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Beginning of a Dark Era:Establishment of British Colonization in India-ARUNDAYA GAUTAM-3rd-English Article

British took advantages of the collapse of Mughal empire and rise of conflicting principalities, subjugated a vast land with their artilleries and amoralities. They displaced nawabs and maharajas for a price, emptied their treasuries as it pleased them, took over their states through various methods (including, from the 1840s, the cynical ‘doctrine of lapse’ whenever a ruler died without an heir), and stripped farmers of their ownership of the lands they had tilled for generations. With the absorption of each native state, the Company official John Sullivan (better known as the founder of the ‘hill station’ of Ootacamund, or ‘Ooty’, today known more correctly as Udhagamandalam) observed in the 1840s: ‘The little court disappears—trade languishes—the capital decays—the people are impoverished—the Englishman flourishes, and acts like a sponge, drawing up riches from the banks of the Ganges, and squeezing them down upon the banks of the Thames.’ The India that the British East India Company conquered was fertile land, the glittering jewel of the medieval world. Its accomplishments and prosperity— ‘the wealth created by vast and varied industries’—were succinctly described by a Yorkshire-born American Unitarian minister, J. T. Sunderland:

Nearly every kind of manufacture or product known to the civilized world—nearly every kind of creation of man’s brain and hand, existing anywhere, and prized either for its utility or beauty—had long been produced in India. India was a far greater industrial and manufacturing nation than any in Europe or any other in Asia. Her textile goods—the fine products of her looms, in cotton, wool, linen and silk—were famous over the civilized world; so were her exquisite jewellery and her precious stones cut in every lovely form; so were her pottery, porcelains, ceramics of every kind, quality, color and beautiful shape; so were her fine works in metal—iron, steel, silver and gold. She had great architecture—equal in beauty to any in the world. She had great engineering works. She had great merchants, great businessmen, great bankers and financiers. Not only was she the greatest shipbuilding nation, but she had great commerce and trade by land and sea which extended to all known civilized countries. Such was the India which the British found when they came.

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At the beginning of the eighteenth century, as the British economic historian Angus Maddison has described, India’s share of the world economy was 23%, as large as all of Europe put together. (It had been 27% in 1700, when the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb’s treasury raked in £100 million in tax revenues alone.) By the time the British departed India, it had dropped to just over 3 %. The reason was simple: India was governed for the benefit of Britain. Britain’s rise for 200 years was financed by its depredations in India. It all began with the East India Company, incorporated by royal charter from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth I in 1600 to trade in silk and spices, and other profitable Indian commodities. The Company, in furtherance of its trade, established outposts or ‘factories’ along the Indian coast, notably in Calcutta, Madras and Bombay; increasingly this involved needing to defend its premises, personnel and trade by military means, including recruiting soldiers in an increasingly strife-torn land (its charter granted it the right to ‘wage war’ in pursuit of its aims). A commercial business quickly became a business of conquest, trading posts were reinforced by forts, merchants supplanted by armies. The first British ‘factor’, William Hawkins, found himself treated with scant respect, his king mocked and his assets scorned. When the first British ambassador, Sir Thomas Roe, presented his credentials in 1615 at the court of the Mughal Emperor Jehangir, the Englishman was a supplicant at the feet of the world’s mightiest and most opulent monarch. The Mughal empire stretched from Kabul to the eastern extremities of Bengal, and from Kashmir in the north to Karnataka in the south. But less than a century and a half later, this Mughal empire was in a state of collapse after the spectacular sacking of Delhi by the Persian Nadir Shah in 1739 and the loot of all its treasures. The Mughal capital was pillaged and burned over eight long weeks; gold, silver, jewels and finery, worth over 500 million rupees, were seized, along with the entire contents of the imperial treasury and the emperor’s fabled Peacock Throne; elephants and horses were commandeered; and 50,000 corpses littered the streets. It is said that when Nadir Shah and his forces returned home, they had stolen so much from India that all taxes were eliminated in Persia for the next three years.

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In the hundred years after Plassey, the East India Company, with an army of 260,000 men at the start of the nineteenth century and the backing of the British government and Parliament (many of whose members were shareholders in the enterprise), extended its control over most of India. The Company conquered and absorbed a number of hitherto independent or autonomous states, imposed executive authority through a series of highborn Governors General appointed from London, regulated the country’s trade, collected taxes and imposed its fiat on all aspects of Indian life. In 1803, Company forces marched into Delhi to find the old and terrified Mughal monarch cowering under a royal canopy. In the eight years after he took over as the Company’s Governor General in 1847, Lord Dalhousie annexed a quarter of a million square miles of territory from Indian rulers. Till an open revolt occurred against them in 1857, leading to the takeover of British domains by the Crown in the following year, the East India Company presided over the destinies of more than 200 million people, determining their economic, social and political life, reshaping society and education, introducing railways and financing the inauguration of the Industrial Revolution in Britain. It was a startling and unrivalled example of what, in a later era, Marxists in the 1970s grimly foretold for the world: rule of, by and for a multinational corporation.

Thus, our mother India became under bar of British dynasty due to aggressive cynical colonization of the East India Company.

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