India shared 23% of the world economy when the British arrived on its shores; and by the time they left in 1947, it was down to below 4%. Between 1770 to 1947, the British induced famines caused more than 60 million deaths in India. For comparison, world war 2 killed 50–56 million people.
Yet, it is very unfortunate that more than 59% of the British people are still proud of the British Empire and colonialism.
Realities of the British Colonialism in India
Hunger and poverty
The anthropogenic (man-made) famine of Bengal caused 2.1–3 million deaths in 1943. All the essential supplies were diverted from the civilians in Bengal to the military as a reserved stockpile. And, all this happened on the decisions of Winston Churchill. When some British officials reported that the people are dying due to this decision then the best answer that Churchill could come up with was “starvation of anyhow underfed Bengalis is less serious than that of sturdy Greeks”.
This is just one example and there are many.
There were multiple British-organized famines in India which caused more than 60 million deaths in the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. Some of the major ones are Bengal famine of 1770, the great famine of 1876–1878, 1943 Bengal famine, etc.
The British had imposed heavy taxes up to 50% and in some cases even 75% to maximize their profits.
Tortures and rapes
When people tried to stand against the “rule”, they were tortured to death by the British troops. Some of the common torture practices were:
- searing with a hot iron
- being tied on the firing cannons
- nipping off the flesh with pins
- prevention of sleep
- putting red chilies in the eyes and private parts
- sexual violence against women
and, many more…
After the 1857 rebellion (the first war of Indian independence) random civilians were shot and butchered in the streets. Multiple Hindus and Muslims were forced to eat beef or pork against their religious beliefs. Hundreds of women were raped publicly to take revenge from the rebellions.
Businesses were destroyed
By the time the British arrived, India was a world leader in at least textile, steel, and shipbuilding sectors.
The British destroyed the looms, took all the raw materials to Britain, and flooded the world market with cheaper fabrics clothes. Later, even Indians were forced to buy British clothes at a very high rate. Soon, India went from being an exporter to an importer of the finished clothes.
Not only this, but the British also chopped off the thumbs of skilled workers to make them unable to weave again. The textile manufacturing sector collapsed and the Indian share of world exports dropped down to 2% from 27%.
They took advantage of India’s shipbuilding and steel technologies to export valuables from India to Britain.
Bloodshed and massacres
Jallianwala Bagh massacre was one of the most heinous crimes committed by the British. On 13th April 1919, thousands of Indians gathered to celebrate a famous festival “Baisakhi” and to protest peacefully in a garden named Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar.
Acting Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer ordered his troops to fire their rifles on the unarmed civilians without any warning. In this incident 350–1000 people lost their lives and another 1000–1500 got heavily injured.
Another example is the 1857 revolt where hundreds of suspected rebellions along with multiple civilians were murdered cold-bloodedly by the British.
Exploitation and theft
The British governed India as per their benefits. All the rail and road networks were designed in a way to transport raw material to the ports to be shipped to Britain. The monetary value of everything that the British took from India (from 1765 to 1938) is $45 trillion in today’s money which is 17 times more than the current GDP of the UK.
Not only they applied heavy taxes but the Indian people were also forced to buy British goods at higher prices. They used to take the finished products at a very low price (or, free) to Britain and used to sell in other countries (including India) at a high price — it was an organized loot.
The British came to India as traders but strengthen their roots slowly by using the “divide and rule” method and became colonizers.
Roads and railways in India are often pointed out as the British colonial success but the reality is that the railways in India were designed to carry valuables from remote areas to the ports to be shipped. Indians weren’t even allowed to enter the first-class compartments as it was clearly labeled “dogs and Indians are not allowed”.
And, I do believe that today’s British are not responsible for what their ancestors did, but they should know the truth that the British Empire was not something to be proud of.