Tuesday, March 14, 2017

An argument for British reparations for the 200 year colonial misrule

Shashi Tharoor, former UN Under Secretary General, former Indian Minister and present Member of Parliament is back in the news again when in his latest book he claims Britain should be prepared to give reparations to India. Under British colonialism, 3.5 crores or 35 million Indians were killed claims Tharoor in his latest book "Inglorious Empire". To cut the charge behind this tirade short, India which was controlling 23% global GDP in 1750 AD dropped to controlling less than 4% by 1947 (200 years). During this period Britain exploited,  wreaked havoc, ruined and destroyed the Indian economy. They ransacked Indian coffers for furthering their war efforts.  (click here for my earlier blog on British atrocities on Indians and loss of life ..)

Dutch Capt. Eustacius DeLennoy surrendering to
 HH Anizham Tirunal Marthanda Varma Maharajah
in 1741 AD at Colachel, South India.
To get a better picture of the historical canvas of India three hundred years back, we cannot escape making a mention of the rising Dutch influence and interference in South Asian politics. We should also not forget that the Dutch were defeated by the forces of Anizham Tirunal Marthanda Varma Maharaja of Travancore on 10 th of August 1741 AD at the Battle of Colachel in Southern India (in present Tamil Nadu). The Dutch were at that time ruling the seas of the world. It was for the first time in Indian history that a local army was defeating an invading super power of that time.

The Dutch captain Eustachius DeLennoy along with 13 others were captured as Prisoners of War. With that humbling defeat on the seas in the hands of Travancore army which never had a marine wing, Dutch ambitions of colonising India got wiped out for ever.

The spoils of the war, gold, diamonds and gems, which were deposited in the vaults of Sri Padmanabhaswamy temple in Trivandrum, (more recently known as Thiruvananthapuram) to help secure the release of Captain DeLennoy did not bear fruits as DeLennoy and other 13 Dutch POWs captured along with DeLennoy, in a shocker, refused to go back to their motherland and instead vowed to serve Anizham Tirunal Maharaja. Capt DeLennoy later became the Valiacapithan (The Great Captain) of H.H. Maharajah Anizham Tirunal Marthanda Varma, for nineteen more years after His Highness's death with the successor to the throne. DeLennoy died in 1777 and was buried in the Udayagiri Fort in Colachel.

The riches somehow escaped the attention of the Britishers who initially befriended the Travancore Maharaja. Travancore was one of the very few kingdoms where British did not directly rule, but through a representative, the Diwan.
De Lennoy's memorial grave inside the Udayagiri Fort
in Colachel

The temple riches stored in the vaults belonging to the royal family is said to be presently worth more than a trillion US dollars (click here for the Forbes report) and somehow escaped the prying eyes of the British rulers. Knowing the military might of Travancore, Britishers never cared to fiddle with Travancore kingdom. But they could establish themselves in other weaker regions of the country and by deceit and treachery managed to expand their influence and exploitation over two hundred years across the whole of the country.

When I proposed this idea of British reparations to India to some of my friends, I found that there was a general disinterest among the elite public in seeking reparations from Britain. I was wondering why the people were so disinclined to seeking compensation from their oppressors for over two hundred years, was it loss of confidence or benevolence displayed by the victor on the loser. There are two reasons for this.
  • The first reason was, as per Indian traditional customs, the guest is equivalent to God, (in Sanskrit : Athithi Devo Bhava). Treat guests as equivalent to God and  respect them. This respect and adoration for the guest was misconstrued by the British as Indian weakness and meekness. 
  • The second reason lies in the educational system which extolled the British rule in India. The fault lay in how the British history was taught in schools and colleges across the country. The colonising British, it was taught to us, were not an oppressive force but an altruistic, benevolent force, trying to unite India and thence rule India for the benefit of Indians.  
What a skewed view of history the British could manage to leave behind ?

How the British totally destroyed and wrecked Indian economy ..
Keeping aside the historical distortions, if Britain has any sense of self-respect, any prick of conscience, any sense of guilt or remorse of wrongdoing, it should be ready to pay reparations to the tune of $14 trillion to the people of India. We are more than hundred percent confident Britain would never heed to these requests even if coming from official quarters, because it is tantamount to admitting its complicity and guilt in the destruction of other parts of the world. It can also open a can of worms wherein other colonies would also start suing Britain for the loot and plunder Britain carried out in their colonies over the past two hundred years.

This is just a formal step, which should dissuade in future, mighty countries violating the territorial integrity of other countries of the world. All countries should keep in mind the fact, that unless their philosophy of life is pure and beneficial to mankind, the civilization cannot exist. The two great demonstrations of this truth are the civilizations of India and China, the oldest in the world of more than 6000 years. These civilizations have survived the march of time because they had certain life giving positive elements besides certain element of truthfulness, benevolence, thoroughness and legitimacy in it.

I shall give how this figure of $14 trillion has been reached. Just representative ..
GDP at PPP of Leading countries of the world  (IMF, 2017)
EU is not a united country and is just for comparison

Presently British GDP at PPP is approximately $2.4 trillion, against India's GDP at PPP of $8.6 trillion. If (23-4) =19% of Global GDP loss is the damage what Britain did to India in 200 years from 1750 to 1947, it is very reasonable of India to ask for reparations of an equivalent amount of present global GDP.

(23 - 4) =19% of present global GDP of $74 trillion is $14 trillion. (As per IMF, the projected Global GDP at PPP for 2017 is $125.8 trillion, given that it was growing at 3.6%, the global GDP at PPP for 2016 was $121.4 trillion, 19% of which would be $23 trillion and annual figures would be $115 billion)

To be considerate to Britain, let us stick to the conservative 2016 GDP at nominal value of $74 trillion and 19% of this would be $14 trillion. 0.5% (0.005 or one two hundredth of 14) of this is  $0.070 trillion or $70 billion. It is very reasonable for India to be asking for these reparations for each of the next two hundred years from 2017 to 2316 AD as compensation for the damaging the fabric of Indian society, material well being and 35 million loss of life in India.

It will also be a small penalty for their misadventure in India. The world would also look down on British colonial rule and stop eulogising the British. To give a picture of this amount of $70 billion, the present annual budget of US space administration body NASA is $19 billion and the annual budget of much acclaimed and low-cost space programme of India's Space Research Organisation is just $1 billion.

This picture gives a more authentic version of global GDP controlled by
India from 1 AD. 
Exactly the reverse happened in North America over the last 240 years. The British adventure in North America could only be mildly opposed by the original owners of that land, the native Americans, resulting in the formation of the United States of America by the English settlers in 1774. This was followed by the homicide and manslaughter of the original owners of North America, unhindered exploitation of natural resources and unhindered migration from different parts of the world to US to broaden the spread and lighten the guilt of conscience of extermination of it's native population. It was a clever ploy by US to gain public acceptance and to divert and thwart global criticism of its evil, nefarious designs in North America .. Now the early settlers, conquerors, early and late migrants have all now joined hands to dispossess the original owners, the American Indians of their land and resources. What a shame for the modern world !!

India being an emerging global leader, (click here for the WEF predictions for 2030 ) it's demand for reparations should be a lesson to avoid all such future misadventures in the world. US illegally entered Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria to protect itself from the global scourge of terrorism, which itself had planted in the world to gain an upper edge in global politics around mid 70s.. Now China is trying to bully it's South China sea neighbours to gain a foothold of global political power and economic might.

Let this argument for reparations from India be a warning and a reminder to US and China that only truth, honesty, mutual respect for other nation's sovereignty and general respect for humanity can take a civilization forward. 

In nature there are neither rewards or punishments, there are consequences                                                                                                                   - Robert   Green Ingersoll 
Click here to listen to news report on Shashi Tharoor's new book 'Inglorious Empire'.


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