Thursday, October 4, 2012

Book review: The case for India

The Case for India
Over all times spanning different countries, rulers and culture, freedom of speech has had several severe blows. Writers like Salman Rushdie, Taslima Nasrin and many others had to face the wrath of fate for speaking out the harsh truth. The books which dare to unfold the naked truth are often banned and burnt. One such book is 'The case for India" released in 1930 which was banned by the British government for it had a powerful voice against the oppression of an entire race and the suppression of humanity. Readers are now fortunate enough to lay their hands on this book due to the efforts of T N Shanbhag, the founder of Strand book stall. Shanbhag put into print, the photocopy of this book which he got from Mohandas Pai (a member of the board of directors Infosys).

Will Durant, the famous historian of 'The Story of Civilization' fame visited India as a traveller. Little did he expect to see one fifth of the world population suffering British governance completely devoid of any humanity. He then thoroughly researched and presented in the form of book, the case for a nation stripped down of its riches and a chance for development. Will Durant gives the statistical proof of how British government raped India's economic and political domains and presents his own views on the Indian revolution in the wake of Independence movement.

The book speaks of the British administrative horrors and mourns over the death of morality in the British raj. The author speaks of crimes in taxation, tariffs, foreign control which pushed India into pauperism and emasculation. A government which conducted 110 wars in nineteenth century alone is scorned upon by Will Durant. A detailed account is given on how much India lost to Britain in terms of exports-imports, how much bribe the East India Company officers were fed, for how much money kings sold themselves to company, how many famines added to the miseries of peasants, how much tax was sucked out of Indian blood and how many other misfortunes struck Indian population. I haven't come across any literary material providing such accurate proofs of destruction and devastation.

The author hasn't left untouched, the topic of Indian independence pride- Gandhi. Will Durant has the highest reverence to our father of the nation so much that he even compares some of Gandhi's sacrifices to that of Christ. What captivates the reader next is how in the following two chapters of the book, the author has presented a case for England and immediately refuted it with the righteousness of a Hindu. The only sad thing with the book is that since it was published 17 years before India attained independence, the reader has missed great insights into events such as 'Quit India' movement, demand for a partition, provincial elections, Indian National Army protests and many more.

Few excerpts from the book:

Clive had set up Mir Jafar as ruler of Bengal for $6,192,875; Clive's successors deposed him and set up Mir Kasim on payment of $1,001,345; three years later they restored mIr Jafar for $2,500,825; two years later they replaced him with Najim-ud-Daula for $1,151,780.

Robert Clive: (Baron of Plassey)
"When I think," he said, "of the marvellous riches of that country, and the comparatively small part which I took away, I am astonished at my own moderation." Such were the morals of the men who proposed to bring civilization to India.

Miss Madeline Slade: (Mira behn)
So this is some of the exemplary behavior of the police...What then has become of English honor, English justice?...Who could dare to uphold as a means of dispersing a non-violent gathering:
1. Lathi blows on head, chest, stomach and joints
2. Thrusts with lathis in private parts, abdominal regions
3. Stripping of men naked before beating
4. Tearing of loin cloths and thrusting of sticks into anus....

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