Indian Mutiny

The Indian Mutiny


Massacre at Cawnpore, by Charles Ball – This file has been provided by the British Library from its digital collections
History_by_Nicklin Note: this piece is not done with the same comparative coloured text method as most of the others. It is three of my International Baccalaureate Lessons given at the Dhirubhai Ambani International School in Bombay in 2007. Each was produced by that comparative method, without the colours.



Economic Causes

The East India Company’s conquests and annexations in India had to be paid for by taxation. ‘Pax Britannica’ generally presented itself as ‘Tax Britannica’, and it seemed ‘a cynical outrage… that a man could not travel twenty miles without paying toll at a river ferry.’ In the early days few Europeans thought about ‘colonies’ in any other way than as sources of profit. The British discouraged competition from Indian textiles by putting an 80% duty on them, and prevented the development of a home grown textile industry by taxing imports of machinery which made the cost of building a factory in India four times that of building it in England. Indian artisans and craftsmen were harassed and forced to work in the East India Company’s factories. Up till 1835 the internal trade of India was crippled by means of internal tolls and the activities of gangs of dacoits, which had reached epidemic proportions. High revenue assessments had depressed the condition of both peasants and zamindars; peasants had deserted their lands, land revenue receipts were falling, and there were local revolts and grain riots in the 1830s.

Social Causes

Inspired by the Enlightenment, Radical Humanism, Utilitarianism or Evangelicalism, the British began to ‘reform’ India. They suppressed the cult of the thugs to general approval. They abolished child marriage and stamped out sati, widow burning. Some Indians such as Raja Ram Mohan Roy, joined the British in opposing sati and pleading for social reform and women’s education. Education was an obvious item on the reforming agenda, as the old village schools were dying away. At first in India as in Britain, education for the masses was confined to the 3Rs. Schools and colleges imparting Western knowledge in English were established, and English replaced Persian as the official state language. English became ‘our step-mother tongue’, but downgrading Persian and Sanskrit alienated Brahmans and Muslim ‘maulvis’.

Dalhousie’s Reforms

Dalhousie has been described as ‘a despotic, modernising and imperious workaholic’. That the benefits of Western civilization should, in accordance with Christian duty and Utilitarian logic, be extended to as many Indians as possible seemed self-evident to him. Under his vigorous direction, reform and modernisation were resumed in the 1850s, despite the cost of wars. Useful public works were undertaken, like the Grand Trunk Road between Calcutta and Delhi, railways (from 1853, for which Dalhousie drew on his personal experience of ‘Railway Mania’), telegraph lines (from 1854) and irrigation schemes such as the Ganges Canal. Caste taboos were not allowed to impede the march of progress, and there was much fuss over railway carriages not offering caste seclusion. Engineering colleges were provided. He improved the postal system, improved the system of inspection of gaols, abolished the practice of branding convicts; and freed converts to other religions from the loss of their civil rights. He opposed female infanticide in the Punjab and human sacrifice in Orissa. He made efforts for the emancipation of women and introduced a bill to remove legal obstacles to the remarriage of Hindu widows. Education remained on the agenda. Dalhousie created the department of public instruction and planned universities at Calcutta, Bombay, and Madras. Western education challenged Hindu and Muslim religious authorities. The ‘Evangelicals’ regarded Hinduism as ‘the most enormous and tormenting superstition that ever degraded and harassed any portion of mankind’. But just as Hinduism had become rigid, and caste had developed, after the Muslim invasions, the spread of Christianity made Hinduism and Islam became more rigid; real and imagined slights on the religions of India began to create anti-British feeling.


The other side of the coin of British pride was racism. Although many civil servants combined historical and geographical studies with their official duties, others became arrogant and contemptuous of public opinion. Some flattered themselves that ‘the natives … (are generally convinced of) our superiority in good faith, wisdom and strength (over that of) their own rulers…’ Lord Macaulay mocked ‘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 up of seas of treacle …’. This assault on India’s literary heritage affected the rulers as much as the ruled. Secure in the conviction that their own intellectual achievements, artistic tastes and moral precepts were infinitely superior and would, if assiduously practised, soon be emulated, they increasingly withdrew into a way of life that owed as little as possible to India. The custom, after about 1840, of bringing British wives out to live in India intensified this apartheid. As communications improved, wives and daughters opted to join their menfolk not just in the cities but also in the garrison towns of the back country. With memsahibs about, the servants had perforce to be removed to an outhouse; the club closed its doors to Indians; and the vicar often came to tea. The British ghettoised themselves in a way that was obvious to the Indian people, and ‘projected’ things they disliked about themselves on to the locals.

Annexation of the Punjab

Dalhousie regarded an extension of British rule as of great benefit to India. He annexed the Punjab ‘with almost indecent haste’ on 29th March 1849, acquiring the Koh-i-noor diamond for Queen Victoria. The Company had concluded alliances with Indian rulers which gave them an effective influence over general policy. Dalhousie felt that ‘those petty intervening principalities’ should not interrupt the advance of the train and telegraph. His ‘doctrine of lapse’ focused on the custom whereby a ruler without a natural heir had to ask the British government whether he could adopt a son to succeed him. Dalhousie decided to refuse, whereupon he would be able to annex the state as having no heir! Soon Dalhousie was ‘destroying dynasties with a scratch of his quill’. Several states were annexed. The dispossession was handled tactlessly: the Maharaja of Nagpur’s effects were sold at a public auction. The dispossessed adoptive heirs protested to London but were ignored. Nana Sahib the heir of Peshwa Baji Rao II, who had thus been made stateless, pension-less and title-less, played a leading part in the revolt.

Annexation of Oudh

His last annexation, of Oudh (Awadh) in 1856 took the British Raj further into dangerous waters. The rulers of Oudh had been allies of the British for a century, but the present Nawab was incompetent and depraved: Lucknow ‘combined the monumental magnificence of Delhi with the scented allure of Scheherazade’s Baghdad’. The Nawab’s court swarmed with ‘eunuchs, courtesans, concubines and catamites’. Dalhousie concluded that it was ‘just, practicable and right’ to clean up this ‘disgrace to our empire’. But the transfer of power over the Nawab’s protests offended the Muslim elite, and the landed aristocracy of Oudh lost many of its privileges.

Military Issues

British rule in India depended on the well-established Indian army. The disaster of the Retreat from Kabul in 1842, had undermined the idea of British invincibility. Dalhousie was careful of the well-being of the European soldier but for the sepoy pay was low. A large proportion of sepoys were Brahmins, whose caste status the British endangered by sending them out of India. The mutiny broke out in the army partly because it was only in the military sphere that Indians were organized, but also because of the very close connections between the 50,000 or so Oudh sepoys and the local Oudh community: as was observed to Dalhousie, ‘your army is derived from the peasantry … and if their rights are infringed upon you will no longer (be able to) depend on the fidelity of the army’. Before the annexation these sepoys, many of them Brahmins, had occupied a privileged position as ‘nationals’ of a non-British state. After the annexation, however, they were levelled down with the rest of the population, and lost prestige. Almost every peasant family contained a soldier, so the soldiers felt every other grievance in the community as well as their own specifically military ones. Utilitarianism was supposed to have reduced government expenditure and therefore taxation. The sepoys had suffered losses because of this, but the taxes were still high. By adopting, on utilitarian grounds, the Munro system of direct taxation in preference to the system of zamindars, the British upset Indian classes who lost the opportunity to become landlords. The sepoys knew all about lordly racism, loss of caste, brutal forced tax collections, lost pensions and repossessions.

Greased Cartridges

The last straw was the introduction of the new 1853 Lee Enfield .303 rifle. To load it the sepoys had to bite off the ends of lubricated cartridges, making mouth contact with pigs’ and cows’ lard, which was insulting to both Muslims and Hindus. Even though British officers changed the grease to vegetable oils the damage was done. ‘It is well known that the English (intend) to destroy the religion of the whole Hindustani army and then to make the people by compulsion Christians’, said an 1857 rebel proclamation. After officers had formally instructed sepoys on parade to bite the cartridges a revolt broke out at Meerut on May 10, 1857.



The Rising began at Meerut, May 10th 1857. Both Hindus and Mohammedans rebelled against the insulting behaviour of their superiors. The British were caught by surprise. Their intelligence was faulty and their staff-work inept, and they were extraordinarily slow in reacting to the crisis. No-one followed the escaping sepoys, who reached Delhi the following morning. Though British officers blew up the powder magazine, (themselves included) the palace and its population were lost. Most of the Europeans were slaughtered, and the insurgents offered their services to Bahadur Shah the last Mughal emperor.

Mutineer Regime in Delhi

The Great Mughal provided a focus which set the pattern for the whole mutiny and turned it into a revolt. Bakht Khan, appointed Commander-in-Chief, established a court of administration, abolished taxes on articles of common consumption, and penalized hoarding. He liquidated the hated ‘Zamindari’ system and called for land to the tiller. Thousands more mutineers poured into Delhi over the weeks, and the old king processed through the city streets on his elephant. But he did not trust the sepoys, and they soon lost their respect for him: the city remained in disorder, and the government’s ‘policies’ remained on paper.

Components of the Mutiny

Meanwhile the revolt spread from Dacca in the East to Peshawar in the West. British rule ceased to exist in the northern plains of India, and in Central India it hung by a thread. There were risings at Lucknow, Cawnpore, Jhansi, Jabalpur, Bareilly, Arrah, Jagdishpur, Jhansi, Nowgong, Indore, Bhopal, Mhow, Saugor, Banda, Malwa, Cuttack, Sambhalpur, Patna, Ranchi, Sipri, Abu, Erinpura, Pali, Kalpi, Nasirabad, Aurangabad, Kolhapur. Among the leaders were Nana Sahib, Tantia Tope, Bakht Khan, Azimullah Khan, Devi Singh, Rani Laksmi Bai, Begum Hazrat Mahal, Kunwar Singh, Bahadur Khan, Feroz Shah and Rao Tula Ram. The millenarian Muslim Ahmedullah Shah called for jihad, which was taken up by Muslim artisans. In Thana Bhawan, the Sunnis declared Haji Imdadullah their Ameer.


In June 1857 Nana Sahib assumed command at Cawnpore. The British were not prepared for a long siege and agreed to leave under a safe conduct. As they left they were attacked, and all but four were killed. Many women were literally butchered. The British fought back. From the west a hastily-raised force of 4,000 men advanced on Delhi in early June. From the east Outram, Havelock and later Campbell advanced up the Grand Trunk Road. Arriving in Cawnpore only days after the massacre, the British forces saw the results. The prospect created a mood of furious hatred which expressed itself in the severe British reprisals which followed. Learning of the plight of the British in Lucknow to the north; the troops marched off to the long siege and eventual relief of Lucknow.

Delhi re-taken

On 7th June 1857 the western forces occupied a ridge overlooking Delhi. Faced by over 30,000 mutineers they came under increasing pressure themselves and began to suffer losses through cholera. However reinforcements gradually arrived from the Punjab, including a siege train of 32 guns and 2,000 men. By 14th September the British had about 9,000 men of whom a third were British while the rest were Sikhs, Punjabis and Gurkhas. After a week’s vicious street fighting, Delhi was recaptured at a cost of 3,835 British and Indian soldiers and 378 horses. The city was brutally sacked, and Bahadur Shah was arrested and exiled to Burma. His two sons were shot by out of hand by a British officer.


Sir Henry Lawrence at Lucknow fortified the Residency against the insurgents’ attacks, which began on 4th July 1857. They were led by the Maulvi Ahmedullah and Begum Hazrat Mahal, the wife of the imprisoned Nawab. They were joined there by Tantia Topi and the Nana Sahib. The millenarian Maulvi had called for jihad, whilst the begum was defending the ‘lapsed’ sovereignty of one of her sons. After 90 terrible days of siege Havelock’s forces entered Lucknow in October, only to be besieged themselves under if anything worse conditions. Eventually on 16th November Campbell stormed the Secundra Bagh, slaughtered most of its 2,000 defenders, and evacuated the Residency. An attempt by Tantia to cut Campbell’s communications with Calcutta was prevented when he was defeated at Kalpi on 6th December. Campbell returned to Lucknow in March with the largest force of British soldiers ever assembled in India, reinforced by Gurkhas. After a fierce fight ‘The Babylon of India’ fell in March 1858 and was ruthlessly sacked.

Feroz Shah

In the south, in the ‘rugged badlands of central India’, Feroz Shah had arrived back from his Hajj in August 1857 to find the rebellion in progress. He inspired the largely Hindu forces at Mandresa with a proclamation stressing the economic grievances of, among others, ‘carpenters and blacksmiths’. Feroz’ troops were defeated at Dhar and Mandisur, and in January he left Rahatgar for Rohilkhand only a day before it was captured by Hugh Rose on 28 January 1858. Rose was just beginning the offensive which would take him on an inexorably victorious progress via Jhansi and Kalpi to Gwalior.

Lakshmi Bai

Rani Lakshmi Bai of Jhansi had been one of the casualties of the ‘Doctrine of Lapse’. The Rani’s military reputation had been first acquired fighting her neighbours from Datia, Orchha, Tehri and Banpur! She now finally came out against the British after a period of equivocation, allying herself with Tatya/Tantia Topi, at Kalpi. The exciting adventures and brave death in action of the Rani obscure the unfortunate truth, which the casualty figures reveal: it was a pushover. Between Mhow and Kalpi Rose lost only 112 of his men killed. There were no senior Indian officers to direct the Sepoys’ operations: the rebels were not from the officer class and had very rudimentary notions about handling of troops; they had no supplies of weapons and munitions beyond what they had been able to seize at the start, and by this stage they had no artillery. Against a properly organised military force, brave or not they had no chance of success. The rebels’ last stand at Gwalior lasted only three weeks and cost only 22 of Rose’s men. Concerted action by the insurgents ceased. Peace was declared on July 8th 1858.

Fate of Individual Mutineers

Tantia Topi was betrayed by Man Singh, caught and hanged, whilst the Nana Sahib managed to disappear; Feroz Shah reverted to his hadji costume and escaped to Karbala as a pilgrim. Ahmedullah Shah was shot by a rival, Bakht Khan killed in battle, and Kunwar Singh died of old age on campaign. Rao Sahib was captured in 1862 and hanged on 20 August 1862 at Cawnpore. Bahadur Shah II was deposed, tried and exiled, and died in Rangoon in 1862. There remained reprisals. The British undertook a cruel rampage of rape, murder and savagery, which shocked Victorian society. “Sepoy or Oudh villager, it mattered not … his skin was black, and did not that suffice?” In Awadh alone 150,000 people were killed – of which 100,000 were civilians. Hundreds of sepoys were shot from cannons.

Divide and Rule

The British had been able to exploit a number of cleavages in Indian society. The Princes, said Canning “acted as the breakwaters to the storm which otherwise would have swept us in one great wave”. Apart from the Mughal emperor and Nana Sahib, the adopted son of the deposed Marajha peshwa, none of the important Indian princes joined the mutineers. The Nizam crushed such resistance as there was in Hyderabad. This stance was predictable: Canning said “If Scindia joins the rebels, I will pack off tomorrow”, and indeed Scindia immobilised the large sepoy force at Gwalior with honeyed words. In Central India there were scores of leaders, including Hindus and Muslims, but the only common purpose was to get rid of the British Raj: there were no concerted plans for what should replace it. In Delhi, Lucknow and Cawnpore there were courts of restoration-minded rebels, two Muslim, one Hindu Maratha. It was no surprise that the last of the Mahrattas found himself unable to join forces with the last of the Mughals in a unified national struggle. Sikhs and Pathans from the Punjab and North-West Frontier Province rushed to the British colours to re-capture Delhi. Bahadur Shah had looked down his nose at the sepoys, and social conservatism also extended to the Hindu and Muslim masses. Even where there was goodwill amongst Hindus and Muslims it did not extend to the “unclean” or “impure” castes, and the feeling was mutual. The most downtrodden castes supplied recruits for the British counter-offensive. The influential money-lending classes refused to finance the revolt. Most of the taluqdars tried only to protect their own interests. Some of them, like Man Singh, changed sides depending on who was winning. Some districts remained loyal enough to continue to pay taxes to the British authorities!


By contrast Governor General Canning had ‘a clear eye for the gravity of the situation, a calm judgment, and a prompt, swift hand to do what was really necessary’. British reinforcements arrived from China and the Persian Gulf, and he was able to ‘carry the Indian empire safely through the stress of the storm’.



Just 46 days after the death of Lakshmi Bai, the East India Company was blamed for the Mutiny and abolished: India became the Raj. Her Majesty’s Secretary of State for India presided over the India Office, while control of India remained with the Viceroy and the ICS. The British renounced the “doctrine of lapse”, preserving the 560 Princely states as “natural breakwaters” against revolt. In 1877 the Raj wined and dined the Princes at the Delhi Durbar while they did homage to their new ‘Empress’. Wholly dependent on the British, they were backward on modernisation but strong on ceremonial. As a gesture towards Indian feelings the Viceroy’s council was given a small proportion of carefully selected Indians, though he had a veto over any proposal it might make. Other reforms regularized the administration of justice, civil procedure, penal policy and criminal procedure.

The Indian Civil Service

Beneath the governor-general were the provincial governors, and the approximately 1,500 Indian Civil Service (ICS) officials. Its British-born members aspired to be ‘minutely just and inflexibly upright’. Departments involved with control and taxation were efficiently run, others perhaps less so. An archaeological Survey was commissioned, but after events like the Cawnpore massacre, British sympathy for and understanding of things Indian were generally replaced by suspicion, indifference, and fear. British life centred on exclusive clubs and well-guarded military cantonments. Via the Suez Canal British couples went home on leave rather than tour India, as their predecessors had done. A pledge of equal opportunity for Indians in the ICS was so successfully subverted that in thirteen years of trying only one Indian was appointed.

The Indian Army

Indian troops were issued with an inferior rifle and given no artillery training. Castes such as the Brahmans and Rajputs of Oudh who had fought most ferociously in the mutiny were deemed “Non-martial” and excluded. For each British soldier there would be two Indians, where before there had been nine. Every regiment was to include a mixture of castes, races and languages, and every base was to have British regiments with the Indian ones. Railroads and telegraphs were at the army’s service.

Paying the Cost: Trains and Drains

The Mutiny had cost £36 million, equivalent to a whole year’s revenues from the land tax, the salt tax and profits on the Chinese opium trade. Paper currency, income taxes and a 10 per cent tariff were introduced; and thanks to increased commercial agricultural production, expanding trade and industrial development, the debt was paid off in four years. £150 million was invested in a 22-year post-mutiny boom as capitalists decided that the Raj was permanent. Fiscal, legal, educational and social reforms, and public works such as roads, telegraphs, and irrigation were enacted: it was a policy of ‘trains and drains’. The Grand Trunk Road was extended to Peshawar. There were 20,000 miles of telegraph line by 1880, and a link to Europe. All major cities were linked by railway by 1875. Tea plantations were started in Assam and the Nilgiri Hills and by 1871 trade was worth £6.25 million. Indigo was grown. Coffee plantations multiplied tenfold until disease blighted the in­dustry. After 1880 an Indian capitalist class developed, financing cotton mills in Bombay and Ahmedabad. By 1882 there were 20 large Jute mills lining the Hughli River employing more than 20,000 workers. A department for the management of forestry was set up in 1861 and for reform of agriculture and sanitation in 1864.

Economic Downside of the Raj

But there was a darker side. The British thought little of economic development for India: there was no separate Department of Commerce and Industry until 1905! The extortionate conduct of the indigo planters led to the Neel revolt of 1862. Railways encouraged commercial agricultural production, which made Indians vulnerable to famine if trade slackened. Sub-contracting of plots often left the actual farmer with hardly any surplus at all. A great famine in the Deccan killed some 5,000,000 people, and was embarrassingly in progress at the time of the ‘Durbar’ (though the railways brought grain for famine relief). Conditions in the new mills, too, were par for the early stages of capitalism. British machine-made goods brought in by rail undercut local craftsmen. British rule involved India in the booms and slumps of capitalism, such as in the cotton industry over the American Civil War, and in the Bihari coal industry vis-à-vis the Suez Canal. One of the most embarrassing moments of the Raj came in 1879 when Viceroy Lytton vetoed import duties on British textiles to India’s disadvantage and against the unanimous advice of his council.

The Indian Diaspora

Famines forced people on to plantations, in conditions approaching slavery, and to emigrate as ‘indentured labourers’ to parts of the world as far apart as Burma and Trinidad, where they met high mortality rates and terms of indenture equivalent to slavery.In other Diaspora, Indian soldiers saw service under the British flag in China, South East Asia, Persia and Africa. Barristers, administrators and doctors burst from India’s universities in ever greater numbers and travelled abroad. ‘Communities of Indian clerks, policemen, dock-workers and other service personnel’ were ‘as sure a sign of British presence as the Union Jack’. To ‘Little Indias’ from Singapore to Guiana came news of the Meiji Restoration, Irish nationalism, and ideas of autonomy and dominion status. British rule was evidently neither immutable nor invincible. On their homecoming such ‘returnees’ looked for change.

Indian Nationalism

Victoria had promised equal treatment under British law; all British officials ‘would work for the welfare of their Indian subjects’. In reality British ‘reform’, apart from English language education, was halted because of the hostility it had aroused before the Mutiny. The initiative passed into the hands of a new middle class Indian elite with a heightened sense of Indian nationalism; they were English-educated, city-based, well-read and well-travelled; numbers were in government service. The rise of English-language and vernacular journalism and the ease of travel created by the railway network facilitated the establishment of regional and all-India associations. Research has shown more continuity than was previously thought between these ‘New Indians’ and traditional urban groupings, such as the Magh Mela bathing ‘confraternity’ in Allahabad. But though Westerners and other Indians debated many issues, they reached a variety of conclusions.

Brahmo Samaj

Some wanted to graft the best the western ideas peacefully on to the best traditions of Ancient India. Raja Rammohan Roy founded the Brahmo Samaj in 1828, which stressed the humanity and non-violence of Hinduism. Dadabhai Naoroji, the Bombay parsee and successful London businessman who founded the East India Association in London in 1866, was the first to use the word ‘Swaraj’ for India’s goal. Vidyasagar of Bengal encouraged education and the remarriage of widows.

Arya Samaj

The Arya Samaj, founded by Dayananda Saraswati in Bombay in 1875, was less pro-Western. It was an aggressively Hindu ‘Aryan’ movement, and attracted more supporters than Brahmo Samaj with its battle cry ‘Back to the Vedas’. It opposed ‘innovations’ such as the caste system, but also targeted Western economic power in the first manifestation of ‘swadeshi’. Some Hindu nationalists disagreed with ‘westernisers’ calling for an end to child marriage. Enthusiasts for Hindi clashed with protagonists of Urdu. The very fact that Arya Samaj promoted Hindu nationalism made it very difficult for it to promote Indian nationalism, particularly after B. C. Chatterjee had pictured the Muslims, rather than the British, as the enemy in his 1882 book ‘Anandamath’. The pacifism of Brahmo Samaj and the service ethic of Paramhansa clashed with those in Maharashtra and Bengal who plotted anti-British terrorism.

Muslims and the Raj

Muslims were less in touch with the new ideas arriving via English education, and disadvantaged in competing for government appointments and clerkships. Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan, fearing the effect of these disadvantages, founded the Muslim Anglo-Oriental College at Aligarh c. 1877. Muslim nationalists suspected the Hindu version: Sayyid Amir Ali mirrored Chatterjee in defining Hindus, rather than the British, as ‘the enemy’! There were even more aggressive Muslims, one of whom assassinated Lord Mayo in 1872.

The White Mutiny, 1883

In 1880 Gladstone’s conciliatory Governor, Lord Ripon, repealed Lytton’s censorship of the press, and introduced municipal and rural boards whose members, partly elected and partly Indian, were responsible for such things as schools and sewers. In 1883, Ripon proposed to empower Indian judges in remote areas to adjudicate offences committed by Europeans. The hysterical and undisguisedly racist uproar of the ‘White Mutiny’ caused the proposal to be withdrawn. Ripon was given a dignified send-off by the Bengalis: ‘cheering their hero to the very echo…’ but the incident showed Indians what many British thought about them, and taught new ways of organising agitation.

The Indian National Congress

A.O. Hume, and Indians of almost every perspective took strong exception to the ‘wasteful extravaganza’ of the Durbar and to expensive frontier wars in Afghanistan and Burma. Hume persuaded Governor General Dufferin to set up the Indian National Congress in 1885. The delegates, mostly lawyers and other professionals, came from all parts of India, and included Dadabhai Naoroji, who wowed the Congress with his speech on ‘Trains and Drains’. But even Naoroji was essentially advocating a programme for rich Indians, and the INC soon found itself outbid by fiercer rivals.

What Marx thought of the British Raj: 2.7 million Indians fought for Britain in World War II

The profound hypocrisy and inherent barbarism of bourgeois civilization lay unveiled turning from its home, where it assumed respectable forms, to the colonies, where it went naked. Did they not, in India, to borrow an expression of that great robber, Lord Clive himself, resort to atrocious extortion, when simple corruption could not keep pace with their rapacity? While they prated in Europe about the inviolable sanctity of the national debt, did they not confiscate in India the dividends of the rajahs, who had invested their private savings in the Company’s own funds? While they combated the French revolution under the pretext of defending “our holy religion,” did they not forbid, at the same time, Christianity to be propagated in India, and did they not, in order to make money out of the pilgrims streaming to the temples of Orissa and Bengal, take up the trade in the murder and prostitution perpetrated in the temple of the Juggernaut? These were the men of “Property, Order, Family, and Religion.” (Karl Marx)

Trains and Drains’: Bombay Railway Station


 [bibliography of sources available upon request]

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