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  Good Things, the British Left Behind in India  

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By: Hari Sud
June 28, 2007
iews expressed here are author’s own and not of this website. Full disclaimer is at the bottom.


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British deserve to be complimented for integrating all the ethnically diverse but culturally similar principalities in the South Asian sub-continent into one nation. Today we call it, India. They also ended the seven hundred years old Muslim rule in the subcontinent. Hindu majority in the subcontinent was incapable of grabbing power back from the Muslim rulers. They needed a deliverer. British and other European powers arrived in India as traders but became the deliverers, much to the displeasure of Muslims. The latter had come as conquerors from Central Asia & Afghanistan and made India as their home. They spread the Muslim faith to the third of the population and in the process perpetuated untold misery on the majority. Two third Hindu majorities with passive religion had lost their will to fight. They endured whatever was thrown at them. After 1857 they sided with the British, who were busy removing any challenge to their authority. Muslim aristocracy of the Mogul era was hostile to the British Raj. To overcome this, they removed the leadership from its population base and stripped them of their money, power and land. In the absence of all these, any future challenge to British authority was eliminated.

Within ten years of the British takeover in 1857, the country had been pacified and rule of law & justice established. People"s confidence in the new master soared. T.B. Macauly"s education system began to pay dividends. Lower rank administrative jobs were filled with English educated Hindus and they became the backbone of the Raj. Muslim stayed out of the British education system, as they were totally un-reconciled with the change. It was not until early twentieth century that the Muslim intelligentsia realized their mistake. By then it was too late. Hindu power then, was second to the British only. Now, it was an alternative to the British rule. Early freedom fighter like Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Gopal Krishan Gokhale made resurgent Hindu power as the basis of their self-rule demand.

With the return of most foreign soldiers from India, after putting down the great Indian Mutiny (First war of Independence 1857), British went looking for politically reliable communities who could provide them recruits for the newly organized Indian Army. Muslim of Delhi and the Gangetic heartland were sidetracked. So were the Brahmins. The latter initiated the Mutiny, hence could not be hired back into the Army. Very cleverly the British selected politically reliable communities who had not participated in the Mutiny or supported the freedom fight. They designated them the “Martial Classes”. Future Indian army recruits came from these communities. Hence Gorkhas, Kumaonis, Sikh, Rohillas, Madrasis, Punjabi Mussalman, Pathans, Dogras, Rajputs from Hills of UP & Punjab became the backbone of new Indian army. The Madrasis & Bengalis provided technical capabilities. The newly organized army safeguarded the Indian border, kept Russian influence in Afghanistan in check and also provided the internal security. This lightly equipped but highly trained army became the backbone of future India. Today, British have been gone for sixty years but the Indian Army still follows the British organization, training and fighting methods.

By early 1890s, the civil and military organization was as follows. The British “Sahib” sat at the top, but allowed Hindu clerk to run things for him. Judicial system was exclusively British and very fair. Young men of aristocratic background were educated in England in the intricacies of the English judicial system. Back home they provided the necessary legal basis for the justice system. The re-organized Indian army after the Mutiny of 1857, for 70 years stayed officered by the British and soldiered by the Indians. In short this combination became the backbone of the British Raj. A significant number of British regiments were retained in India for internal security, as the British could never forget the 1857 experience. Indians and Muslim officers of the army appeared on the scene only after the WWI.

Muslim resurgence began early in the twentieth century in Muslim majority areas of Punjab & Bengal and in some places in South India. They grudgingly accepted the British mastery and began to join the civil administration & military services in droves. British needed the Muslim in the administration badly. They realized the growing Hindu influence and wished to counter it. Hence they began the great game of divide and rule. It continued with dire consequences, till they finally left India in 1947. Net impact of divide and rule policy was the creation of the new nation of Pakistan.

In one hundred years of the British Crown rule over India until 1947, they introduced the British legal and justice system, organized a formidable civil service, provided modern military training and organization to a largely medieval army, re-organized the antiquated tax system which had continued since Emperor Akbar (circa 1600), set-up an export and import system largely for their own benefit but never the less as a basis for future trade, built one of the world"s greatest water irrigation system in Pakistani Punjab, created a rail and road network to facilitate transportation but also to feed the growing import/export trade, extended the T B Macaulay"s education system to include universities and colleges of higher learning and introduced the western dress code which has become universal in India. Last of all we should not forget to mention once again that British ended the Muslim rule over a largely Hindu population in the sub-continent.

British also failed miserably in few areas like food grain output, which resulted in huge famines, killed the industry and commerce for their own benefit, failed to include social welfare in their agenda, took anything of value out of India and left India on tender hooks when they finally vacated the seat of power. They must also be held responsible for three major wars between India and Pakistan over a Kashmir. They initiated this rivalry.

India"s eternal thanks will always be due for all the good things the British left behind. On the contrary the economic devastation they perpetuated over an otherwise prosperous nation cannot be forgotten. To summarize, we must be thankful to the British for restoring Hindus to power and also remind them that the present state of economic backwardness in India is their creation.

Hari Sud

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