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The predatory State

Author: Rajeev Srinivasan

Publication: Rediff on Net
Date: August 16, 2002
URL: http://www.rediff.com/news/2002/aug/16rajeev.htm

Why is the life of the common man in India so often nasty, brutish and short? It
is because the State is failing, or more accurately because the State is predatory.
In general, I support a strong State, a necessity for nation-building. However,
the Indian State is not dependable, which is why I am nervous about the
Prevention of Terrorism Act, POTA: I fear that it will in fact be used not for the
common man, but against him.

The Indian State is not able to, or willing to, or even interested in, protecting
the interests of its citizens. The State is a dangerous entity whose primary
interest is self-preservation and self-aggrandisement. This is because the State
-- such as it is today -- is a vestige of imperial structures, intended to exploit the

The rapacious State is not a universal phenomenon. There is a good reason why
in the US there was little retaliation after 9/11 against Muslims by individuals:
there is strong enforcement of the law, plus the populace is confident that the
government will wreak vengeance. But the Indian State is not capable of
wreaking vengeance on wrong-doers. It has shown its inability to contain
violence perpetrated by anybody.

This has been shown time and again. The Rajiv Gandhi government failed to
protect the Sikh citizens of Delhi when Congress goons went on a rampage
against them. A number of governments in Srinagar and Delhi have failed to
protect the Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist citizens of Jammu and Kashmir who have
been murdered, raped and ethnically cleansed. The Modi government in
Gujarat failed to protect Muslim citizens all over Gujarat, and Hindu citizens in

The Indian government failed to protect Hindu Reang tribals in Tripura from
being ethnically cleansed by Christian fundamentalists. The Indian government
failed to prevent its soldiers being tortured to death by Pakistan and
Bangladesh. Most egregiously, the combined power of several states has failed
to capture notorious poacher Veerappan.
Why? It is because the State does nothing against criminals and barbarians.
This is because the State itself may be criminal and barbarian.

This is the reason many people, and Hindus in particular, have lost faith in the
State. They see Hindus being the victims of State indifference everywhere.
Alien terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir need fear no reprisal when they eject
hundreds of thousands of Hindu Pandits to a miserable fate in refugee camps in
Delhi. Who cries for these refugees? See the documentary And the World
Remained Silent by Ashok Pandit.

What did the State do when 35 Sikhs were massacred by terrorists in Jammu
and Kashmir? What about when Hindu pilgrims going to Amarnath were killed
by terrorists? What about when two Hindu priests were beheaded in Jammu and
Kashmir? What about when a Hindu priest was shot dead in his temple in the
Northeast? How about when 28 Hindus were massacred in a suburb of Jammu?

The Indian State did nothing. The State wrung its hands and shrugged its
shoulders. Contrast this with the situation in the US. There were letter bombs;
they found the Unabomber. The Oklahoma building was bombed; they
executed Timothy McVeigh. The recent pipe bomber in Nevada has been
caught. There is a feeling that the US State can and will punish wrongdoers.
There is no escaping from the long arm of the law: even if you hide overseas,
the US will extradite you and try you, ask the guests of the nation in
Guantanamo Bay. Some may quibble that the US sometimes punishes
innocents, which it does; but an implacable image is created --and that is a
deterrent against crime.

But this is not true of the Indian State. The State, as it appears to most people,
is a monstrous thing that is to be feared if you are a normal person; only
politicians and criminals can get anything done by the State for them. You have
no faith in the State.

Then why is everyone surprised when vigilantes take matters into their own

The Indian State is such that it is because it is a continuation of the predatory

imperial State. Nobody knows how the ancient Hindu/Buddhist State was
before the coming of the Muslims so I won't talk about that. But it is clear that
India has been governed by predatory States ever since. We have had a
succession of the following:
* A predatory Muslim State whose objective was conversion and looting
* A predatory Christian State whose objective was grand theft and conversion
* A predatory Marxist/Nehruvian Stalinist State whose objective is grand
larceny and self- preservation

India has had the unique and dubious distinction of having been governed by
all three of the Semitic faiths. It is a wonder that India has survived.

Note that nowhere in the job descriptions of these Semitic tyrannies is there any
mention of the rights of the people. Of course, much sloganeering happens in
the name of the 'rights of the people', but that is all for show.

The Muslim State was clear in its objective of capturing the wealth that had
accumulated in India. As I have said before, Indians collectively chose butter
over guns a thousand years ago; and we then did not have the guns to protect
our butter. This is the answer to those who wrote to me regarding my column
Sport as metaphor asking why the money spent on a modern navy would not be
better spent on alleviating poverty. The answer, folks, is that they wouldn't be
poor in the first place if we had decent defense.

Several readers have questioned my characterisation of the colonial period as a

'Christian state.' I do so in analogy with the widespread use of 'Hindu/Buddhist'
period, 'Muslim' period, etc. Why not then speak of the 'Christian' state? If
assorted Turk, Afghan, Arab, Central Asian invaders are lumped in under
'Muslim,' why not assorted British, French, Portuguese, Dutch barbarians under
'Christian'? Besides, British imperialists were highly influenced by Christian
evangelistic ideas. See the following quote from Subhash Chakravarthy, The
Raj Syndrome: A Study in Imperial Perceptions Penguin India 1991, pp. 62:

'Examining the Christian forces at work in the administration of India and the
mutual relations of the British Government and the Christian missions between
1600 and 1920, Arthur Mayhew, a director of public instruction in India
declared: 'Often unconsciously, and sometimes with protestations to the
contrary, those responsible during a century and a half for India's welfare had
been concerned not only, as Kipling suggested, with the Law of the Prophet,
but also the spirit of the Gospels' [all references here are to Arthur Mayhew,
Christianity and the Government of India, An Examination of the Christian
forces at work in the administration of India and of the Mutual Relations
between the British Government and Christian Missions 1600-1920, London,
'[The author] suggested that the Simla secretariat was engaged under episcopal
supervision in translating the Sermon on the Mount into official jargon. "Our
policy has been moulded by men who have come gradually to see that the
distinction between Christian missionary and administrators in India was one of
scope and method rather than of aim or motive power." '

'Increasing readiness on the part of the Government to honour Christian

obligations, educational progress and gradual enlightenment of public opinion,
the author opined, transformed prophets and pioneers into men distinguished by
unobtrusive and impersonal activity more anxious to gain colleagues than

'Advancement on Christian lines had moved apace especially during the period
covered by William Bentinck and Dalhousie with John Malcolm operating in
the west, Thomas Munro in the south, Alexander Duff in Bengal, John Wilson
in Bombay and Jonathan Duncan in Benares.. Subsequently,. Mayhew asserted.
[that] Christian missions and institutions were included within the
governmental infrastructure.'

There, in black and white, in the official prose of empire, is the evidence of the
unholy nexus between Church and State. The officials of the British Empire in
India colluded with the missionaries. It was a self-consciously Christian State.

The Christian State is infamous for how it looted five to ten trillion (yes, that is
trillion, 1,000,000,000,000) dollars from India to the UK. I am certain, and the
British historian William Digby ('Prosperous' British India) and the Indian
historian Rajni Palme Dutt (India Today) would agree, that the Industrial
Revolution would not have taken place had it not been for the 'venture capital'
provided by loot from Bengal. Note the amazing coincidence: the Battle of
Plassey, 1757. The spinning jenny, 1764; the water frame, 1769; the steam
engine, 1785. Money chased innovations -- and the innovations appeared.

Just to give you an idea of how predatory the Christian State was, look at the
great droughts and famines of the late nineteenth century. Consider what
happened during famines. According to Mike Davis (Late Victorian
Holocausts: El Nino Famines and the Making of the Third World, Verso, 2000)
there were 31 serious famines during the 200 years of the Christian State, as
opposed to 17 during the previous 2000 years! And in the famines of the 1870s
and 1880s, as many as 30 million Indians died. Yes, 30 million, one California,
10 per cent of the population.
And this continued into the Bengal famine of the 1940s which killed 4 million
people (see the Satyajit Ray film Distant Thunder): purely artificial. There was
plenty of grain, it's just that it was more profitable to ship it out so that
speculators in the futures markets could make a wartime killing.

See my earlier column on Europe's hypocrisy to get an idea of British famine

relief: the ration was one pound of rice per day for an able bodied male. An
absolute starvation diet. At the same time, during the height of the famine, they
exported record amounts of wheat and other grains from India to Britain!
Millions were starving to death in India, and thousands of tons of grains were
exported to Britain!

Furthermore, it is clear that before the Christian State was established in India,
the British were on average poorer than Indians. Bengal, in particular, was
wealthy. By destroying India's industries (in 1750, India accounted for 25 per
cent of world manufacturing, compare that to the US with its 23 per cent share
today), the colonialists ruined potters, weavers, smiths and other skilled artisans
and made them landless laborers. Instant impoverishment: from a respected
craftsman to an indigent so that white people in the 'Satanic mills' and factories
of ye olde England could have a better standard of living!

This is not mere rhetoric on my part. Here is fact: at the time of the French
Revolution, Asia dominated world manufacturing, and 'the largest
manufacturing districts in the world were still the Yangtzi delta and Bengal,
with Lingan [Canton in China] and coastal Madras not far behind,' says Mark
Davis. Prasannan Parthasarathi suggests that 'there is compelling evidence that
South Indian labourers had higher earnings than their British counterparts in the
eighteenth century and lived lives of greater security.' Even outcaste
agricultural labourers in Madras earned more in real terms than English farm
laborers, he further suggests. (Rethinking Wages and Competitiveness in
Eighteenth Century Britain and South India, Past and Present, February 1998).

Shares of World Manufacturing Output, 1750-1900

1750 1800 1830 1860 1880 1900

Europe 23.1 28.0 34.1 53.6 62.0 63.0
UK 1.9 4.3 9.5 19.9 22.9 18.5
Tropics 76.8 71.2 63.3 39.2 23.3 13.4
China 32.8 33.3 29.8 19.7 12.5 6.2
India 24.5 19.7 17.6 8.6 2.8 1.7

Source: adapted from B R Tomlinson, Economics: The Periphery in Andrew

Porter (ed), The Oxford History of the British Empire: the Nineteenth Century,
Oxford 1990.

A very clear trend: Battle of Plassey and the rape of Bengal begin in 1757, and
within a hundred years, India had been thoroughly deindustrialised. The
Chinese held out a little longer, but they too succumbed eventually to British
strategy: opium to enervate and enslave.

By destroying age-old irrigation systems, the imperialists also made the country
vulnerable to the disruptive El Nino oscillations that make monsoons fail. For
millennia, India had dealt with wayward monsoons through systems of canals
and of local stocks of grains. With the railways, imperialists were able to
siphon off these local stocks to be sold in grain markets abroad. Result:
widespread famine.

Thank you so much, Britain, for 'giving' India a railway system (it was fully
paid for through Indian taxes, and it was wonderfully convenient for British
troop movements). Much like Tibetans should be 'thankful' to Han China for
building a railway line to Lhasa. Says Davis: 'The newly constructed railroads,
lauded as institutional safeguards against famine, were instead used by
merchants to ship grain inventories from outlying drought-stricken districts to
central depots for hoarding (as well as protection from rioters). Likewise the
telegraph ensured that price hikes were coordinated in a thousand towns at
once, regardless of local supply trends.' Ah, the wonders of technology!

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