During Renaissance several nations from Europe raced to reach India, the name they associated with wealth, wisdom and mysticism. Hindu Kings had made India a Paradise and a destination for knowledge. In contrast, Muslim Rule converted India in to a living hell, drenched in blood, superstitions, and poverty but devoid of knowledge. Therefore after reaching India, the early Europeans must have been saddened as the land was not of their expectations. It was ridden with disease and illiteracy as compared to the awareness Europe had started experiencing. Thus to some extent, the Europeans rightly called the native as savages, primitive, and snake charmers.
Dragnet of Colonization
Private companies from England, France, Portugal and Dutch had ventured into competition for taking away gains out of India. They came with advanced weaponry, ships, and above all patriotic fervor that Indians had not been left with. Though the colonial contingents were rivals against each other in Europe, they had common thread of Christianity to bind them. They were set to spread Christianity in their respective colonies and strengthened their hold by conversion of population to their faith by cruelty, coercion, deceit, and allurements.
It was easier for European nations to usurp political power by inter playing rivalries between feudal Nawabs and petty rulers. While Mughals were still busy enjoying Mujras and quil-fights, India slipped into another spell of foreign rule. The British out maneuvered the other competitors and established ‘East India Company Bahadur’ as a paramount power over local rulers.
Atrocities by the British
East India Company incorporated in England ruled the country till 1857. Thereafter the governance of India passed on to British Crown. The colonial rulers also followed the cruel and ruthless methods of the Islamic rulers for subduing natives, though they professed to be civilized.
They converted the poor population to Christianity. They could not motivate Brahmins, Khashatriyas and Vaishyas, but misled poor and illiterates by over-playing social and caste disparities. Muslims were still in power in several regions. It was not easy for the Christians to convert them without inviting retaliation. Hindus being devoid of political power were easy targets for conversion.
Demeaning of religious traditions and atrocities motivated Indian masses to revolt in 1857 against the British with slogans like “Maro Firangi ko.” Some rulers also joined the violent retaliation, but mainly due to their individual grudges against the British. For want of coordination between revolutionaries, and due to the support received by the British from Indian rulers, the mass revolt got crushed. Thereafter, the governance of India was taken over from East India Company by British Parliament.
Obliteration of Hindu Identity
British considered Hinduism to be a formidable barrier in establishing their hold over India, and therefore concentrated on dismantling the foundations of Hinduism, by projecting that to be faith of superstitions and blind faith. History of ancient India had already been destroyed by Islamic invaders. The India of 18th Century had nothing left about her pre-Muslim past. Indian History was reconstructed and to suit the current British rulers. Fortunately, archeological sites were brought under protection thereafter; otherwise we would not have had any trace left of our past.
Emergence of Anglicized Class
To pacify Indian masses on account of religious atrocities, and to legitimize their colonial rule in India, the British overtly distanced themselves from Christian missionaries, and started calling their government secular. Also they invented a theory of Aryan invasion of India to justify their own hold over India. For strengthening their hold they pacified masses through administrative reforms, to gain acceptability of their imperialist rule. Intellectual vacuum created by Islamic rule provided environment conducive for this purpose.
The British did introduce some reforms as well as modernization, but only to the extent necessary to strengthen their hold over the resources of the country. Laws were codified to replace Shariyat jurisprudence from India. A hierarchy of courts was set up to streamline system of justice that hitherto depended upon the whims of illiterate Qauzis (Islamic Jurists). Certain undesirable social practices were also abolished.
The British appointed Brahmins and Maulvies to act as amicus curie for British judiciary in interpreting Hindu and Muslim customs of inheritance. Till then Brahmins had been devoid of proper means of livelihood under Islamic rule, and had been living under fear and insult. This opportunity was exploited by some of them to stress more upon rituals than the substance in Hinduism.
New Education System
The British introduced an Education system recommended by Lord McCauley after prolonged deliberations held in British Parliament. The curriculum was designed to project British as the custodians of all wisdom and scientific knowledge and tarnishing Hindu scriptures as mere farce founded on blind faith. They succeeded in rearing a loyal workforce of anglicized Indians to support their government while they were in power, and even thereafter.
As a natural consequence, Hindus were more influenced by English culture than the Muslims, in the matter of dress, eating habits, socialization and education system. Gradually Western systems started replacing indigenous Indian systems. Hindus got used to Christian calendar, time schedules, weights and measure, distances, technical terminologies, legal terms and practices, and even recreational activities since our games and sports appeared to us primitive in glitter. European past times came to be regarded as status symbols.
Forum to distract Educated Indians
With far sightedness an Englishman Allan Octavian Hume founded Congress in 1885 as a political forum for neo educated Indians to vent out their political aspirations so that situations like 1857 revolt could be foreseen and avoided. They had nothing to worry about its activities, since that was founded by the British and worked under their supervision. Aristocrat Indians and some erstwhile Opium Business Partners of East India Company era were kept in the fore front to keep budding Indians satisfied by having some minor say in local self governance.
Subsequently when Leaders like Bal Gangadhar Tilak projected demand for freedom as a birth right the British got alerted. One by one such patriotic leader were jailed, and replaced by humble, soft-spoken, non-violent leaders who had been trained in England and behaved Europeans in thought and tastes. The British media groomed and established them in Indian masses to emerge as their representatives. Basically illiterate at that time Indians hailed their indigenous English-speaking leaders by their outwardly charms.
Over the period British had a considerable strength of Indians to support their ideology. We accepted whatever they preached and acted. We started viewing everything was according to their point of view and willingly discarded whatever was unacceptable to them. Even we could not identify that whatever new knowledge British had brought with them was nothing more than already complied by our ancestors, because the same was presented to us using British technology.
Resurgence of Hindu Nationalism
However, changes in the environment ignited resurgence of Hindu Nationalism. Several movements of social reform such as Brahmo Samaj and Arya Samaj were started by Hindu intelligentsia. Participation of Indian soldiers as mercenaries of British government provided Indian common folks to get a feel of democratic freedom available to people on other part of the globe. Demand for political freedom grew in India at grass root level. On the whole, after the dark tunnel of Islamic rule, India could see the modern age dawning at the far end of the tunnel, through the reforms brought in by the British.
It was ironical that through British, Indians tasted the fruits, for which trees had been planted by Hindu sages long ago, and that had been devastated by Muslim barbarians. As the end products bore European tag of manufacture, the credit for modern advancement in the field of science and technology was claimed by western nations. Hindu identity had been obliterated.
Gradually the demand for freedom got boost from several quarters. Due to heavy expenditure and loss of manpower in World Wars I and II, it became difficult for the British to continue hold over colonies. They were on look out to retreat safely without much loss to their men and materials. They used few educated Indians to play for time through various gimmicks in the form of Round Table Conferences by playing divide and rule between Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, and native rulers who had remained mainly supportive to the British. Finally the British diplomacy succeeded and Muhammad Ali Jinnah projected demand for Pakistan as a separate home land for Muslims by addressing a crowd in Lahore in 1940. Jinnah spoke:-
“Muslims were not just a minority, but also a nation, fully entitled to their own state. Hindus and Muslims belong to two different religious philosophies, social customs and literature. They neither intermarry nor inter-dine together and indeed they belong to two different civilizations… They have different epics, different heroes, and different episodes. Very often the hero of one is the foe of the other…. During the ages, India has always divided into Hindu India and Muslim India. The present artificial unity of India dates back only to the British conquest… Muslims are nation according to any definition of a nation and they must have their territory and their state.”
Thus, India was partitioned between Muslims and Hindus on the basis of population. It turned easier for British to vacate the region safely and left India crippled.
Partition on Religious Ground
With partition of India between Hindus and Muslims, the transgressors, claimed a large chunk of Hindu land. The country’s borders shrunk over night to exclude Hindus as citizens from that area of newly formed Pakistan. Despite having held the tag of Indian Nationality, Hindus had to leave their ancestral land and homes. Thus Hindus had to surrender their motherland to Muslim invaders under pressure from British usurpers in spite of verbose denials made by certain Indian leaders like Gandhi and Nehru, who had actually been signatory to the agreement.
Chand K Sharma
(Next: Splashes – 64/72 – India after Partition)