From the East India Company to the Raj, India was a British colony till the mid-20th century. And regardless of nostalgic imperialists extolling the virtues of the empire’s rule, it left behind tens of millions of victims.
The 1919 Amritsar bloodbath, the grim anniversary of which India marked on Saturday, is one of the best-known examples of the atrocities dedicated by the British during their two-century colonial rule of India. But, numerically, its whole of 1,600 victims appears like a small blot among the many tens of millions of deaths India suffered during the empire’s extended misrule and exploitation.
From the 18th to the 20th century, numerous elements of India endured over a dozen devastating famines, which killed tens of tens of millions of individuals, a lot of the occasions exacerbated, if not outright brought about, by the colonial administration.
The East India Company (EIC), retailers with their very own military who dominated India on behalf of the British crown, have been ruthlessly efficient in producing exports and income from the colonized land – ruthlessness being a key a part of the effectivity. Exports of Indian produce – rice, tea, wheat, and even, illegally, opium – have been a significant enhance for the British financial system, serving to preserve meals costs low at residence and producing revenue from gross sales to different nations, like China.
The EIC didn’t hesitate to lower the areas for meals crops and even destroy meals crops to make room for different crops wanted for export, together with opium poppies. Many students agree that in loads of the instances, famine would have come anyway, contemplating the poor rainfall and underdeveloped transportation, amongst different issues – nevertheless it was made that a lot worse by the Brits, who exploited agriculture whereas failing to offset its troubles with correct funding.
The British response to famine was typically inaction, not less than till their troops have been affected, like in Orissa in 1865, the place a 3rd of the regional inhabitants died earlier than assist was lastly despatched in. As the Great Famine of 1876-78 struck Madras and Bombay, the British administration thought the free market would type it out and authorities interference would solely damage in the long term. It took 5.5 million deaths for the Brits to start reduction work. At the flip of the century, the British Viceroy lower rations (saying famine reduction was “philanthropy” and “complacency”), which resulted in one other million deaths.
The most up-to-date and notorious is the Bengal Famine of 1943-44, when 1.5 million individuals starved to loss of life and one other 2.1 million are estimated to have died from associated causes.
Until lately, the Bengal Famine was attributed to the sheer ineptitude of the British administration, which couldn’t be bothered to divert consideration and assets from the battle effort. But the 2010 book ‘Churchill’s Secret War’ lays the blame straight on the toes of then-prime minister Winston Churchill and his “racism.” Citing unearthed paperwork, creator Madhusree Mukerjee says Churchill not solely refused to divert provides from British troops, however blocked Canada and the US from delivering assist, and even forbade India from tapping into its personal forex reserves to purchase meals overseas.