By Sara Atta

9 British crimes against Indians during the colonial era

January 25, 2023 - 23:12

TEHRAN- India celebrates its 74th National Republic Day on the 26th of January, 2023. The constitution of India was adopted on the 26th of November 1949 with Dr. B. R. Ambedkar as the Chairman of the Drafting Committee.

 This date is celebrated as the Constitution Day of India. Since, the constitution came into effect on the 26th January 1950 to commemorate this event, India celebrates the Republic Day every year as a national holiday. India got its own constitution and became a free country breaking all the ties with the British reign.

The significance of the 26th January is of utmost importance to the imagining of India as a postcolonial sovereign state because it was on this day in 1930 that the Indian National Congress declared India’s independence and urged the people to celebrate the day as Independence Day.

Contrary to the myth that Britain gave many gifts to India, the British Raj was a cruel and oppressive regime responsible for the deaths of an estimated 35 million Indians.
The followings are some examples of the anti-human records of Britain in India, which has one of the blackest colonial records among Europeans.

1. Stealing of valuable Indian artifacts by Britain 

The list of Indian artifacts that were stolen in colonial times and are now in the United Kingdom is long. Artifacts that the British seized, looted or took away as "gifts" include the 105.6-karat "Koh-i-noor" diamond.

Lord Harihara idol, Sultanganj Buddha, Tipu Sultan’s personal possessions, Wine cups of Shah Jahan and Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s throne are among the other treasured possessions, idols and artefacts that were stolen and looted from India years ago but still remain in the possession of the British museums and royals. Many Indians are still sensitive about artifacts that were stolen during the British conquest of India and have yet to be returned.

2. Using Indian Army in WWII 

The British colonial regime in India was heavily dependent on the Indian Army.

The Indian Army that had been used by Britain during World War II fought in Ethiopia against the Italian Army, in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Algeria against both the Italian and German armies, and, after the Italian surrender, against the German Army in Italy. However, the bulk of the Indian Army was committed to fighting the Japanese Army, first during the British defeats in Malaya and the retreat from Burma to the Indian border; later, after resting and refitting for the victorious advance back into Burma, as part of the largest British Empire army ever formed. These campaigns claimed the lives of over 87,000 Indian servicemen, while 34,354 were wounded, and 67,340 became prisoners of war. World War II was the last time the Indian Army fought as part of the British military apparatus, as independence and partition followed in 1947.

3. Britain tested chemical weapons on Indian troops

According to a report published by the Guardian, British military scientists tested a chemical weapon on Indian colonial troops during more than a decade of experiments before and during World War II. Hundreds of Indian and British soldiers were exposed to mustard gas in tests conducted in Rawalpindi, which was then part of Britain's Indian colony.

The gas severely burned the soldiers' skin, and caused pain that sometimes lasted for weeks. Some of the soldiers had to be hospitalized. The scientists wanted to compare the effect of the gas on the skin of Indians to the results of experiments done on British soldiers.

4. British EIC looted Bengal

Backed by a 20,000-strong military force of locally recruited Indian soldiers, in 1757 the British East India Company (EIC) became the effective rulers of Bengal and looted the territory, draining the region’s wealth into Britain. Company tax collectors in Bengal recorded that ‘Indians were tortured to disclose their treasure; cities, towns and villages ransacked’. By the end of the eighteenth century, most of India had been seized by this unregulated private company, which had expanded its army to 260,000 men by 1803. 

5. Britain stole $45 trillion from India

It has been estimated that Britain stole a total of nearly $45 trillion from India during the period from 1765 to 1938. The British impoverished India through a taxation operation that equated to systematic theft. Put simply, the British exhorted high taxes in cash from the Indian population, used that tax money to pay Indians for their goods, and then exported the goods overseas and invested the profits into the British economy and a colonial army of Indian men that far surpassed India’s own defence needs.

6. Between 12 and 29 million Indians died of starvation

The British destabilized crop patterns by forced commercial cropping, and left Indians more prone to famines. Between 12 and 29 million Indians died of starvation while India was under the control of the British Empire. In response to the outbreak of famines, the British authorities rarely made relief aid, insisting that starvation was a ‘natural’ and ‘necessary’ check for overpopulation. During the Great Famine of 1876-78 in Madras, it wasn’t until 5.5 million Indians had already died that the British authorities began to administer any relief efforts. Instead of giving charity, the British set up labour camps for the poor where Indian workers were fed food portions that were less than 50% of the size given in Nazi concentration camps.

7. Railways in India were paid for entirely by Indian taxpayers 

The building of railways across the Raj is often misconceived as one of the ‘gifts’ that Britain bestowed on India. The railways were in fact paid for entirely by Indian taxpayers, who were also forced to pay higher ticket prices than British personnel and confined to crowded ‘third class’ compartments. British shareholders were able to make extortionate amounts of money by investing in the railways, without ever paying towards the system through their own taxes.

8. Jallianwala Bagh massacre

On 13 April 1919, when peaceful protestors defied a government order and demonstrated against British colonial rule in Amritsar, they were blocked inside the walled Jallianwala Gardens and fired upon by Gurkha soldiers. Under the orders of General Dyer, the soldiers kept firing until they ran out of ammunition, killing between 379 and 1,000 protestors and injuring another 1,100, all within 10 minutes. Britain has never formally apologized for the massacre.

9. 1918 flu pandemic in India

India’s 1918 flu pandemic was the outbreak of influenza in India between 1918 and later in 1920. The pandemic is thought to have killed over 17 million people. When colonists from Britain arrived in India, they brought their soldiers and their war. The British ships carrying troops returning from the First World War in Europe brought the Spanish Flu with them and devastated India. Almost an entire generation of Indians was wiped out. All rivers across India were clogged up with bodies because of a shortage of firewood for cremation. 

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