In a speech given at the Oxford Union on 14th July 2015, Indian MP (Congress) Shashi Tharoor makes a compelling case that the British owe “reparations” to India for the organized derailment of the Indian economy, that took place during the British Empire’s reign over India. In less than fifteen minutes, Mr. Tharoor presents a factual, data driven analysis of the havoc wreaked by the British on India. He argues that there was little that was benevolent or constructive about the British Empire in India.
While Mr. Tharoor is not a strong proponent of financial “reparations,” he believes that moral reparation, such as an apology, is due first. He also believes that financial “reparations” can now be quantified using newly available data. Here are some interesting factoids from his little talk:
- When the British arrived on the shores of India, India’s share of the global economy was 23%. By the time they had left, it had dwindled down to 4%.
- The British deliberately destroyed the handloom based weaving industry of India. In some cases, they even broke the thumbs of the weavers.
- By the end of the 19th century, India was Britian’s biggest cash cow, biggest importer of British goods and biggest source of highly paid employment for British civil servants. The Scottish people also took up employment in British India, making their union with Britain more palatable.
- One-fifth of the British elite owed their wealth to the African slave trade, run mainly by the East India Companies.
- In British India, between 15-29 million Indians died of starvation in induced famines. The Great Bengal famine was caused by Winston Churchill’s policy of deliberately diverting essential supplies to Britain during World War II. Four million Indians died, even though most of these grains ended up being kept as reserve stockpiles in Britain. In my book, I proposed a theory that the Partition of British India in 1947 was a conspiracy to create opposing nation states. I believe that the Great Bengal famine was actually intended to weaken the people of the region and make them more amenable to the upcoming Partition of Bengal.
- In World War I, 1/6th of all British forces were from British India. 1.3 million Indian personnel were ordered to serve. 54,000 of all British deaths were Indian. 65,000 Indians ended up being wounded. Another 4000 remained missing or imprisoned. Indian taxpayers had to cough up £100 million (not adjusted for present day rates) for the war. India supplied 70 million rounds of ammunition, 600,000 rifles and machine guns, 42 million garments, 173,000 animals and 170 million tonnes of supplies. In today’s money, the total value of everything taken out of India was £8 billion!
- In World War II, 2.5 million Indians were ordered to serve. In 1945, Britian had a total war debt of £3 billion. Of this, £1.25 was owed to India but never repayed.
- The British prided themselves over the development of railways and roads in India. But their development of roads was fairly limited. They concentrated their efforts on railways because the Railways could be easily controlled. And in the events of the Partition, the railways would play a dark role of transporting uprooted populations. The Railways were designed to transfer raw materials from the hinterland into the ports for shipping to Britian, not for the public transit. It is also interesting to note that the three major Indian cities that the British developed, Bombay, Madras and Calcutta, were all port cities. The Railways were built at a massive incentive for British private investors, paid by the Indian taxpayer. Each mile of railroad costed twice as much as was required to build the same in Canada or Australia.
- The fact that India emerged as “democratic” at the end of this 200 year cycle of repression does not in any way compensate for what happened.
It is sad and surprising that despite the damage done by the British Empire throughout the world, demands for reparation have only surfaced among the Maoris of New Zealand, Kenya and now India. The Palestinian people are so weary of the conflict surrounding them that their political parties apologetically try to enlist Britain as an ally, despite the fact that there would have never been any displacement of Palestinian people were it not for British rule. The Jewish people on the other hand, still get reparations from Germany. Of course, Britain will never cough up the appropriate financial reparations. But the moral principle of reparations should still be upheld.
While India’s plight deserves sympathy, those Indians who fought in the World War Deception should be regarded as wannabe traitors by the Indian people. As my book documents, these wars were exclusively for the establishment of the New World Order. The dreadful Partition of British India was the ultimate penance for supporting these destructive wars abroad.