Macaulay’s Minute

Minute by the Hon’ble T. B. Macaulay, dated the 2nd February 1835.

[1] As it seems to be the opinion of some of the gentlemen who compose the Committee of Public Instruction that the course which they have hitherto pursued was strictly prescribed by the British Parliament in 1813 and as, if that opinion be correct, a legislative act will be necessary to warrant a change, I have thought it right to refrain from taking any part in the preparation of the adverse statements which before us, and to reserve what I had to say on the subject till it should come before me as a Member of the Council of India.

[2] It does not appear to me that the Act of Parliament can by any art of contraction be made to bear the meaning which has been assigned to it. It contains nothing about the particular languages or sciences which are to be studied. A sum is set apart “for the revival and promotion of literature, and the encouragement of the learned natives of India, and for the introduction and promotion of a knowledge of the sciences among the inhabitants of the British territories.” It is argued, or rather taken for granted, that by literature the Parliament can have meant only Arabic and Sanscrit literature; that they never would have given the honourable appellation of “a learned native” to a native who was familiar with the poetry of Milton, the metaphysics of Locke, and the physics of Newton; but that they meant to designate by that name only such persons as might have studied in the sacred books of the Hindoos all the uses of cusa-grass, and all the mysteries of absorption into the Deity. This does not appear to be a very satisfactory interpretation. To take a parallel case: Suppose that the Pacha of Egypt, a country once superior in knowledge to the nations of Europe, but now sunk far below them, were to appropriate a sum for the purpose “of reviving and promoting literature, and encouraging learned natives of Egypt,” would any body infer that he meant the youth of his Pachalik to give years to the study of hieroglyphics, to search into all the doctrines disguised under the fable of Osiris, and to ascertain with all possible accuracy the ritual with which cats and onions were anciently adored? Would he be justly charged with inconsistency if, instead of employing his young subjects in deciphering obelisks, he were to order them to be instructed in the English and French languages, and in all the sciences to which those languages are the chief keys?

[3] The words on which the supporters of the old system rely do not bear them out, and other words follow which seem to be quite decisive on the other side. This lakh of rupees is set apart not only for “reviving literature in India,” the phrase on which their whole interpretation is founded, but also “for the introduction and promotion of a knowledge of the sciences among the inhabitants of the British territories”– words which are alone sufficient to authorize all the changes for which I contend.

[4] If the Council agree in my construction no legislative act will be necessary. If they differ from me, I will propose a short act rescinding that I clause of the Charter of 1813 from which the difficulty arises.

[5] The argument which I have been considering affects only the form of proceeding. But the admirers of the oriental system of education have used another argument, which, if we admit it to be valid, is decisive against all change. They conceive that the public faith is pledged to the present system, and that to alter the appropriation of any of the funds which have hitherto been spent in encouraging the study of Arabic and Sanscrit would be downright spoliation. It is not easy to understand by what process of reasoning they can have arrived at this conclusion. The grants which are made from the public purse for the encouragement of literature differ in no respect from the grants which are made from the same purse for other objects of real or supposed utility. We found a sanitarium on a spot which we suppose to be healthy. Do we thereby pledge ourselves to keep a sanitarium there if the result should not answer our expectations? We commence the erection of a pier. Is it a violation of the public faith to stop the works, if we afterwards see reason to believe that the building will be useless? The rights of property are undoubtedly sacred. But nothing endangers those rights so much as the practice, now unhappily too common, of attributing them to things to which they do not belong. Those who would impart to abuses the sanctity of property are in truth imparting to the institution of property the unpopularity and the fragility of abuses. If the Government has given to any person a formal assurance– nay, if the Government has excited in any person’s mind a reasonable expectation– that he shall receive a certain income as a teacher or a learner of Sanscrit or Arabic, I would respect that person’s pecuniary interests. I would rather err on the side of liberality to individuals than suffer the public faith to be called in question. But to talk of a Government pledging itself to teach certain languages and certain sciences, though those languages may become useless, though those sciences may be exploded, seems to me quite unmeaning. There is not a single word in any public instrument from which it can be inferred that the Indian Government ever intended to give any pledge on this subject, or ever considered the destination of these funds as unalterably fixed. But, had it been otherwise, I should have denied the competence of our predecessors to bind us by any pledge on such a subject. Suppose that a Government had in the last century enacted in the most solemn manner that all its subjects should, to the end of time, be inoculated for the small-pox, would that Government be bound to persist in the practice after Jenner’s discovery? These promises of which nobody claims the performance, and from which nobody can grant a release, these vested rights which vest in nobody, this property without proprietors, this robbery which makes nobody poorer, may be comprehended by persons of higher faculties than mine. I consider this plea merely as a set form of words, regularly used both in England and in India, in defence of every abuse for which no other plea can be set up.

[6] I hold this lakh of rupees to be quite at the disposal of the Governor-General in Council for the purpose of promoting learning in India in any way which may be thought most advisable. I hold his Lordship to be quite as free to direct that it shall no longer be employed in encouraging Arabic and Sanscrit, as he is to direct that the reward for killing tigers in Mysore shall be diminished, or that no more public money shall be expended on the chaunting at the cathedral.

[7] We now come to the gist of the matter. We have a fund to be employed as Government shall direct for the intellectual improvement of the people of this country. The simple question is, what is the most useful way of employing it?

[8] All parties seem to be agreed on one point, that the dialects commonly spoken among the natives of this part of India contain neither literary nor scientific information, and are moreover so poor and rude that, until they are enriched from some other quarter, it will not be easy to translate any valuable work into them.  It seems to be admitted on all sides, that the intellectual improvement of those classes of the people who have the means of pursuing higher studies can at present be affected only by means of some language not vernacular amongst them.

[9] What then shall that language be? One-half of the committee maintain that it should be the English. The other half strongly recommend the Arabic and Sanscrit. The whole question seems to me to be– which language is the best worth knowing?

[10] I have no knowledge of either Sanscrit or Arabic. But I have done what I could to form a correct estimate of their value. I have read translations of the most celebrated Arabic and Sanscrit works. I have conversed, both here and at home, with men distinguished by their proficiency in the Eastern tongues. I am quite ready to take the oriental learning at the valuation of the orientalists themselves. I have never found one among them who could deny that a single shelf of a good European library was worth the whole native literature of India and Arabia. The intrinsic superiority of the Western literature is indeed fully admitted by those members of the committee who support the oriental plan of education.

[11] It will hardly be disputed, I suppose, that the department of literature in which the Eastern writers stand highest is poetry. And I certainly never met with any orientalist who ventured to maintain that the Arabic and Sanscrit poetry could be compared to that of the great European nations. But when we pass from works of imagination to works in which facts are recorded and general principles investigated, the superiority of the Europeans becomes absolutely immeasurable. It is, I believe, no exaggeration to say that all the historical information which has been collected from all the books written in the Sanscrit language is less valuable than what may be found in the most paltry abridgments used at preparatory schools in England. In every branch of physical or moral philosophy, the relative position of the two nations is nearly the same.

[12] How then stands the case? We have to educate a people who cannot at present be educated by means of their mother-tongue. We must teach them some foreign language. The claims of our own language it is hardly necessary to recapitulate. It stands pre-eminent even among the languages of the West. It abounds with works of imagination not inferior to the noblest which Greece has bequeathed to us, –with models of every species of eloquence, –with historical composition, which, considered merely as narratives, have seldom been surpassed, and which, considered as vehicles of ethical and political instruction, have never been equaled– with just and lively representations of human life and human nature, –with the most profound speculations on metaphysics, morals, government, jurisprudence, trade, –with full and correct information respecting every experimental science which tends to preserve the health, to increase the comfort, or to expand the intellect of man. Whoever knows that language has ready access to all the vast intellectual wealth which all the wisest nations of the earth have created and hoarded in the course of ninety generations. It may safely be said that the literature now extant in that language is of greater value than all the literature which three hundred years ago was extant in all the languages of the world together. Nor is this all. In India, English is the language spoken by the ruling class. It is spoken by the higher class of natives at the seats of Government. It is likely to become the language of commerce throughout the seas of the East. It is the language of two great European communities which are rising, the one in the south of Africa, the other in Australia, –communities which are every year becoming more important and more closely connected with our Indian empire. Whether we look at the intrinsic value of our literature, or at the particular situation of this country, we shall see the strongest reason to think that, of all foreign tongues, the English tongue is that which would be the most useful to our native subjects.

[13] The question now before us is simply whether, when it is in our power to teach this language, we shall teach languages in which, by universal confession, there are no books on any subject which deserve to be compared to our own, whether, when we can teach European science, we shall teach systems which, by universal confession, wherever they differ from those of Europe differ for the worse, and whether, when we can patronize sound philosophy and true history, we shall countenance, at the public expense, medical doctrines which would disgrace an English farrier, astronomy which would move laughter in girls at an English boarding school, history abounding with kings thirty feet high and reigns thirty thousand years long, and geography made of seas of treacle and seas of butter.

[14] We are not without experience to guide us. History furnishes several analogous cases, and they all teach the same lesson. There are, in modern times, to go no further, two memorable instances of a great impulse given to the mind of a whole society, of prejudices overthrown, of knowledge diffused, of taste purified, of arts and sciences planted in countries which had recently been ignorant and barbarous.

[15] The first instance to which I refer is the great revival of letters among the Western nations at the close of the fifteenth and the beginning of the sixteenth century. At that time almost everything that was worth reading was contained in the writings of the ancient Greeks and Romans. Had our ancestors acted as the Committee of Public Instruction has hitherto noted, had they neglected the language of Thucydides and Plato, and the language of Cicero and Tacitus, had they confined their attention to the old dialects of our own island, had they printed nothing and taught nothing at the universities but chronicles in Anglo-Saxon and romances in Norman French, –would England ever have been what she now is? What the Greek and Latin were to the contemporaries of More and Ascham, our tongue is to the people of India. The literature of England is now more valuable than that of classical antiquity. I doubt whether the Sanscrit literature be as valuable as that of our Saxon and Norman progenitors. In some departments– in history for example– I am certain that it is much less so.

[16] Another instance may be said to be still before our eyes. Within the last hundred and twenty years, a nation which had previously been in a state as barbarous as that in which our ancestors were before the Crusades has gradually emerged from the ignorance in which it was sunk, and has taken its place among civilized communities. I speak of Russia. There is now in that country a large educated class abounding with persons fit to serve the State in the highest functions, and in nowise inferior to the most accomplished men who adorn the best circles of Paris and London. There is reason to hope that this vast empire which, in the time of our grandfathers, was probably behind the Punjab, may in the time of our grandchildren, be pressing close on France and Britain in the career of improvement. And how was this change effected? Not by flattering national prejudices; not by feeding the mind of the young Muscovite with the old women’s stories which his rude fathers had believed; not by filling his head with lying legends about St. Nicholas; not by encouraging him to study the great question, whether the world was or not created on the 13th of September; not by calling him “a learned native” when he had mastered all these points of knowledge; but by teaching him those foreign languages in which the greatest mass of information had been laid up, and thus putting all that information within his reach. The languages of western Europe civilised Russia. I cannot doubt that they will do for the Hindoo what they have done for the Tartar.

[17] And what are the arguments against that course which seems to be alike recommended by theory and by experience? It is said that we ought to secure the co-operation of the native public, and that we can do this only by teaching Sanscrit and Arabic.

[18] I can by no means admit that, when a nation of high intellectual attainments undertakes to superintend the education of a nation comparatively ignorant, the learners are absolutely to prescribe the course which is to be taken by the teachers. It is not necessary however to say anything on this subject. For it is proved by unanswerable evidence, that we are not at present securing the co-operation of the natives. It would be bad enough to consult their intellectual taste at the expense of their intellectual health. But we are consulting neither. We are withholding from them the learning which is palatable to them. We are forcing on them the mock learning which they nauseate.

[19] This is proved by the fact that we are forced to pay our Arabic and Sanscrit students while those who learn English are willing to pay us. All the declamations in the world about the love and reverence of the natives for their sacred dialects will never, in the mind of any impartial person, outweigh this undisputed fact, that we cannot find in all our vast empire a single student who will let us teach him those dialects, unless we will pay him.

[20] I have now before me the accounts of the Mudrassa for one month, the month of December, 1833. The Arabic students appear to have been seventy-seven in number. All receive stipends from the public. The whole amount paid to them is above 500 rupees a month. On the other side of the account stands the following item:

Deduct amount realized from the out-students of English for the months of May, June, and July last– 103 rupees.

[21] I have been told that it is merely from want of local experience that I am surprised at these phenomena, and that it is not the fashion for students in India to study at their own charges. This only confirms me in my opinions. Nothing is more certain than that it never can in any part of the world be necessary to pay men for doing what they think pleasant or profitable. India is no exception to this rule. The people of India do not require to be paid for eating rice when they are hungry, or for wearing woollen cloth in the cold season. To come nearer to the case before us: –The children who learn their letters and a little elementary arithmetic from the village schoolmaster are not paid by him. He is paid for teaching them. Why then is it necessary to pay people to learn Sanscrit and Arabic? Evidently because it is universally felt that the Sanscrit and Arabic are languages the knowledge of which does not compensate for the trouble of acquiring them. On all such subjects the state of the market is the detective test.

[22] Other evidence is not wanting, if other evidence were required. A petition was presented last year to the committee by several ex-students of the Sanscrit College. The petitioners stated that they had studied in the college ten or twelve years, that they had made themselves acquainted with Hindoo literature and science, that they had received certificates of proficiency. And what is the fruit of all this? “Notwithstanding such testimonials,” they say, “we have but little prospect of bettering our condition without the kind assistance of your honourable committee, the indifference with which we are generally looked upon by our countrymen leaving no hope of encouragement and assistance from them.” They therefore beg that they may be recommended to the Governor-General for places under the Government– not places of high dignity or emolument, but such as may just enable them to exist. “We want means,” they say, “for a decent living, and for our progressive improvement, which, however, we cannot obtain without the assistance of Government, by whom we have been educated and maintained from childhood.” They conclude by representing very pathetically that they are sure that it was never the intention of Government, after behaving so liberally to them during their education, to abandon them to destitution and neglect.

[23] I have been used to see petitions to Government for compensation. All those petitions, even the most unreasonable of them, proceeded on the supposition that some loss had been sustained, that some wrong had been inflicted. These are surely the first petitioners who ever demanded compensation for having been educated gratis, for having been supported by the public during twelve years, and then sent forth into the world well furnished with literature and science. They represent their education as an injury which gives them a claim on the Government for redress, as an injury for which the stipends paid to them during the infliction were a very inadequate compensation. And I doubt not that they are in the right. They have wasted the best years of life in learning what procures for them neither bread nor respect. Surely we might with advantage have saved the cost of making these persons useless and miserable. Surely, men may be brought up to be burdens to the public and objects of contempt to their neighbours at a somewhat smaller charge to the State. But such is our policy. We do not even stand neuter in the contest between truth and falsehood. We are not content to leave the natives to the influence of their own hereditary prejudices. To the natural difficulties which obstruct the progress of sound science in the East, we add great difficulties of our own making. Bounties and premiums, such as ought not to be given even for the propagation of truth, we lavish on false texts and false philosophy.

[24] By acting thus we create the very evil which we fear. We are making that opposition which we do not find. What we spend on the Arabic and Sanscrit Colleges is not merely a dead loss to the cause of truth. It is bounty-money paid to raise up champions of error. It goes to form a nest not merely of helpless placehunters but of bigots prompted alike by passion and by interest to raise a cry against every useful scheme of education. If there should be any opposition among the natives to the change which I recommend, that opposition will be the effect of our own system. It will be headed by persons supported by our stipends and trained in our colleges. The longer we persevere in our present course, the more formidable will that opposition be. It will be every year reinforced by recruits whom we are paying. From the native society, left to itself, we have no difficulties to apprehend. All the murmuring will come from that oriental interest which we have, by artificial means, called into being and nursed into strength.

[25] There is yet another fact which is alone sufficient to prove that the feeling of the native public, when left to itself, is not such as the supporters of the old system represent it to be. The committee have thought fit to lay out above a lakh of rupees in printing Arabic and Sanscrit books. Those books find no purchasers. It is very rarely that a single copy is disposed of. Twenty-three thousand volumes, most of them folios and quartos, fill the libraries or rather the lumber-rooms of this body. The committee contrive to get rid of some portion of their vast stock of oriental literature by giving books away. But they cannot give so fast as they print. About twenty thousand rupees a year are spent in adding fresh masses of waste paper to a hoard which, one should think, is already sufficiently ample. During the last three years about sixty thousand rupees have been expended in this manner. The sale of Arabic and Sanscrit books during those three years has not yielded quite one thousand rupees. In the meantime, the School Book Society is selling seven or eight thousand English volumes every year, and not only pays the expenses of printing but realizes a profit of twenty per cent. on its outlay.

[30] The fact that the Hindoo law is to be learned chiefly from Sanscrit books, and the Mahometan law from Arabic books, has been much insisted on, but seems not to bear at all on the question. We are commanded by Parliament to ascertain and digest the laws of India. The assistance of a Law Commission has been given to us for that purpose. As soon as the Code is promulgated the Shasters and the Hedaya will be useless to a moonsiff or a Sudder Ameen. I hope and trust that, before the boys who are now entering at the Mudrassa and the Sanscrit College have completed their studies, this great work will be finished. It would be manifestly absurd to educate the rising generation with a view to a state of things which we mean to alter before they reach manhood.

[31] But there is yet another argument which seems even more untenable. It is said that the Sanscrit and the Arabic are the languages in which the sacred books of a hundred millions of people are written, and that they are on that account entitled to peculiar encouragement. Assuredly it is the duty of the British Government in India to be not only tolerant but neutral on all religious questions. But to encourage the study of a literature, admitted to be of small intrinsic value, only because that literature inculcated the most serious errors on the most important subjects, is a course hardly reconcilable with reason, with morality, or even with that very neutrality which ought, as we all agree, to be sacredly preserved. It is confined that a language is barren of useful knowledge. We are to teach it because it is fruitful of monstrous superstitions. We are to teach false history, false astronomy, false medicine, because we find them in company with a false religion. We abstain, and I trust shall always abstain, from giving any public encouragement to those who are engaged in the work of converting the natives to Christianity. And while we act thus, can we reasonably or decently bribe men, out of the revenues of the State, to waste their youth in learning how they are to purify themselves after touching an ass or what texts of the Vedas they are to repeat to expiate the crime of killing a goat?

[32] It is taken for granted by the advocates of oriental learning that no native of this country can possibly attain more than a mere smattering of English. They do not attempt to prove this. But they perpetually insinuate it. They designate the education which their opponents recommend as a mere spelling-book education. They assume it as undeniable that the question is between a profound knowledge of Hindoo and Arabian literature and science on the one side, and superficial knowledge of the rudiments of English on the other. This is not merely an assumption, but an assumption contrary to all reason and experience. We know that foreigners of all nations do learn our language sufficiently to have access to all the most abstruse knowledge which it contains sufficiently to relish even the more delicate graces of our most idiomatic writers. There are in this very town natives who are quite competent to discuss political or scientific questions with fluency and precision in the English language. I have heard the very question on which I am now writing discussed by native gentlemen with a liberality and an intelligence which would do credit to any member of the Committee of Public Instruction. Indeed it is unusual to find, even in the literary circles of the Continent, any foreigner who can express himself in English with so much facility and correctness as we find in many Hindoos. Nobody, I suppose, will contend that English is so difficult to a Hindoo as Greek to an Englishman. Yet an intelligent English youth, in a much smaller number of years than our unfortunate pupils pass at the Sanscrit College, becomes able to read, to enjoy, and even to imitate not unhappily the compositions of the best Greek authors. Less than half the time which enables an English youth to read Herodotus and Sophocles ought to enable a Hindoo to read Hume and Milton.

[33] To sum up what I have said. I think it clear that we are not fettered by the Act of Parliament of 1813, that we are not fettered by any pledge expressed or implied, that we are free to employ our funds as we choose, that we ought to employ them in teaching what is best worth knowing, that English is better worth knowing than Sanscrit or Arabic, that the natives are desirous to be taught English, and are not desirous to be taught Sanscrit or Arabic, that neither as the languages of law nor as the languages of religion have the Sanscrit and Arabic any peculiar claim to our encouragement, that it is possible to make natives of this country thoroughly good English scholars, and that to this end our efforts ought to be directed.

[34] In one point I fully agree with the gentlemen to whose general views I am opposed. I feel with them that it is impossible for us, with our limited means, to attempt to educate the body of the people. We must at present do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern,  –a class of persons Indian in blood and colour, but English in tastes, in opinions, in morals and in intellect. To that class we may leave it to refine the vernacular dialects of the country, to enrich those dialects with terms of science borrowed from the Western nomenclature, and to render them by degrees fit vehicles for conveying knowledge to the great mass of the population.

[35] I would strictly respect all existing interests. I would deal even generously with all individuals who have had fair reason to expect a pecuniary provision. But I would strike at the root of the bad system which has hitherto been fostered by us. I would at once stop the printing of Arabic and Sanscrit books. I would abolish the Mudrassa and the Sanscrit College at Calcutta. Benares is the great seat of Brahminical learning; Delhi of Arabic learning. If we retain the Sanscrit College at Bonares and the Mahometan College at Delhi we do enough and much more than enough in my opinion, for the Eastern languages. If the Benares and Delhi Colleges should be retained, I would at least recommend that no stipends shall be given to any students who may hereafter repair thither, but that the people shall be left to make their own choice between the rival systems of education without being bribed by us to learn what they have no desire to know. The funds which would thus be placed at our disposal would enable us to give larger encouragement to the Hindoo College at Calcutta, and establish in the principal cities throughout the Presidencies of Fort William and Agra schools in which the English language might be well and thoroughly taught.

[36] If the decision of His Lordship in Council should be such as I anticipate, I shall enter on the performance of my duties with the greatest zeal and alacrity. If, on the other hand, it be the opinion of the Government that the present system ought to remain unchanged, I beg that I may be permitted to retire from the chair of the Committee. I feel that I could not be of the smallest use there. I feel also that I should be lending my countenance to what I firmly believe to be a mere delusion. I believe that the present system tends not to accelerate the progress of truth but to delay the natural death of expiring errors. I conceive that we have at present no right to the respectable name of a Board of Public Instruction. We are a Board for wasting the public money, for printing books which are of less value than the paper on which they are printed was while it was blank– for giving artificial encouragement to absurd history, absurd metaphysics, absurd physics, absurd theology– for raising up a breed of scholars who find their scholarship an incumbrance and blemish, who live on the public while they are receiving their education, and whose education is so utterly useless to them that, when they have received it, they must either starve or live on the public all the rest of their lives. Entertaining these opinions, I am naturally desirous to decline all share in the responsibility of a body which, unless it alters its whole mode of proceedings, I must consider, not merely as useless, but as positively noxious.

T[homas] B[abington] MACAULAY

2nd February 1835.

I give my entire concurrence to the sentiments expressed in this Minute.

W[illiam] C[avendish] BENTINCK.

From: Bureau of Education. Selections from Educational Records, Part I (1781-1839).  Edited by H. Sharp.  Calcutta: Superintendent, Government Printing, 1920. Reprint. Delhi: National Archives of India, 1965, 107-117.


Sikh Gurdwara Bill

Sikh Gurdwara Bill[edit]

The British Government considered the Akali movement to be a greater threat than Mahatma Gandhi‘s civil disobedience movement. A 1921 memorandum signed by D. Petrie, the Assistant Director of CID, Punjab states:[4]

Gandhi’s propaganda makes its appeal mainly to the urban classes, which lack both the stamina and physical courage to oppose successfully even small bodies of police; the Akali campaign is essentially a rural movement, and its followers are men of fine physique with a national history of which the martial characteristics have been purposely kept alive both by Government and by the Sikhs themselves.

— D. Petrie, Secret CID Memorandum on Recent Developments in Sikh Politics (11 August 1921)

In 1925, after further demands and protests from SGPC, a new “Sikh Gurdwara Bill” was introduced in the Punjab Legislative Assembly. It came into force on 1 November 1925, and awarded the control of all the historical shrines to SGPC. A tribunal was set up to judge the disputes, and all the Akali prisoners were released.[15]

By this time, an estimated 30,000 people had been arrested by the British Government; over 400 had been killed and another 2,000 had been injured during the movement.[15] The movement fueled the anti-British Government feeling among the Sikhs. It also led to an anti-Hindu sentiment among a section of Sikhs, who identified the pro-Udasi mahants such as Narain Das and their supporters with the Hindu community.[15]


Unspoken Story of Indian Holocaust


While London has rushed to point the accusing finger at Serbs for the Srebrenica tragedy, the British have apparently forgotten their own shameful history of the genocide of the people of India, Rakesh Krishnan Simha told Sputnik.

While British policy makers are expressing their “righteous” anger over Russia’s decision to veto their resolution on the Srebrenica “genocide” of 1995 discussed by the UN Security Council earlier this month, London should obviously look in the mirror and recall its own colonial past, New Zealand-based journalist and foreign affairs analyst Rakesh Krishnan Simha told Sputnik.There is no need to delve deep into history, the analyst noted, referring to the infamous Bengal Famine of 1943-44 that can be classified as the greatest disaster in the subcontinent in the 20th century.

Citing Australian biochemist Dr. Gideon Polya, Simha underscored that the Bengal Famine was a “manmade holocaust” directly caused by UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s policies.

“Bengal had a bountiful harvest in 1942, but the British started diverting vast quantities of food grain from India to Britain, contributing to a massive food shortage in the areas comprising present-day West Bengal, Odisha, Bihar and Bangladesh,” the foreign affairs analyst narrated in his article “Remembering India’s Forgotten Holocaust” in 2014.

Just in a year, the manmade famine had claimed the lives of over 3 million Indians.

The Famine in India: Natives Waiting for Relief at Bangalore
The Famine in India: Natives Waiting for Relief at Bangalore

“Winston Churchill was just the last of the many murderous despots who presided over India’s fate during the over 200 years of British rule. He said, “I hate Indians. They are beastly people with a beastly religion”,” Simha told Sputnik.

Can We Classify the Bengal Famine as Genocide? 

Can we classify the Bengal Famine as genocide? Genocide is a systematic killing of a people in great numbers and Churchill intentionally, and with open malice towards Indians, diverted grain from India to Europe, the analyst pointed out. He added that even when desperate pleas came from the administration in Bengal, Churchill refused to dispatch emergency food supplies. The UK prime minister even went so far as to blame Indians for the famine, saying that they “breed like rabbits.”

“When the British representatives in India asked Churchill to stop diverting Indian food grains to Europe and to supply India with wheat from Australia, he replied: “If there is famine in India, then why is Gandhi still alive?”” the analyst remarked bitterly.

The Bengal Famine happened despite India being a food-surplus country with a bumper harvest that year, he stressed. And that had not been the first time when the British rulers facilitated food shortages in India.

Photograph of a South India family in 1878 by W.W. Hooper
Photograph of a South India family in 1878 by W.W. Hooper

Simha stressed that during over 200 years of British rule, India saw at least two dozen major famines, which collectively killed 60 million people. The journalist added that the figure is based on numbers collated by British officials and economists and in reality it is significantly higher.

The analyst pointed out that during the 1877 famine in India, the only acquire to get some food was to work in the British labor camps. Within those camps, starving Indians received only 16 ounces of rice per day — less than the Jewish inmates of Buchenwald, the Nazi concentration camp of the Second World War.One would say that India had faced famines even before the British colonial rule. However, “in the past 2000 years of Indian history, there were very few famine deaths because the Indian rulers ensured the well-being of the people through emergency food supplies and field kitchens,” the journalist underscored.

India’s Forgotten Holocaust 

The history of manmade famines in India under the British rule can be obviously compared to the Jewish Holocaust of the Second World War, according to Rakesh Krishnan Simha.

“Hitler’s hatred for Jews led to the Holocaust and Britain’s malice towards Indians caused the deaths of at least 60 million Indians, including three million people during the Bengal Famine. Proportionately, the Bengal Famine was a holocaust on a bigger scale than the Jewish Holocaust. It took Hitler 12 years to murder 6 million Jews, but the British starved at least 3 million Indians to death in a 15 month period from 1943 to 1944. Indian estimates put the toll at 7 million,” the journalist told Sputnik.

Simha pointed out that Hitler wanted to destroy the entire Jewish population of Europe because of race and religious reasons; furthermore, Hitler saw Jews as competitors in the German economy.

“Hitler also wanted to create Lebensraum in Europe for pure Germans. If you look at the history of English colonialism, they have created their own versions of Lebensraum in Canada, the US, Australia and New Zealand after the genocide of native populations,” the analyst underscored.

“They [the British] may have wanted to do the same in India. But the British couldn’t replicate armed genocide in India because Indians put up a ferocious counter attack and defeated the British in several wars. So the British may have decided to systematically eradicate Indians through famines. In fact, Churchill’s scorched earth policy was intended to enfeeble the Indian population so the Japanese-armed Indian National Army which was planning to liberate India from the east would not find able bodied men in Bengal,” he elaborated.

Why Does the Story of the Indian Genocide Remain Unspoken?

So, why does the story of the Indian genocide still remain unspoken? Why does the West that has recently rushed to blame Serbs for “genocide” of Bosnian Muslims remains suspiciously silent about its own hideous atrocities?

“First up, why would the US, UK, Spain or France admit at all to genocides they have committed? It is precisely because the scale of their own crimes is so staggering that they quickly latch on to other countries’ internal problems. For instance, after an alleged 100,000 East Timorese were killed by the Indonesians, the West suddenly adopted the role of savior, conscience keeper and protector. It then invaded East Timor and illegally made it an independent country. It did the same in Kosovo,” Rakesh Krishnan Simha elaborated.

“The UK and British immigrants in America wiped out Native Indians by the tens of millions. In Africa, the British massacred Kenyans,” he added.According to the journalist, considering the scale of the atrocities, the international community should conduct an official investigation into the Indian genocide.

“If the US Congress can condemn the Turkish genocide of Armenians a 100 years ago, then they can also censure Britain for even bigger holocausts in India. For this to happen, private Indian individuals must come forward to demand apology and reparations. There are a number of Indians who remember the holocaust and were affected by it,” the analyst pointed out.

And there is a precedent, he stressed: “Kenya has asked Britain for an apology, and the British have rendered one.”However, there are a number of obstacles in the way of restoring justice. First of all it is not in the British interests to recognize such a hideous crime. Furthermore, the Indian elite have already established close ties with the British nobilities. Many of them have their children studying in American and British colleges, or have business connections, or have family living in Britain, Simha noted. Maybe that is why most Indians have no memory of these holocausts because they are not taught in Indian schools, the foreign affairs analyst emphasized.



Secularism as a Colonial Project


Two years ago, on one fine afternoon, I happened to run into a congregation by Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, an Islamic organization, at Kolkata. The volunteers were dressed in a distinctly Muslim attire with the skullcap as their headgear. The temporary bookstall at the congregation offered a few booklets on the precepts of Islam—nothing unexpected. The demands of the assembly were familiar and again expected, which were generally geared towards supporting the Islamic way of life. Oh, I have not deliberately mentioned their principal cause which was prominently printed in the chest-badges of the participants: The demand for more…hold your breath…Secularism!


Ironies are not exactly rare in India but this one takes the cake, isn’t it?  Typically, any discussion on an irony of secularism will end up with the discussants pinning down the responsibility on the poor ethical standards of the Indian politicians. Jakob De Roover tells us through his book why, at least in this case, our politicians are not as blameworthy as we tend to believe. Much more culpable are our scholars and jurists who have used this word in our constitution without comprehending its full implication.


The author motivates the readers through glaring inconsistencies in judicial interpretations of secularism in Europe—albeit the ironies are less stark than what I have described above—and start an exploration towards genesis of the word, Secular. It is a word that is universally characterized by a negation of the ideas that are religious.  Therefore, to understand the word secular, we must have a definite understanding of the word religion.

What precisely is denoted by the word, religion?

The failure of the western scholars is colossal, De Roover illustrates, in defining religion. Their understanding of religion, as has been shown on a case by case basis, is limited to characterizing Christianity and simply assuming that such characteristics would be sufficient for any other phenomena they refer to as a “religion”, such as Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, the Chinese and Japanese “religions”. A part of this failure can be traced to being convinced of the superiority of the present Western culture and belief in a linear history that assumes that all cultures go through the exact same trajectory, and the present age technological superiority of the West connotes to its culture or religion being more advanced than the others. Therefore, Christianity “has to be” the most advanced religion and other religions are its primitive version.


The mode of defining Christianity is wholesome inadequate to define Hinduism—the Indian Constitution is a living testament to this fact. A Hindu, as per the Indian Constitution, is not defined in any affirmative way. Rather, the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955 defines a Hindu as:


(a) any person who is a Hindu by religion in any of its forms and developments, including a Virashaiva, a Lingayat or a follower of the Brahmo, Prarthana or Arya Samaj,

(b) any person who is a Buddhist, Jain or Sikh by religion, and

(c) any other person domiciled in the territories to which this Act extends who is not a Muslim, Christian, Parsi or Jew by religion


The negationist principal of clause (c)—which incidentally defines the vast majority of the Hindus— demonstrates the problem of categorizing Hinduism as a religion, particularly when we bear in mind that no such problem comes up in defining a Christian, a Muslim or a Jew, the adherents of the Abrahamic religions.


De Roover correctly points out that the conceptual rigidity inherent to the terms Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism or Jainism makes sense only to a Western audience; these terms have no relevance from the point of view of the actual Hindus, Sikhs or Buddhists. No one knows where Hinduism ends and Buddhism begins. Almost all Hindus offer their respect to the Buddha as the ninth Avatar (the most respectable human being) without calling themselves Buddhists. One can easily find Buddhist scriptures that, as Subhash Kak notes, have many more verses on Hindu deities like Shiva and Vishnu than on Buddha.


Such a porous borderline between Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism or Jainism may not be very surprising to most Indians or for that matter to inheritors of the most Asian cultures; an average Japanese may identify himself/ herself with two different “religions”, Shintoism and Buddhism, at the same time, without any trouble. However, when S. N. Balagangadhara, the author’s illustrious mentor, presented his hypothesis to formally recognize this phenomenon, it appeared to be not so incontrovertible to the Western scholars. Balu—as Balagangadhara is popularly known—challenged the presupposed Western Academic notion that all cultures have religion.


The concept of religion, Balu argues, lies in theorizing. European cultures believe in theory; Indian and other ancient Asian cultures believe in “empiricism”. For example, Christianity theorizes itself into a monotheistic religion; on the contrary, nobody knows whether Hinduism is a monotheistic or polytheistic religion on account of lack of theorizing and focus on empiricism. No Japanese feels any contradiction in simultaneously being a Shinto and a Buddhist, but the European scholar finds it peculiar going by his textbook theory. The only religions, as per Balu’s definition, that exist are the Abrahamic ones. The other isms that are popularly known as religion—for example, Hinduism or Shintoism—are not exactly religions, much like the whale is not a type of fish but a mammal living in water.


Balu posits that European cultures are religious whereas Indian cultures are essentially non-religious: a proposition that diametrically violates our mainstream narrative. What about Western secular cultures? Can they ever be called religious? And, this is exactly the essence of De Roover’s core hypothesis. De Roover deconstructs Secularism and demonstrates convincingly that Secularism is—idea wise—akin to Christianity. The genesis of the idea of Secularism is rooted in the Bible in the words of Jesus: Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s. (Matthew 22:21). The idea of demarcation of God’s affairs and Government affairs, of separation of the public sphere and the private sphere, all started with Jesus Christ himself and ended up as Secularism.


De Roover further explains: ideas do come from recurrent patterns in a tradition of thought, called “Tropes”, to a social sphere. An idea that takes shape as the popular narrative when the social ground is fertile for the particular idea is called “Topoi”. De Roover’s book traces the topoi of liberal secularism—such as the idea of separation between the public secular sphere and private sphere concerning religion, the idea of toleration, the idea of government being completely separate from the religious leadership—from the tropes of Protestant Christianity. The leading thinkers of secular liberalism simply presented the conclusions derived from Christian theology without explicitly justifying them using Christian theological terminology. The society accepted such a line of thinking on account of their deep-rooted support in the mainstream social narrative dominated by protestant Christianity. Therefore, liberal secularism is not even a break (forget about any radical departure) from the Christian tradition but part of the continuity of that very tradition.


De Roover’s book engenders quite a few iconoclastic positions. Take, for example, John Locke, the proponent of classical liberalism. Contrary to popular perception of Locke’s political thought being divorced from religious ideas, it is found to be “Christian to the core”. Nehru and Ambedkar, two prominent makers of modern India, are credited with espousing two causes of modernity in India, treating India’s lack of “scientific temperament” and undertaking the project of “Annihilation of Caste”, respectively. It turns out that both of these ideas are colonial projects. Christian missionaries rued the lack of scientific reasoning in India for Indian’s general unwillingness to embrace a rational religion (Christianity). Similarly, “Annihilation of Caste” is a colonial project in which the European social model is deemed ideal and the ‘other’ society is, naturally, found to be deficient for its lack of fit with the European model. The deficiency can be removed by means of an annihilation of the social system of the colonized people.


The implications of De Roover’s study are of enormous importance. First and foremost, though Secularism is hailed as the universal plan for pluralistic society, it is shown to be considerably untrue. As a matter of fact, European societies historically faced much more religious conflicts compared to other societies like India, Japan or the Mongol empire, even though the former societies were, religious diversity wise, much more homogeneous. The European nations discovered the road to pluralistic society through secularism which is a continuation of their own Christian culture.


So far, so good. There is, however, absolutely no reason that secularization for other societies will actually be beneficial for them. When Ayaan Hirsi Ali talked about reformation and secularization of Islamic society, she assumed the universal nature of the Secularism principle. Since Secularism is not a universal theme but grew out of European Christian culture, forcing secularism against the cultural matrix of the Islamic nations will not be successful and will provide no lasting solution to radical Islamism. Shah of Persia, Najib of Afghanistan or even Kemal Atatürk of Turkey are glaring examples of failure when a leader attempted to bring modernity to his society by ushering upon secularism in the same society.

Secularism is tantamount to all good things like progress, peace and harmony in the mainstream Indian narrative. The colonized Indian minds typically think that Secularism is the only path to ensure pluralism with Nehru as the Prophet of Secularism who revealed this ‘ism’ to Indians. However, none exactly seems to know how secularism would ensure peace and harmony in India. In Europe, different Christians denomination were vying for being the One True Religion, and secularism meant State’s non-patronage to any one of them to create a level field that was central to peace in society. Protestant Christianity is mostly about faith and has little to do with rituals; possibly that is how the idea of secularism worked there.


The context is radically different In India: here riots are not uncommon and the Hindus may participate in the violence (for example the post-Godhra riot in 2002); nevertheless no Hindu takes part in violence on account of anointing Hinduism as the One True Religion. Then, what is the relevance of divorce of the public sphere and private sphere in the Indian context? And, how exactly does Secularism plan to reduce the recurrent problem of riots in India? This is a question that academicians never attempt to answer.


The only way secularism can ensure more peace for India—as per standard understanding of the secularists—is that if Hindus become less religious, the basis of religious conflict may vanish. Even if (which is incidentally a big IF) this is a viable proposition, the idea is like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Here is a real example: During 1999-2000, the question of the appropriateness of Saraswati—the goddess of learning and knowledge—Puja in public schools was raised in West Bengal. Secularism definitely means no “religion” in public sphere and no public school, therefore, should allow Saraswati Puja. But banning Saraswati Puja from the schools is deliberate destruction of culture when most of the Bengali children start their student-hood through rituals associated with Saraswati puja. From this sense, foisting upon secularism in India means imposing European protestant Christian tradition on Indian minds and total denudation of Indian tradition.


Why should India look forward to the same failed Secular model for social harmony? Why should India look forward to Uniform Civil Code for building a more progressive nation? Progress, now, demands a deep study of the Indian and other Asian models for a stable plural social system with decolonised social narrative. It is perhaps time to end the obsession with European models and attempt to build our own indigenous understanding. As an instance, Rajiv Malhotra has offered the example of Indian “Jati” system in his book Being Different, which used to ensure divergent laws across communities in India. In spite of non-existence of any artificial separation of the public sphere and private sphere, this system helped India maintain cultural diversity and pluralism for thousands of years. Instead of debating true secularism, wrong secularism, or pseudo-secularism, we should talk about modes of ascertaining pluralism in society that are beyond secularism.



Europe, India, and the Limits of Secularism (Religion and Democracy), Jakob De Roover, 296 Pages, Oxford University Press (14 September 2015).

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Translation of Balbir Punj on Jayalalitha

original Hindi here


Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Political life of Jayalalitha’s ups and downs, her death and funeral on the late night of December 5 have redefined the political and social life of the state. If the cinema had engraved a part of Jayalalitha’s multi-faceted personality, then the Dravidian movement was based on her political philosophy, whose objective was totally opposed to Hindu-Hindi-North Indians. The bottom line of this movement was that Tamil Nadu’s main identity is not Hindu but Dravid and Brahminism symbolizes slavery. According to this philosophy, it is necessary for any Tamil person to establish his identity, not only to distance from Hindu homogeneity, but also to hush against hate and hostility towards him. Jayalalitha’s political and social life was the result of this poisonous fruit, But his life and attitude were exactly opposite to the ideological philosophy of the Dravid movement. It is fine that Jayalalitha’s cremation was buried instead of Vedic customs. It may be remembered that the body of the other Dravid leaders including the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu and M.G.R. MGR was buried, but the difference in the case of Jayalalitha was that before the burial of his dead body a Brahmin priest was performing rituals with the entire legislation. .
In fact the Dravidian movement was established as a part of the East India Company’s imperialist agenda. Either the British Empire started its roots in India after winning the Battle of Plassey in 1757, But in 1647, the arrival of the European Christian missionary was done with the arrival of St. George’s Fort, located in Madras (Chennai) of English Chaplain. A paragraph was added in the charter of East India Company in 1698 that Chaplain learn the local language of India so that he can understand ‘Pagan’ Indians as a Christian doctrine. Under the pressure of the Church in 1813, the disputed section was added to the charter of the East India Company, which led to the promotion of Christianity in India by the British priests and missionaries. In the Revolution of 1857, India’s newly interchangeed Christian society was completely opposed to independence and stood with the British. Initially Christian missionaries tried to convert the Brahmin and the educated classes into the Hindu community, but they did not get success in it. After this, in the 19th century, they were neglected, exploited and disadvantaged sections of Hindus who today are called Dalits, Focused on During this period, the sense of independence in the whole country including South India had reinforced. In the preservation of British rulers in the year 1917, the South Indian Liberal Federation and Justice Party were formed with the aim of uniting non-Brahmins.
Justice Party, which later became known as Dravid Kadgam, had fully supported the massacre by the British in the Jallianwala Bagh Kand on April 13, 1919. In the same background, EVR Nayakar started the self-respecting movement (Dravid movement) in 1925, whose original purpose was to oppose Hindu-Hindi and North Indians in the name of inequality. By the time the Nayakar came to power in 1940, the Muslim Muslim League demanded a separate nation called Dravida Nadu, demanding Pakistan’s demand. In the political philosophy of the Dravidian movement, there was a sense of hatred and animosity towards Brahminism, Hindi and North Indians, But the opposite of the philosophy of Jayalalitha’s birth in the same ideology and the powerful leader of AIADMK and the birth of Jayalalithaa born in the Brahmin family and the movement of life movement. He was a complete Hindu follower and believed in all the methods related to rituals and rituals. They used to worship Rahu-Ketu in the Shrikalahasti temple in Andhra Pradesh. Lord Venkateswara Swamy used to visit regularly in the Tirumala Temple and Padmavati temple. Even after the roots of the Dravidian movement were strong, ‘Hindu’ Jayalalithaa won the assembly elections of Tamil Nadu four times in three decades of political life and became Chief Minister of the state six times.
Was the agenda of EVR Nayakar and Dravid Kadgam inspired by atheistic philosophy or against Hindu opposition and India’s opposition? Their entire movement in the name of superstitious and prevalent society in the name of Hindu philosophy, He used to rattle his tradition and rituals. The question of the question is whether such distortions are limited to Hindu society only? Is Islam and Christian religion totally innocent? After all, why did the Dravidian movement not discuss the misdeeds of Islam and Christian religion? Perhaps late Jayalalitha understood this contradiction and separated her political and personal life from the philosophy of Dravid movement.
After the death of Jayalalitha, the leadership of Tamil Nadu o Panneerselvam are doing Conflicts have started between Chief Minister Ponnarselvam and Shashikala within the party. The kind of political emptiness that has come in AIADMK after the visit of Amma will have a profound effect in the future of the state and the politics of the state. In the 16th Lok Sabha, AIADMK is the third largest party with 37 seats, While there are 11 members in the Rajya Sabha. In the absence of Jayalalitha, GST, President and Vice Presidential election is the main challenge before the center of the sharing of Kaveri river and in addition to the Mullaperiyar dam, in which AIADMK’s role is important.
Today, opposing Hindu and national language Hindi in Tamil Nadu is negligible. The ordinary Tamil people of the state believe in God and rituals in the same way as they are kept in any other part of the country. The idea of ​​Dravid Kadgam, in the DMK, which is from the womb, has no strong malice towards Hindu philosophy, Like it used to be before. If this change has come in this state of south India, then surely it will be Jayalalitha only. He has repeatedly proved by winning the election that continuous insult of the country’s eternal pluralistic culture is only a loss deal. It is expected that Tamil Nadu politics will remain free from the religious and divisive agenda of the British in the future.



Military scientists tested mustard gas on Indians


British military scientists sent hundreds of Indian soldiers into gas chambers and exposed them to mustard gas, documents uncovered by the Guardian have revealed.

The Guardian understands that the British military did not check up on the Indian soldiers after the experiments to see if they developed any illnesses. It is now recognised that mustard gas can cause cancer and other diseases.

Many suffered severe burns on their skin, including their genitals, leaving them in pain for days and even weeks. Some had to be treated in hospital.

The trials have been thrown into the spotlight by newly discovered documents at the National Archives which have shown for the first time the full scale of the experiments.

The Indian troops were serving under the command of the British military at a time when India was under colonial rule.

The experiments took place over more than 10 years before and during world war two in a military installation at Rawalpindi, now in Pakistan. They were conducted by scientists from the Porton Down chemical warfare establishment in Wiltshire who had been posted to the sub-continent to develop poison gases to use against the Japanese.

The Indian tests are a little-known part of Porton’s huge programme of chemical warfare testing on humans. More than 20,000 British soldiers were subjected to chemical warfare trials involving poison gases, such as nerve gas and mustard gas, at Porton between 1916 and 1989.

Many of these British soldiers have alleged that they were duped into taking part in the tests, which have damaged their health in the years after the trials.

The reports record that in some cases Indian soldiers were exposed to mustard gas protected only by a respirator. On one occasion the gas mask of an Indian sepoy (a private) slipped, leaving him with severe burns on his eyes and face.

The tests were used to determine how much gas was needed to produce a casualty on the battlefield.

In 1942 the Porton scientists reported that there had been a “large number” of burns from the gas among Indian and British test subjects. Some were so harsh that they had to be sent to hospital. “Severely burned patients are often very miserable and depressed and in considerable discomfort, which must be experienced to be properly realised,” wrote the scientists.

Other soldiers were hospitalised for a week after they were sent into a gas chamber wearing “drill shorts and open-necked, khaki, cotton shirts” to gauge the effect of mustard gas on their eyes.

The trials had started in the early 1930s when Porton scientists wanted to find out if mustard gas inflicted greater damage on Indian skin compared with British skin. More than 500 Britons and Indians were exposed to mustard gas.

Alan Care, a lawyer representing British troops tested at Porton, said: “I would be astonished if these Indian subjects gave any meaningful consent to taking part in these tests, particularly as they were conducted during the days of Empire. No one would have agreed … if they knew beforehand what was going to happen.”

Porton officials have argued that trials took place in a different era, during a conflict, and so their conduct should not be judged by today’s standards.

The Ministry of Defence could not say whether the Indian soldiers were volunteers in the experiments. It said: “The studies undertaken at the Chemical Defence Research Establishment in India included defensive research, weapons research and physiological research. These studies supported those conducted in simulated conditions in the UK in a different environment.”

Chemical warfare

Porton Down, founded in 1916, is the oldest chemical warfare research installation in the world. Until the 1950s Porton developed chemical weapons such as mustard gas and nerve gas. In the 1940s and 1950s Porton also devised biological weapons, chiefly anthrax bombs.

Today Porton’s primary task is to develop defensive equipment to shield the armed forces against chemical and biological weapons. Porton believes that the British armed forces are equipped with some of the best defensive equipment in the world.

Porton has always recruited members of the armed forces to take part in experiments. The most controversial resulted in the death of airman Ronald Maddison in 1953 when liquid nerve gas was dripped on to his arm. An inquest in 2004 found that he had been unlawfully killed.

Last year the government paid compensation to three servicemen who had been given LSD without their consent.


Macauly on Hindu-Muslim Issues

macauly policy on hindu muslim issues