Wednesday, October 24, 2012

British Policy was subtle and far sighted

British Policy was subtle and far sighted

Agha H Amin

Britain is like the Romans . They are subtle , some would call it treacherous , but I would call it farsighted thinkers. Britain was in small in size but large in its reach.The British solution to destroying their enemies was to adopt Divide et Impera as a policy . Its opponents call it treachery , but there is no doubt that the British were politically ahead of all other great powers in history . Afghans to this day fear the British policy because they know that only the Britons can manipulate them with the least force.

If you ask a Briton he would say , we are straightforward .Lord Wavell in his books described Germans as treacherous and devious and the British as straightforward ! Ask the Irish or the Indians and they would give you a totally different answer !

Post 1857 British Policy laid the Foundation of Division of India in1947

The policy of EEIC before 1857 did not view Indians as Muslims or Hindus or Sikhs. There was no quota or caste system in the Bengal Army and all Indians regardless of their caste or religion or ethnicity were recruited as soldiers. As a matters of fact before 1857 the EEIC did not even bother to exactly find out as to how many Hindus or Muslims were serving in each Regiment of the Bengal Army. Though it was common knowledge that some three fourth of the Bengal infantry consisted of Hindus while Muslims were about one fourth. Similarly it was an established fact that bulk of the cavalry was Muslim. But this aspect was simply irrelevant. After 1857 "Religion" certainly became important. But the British made it so, not the Indians.

Men like Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan who were acting as voluntary consultants for their British masters on how to avoid another mutiny thus advised the British against mixing Hindus with Muslim troops in an army unit in the following words; "Government certainly did put the two antagonistic races into the same regiment, but constant intercourse had done its work and the two races in a regiment had almost become one. It is but natural and to be expected, that a feeling of friendship and brotherhood must spring up between the men of a regiment, constantly brought together as they are. They consider themselves as one body and thus it was that the difference which exists between Hindoos and Mahomeddans had, in these regiments, been almost entirely smoothed away" 480. We find this eminent Sayyid suggesting some measures to communalize the British Indian Army in order to avoid another mutiny!

It is true that before 1857 the British generally preferred men from the northern plains of Oudh, modern UP province etc till 1849. But there was no specific policy nor any laid down regional guidelines about recruitment. The recruiting officer could recruit anyone regardless of any laid down class or caste considerations. After 1849 when the Punjab (including present NWFP) were annexed the British extended the recruiting area to north of Sutlej also. But there was no "Martial Race Theory". After all the old Bengal Army had conquered the whole of northern India for the British. It was amply proved in the First Afghan war that with good leadership an army comprising two or three odd European regiments and nine or ten regiments comprised of 75%, Oudh Hindu Rajput, Brahmans led by British officers could capture Kabul. The myth of the invincibility of the Muslims had finished with the success of the brilliant as well as indomitable Sivaji's and his successors rise inside India. The myth of Afghan invincibility had been shattered by Ranjit Singh once he ejected the Afghans from Peshawar, Bannu and Charsadda first in 1818 and finally in 1823481. The myth of Afghan invincibility was again shattered once Nott and Pollock occupied and burnt Kabul in 1842. there was no "Martial Race Theory" in vogue but after 1857 this theory was created.

After 1857 once the government of India was directly assumed by the British Crown the British decided to take special precautions to control India. Thus it was after 1857 that the policy of "Divide and Rule" was seriously enforced. Recruitment in army was now strictly controlled by a clear cut policy laying down the number and ratio of various races and religions in each arm service and regiment. The Gurkhas who were a non entity in Indian army before 1857 were now specifically enrolled since racially speaking they had proved to be the most reliable race on which the British could rely in times of crisis. Statistically speaking, the rebellion was a combined Hindu-Muslim effort. Most of the regiments which rebelled in 1857 were Hindu majority regiments. It is true that leadership wise the Muslims were more active in all outbreaks, specially in the decisive Meerut outbreak led by 3rd Light Cavalry comprising Muslim Ranghars and Hindustani Pathan Muslims from Rohailkhand and upper Doab. Actually, the northwest Muslims had proved to be the most loyal subjects of EEIC and at least half of the loyal native troops which captured and looted Delhi consisted of Punjabi Muslims and Pathans. Thus, 1857 was a mixed affair, there were Muslims on both sides "Rebel" as well as "British", there were Hindus on both sides, the Madras Army which stayed loyal had a large percentage of Muslim. Yet the British very cleverly turned it into a communal affair. They boosted the ego of the Punjabi Muslims by cleverly classifying them as a "Martial Race" and degrading the "Hindustani Muslims" as unreliable soldier material481a. The transfer of Delhi and Hariana to Punjab province 482 was as another brilliantly conceived measure to increase the Punjabi - Hindustani hatred. People of Delhi and Rohtak had to travel all the way to Lahore, the Provincial capital and the Punjabi's were patted that Delhi had been made a mere division of Punjab as a reward for " Punjab Loyalty".

Thus the "Peel Commission" constituted after 1857 to study and analyse the future composition of the Indian Army recommended that the native army should be composed of different nationalities and castes, and as a general rule mixed promiscuously through each regiment483! Such system had existed in the Madras and Bombay armies but these were much smaller as compared to the Bengal Army. However, India was now viewed as loyal and disloyal. Most favoured were the races west of Jamuna since these had stood loyal to the British during the crucial siege of Delhi. A deliberate policy was laid out to pamper the Punjabis by establishment of an elaborate irrigation system, tax exemption and other rewards. After Partition in Pakistan exclusion of Bengalis and Sindhis was justified on the grounds that they were non martial. In reality the Bengalis were previously not selected simply because the Hindustani Hindu Rajput or Jat or Muslim was much taller and imposing than the Bengali and from 1905 onwards the Bengalis were viewed as politically unreliable 484!

The British did not immediately do as Sir Sayyid had advised them, i.e. having one religion regiments. However, they divided men within a regiment, religion wise at platoon level. From now on all men from a platoon were to be from the same religion. Before 1857, even platoons were mixed and there was no such communal divisions. The seeds of separate electorates were thus laid once Indian Bengal Army was reorganised following the rebellion of 1857!

The quota system was enforced not only in the army but also in the civil service. Thus Indians were manipulated into looking at each other as "Hindus", Sikhs" and "Muslims". There are many myths about this policy in present day Indo Pak sub continent. It is generally, but most incorrectly thought in Pakistan that the British were anti Muslim. It were the Muslims of Punjab and Frontier who were the most loyal British subjects of the EEIC in 1857. The British policy was more subtle. It was pro Muslim in Punjab and Frontier. It was pro Muslim even in UP as far as the civil government jobs was concerned. For example, in 1911 out of the seventeen Indians at various levels in the elite Indian Civil Service (ICS) there were ten Hindus and six Muslims. But this is not all, the fact is that all ten Hindus were there in the ICS because they had gone to England and passed the ICS examination and duly entered the ICS on their own steam. Out of the six Muslims in the ICS only one had actually passed the ICS entrance examination. The other four were men nominated by the British to the ICS in order to ensure Muslim presence and of course also keeping in mind the dictates of the "Divide and Rule" policy. The fifth Muslim ICS among these who came through the backdoor was a judge who became one after being slowly promoted through the lower courts 485.

Similarly the Muslim proportion in the provincial Civil Service in UP was over double their proportion of the population486. Again in the UP police 49.8% of the officer cadre was Muslim while 42.0 percent of the total police force was Muslim487! Thus UP Muslims were as a policy discouraged on an all India level from joining the army but within UP were encouraged to compete with Hindus in the provincial police and provincial civil service. In terms of percentage in the army the Muslims were regarded as the most loyal and reliable race, but only the Punjabi Muslims in greater numbers and settled districts, Pathan Muslim to a lesser degree. Followed by the Muslims the Sikhs were considered the most reliable race in India. (It must be noted that the Gurkhas who were the most reliable were a non Indian Mongoloid Himalyan race). In Punjab the Muslim landlords and even common cultivators were greatly protected by British civil servants who even influenced legislation to ensure that Muslim estates should not pass into the hands of Hindu money lenders.

A note must be made here by recording the fact that apart from the policy of "Divide and Rule" which like most British policy was an unwritten policy, there were many absolutely genuine Britishers like Edwardes and S. Thorburn who genuinely admired the Muslims particularly the Punjabi and the Pathan Muslims, since they had served most part of their service in Punjab and Frontier. These Britishers genuinely sympathised with the plight of Muslims in Punjab. Thorburn as a matter of fact genuinely hated the Hindus and was bitter about the Hindu money lenders negative role in Muslim majority Punjab. Thorburn, actually authored a book titled "Mussulmans and Money lenders" published in 1886488. This book was instrumental in influencing the opinion of many British civil servants into becoming more pro Muslim at least as far as Punjab and Frontier were concerned.

Notable among the British laws was the Punjab Alienation of Land Act of 1900. This Act greatly helped the Muslim land holders of Punjab since it forbade the passing land from agricultural to non agricultural castes. Few people in today's Pakistan that much more than Muslim League, it was Septimus Smet Thorburn (1844-1924) who was the actual saviour of Punjabi Muslims and even Pathans at least in the economic sense!

Coming back to our main line of discussion, a deliberate policy of "Divide and Rule" was followed after 1857. Recruitment in the army was fixed under "Muslim" "Hindu" and "Sikh" lines and further even among the Muslims and Hindus a clear cut policy was instituted which slowly and steadily replaced the east of Jumuna races by north of Ambala races. Muslims were seen as "Hindustani" "Punjabi" "Trans Indus Pathan" "Independent Transborder Pathan" etc. Even Muslim Rajputs were specifically divided into "Kaim Khani Rajputs" and "Ranghars". The Muslim Pathans were divided into "Afridis" "Mahsuds" etc. Even Pathans were divided on sectarian lines, i.e. the "Kurram Milita" was a Shia sect force from Turi Pathan tribe which was used with devastating success against non Shia sect other Pathan tribes. These are subtle structure railways, road, canals, which we see even today. But they also divided us, something which most people do not realize. They were doing this to Indo Pak sub continent at a time when other countries like USA were integrating others races like Irish, Italian, Polish, Russian etc with the main steam of the Anglo Saxon American society.

It is a strange aspect of history that policy makers never really visualise the long term effects of their policies. The policy of "Divide and Rule" adopted as a tangible and deliberate policy after 1857 so devastatingly divided India that even today its deadly effects can be seen in both India and Pakistan. The divisions were not merely on religious lines but even within Muslims on sectarian, ethnic, caste and class lines. A Pandora's Box was opened by the British and even today both India and Pakistan are merely tragic victims of this fatal policy!

Lord Canning's views about the policy of "Divide and Rule" expressed in 1857 are thought provoking; Canning thus said in a letter dated 9 October 1857:' "the men who fought against us at Delhi were of both creeds; probably in equal numbers. If we destroy or desecrate Mussulman Mosques or Brahman Temples we do exactly what is wanting to band the two antagonist races against we must rule 150 million of people by a handful (more or less small) number of Englishmen, let us do it in the manner best calculated to leave them divided (as in religion and national feeling as they already are) and to inspire them with the greatest possible awe of our power 489.

Canning went further and very subtly defined certain guidelines regarding employment of various classes after 1857:-

"All exclusion of Mahomeddan, Rajpoots or even of Brahmans should be a matter of management rather than of rule; and indeed that it will be right to take an opportunity, though not just yet, to show by an exception here and there, that the rule does not exist. It is desirable that no class should feel that it had henceforward nothing to expect from the government 490"

The post 1857 British Civil Servants were convinced that the survival of British empire in India lied in carefully widening the communal divide, particularly the Hindu Muslim divide. The subsequent British agreement to the right of separate electorate was also a part of this policy. The Muslim leaders of that time favoured separate electorate for personal rather than communal reasons. Regardless of advantages or disadvantages, the Muslim feudal's aim was to get into the viceregal or provincial council!!

In 1879 the Eden Commission set up to review the reorganisation of Indian Army observed and duly reported that the principle of "Divide and Rule" was being enforced as a policy and its implementation was being constantly scrutinised.

Thus, slowly and steadily they divided the Indo Pak subcontinent on communal lines. Politicians of pre 1947 failed to realise that mere religion cannot make a nation. Punjabis, Bengalis, Pathans, Rajputs and South Indians are too culturally different as a race. Thus the reason for lack of progress of modern day India and Pakistan essentially lies in being organised on a fundamentally unrealistic concept. The 'two nation theory' drowned in the Bay of Bengal in 1971 and the Akhand Bharat theory will also be destroyed in the coming decades. At least we cannot say with satisfaction that the India of 1857 was sane enough not to believe in the two nation theory or the Akhand Bharat theory! The grand British aim after 1857 was to make Indians like the Europeans of Thirty years war and the Crusades as far as bigotry and obscurantism was concerned. They succeeded in 1947. And since then the leaders of India and Pakistan have proved to be even more irrational.

Posted By Blogger to Understanding Each Other, Diversity and Dissent at 10/24/2012 06:32:00 AM

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