mouth and prove them wrong. Nothing makes people more mad, than when they are proved wrong.

Saurabh – Remember, one of your predecessors was Dewang Mehta.

Poor Dewang Mehta. His ash particles must be doing a wild tandav in grief.


India’s Forgotten Tryst With Destiny

April 11, 2010 1 comment
Forgotten heroes - inflated cut outs!

Forgotten heroes - inflated cut outs!

Lal, Bal and Pal Lala Lajpat Rai, Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Bipin Chandra Pal who hailed from Punjab, Maharashtra and Bengal, respectively, and adopted Swaraj as the destiny of the nation, could form the subject of yet another pavilion. Tilak’s memorable phrase, “Swaraj is my birthright and i shall have it”, his differences with the more moderate Gopal Krishna Gokhale and the split in the Congress into an ‘aggressive nationalist’ wing under him and a moderate wing under the latter may provide some of the themes for this pavilion. The Partition of Bengal and its reversal forced by the swadeshi movement, the visit of King George V and the Delhi-Lahore conspiracy are some additional events the pavilion could exhibit. (via Another Tryst With Destiny – The Times of India).

Victor’s propaganda

Post-colonial Indian history has been completely swamped by Congress propaganda. Leaders in the vanguard, the leading lights, have been have been cursorily dismissed or their names wiped clean. Those who pursued different directions, disagreed with GNP (Gandhi /Nehru /Patel) were villified, ignored or dismissed. Leaders like Lal, Bal and Pal, are completely forgotten. Subhash Chandra Bose is a vague memory today.

Subhash Chandra Bose with Jawaharlal Nehru (Image source and courtesy - im.rediff.com). Click for larger image.

Subhash Chandra Bose with Jawaharlal Nehru (Image source and courtesy - im.rediff.com). Click for larger image.

Contributions of leaders like SC Bose was ignored or the importance of the February 1946 joint action by the Indian Armed Forces against the colonial forces, was minimized to the ‘Naval Ratings Mutiny.’ Leaders like VD Savarkar (the first to write a non-colonial history of the War of 1857), or Madan Mohan Malaviya, Shyama Prasad Mukherjee (the founder of the Jana Sangh-BJP) was dismissed as fascism.

A ‘victorious’ Congress, ruling for most of the 60 years of post-colonial India, had three clear propaganda imperatives. One – There is no alternative to the Congress. Two – If you don’t have an enemy create one . Like Pakistan. Three – Gain Western approval.

The threads of Indian independence

The myth of non-violent Indian freedom movement, served both colonial and Congress interests. It showed the British as ‘civilized’ colonialists – and the Congress as ‘enlightened’ leadership. Just like most Western literature caricatures African-American characters as hard-working, humble, docile, placid, obedient, gentle! Fact is, that Britain was bankrupt and could not hold onto India. Congress decided to re-write history and take all credit for the departure of the British colonialists.

Apart from the War of 1857, there were more than 75 battles, skirmishes, revolts, mutinies, involving thousands, up to lakhs of Indians, across India. And more than double that many conspiracies, plots, hold-ups, explosions, bombings, which were not organized. These more than 200 violent actions have been completely glossed over by post-colonial India’s historians. Obviously, more than 200 incidents of violent opposition to British misrule over 150 years (1800-1947) deserves better treatment by official historians. Especially, the people who were ‘behind’ this.

Fact is, that Britain was bankrupt and could not hold onto India.

Stereotypes of the Raj

August 29, 2009 2 comments
In the next one week ... Britain capitulated (Cartoon By Illingworth, Leslie Gilbert, (1902-1979) in Daily Mail on 25 February 1946. Click for larger image.

In the next one week ... Britain capitulated (Cartoon By Illingworth, Leslie Gilbert, (1902-1979) in Daily Mail on 25 February 1946. Click for larger image.

After the guns fell silent

At the end of WW2, Britain was a superpower, intact with its huge colonial Empire – apart from the massive debt that it owed the US. With Germany defeated and Hitler dead, Italy in shambles and Mussolini hanged, Britain sat at the head of ‘high tables’ in the post-WW2 world deciding the fate of the nations – with its partner in crime, the US of A.

The Raj propaganda

This cartoon from National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth by Leslie Gilbert Illingworth, (1902-1979) was first published by on 14 May 1946. A cartoonist with nearly 5000 cartoons, he was a solidly-establishment type man, who usually reflected the view of the masters.

This cartoon above shows a huge disconnect between British propaganda and reality. On 14th February, Illingsworth was busy depicting a ‘fractious’ India that would break up without the British Raj. Four days later, the 20 lakh colonial Indian armed forces, united and raised the banner of Independence. United across ranks, skin colour, language, geography, religion, caste, height, weight – with only one thing uniting them. They were all Indians.

The navy rebellion in Bombay in 1946, after which the army saw a mutiny in Jabalpur

The navy rebellion in Bombay in 1946, after which the army saw a mutiny in Jabalpur

Trouble from unexpected quarters

On February 18th, the lowly Naval Ratings from the Royal Indian Navy rained on the British parade – by raising the flag of Indian Independence. Britain did not have the stomach to take on the Indian Colonial Army, battle hardened and exposed to warfare in all the global theatres of WW2. The British acquiesced and 18 months later they were out.

The ruling Congress party distorted history and take all credit for the departure of the British colonialists. Contributions of leaders like SC Bose was ignored or the importance of the February 1946 joint action by the Indian armed forces against the colonial forces, was minimized to the ‘Naval Ratings Mutiny.’

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