Sunday, June 21, 2009

old films

The British Film Institute has released a number of films to the internet. These deal with India:

The quality is poor but you can get a sense of what it was like a 100 years ago!


Commissioner Higgins Visits Ahmedabad Girls' School (1904)

Life in Hunza (1937) (now Pakistan)

A 1963 film by the charity Raphael (a Christian Charity) in Dehradun

An Indian Washing the Baby (1906)
(baby massage)

A Road in India (1938)

A Punjab Village (1925)

Delhi (1938) - extract

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Empire memories

by Eugene

Jind Kaur

May 25, 2009
The Independent (UK)
Revealed: the woman who terrified the British Empire
By Jerome Taylor
A new biography explains how Jind Kaur, last queen of the Punjab, died in Victorian London

On 1 August 1863, shortly after 6:15 in the evening, a frail and partially-blind queen who had spent much of her life raging against the British Empire, died in her bed on the top floor of a Kensington townhouse.

It was a peculiar and remarkably quiet end for a woman once the scourge of the British Raj in India. Only 15 years earlier, Jind Kaur, the Maharani of the Punjab, had encouraged the Sikh Empire to wage two disastrous wars against the British which led to the annexation of the Punjab and Jind being torn from her son when he was just nine-years-old.

Adopted by a dour colonial surgeon, that son, Duleep Singh, swiftly shed his Punjabi customs, converted to Christianity and moved to England to live the life of a respectable country squire, shooting grouse on his estate and hosting decadent parties for Britain's Victorian elite.

The "Black Prince", as he was known in London, became firm friends with Queen Victoria, only to fall from grace after he was caught trying to persuade Russia to invade India and return his kingdom to him. His tale has been well documented.

But for the first time his mother's remarkable life has been uncovered by a British historian, Peter Bance, who publishes his findings this week in the book Maharajah Duleep Singh – Sovereign, Squire And Rebel.

While researching a tome on the Duleep Singh family, which lived in exile on a sprawling country estate near Thetford, Norfolk, Mr Bance stumbled upon the gravestone of Jind Kaur in the catacombs of the Kensal Green Dissenters' Chapel. Historians had assumed that the Maharani's cremation occurred in India but here was a simple white marble tombstone in London with her name on it.

As cremation was illegal in Britain at the time it appears that the Maharani's remains were kept in the chapel for nearly a year while Duleep arranged for her to be taken home. The astonishing relic of a person who made no secret of her dislike for the country where she eventually died lay hidden for more than a century.

Mr Bance has dug into who Jind Kaur really was, why she ended up dying in the capital of a country that was once her sworn enemy and how, as her life slipped away in a cold London townhouse, she reawakened her son's royal heritage and inspired him to take back his lost kingdom.

"It's an amazing find because Jind Kaur was only buried in Britain for little over year and yet someone went to the trouble of creating this very ornate gravestone for her," says Mr Bance. "The inscription is partly in English and partly in the Sikh Gurmukhi script and what makes it unusual is that very few people in Britain at the time would have been able to translate Gurmukhi, let alone carve it into marble. She is the first documented Sikh woman in Britain."

To say that Jind Kaur was a thorn in the side of the East India Company would be an understatement. She was born into humble origins, the daughter of the Royal Kennel Keeper at the Sikh court in Lahore, but she was ravishingly beautiful and soon caught the attention of the Punjab's greatest ruler, the one-eyed Ranjit Singh.

Having kept the British at bay for decades, Ranjit's empire began to crumble with his death in 1839. Following a series of bloody succession battles, Jind emerged as regent for Duleep who was less than a year old when his father died.

Concerned about the instability (and attracted to the kingdom's fabulous wealth) Britain began preparing to take the Punjab, goading the Sikh armies into two wars that eventually led to the disappearance of an indigenous Asian empire that stretched from the Khyber Pass to Kashmir.

Jind was instrumental in organising the Sikh resistance, rallying her generals to return to battle and plotting rebellion once the British finally took over the Punjab in 1849.

To halt her influence on the young Duleep, the Punjab's new colonial masters dragged the Queen away from her son and imprisoned her. The British press began a smear campaign against the Maharani, labelling her the "Messalina of the Punjab", portraying her as a licentious seductress who was too rebellious to control.

In a final act of defiance Jind Kaur escaped her jailers dressed as a slave girl and trekked 800 miles to Nepal where she was given begrudging asylum and a place in Sikh folklore as a national hero.

She was only allowed to see her son 13 years later when he returned to Kolkata for a tiger-hunting trip. Duleep asked to bring his mother from Kolkata to England. The British Government decided the last Queen of the Punjab no longer posed a threat and gave him permission.

But a number of historians now believe it was Jind Kaur's brief reunion with her son in the country she despised that rekindled Duleep's desire to take back his kingdom.

"In a way she had the last laugh," says Harbinder Singh, director of the Anglo-Sikh Heritage Trail. "When you look at the life of Duleep Singh the moment where he began to turn his back on Britain and rebel was immediately after meeting his mother. The British assumed that this frail looking woman, who was nearly blind and had lost her looks, was no longer a force to be reckoned with. But she reminded her son of who he was and where his kingdom really lay."

In the end, Duleep's attempts to persuade the Tsar of Russia to invade India backfired spectacularly because British spies had followed his every move. Publicly humiliated, Duleep lived his final years in a Paris hotel room desperately seeking the forgiveness of Victoria.

"The whole family's story is desperately tragic," says Mr Bance. "None of Duleep's children gave birth to an heir and his lineage died out within a generation. But what gives me some comfort is the idea that, just before she died, this frail but formidable woman made him remember who he was."

Ousted emperors: Deposed by the British

*Mukarram Jah The final Nizam of Hyderabad lives in Turkey. After his kingdom was subsumed by India in 1948, Jah went to the Australian outback. In 1949 he was said to be the world's richest man but much of his wealth was lost in bad business deals.

*Bahadur Shah Zafar The Last Mughal Emperor was exiled to Burma after he supported the sepoys during the Indian Rebellion of 1857. Three lineages of descendents survive today.

*Tippu Sultan Called the Tiger of Mysore, his armies fought the British in south India until his death in 1799. His family was exiled to Kolkata.

Exterminate the Race (of Indians) - Charles Dickens

The East offering its riches to Britannia, by Spiridione Roma

Loot: in search of the East India Company
Nick Robins, 22 - 01 - 2003

Concerns about corporate power and responsibility are as old as the corporation itself. In this account of the East India Company, the world’s first transnational corporation, Nick Robins argues that an unholy alliance between British government, military and commerce held India in slavery, reversed the flow of trade and cultural influence forever between the East and West and then sunk almost without trace under the weight of colonial guilt.

Ours is a corporate age. Yet, amid the fertile arguments on how to tame and transform today's corporations, there is a curious absence, a sense that the current era of business dominance is somehow unique. For there was a time when corporations really ruled the world, and among the commercial dinosaurs that once straddled the globe, Britain's East India Company looms large. At its height, the Company ruled over a fifth of the world's people, generated a revenue greater than the whole of Britain and commanded a private army a quarter of a million strong.
Warren Hastings'The most formidable commercial republic known to the world' Warren Hastings, 1780 (1732–1818).

Although it started out as a speculative vehicle to import precious spices from the East Indies – modern-day Indonesia – the Company grew to fame and fortune by trading with and then conquering India. And for many Indians, it was the Company's plunder that first de-industrialised their country and then provided the finance that fuelled Britain's own industrial revolution. In essence, the Honourable East India Company found India rich and left it poor.

But visit London today, where the Company was headquartered for over 250 years, and nothing is there to mark its rise and fall, its power and its crimes. Like a snake, the City seems embarrassed of an earlier skin. All that remains is a pub – the East India Arms on Fenchurch Street. Cramped, but popular with office workers, the pub stands at the centre of the Company's former commercial universe.

The absence of any memorial to the East India Company is peculiar. For this was not just any corporation. Not only was it the first major shareholder owned company, but it was also a pivot that changed the course of economic history. During its lifetime, the Company first reversed the ancient flow of wealth from West to East, and then put in place new systems of exchange and exploitation. From Roman times, Europe had always been Asia's commercial supplicant, shipping out gold and silver in return for spices, textiles and luxury goods. And for the first 150 years after its establishment by Queen Elizabeth I in 1600, the Company had to repeat this practice; there was simply nothing that England could export that the East wanted to buy.

The situation changed dramatically in the middle of the 18th century, as the Company's officials took advantage of the decline of the Mughal Empire and began to acquire the hinterland beyond its vulnerable coastal trading posts. Territorial control enabled the Company both to manipulate the terms of trade in its favour and gouge taxes from the lands it ruled. Within a few years of Clive's freak victory over the Nawab of Bengal at Plassey in 1757, the Company had managed to halt the export of bullion eastwards, creating what has poetically been called the 'unrequited trade' – using the East's own resources to pay for exports back to Europe. The impacts of this huge siphoning of wealth were immense, creating a 'misery' of 'an essentially different and infinitely more intensive kind than all Hindustan had to suffer before', in the words of a columnist writing for the New York Tribune in 1853, one Karl Marx.

'An unbounded ocean of business'

Daniel Defoe (1660–1731)

Established as a means to capture control of the pepper trade from the Dutch, the East India Company prospered as an importer of luxury goods, first textiles and then tea. From the middle of the 17th century on, the growing influx of cottons radically improved hygiene and comfort, while tea transformed the customs and daily calendar of the people. And it was in the huge five-acre warehouse complex at Cutlers Gardens that these goods were stored prior to auction at East India House. Here, over 4,000 workers sorted and guarded the Company's stocks of wondrous Indian textiles: calicoes, muslins and dungarees, ginghams, chintzes and seersuckers, taffetas, alliballlies and hum hums. Today, the Company's past at Cutlers Gardens is marked with ceramic tiles that bear a ring of words: 'silks, skins, tea, ivory, carpets, spices, feathers, cottons', but still no mention of the company itself.

This lifestyle revolution was not without opposition. For hundreds of years, India had been renowned as the workshop of the world, combining great skill with phenomenally low labour costs in textile production. As the Company's imports grew, so local manufacturers in England panicked. In 1699, things came to a head and London's silk weavers rioted, storming East India House in protest at cheap imports from India. The following year, Parliament prohibited the import of all dyed and printed cloth from the East, an act to be followed 20 years later by a complete ban on the use or wearing of all printed calicoes in England – the first of many efforts to protect the European cloth industry from Asian competition. And it was behind these protectionist barriers that England's mechanised textile industry was to grow and eventually crush India's handloom industry.

'What is England now? A sink of Indian wealth, filled by nabobs'

Horace Walpole, 1773 (1717–1797)

Standing on Leadenhall Street facing the site of East India House, it is difficult to appreciate the raw energy, envy and horror that the Company generated in 18th-century England. Today, Richard Rogers' sleek Lloyds insurance building stands on the site, but on auction days in the 18th century, the noise of 'howling and yelling' from the Sale Room could be heard through the stone walls on the street outside.

For 30 years after Robert Clive's victory at Plassey, East India House lay at the heart of both the economy and governance of Britain, a monstrous combination of trader, banker, conqueror and power broker. It was from here that the 24 Directors guided the Company's commercial and increasingly political affairs, always with an eye to the share price; when Clive captured the French outpost of Chandernagore in Bengal in 1757, stocks rose by 12%. The share price moved higher still in the 1760s as investors fed hungrily on news of the apparently endless source of wealth that Bengal would provide. The Company was rapidly extending its reach from trade to the governance of whole provinces, using the taxes raised to pay for the imports of cloth and tea back to England.

In the wake of Enron and other scandals of the 1990s, the malpractice of many of the Company's key executives is sadly familiar: embedded corruption, insider trading and appalling corporate governance. In the process, a new class of 'nabobs' was created (a corruption of the Hindi word nawab). Clive obtained almost a quarter of a million pounds in the wake of Plassey, and told a House of Commons enquiry into suspected corruption that he was 'astounded' at his own moderation at not taking more. Thomas Pitt, Governor of Madras earlier in the century, used his fortune to sustain the political careers of his grandson and great-grandson, both of whom became Prime Minister. By the 1780s, about a tenth of the seats in Parliament were held by 'nabobs'. They inspired deep bitterness among aristocrats angry at the way they bought their way into high society. A few lone voices – such as the Quaker William Tuke – also pointed to the humanitarian disaster that the Company had wrought in India.

All these forces converged to create a new movement to regulate the Company's affairs. But so powerful was the Company's grip on British politics that attempts to control its affairs could bring down governments. In the early 1780s, a Whig alliance of Charles James Fox and Edmund Burke sought to place the Company's Indian possessions under Parliamentary rule. But their efforts were crushed by an unholy pact of Crown and Company. George III first dismissed the government and then forced a general election, which the Company funded to the hilt, securing a compliant Parliament.

Yet the case for reform was overwhelming, and the new Prime Minister, William Pitt the Younger – that beneficiary of his great-grandfather's time in Madras – pushed through the landmark India Act of 1784. This transferred executive management of the Company's Indian affairs to a Board of Control, answerable to Parliament. In the final 70 years of its life, the Company would become less and less an independent commercial venture and more a sub-contracted administrator for the British state, a Georgian example of a 'public–private partnership'.

'Every rupee of profit made by an Englishman is lost forever to India'

Edmund Burke, 1783 (1729–1797)

For centuries, the City of London has ruled itself from the fine mediaeval Guildhall. It was here in 1794 that the Mayor of London made the Governor-General of Bengal, Lord Cornwallis, an Honorary Freeman of the City, awarding him a gold medal in a gilded box. Cornwallis had certainly earned this prize from Britain's merchant class. He had defeated Tipu Sultan of Mysore, extracting an eight-figure indemnity, and had just pushed through the 'permanent settlement' in Bengal, securing healthy tax revenues for the Company's shareholders. Seeking to increase the efficiency of tax collection in the Company's lands, Cornwallis cut through the complex patterns of mutual obligation that existed in the countryside and introduced an essentially English system of land tenure. At the stroke of a pen, the zamindars, a class of tax-farmers under the Mughals, were transformed into landlords. Bengal's 20 million smallholders were deprived of all hereditary rights. Two hundred years on, and after decades of land reform, the effects still live on in Bengal.

This 'permanent settlement' was simply a more systematic form of what had gone before. Just five years after the Company secured control over Bengal in 1765, revenues from the land tax had already tripled, beggaring the people. These conditions helped to turn one of Bengal's periodic droughts in 1769 into a full-blown famine. Today, the scale of the disaster inflicted on the people of Bengal is difficult to comprehend. An estimated 10 million people – or one-third of the population – died, transforming India's granary into a 'jungle inhabited only by wild beasts'. But rather than organise relief efforts to meet the needs of the starving, the Company actually increased tax collection during the famine [similar policies were applied again more than a hundred years later by the government of British India - see Present Hunger, Past Ghosts] . Many of its officials and traders privately exploited the situation; grain was seized by force from peasants and sold at inflated prices in the cities.

Even in good times the Company's exactions proved ruinous. The Company became feared for its brutal enforcement of its monopoly interests, particularly in the textile trade. Savage reprisals would be exacted against any weavers found selling cloth to other traders, and the Company was infamous for cutting off their thumbs to prevent them ever working again. In rural areas, almost two-thirds of a peasant's income would be devoured by land tax under the Company – compared with some 40% under the Mughals. In addition, punitive rates of tax were levied on essentials such as salt, cutting consumption in Bengal by half. The health impacts were cruel, increasing vulnerability to heat exhaustion and lowered resistance to cholera and other diseases, particularly amongst the poorest sections.

The Company's monopoly control over the production of opium had equally devastating consequences. Grown under Company eyes in Bengal, the opium was auctioned and then privately smuggled into China in increasing volumes. By 1828, opium sales in China were enough to pay for the entire purchase of tea, but at the cost of mass addiction, ruining millions of lives. When the Chinese tried to enforce its import ban, the British sent in the gunboats.

'The misery hardly finds parallel in the history of commerce'

William Bentinck, 1834

By this time, the Company's dual role as trader and governor was viewed as increasingly anachronistic – not least by the rising free trade lobby that despised its dominance. Eager to sell its cloth, in 1813, Britain's textile manufacturers forced the ending of the Company's monopoly of trade with India. The Company's commercial days were coming to a close. The final blow came in 1834 with the removal of all trading rights; its docks and warehouses (including those at Cutler Street) were sold off.

Technology, free trade and utilitarian ethics now came together in a powerful package to uplift the degraded people of India. But while the Company promoted a mission to make Indians 'useful and happy subjects', the twin pillars of Company rule remained the same: military and commercial conquest. By the 1850s, the budget for 'social uplift' was meager – while £15,000 was indeed made available for Indian schools, £5 million went to the military war chest.

The telegraph, steam ship and railway were introduced to accelerate access of British goods to Indian markets. The rapid influx of mill-made cloth shattered the village economy based on an integration of agriculture and domestic spinning, and the great textile capitals of Bengal. Between 1814 and 1835, British cotton cloth exported to India rose 51 times, while imports from India fell to a quarter. During the same period, the population of Dacca shrunk from 150,000 to 20,000. Even the Governor-General, William Bentinck, was forced to report that 'the misery hardly finds parallel in the history of commerce. The bones of the cotton-weavers are bleaching the plains of India.'
'Exterminate the Race'

Charles Dickens, 1857 (1812–1870)

Walk to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office from St James' Park and you will go up 'Clive's steps', named after the statue of Robert Clive that stands without apology outside the old India Office buildings. It was here that the government transferred the administration of India in the wake of the disastrous 'mutiny' of 1857. Many explanations have been given for this uprising against Company rule in northern India, but the Company's increasing racial and administrative arrogance lay at the root.

Anglo-Indians were excluded from senior positions in the Company; non-European wives of the Company were forbidden to follow their husbands back to Britain. Verbal abuse mounted, with 'nigger' becoming a common expression for Indians. This slide into separatism also affected the Company's relations with its Indian soldiers, the sepoys. One by one, ties between the army and local communities were cut: Hindu and Muslim holy men were barred from blessing the sepoy regimental colours, and troops were stopped from participating in festival parades. As missionary presence grew, fears mounted that the Company was planning forcible conversion to Christianity.

All these sleights and apprehensions came to a head when sepoys in northern India rejected a new type of rifle cartridge, said to be greased with cow and/or pig fat. What turned a mutiny into a rebellion, however, was the Company's crass behaviour towards local rulers in Oudh, Cawnpore and Jhansi, who all turned against the Company as the soldiers rose. Symbolically, the first act of the mutineers at Meerut was to march the 36 miles to Delhi to claim the puppet Emperor Bahadur Shah as their leader.

The war, known simply as the 'Indian Mutiny', lasted for almost two years, and was characterised by extreme savagery on both sides. When the Company retook Cawnpore, where rebel troops had slaughtered European women and children, captured sepoys were made to lick the blood from the floors before being hanged. The reconquest of Delhi by the Company's troops was followed by systematic sacking, and the surviving inhabitants were turned out of its gates to starve. Bahadur's two sons and grandson were killed in cold blood, and the old Mughal was stripped of his powers and sent into exile in Rangoon.

Yet the Company that had grown in a symbiotic relationship with the Mughal Empire could not long survive its passing. The uprising itself and the massacres of Europeans had generated a ferocious bloodlust in British society. Even the mild-mannered Charles Dickens declared that 'I wish I were commander-in-chief in India [for] I would do my utmost to exterminate the Race upon whom the stain of the late cruelties rested.' On 1 November 1858, a proclamation was read from every military cantonment in India: the East India Company was abolished and direct rule by Queen and Parliament was introduced. Firework displays followed the proclamation

The Company's legacy was quickly erased. East India House was demolished in 1861. India was no longer ruled from a City boardroom, but from the imperial elegance of Whitehall.

'Zakhm gardab gaya, lahu na thama'

('Though the wound is hidden, the blood does not cease to flow')

Asadullah Khan Ghalib (1797–1869)

Many would argue that the Company was no worse and in some respects somewhat better than other conquerors and rulers of India. What sets the Company apart, however, was the remorseless logic of its eternal search for profit, whether through trade, through taxation or through war. The Company was not just any other ruler. As a commercial venture, it could not and did not show pity during the Bengal famine of 1769–1770. Shareholder interests came first when it dispossessed Bengal's peasantry with its 'permanent settlement' of 1794. And the principles of laissez-faire ensured that its Governor-General would note the devastation of India's weavers in the face of British imports, and then do absolutely nothing.

Many institutions have justifiably disappeared into the anonymity of history. But in a country like Britain that is so drenched in the culture of heritage, the public invisibility of the East India Company is suspicious. Perhaps a single Hindi word can now help to explain this selective memory, this very British reticence: loot.

Nick Robins and the interdisciplinary group PLATFORM have created a critical walk through the London sites and monuments of the East India Company. For more information telephone PLATFORM 00 44 (0)20 7403 3738, or e-mail

original article on open democracy

Devils Wind

The Company Bahadar

Nazar Khan
Jul 23, 2004 (Chowk)
British in India

Called ’Company Bahadar’ by the Indians and known as ’John Company’ in Britain, the British East India Company was a unique commercial enterprise that developed to a nation status having a standing army, negotiating and making agreements with other states. In its 250 years, it expanded to rule most of India, founded Hong Kong and Singapore, began tea cultivation in India, held Napolean a prisoner on Saint Helena and had something to do with the Boston tea party. Its officers invented the games of badminton, polo, squash and snooker.

After the civil war or the sepoy mutiny (1857), the Company was ablished by the British crown. Then began the rule of the ’Saab Bahadars’ of the Crown for the next 100 years before the British left of their own free will out of their own domestic compulsions. This all began in London (1600) in a small office with 7200 pounds and 125 employees; and when Queen Elizabeth gave a Royal Charter to the Company to do business in spices in East Indies.

Company Bahadar’s main adversay in India were the Mughals. For its first 100 years, it dealt with well known Emperors like Jehangir, Shahjahan and Aurangzeb. After Aurangzeb, in the next 150 years, it saw another 15 non-discrept Mughal Kings who only kept the Dehli throne warm. Basically, it was Akbar, Jehangir’s father, who had put the Mughal empire on a strong footing by his sagacious policies. Though illetrate, his concepts were quite modern. His empire covered about 70% of South Asia; and, more important, it was at peace with itself. He had established a system of rule by which he either secured the allegience of smaller independent rulers or directly ruled the territory through a system of appointing Mansabdars who collected revenue and also provided soldiars for the throne. The system worked so well that it took the Company 100 years to go beyond its three main stations like Surat, Calcutta and Madras. By then, it had 23 factories and 90 employees. Later, Bombay came to it in dowry for the Catherine de Braganza of Portugal (1668).

When Sir Thomas Roe visited Emperor Janhangir (1615) as an emissionary of King George to get trade concessions, Jehangir gave the British full access with a view to counterbalance other Europeans like the Portugese and the French traders. His reply to King George reads like a village Nambardar writing to a Deputy Commissioner. It read ’’ When your Majesty shall open this letter, let your royal heart be as fresh as a sweet garden…..blah… blah, blah….let your throne be advanced higher; amongst the greatness of the kings of the prophet Jesus…blah…blah…blah.. I desire your Majesty to command your merchants to bring in their ships of all sorts of rarities and rich goods fit for my palace… that neither Portugal nor any other shall dare to molest their quiet…… Your Majesty is learned and quick-sighted as a prophet, and can conceive so much by few words that I need write no more…’’

The Mughals had their good and bad aspects. The worst in them came out close to the time of succession. They invariably went through a gory charade of eliminating all possible contenders to the throne not even sparing the parents. Taking the eyes out was one of the favourite techniques. The Mughals were also pompuous and believed in extravaganza at the expense of a common man. Jehangir (1605-1627) was mostly busy spending quality time with the Persian Noor Jahan who was always intriguing to get more Persian influence into court. Jehangir also went after the Jains and executed Guru Arjun Das, the fifth Sikh Guru. Shah Jahan (1627-1658) was a decent person but had an opulent taste. He frittered away his energies by sending campaigns in Deccan and Khyber pass. Building of Taj Mahal is commendable but a thought should have crossed his mind to send some subjects to Europe which was into an industrial revolution with fundamental new discoveries like inertia, Earth as a magnet, theory of lenses, laws of hydrostatics etc. Finally, Aurangzeb’s policies created a deep wedge in the society seriously weakening the empire.

Meanwhile, the Company officers were having a jolly good time, getting familiar with local customs and languages. They lived like the Indians, freely intermingled and even intermarried. Some never returned home. Those who returned established sprawling estates back home to the envy of others. Their intimate knowledge of India and close relationship with Indian traders gave them an edge over other European colonialists. Britain itself was going through a period of prosperity and getting to a high standard of living. The Company had become a big player in the British global business with a say in the parliament. The business had expanded to include cotton, silk, indigo, saltpeter and tea. In 1670, King Charles II gave the Company the right to acquire territory, to mint money, to have its own troops, form alliances and exercise civil and criminal jurisdiction over its territories. By 1689, Company had established vast fortress type presidencies in Bengal, Madras and Bombay and had its own formidable military force. The Company only needed a person like Aurangzeb to come and soften the ground for its expansion.

Aurangzeb (1658-1707) was only too willing to oblige. When Principia Mathematica was coming out of Europe, Aurangzeb was busy in not only alientating the non-muslims but also persecuting the muslims for their wordly ways. He banned drinking, gambling, prostitution, music in the court, reintroduced jazia, forbade building of temples, destroyed temples and persecuted the Sikhs. As a consequence, there were uprisings in Deccan, by Maratthas in Maharashtra, Bijapur and Golcanda. The Mansabdars and the allied states also began to show their independence. The Company was fully prepared to fill the vaccume by using all available means like diplomacy, coersion, intrigue, show of force or a simple battle. It began to swallow the Empire piece by piece. History may have been different if Hira Bai, Aurangzeb’s infatuation and a Deccanese, had not died untimely. She very nearly turned him into a hedonist.

Finally, the Company Raj began when Robert Clive defeated (1757) Siraj Ud Daulah at Plassey in Bengal. Later, when Shah Alam, the ruling emperor, gave the Company the administrative rights over Bengal, Bihar and Orissa, its influence increased many fold. Next to fall was Tipu Sultan of Mysore (Carnatic) in 1777. Finally, after the Maratha wars, the Company secured vast areas surrounding Bombay. The French and the Portugese were now confined to small enclaves of Pandicherry and Goa. The only remaining parts of India out of its jurisdiction were the northern regions of Delhi, Oudh, Rajputana and Punjab.

By offering dubious offers of protection against each other, the Company was successful in preventing the local rulers from putting up a united front. It employed two strategies for its expansion. First was to reach an agreement (sanad) with the local ruler, under which the control of foreign affairs, defense, and communications was transferred to the company and the ruler was permitted everything else. This created what is known as the Princely India of the maharajas or nawabs who exceeded 500. By this ingenious method, the Company made the rulers barter away their real responsibilities for some visible sovereignty. The second method was outright conquest or annexation; and these areas were called the British India. Despite their best efforts, many Hindu and Muslim rulers eventually lost their territories like Mysore (1799), the Maratha Confederacy (1818) and Punjab (1849). Finally, Lord Dalhousie brought about a "doctrine of lapse" by which if a ruler had no heir, his territory would automatically go to the British. The Company annexed the estates of deceased princes of Satara (1848), Udaipur (1852), , Jhansi (1853), Tanjore (1853), Nagpur (1854) and Oudh (1856) under this doctrine. In hindsight, it appears incredible how successfully the Company managed to manipulate the Indian rulers one by one.

By now the Indians were also getting restive and this anger came out in the form of civil war or the sepoy mutiny (1857). The annexation of states, harsh revenue policies and famine in Bengal, which killed one-sixth of population, caused the unrest. Some believed that the Company was planning to replace the local princes. The leader of the Marathas, Nana Sahib, was denied his titles in 1853 and his pension was stopped. The last of the Mughal emperors, Bahadar Shah Zafar II, was told that he would be the last of his dynasty. The British had also abolished child marriage and sati which was not liked. Some believed that the British intended to convert them to Christinanity. There was also a rumor of a prophecy that the Company’s rule would end after 100 years. Plassey was in 1757. The most famous reason was the use of cow and pig fat in Patten Enfield rifle cartridges which had to be peeled off by mouth.

In 1857, Company had 34000 British of all ranks in the army and 257,000 local sepoys. First the Bengali units in Meerut mutinied. It is said that the town prostitutes made fun of their manhood and when goaded, they went to the prison and released some chained sepoys. Then they attacked the European cantonment where they killed all Europeans and any Indian Christians they could find. This included all women and children from master to the servant. Then they burned the houses and marched towards Dehli. Next day in Delhi, they were joined by others from the local bazaar. They attacked the Red Fort, killed five British including a British officer and two women; and demanded Bahadar Shah Zafar to reclaim his throne who reluctantly agreed to became the nominal leader of the rebellion. Then the sepoys proceeded to kill every European and Christian in the city.

In Kanpur, Nana Sahib promised free passage to Gen. Wheeler. When the British sat in the boats, the boatmen jumped off and all the British were massacred. Some British women and children who were left behind were put into a Bibi Ghar where the mob came with knives and hatchets to cut them to pieces. The civil war was limited to the area of Bengal and North India. Common Indians joined the sepoys to restore both the Moghul and the Maratha rulers. Rani Lakshmi Bai of Jhansi, which had been annexed by the British, led a strong rebellion. There were calls for jihad by some leaders like Ahmedullah Shah. But there was no unified leadership to lead the war. Many Indians supported the British as well. The Sikhs did not like the idea of returning back to the Mughal rule. Sikh and Pathan units from the Punjab and North West Frontier suppported the British. These supporters proved to be crucial to the eventual victory of the British. In Oudh, Sunni Muslims did not want to see a return to Shiite rule so they refused to join what they thought to be a Shia rebellion. Most of the south of India remained passive and unconcerned.

The British were slow at first but eventually they proceeded towards Delhi; and fought, killed and hanged numerous Indians along the way. The British fought the main army of the rebels near Delhi in Badl-ke-Serai and drove them back to Delhi. The British established a base on the Delhi ridge to the north of the city and the siege began. However, their encirclement was not effective since the rebels could easily receive resources and reinforcements. Then the British were joined by the Punjab Movable Column of Sikh soldiers and elements of Gurkha Brigade. Eventually they broke through the Kashmiri gate and a week of street fighting began. When the British reached the Red Fort, Bahadur Shah had already fled to Humayun’s tomb. The British retook Dehli. They arrested Bahadur Shah; and next day British officer William Hodson shot his sons Mirza Moghul, Mirza Khizr Sultan and Mirza Abu Bakr by his own hands. Their heads were presented to their father the next day.

The retaliation of the British was violent and without mercy. Whole villages were wiped out for just pro-rebel sympathies. The British adopted the old Mughal punishment by lashing the rebels to the mouth of cannons and blowing them to bits. The Indians were called and made to lick the blood off the walls of the women and childeren massacred in Bibi Ghar. Gwaliar and Lucknow were last to be recaptured. It was the crudest war India had seen in a long time and both sides resorted to worst kind of barbarism. The Indians called it ’Devil’s Wind’.

After the war, the British Crown took over India and East India Company was disbanded. Queen Victoria became the Empress of India. The Viceroy of India cancelled the ’doctrine of lapse’; and about 40 percent of Indian territory and 25 percent of the population remained under the control of 562 princes of all religions (Islamic,Sikh, Hindu, Others). By 1910s, the British reluctantly began to employ the Indians into the officer cadre.

After the civil war, the British attitude changed from relaxed openness to aloofness even for the Indians of comparable standing and stature. The British families and their servants began to live in cantonments at a distance from the Indian settlements. Private clubs where the British gathered for social interaction became symbols of exclusivity and snobbery that has still not disappeared from South Asia. Some other aspects of the life style like the stiff-necked Brown Saab, whisky-soda, hill stations etc also continue. The British perceptions of India changed from general appreciation to condemnation of India’s past achievements, its heritage and customs. The next 90 years of the rule by the ’Saab Bahadar’ of the Raj saw modernization of India in terms of railways, telegraph, canals, colleges and transplanting of some aspects of the British Government system. Queen Victoria promised an equal treatment under the British law but the Indian mistrust was now deep. Denial of equal status to Indians became a trigger for the formation of the Indian Political parties (Indian National Congress). The Indian National Congress (1885) was initially loyal to the Empire but asked for increased self-government in 1905 and, by 1930, was asking for an independence. Muslim Leauge was another party that came up later.

The day the British accepted separate elecotrorate system in India, a foundation had been laid for the partition. The British left leaving behind a divided India embroiled in its own conflicts.

And soon everyone forgot about the Raj which had exploited South Asia for nearly 350 years.


(a) To what extent, did the Mughals rule (400 years) benefit South Asia? The Mughals came as run-of-mill conquerors and decided to settle down. They did introduce a Turko-Persian culture and life style with a new language (Persian), architecture and literature. Todar Mal, during the Akbar’s reign, devised a revenue system that is still in vouge. But the Mughals miserably failed to connect the 4000 year old knowledge-based heritage of India with the European Industrial revolution of the time. The Mughals were also not able inter-faith managers. They did not do much for the common man.

(b) To what extent did the British presence/rule (350 years) benefit South Asia? The British came to India for commercial reasons. They left India when they could not afford to keep it. They discarded the Indian heritage and attempted to replace it with the European technology and sytems. Their effort for modernization (railways, telegraph, canals, cantonements etc) were more for commercial and security reasons rather than any love for India. Their failing is that they left India at the level of baboos, petty bureacracy, lawyers and engineers before the European culture of high learning (reseacrh etc) could be introduced. They also did not do much for a common man.

British Atrocities

Revolt and Revenge; a Double Tragedy

by V.S. "Amod" Saxena

Delivered to The Chicago Literary Club
February 17, 2003

The British called it the Sepoy's Mutiny. Indians called it their First War of Independence. Whatever the name, the uprising by the Indians and the soldiers of the East India Company was not an ordinary event. It was a widespread-armed revolt against a powerful and wealthy Company.

In 1857, the Sepoys broke discipline, took up arms and led a violent uprising against the English. The main cause given by the English historians is presence of greased cartridge in Enfield rifle. The Indians even today accuse the British of arrogance and a desire to rob them of their wealth, faith and political opinions. The event caused death, destruction and human tragedy of enormous proportions on both sides.

The English, with the recently chartered East India Company, arrived at the shores of India in 1600. At the time, the powerful Mughal ruled the country. Its empire was the largest land based empire in the world. It was rich and thriving. Within one hundred and fifty years, the administrative control of the country passed from the Mughal to the East India Company. In the process, the company became powerful and rich. It maintained a dominant military of several hundred thousand men to protect its holdings. By middle of the nineteenth century, the Company felt confident that in a country of 150 million people, it could protect its employees and political and financial interests.

The summer of 1857 changed all that.

In January of that year, small round Chapattis or flat Indian bread began to appear all over North India. Like a chain letter, the chapattis traveled in an area of about 200 miles around in a single day. The Indians sent messages hidden in each chapatti. This method of rapid communication competed directly with the telegraph, run by the Company. One of the messages buried in the chapattis read sub lal ho gaea hai meaning that all has become red. Red color signified the British rule as well as the symbol for blood. The English suspected that the messages carried warning of approaching disaster.

The morning of February 26, 1857 at Berhampore in Bengal, the 19th Native Infantry was on the parade ground for an exercise to fire the newly arrived Enfield rifles. The cartridges were blank and did not contain animal grease. When ordered to fire, the soldiers refused.

As a result, the officers arrested the soldiers and tried them for treason. They disbanded the regiment and sent them to prison for several years of hard labor. They also denied them pension and right to appeal their punishment. The disbanding of the soldiers from the regiment occurred in public. This did not go well with the soldiers and the public. Many soldiers had served the army for decades with valor and honor. Losing their benefits and worse their dignity angered the soldiers and the people of North India.

Mungal Pandey, proud and a sensitive man was a high caste Brahman. He served in the 34th Native Infantry. While participating in an exercise one day with loaded rifles, he suddenly broke away from his line. With out paying any attention he urged other soldiers to defy their superiors. He then pointed his gun at Lt. Baugh riding his horse. Pandey then fired his gun at his horse and brought it down. He then quickly struck the lieutenant with his sword. There were twenty Indian guards standing nearby. Only one of them came to help the officer, the rest just looked on in silence. This one soldier grabbed Mungal Pandey and held him down while the English officer escaped.

When another officer threatened to shoot the soldier with a revolver, Mungal Pandey turned the gun towards his own body and shot himself. Though wounded, he was immediately arrested. The evidence against Pandey revealed that he had acted alone and under the influence of marijuana and opium. However, he was found guilty of the treason and was hanged on April 8, 1857.

The sepoys were now getting restless and angry at the English. In spite of rampant rumors of the sepoys' discontent, the British refused to believe them. The bond of loyalty and affection that existed between the soldier and the officers seemed to be disappearing. Compounding this was a suspicion by most soldiers that the British were preparing to attack them and that they intended to disarm and dishonor them. There was reason to support the suspicion because the Company had requested a large reinforcement of troops from outside.

The soldiers were also upset about the punishment and disbanding of the 19th Native Infantry at Barrakpore. In fact, the 3rd cavalry did go to the jail where the soldier were kept and freed them. When the British officers arrived at the scene, the soldiers attacked them and killed one Colonel John Finnis. They then went on a shooting and killing rampage of several officers.

A large scale mutiny struck on May 10, 1857 at Meerut, a city about forty miles from Delhi. The soldiers continued to plan and communicate with each other while the English seemed demoralized and seemed incapable of dealing with the revolt.

The English tried to cool tempers and General Arson in Bengal made a public statement that greased cartridges would not be used anymore and instead balled ammunition shall be made up by each regiment for its use'.

The proclamation failed to calm the soldiers and an open rebellion continued. A cycle of violence and retribution between the soldiers and the British became a routine. Public executions of the sepoys became a common site.

On May 25, 1857 the Lieutenant Governor of North West Province tried to turn the tide by proclaiming; "Soldiers engaged in the late disturbances, who are desirous of going to their own homes, and who give up their arms at the nearest government civil or military post, and retire quietly, shall be permitted to do so unmolested. Many faithful soldiers have been driven into resistance to government only because they were in the ranks and could not escape from them, and because they really thought their feelings of religion and honour injured by the measures of government. This feeling was wholly a mistake; but it acted on men's minds. A proclamation of the governor general now issued is perfectly explicit, and will remove all doubts on these points. Every evil-minded instigator in the disturbance, and those guilty of heinous crimes against private persons, shall be punished. All those who appear in arms against the government after this notification is known shall be treated as an open enemy."

Company's Governor General Lord Canning did not like it. He demanded its immediate withdrawal. He felt that letting the soldiers go free would be tantamount to a pardon of murderers. The soldiers paid no attention to the controversy.

The mutiny now spread from the Afghanistan in the Northwest to the Burma border in east and from the Nepal border in the North to Nagpur in the south. This covered over fifty percent of area ruled by East India Company.

One of the most tragic incidents occurred in Cawnpore at the end of June. Cawnpore was an important and the largest garrison built by the British at the banks of River Ganges. General Hugh Massy Wheeler commanded the cantonment. It occupied the southern tip of the city. As a precaution, Wheeler had dug a wide ditch around the two large barracks. Ten nine-pounder cannons guarded the encampment. His English force was small in comparison to the Sepoys. He knew that if the Indians attacked, there would be no safety for his men and women. Nearest help was at Lucknow where his good friend Henry Lawrence was the Commanding Officer. Although only sixty miles away, it was cut off by an unfriendly population and resentful Indian soldiers.

Lucknow was also the capital of Oudh, a large territory ruled by a Mughal Nawab. The city was rich and well administered. Only a few years before, Wheeler himself had engineered a revolt against the Nawab resulting in an insurrection. The Company then reduced his power to a status of a puppet. It gave the Company rights to levy tax. This had angered the population and upset the Nawab. The news that Wheeler had requested reinforcement of more troops confirmed the fears of the sepoys and the people that British had ulterior motives on their

Wheeler spoke the local language and had adopted their customs. He had also married an Indian. He was thus confident that the Indians would attack his garrison.

He was wrong.

The attack came with vengeance on June 4, 1857. It was started by the 2nd Cavalry and soon followed by the three infantry divisions. There were a total of 3000 Indian soldiers to only 300 of the English. Wheelers two nine pounder guns were no match to nine twenty pounders of the rebels. The camp at the moment had about one thousand people mostly disabled men, women and children. Majority of them also included people of mixed blood who had come to the camp for protection. There were about one hundred and fifty sepoys who remained faithful to Wheeler. Continuous bombardment by the Sepoys disabled most of the carriages and destroyed the ammunitions inside the entrenchment. Wheeler wrote Lawrence: "British spirit alone remains but it can not last forever."

The camp was also running out of food and water. The wounded had problem being taken care of. The heat and flies made living conditions intolerable.

Governor Cannon had promised Wheeler a regiment of eight hundred British soldiers from Calcutta. It had not yet arrived and he had no idea when or if it would arrive. In his letter, he wrote; " The ladies, women and children have not a safe hole to lie down in and they all sleep in trenches for safety and coolness. The barracks are perforated are perforated in every direction, and cannot long give even the miserable shelter which they now do..."

With no help from his headquarter in Calcutta, Wheeler finally made a fateful decision and asked a prominent Indian citizen for his help in evacuating the camp to a safer place. The name of the Indian was Dhondu Pant. He was popularly known as Nana Sahib. He was influential and resourceful in the community. He was also on friendly terms with Wheeler and several other British.

However, Nana grudged the British for his own reasons. He was an adopted son of Bija Rao, a prominent Maratha ruler of a prominent state of Bithur. In 1851, the British dethroned the ruler by force and took over his state. They put him on a pension and when he died, they denied his adopted son Dhondu Pant an annuity which he claimed belonged to him. Nana lived near Cawnpore and resented the British for denying him his pension. He had fought long legal battle but lost his case in the Privy Council. Although on surface, he continued to entertain the English and was polite to them, he desired revenge against the British, if an opportunity arrived.

Nana agreed to help Wheeler evacuate the camp without any violence against its inhabitants. Nana also arranged several boats that would take the people down the river Ganges to Allahabad. It seemed a good and safe plan.

Nana thought that when the British were gone, the victorious sepoys would need a leader. He expected them to come to him for help. With their help and his own small army he could easily declare himself the ruler of the area. In his judgment, being a friend of the British was not in his best interest.

As expected, several regiments of the rebel army contacted Nana and asked him to join their rebellion. The Sepoys threatened to kill Nana if he declined to join them. This left Nana no choice but to agree to join them.

The evacuation of the camp proceeded peacefully. Nana's men arranged for the English to embark boats for their journey down the river to Allahabad. This area chosen by them was a small landing with steps leading to the river and was used by the people to bathe and pray in the holy Ganges. It was popularly known as Satichaura Ghat. The ghat was in a narrow ravine that led to the water edge where boats could be easily launched. The English were grateful to Nana for his kindness. The victims had suffered a great deal. They celebrated their good fortune as they embarked the boats.

The freedom did not last long.

As soon as they had boarded the boats, the sepoys suddenly appeared with their guns. They opened fire at the boats. Several men, women and children died in this shooting. Those few who had guns tried to return the fire but they were outnumbered and out gunned. A few escaped to tell their story but many died during the gunfire. Most boats caught fire and sank with passengers still on board. When a few attempted to escape by jumping off the boats, the Sepoys chased and shot them at close range. Those who reached the river bank were gunned down too. The river turned red with blood and was full of floating bodies.

General Wheeler was also killed in this violence.

About one hundred and twenty five women and children survived the bloodbath. Although, the British later accused Nana of betrayal and murder of innocent people, no evidence has ever been found to prove it. On hearing about the news of shooting Nana sent his own troops to bring the survivors to safety. He ordered his men to take the women and children to one of his houses called Bibighar, a house meant for women. It was large but not large enough for so many people.

Soon another group of about eighty English women and children joined victims of Satichaura bloodshed. The rebels had captured them in another town and had brought them to Nana Sahib as captives. There were now over two hundred women and children inside this house. Bibighar proved utterly small and crammed. It was barely furnished with a few pieces of furniture and a few bamboo mats for people to lie down. For the English women, the summer heat and high humidity made their life intolerable.

After the rebels defeated the Wheeler's regiment, Nana saw a chance he had been waiting for. He declared himself the Maharaja of Bithur, his ancestral title. He now had the title that the Company denied him for so long.

Little did he know that two strong English armies led by General Henry Havelock and General James Neill were moving towards Cawnpore to attack Nana's forces.

Back at the Bibighar, Nana's people had appointed a prostitute Hussaini Begum to take charge of the prisoner's daily activities. The Begum was harsh and stern. She put them to hard labor of grinding corn for chapattis. The meager ration included chapatti and dhal or thin lentil soup.

Hard labor and poor sanitary conditions at Bibighar soon began to take its toll. The death toll from cholera and dysentery rose at an alarming rate. The deaths at Bibighar and advancing troops towards Cawnpore alarmed Nana and his advisors. His spies reported that the British troops led by Havelock and Neill were committing grotesque and indiscriminate slaughter of several hundred villagers. The prisoners at Bibighar now posed a burden for Nana's advisors. They also offered an opportunity to take revenge for the murders of civilians by the advancing British troops. To do away with the prisoners would also ensure their silence as witness to the massacre at the Ghat.

Nana himself had not planned to harm the prisoners at Bibighar but his advisors and the rebel sepoys over ruled him. A few amongst Nana's advisors had already decided to kill the prisoners at Bibighar; " even one European remained alive he would continue to be a thorn in his flesh"; one advised Nana. The women of Nana's household, however, opposed the decision and went on hunger strike but failed to convince the men around him.

It is not certain who finally gave the orders but the fate of the prisoners was sealed. They must be killed before the advancing troops reached Cawnpore, they decided. As the evening wore off on the July 15, the sepoys entered Bibighar and tried to drag them out of the house. The women grasped the pillars of the verandah and refused to move. Unable to move them the Sepoys fired volleys of shots at them. Wounded but still adamant to move, the prisoners clung to each other. Finally, Sarvir Khan, a tall Pathan from Afghanistan walked in with four butchers. They were armed with long swords. They began to swing them wildly at the victims. After almost two hours, the sword-dance of the butchers stopped and the place became silent.

The sun had already set and it was dark now. The five attackers walked towards the exit, stepping on the dead bodies. The sweat of hard work of committing violence made their hands, arms and naked trunk glistened in the dim light of the burning lamps outside. They silently went home to their families after a job.

Next day early in the morning, thousands of local citizens gathered around Bibighar to view the carnage. They could see the bodies of the victims at a close range, piled one over the other in a heap at the far wall of the room.

The burial party now arrived to dispose off the bodies. Half buried in the heap were four women who were still alive. They found four women and some children still alive. As soon as the women saw the men they got up and ran towards a well outside in the court yard of Bibighar. All women one by one jumped in to the well to their death. A few children also followed them in to the well. Those who escaped were immediately killed.

The burial party now re-entered the house and began to clear the place of the dead. They found it hard to dispose off the bodies in a short time. They decided then to dump all the bodies in a large fifty feet deep well situated in the courtyard.

Thus the job of disposing the dead done, the burial party departed for their respective homes completely tired. Immediately, the crowed that had gathered at Bibighar began to disperse quietly.

The city now seemed to be in a state of heightened but quiet tension. Nana's spies, in the meanwhile, returned from their mission brought the news of a large British reinforcement near by. According to them, Generals Havelock was leading a large force and that General Neill was in the march. They also found out that the English troops had defeated rebel forces in Fatehpur, a city near Cawnpore. The fighting was fierce and that there were a large number of death and injury on both sides. The victors retaliated against the civilians by sacking villages, raping women, killing children and hanging hundreds of men. When the people of Cawnpore heard this, they feared similar retaliation against them. They quickly started a rapid evacuation of cities citizens.

Finally, Havelock's troops arrived. They had walked and fought their way without rest or sleep. They were tired and hungry. They found out about the deaths at the Satichaura Ghat and the murders at Bibighar. As soon as they arrived in the city, they threw down the rebel flag flying over the police station and installed the Union Jack. Sherer and Bews, the forward officers tried to calm the citizens and asked for assistance.

The people did not believe them. They had heard about the horrible atrocities inflicted on the innocent villagers.

When Shere told Havelock about the dead bodies in the well, he was very shocked. He was sitting quietly pondering over loss of his own men the day before in a fierce battle with the rebels. He ordered Shere to fill the well immediately with dirt to stop the stench so that the nature would take its course and give them a burial without further indignities.

A fierce fighting broke out between the rebel soldiers and the British troops. Finally, the English defeated the sepoys. When the English soldiers saw the well filled with dead bodies of women and children, they became and with rage and hatred. It did not matter that they had done their own share of atrocities on their way to Cawnpore. Now they were the victors and they found a justification for further revenge.

One soldier who came out of the massacre site vowed; "I have spared many a man in fight, but I will never spare another. I shall carry this with me in my holsters, and whenever I am inclined for mercy, the sight of it, and the recollection of this house, will be sufficient to incite me to revenge."

For the rebels and the civilians, the worst was yet to come. The atrocities against the Indian civilians had already begun even before the English reached Cawnpore.

At Fatehgarh, for example, when the English defeated the enemy, their officers ordered a mass scale killing the rebels and the citizens on the spot. General Neill had also organized Hanging parties'. The parties made daily rounds to seek out those that they believed had participated in the rebellion. This in practice meant whatever the English thought of their victim. No evidence was sought and none given before executing the victim. Even a slightest defiance by a person meant immediate death. A description by a soldier of the 78th Highlanders tells the story of one of such expedition:

"We shouted that he was a sepoy, and to seize him. He was taken and about twelve more. We came back to the carts on the road, and an old man came to us, and wanted to be paid for the village we had burned. We had a magistrate with us, who found he had been harbouring the villains and giving them arms and food. Five minutes settled it; the sepoy and the man that wanted the money were taken to the roadside, hanged to a branch of a tree We came to the village and set it in fire. The sun came out, and we got dry, but soon we got wet again with sweat. We came to a large village and it was full of people. We took about 200 of them out, and set fire to it. I saw an old man trying to trail out a bed .I saw the flames bursting out of a house , and, to my surprise, observed a little boy, about four years old, looking out at the door. I pointed the way out to the old man and told him if he did not go I would shoot him."

When the Highlanders moved to another village, they caught about 140 men, women and children. They selected sixty men from the group, forced them to build the gallows of wooden logs taken from the burning homes. They then chose ten men of the group hanged them without any evidence or trial. For others, they had reserved flogging and beating to teach them a lesson. The women and children; " all crying and lamenting what had been done Oh, if you seen the ten march round the grove, and seen them looking the same as if nothing was going to happen to them! There was one of them fell; the rope broke, and down he came. He rose up, looked all around; he was hung up again"; an account given by one of the soldiers.

At one of the villages, about two thousand villagers armed only with their lathis, wooden cane stood turned out in protest. They stood up to face the Highlanders. The British troops surrounded them and set their village on fire. The villagers were trapped with fire all around them. The villagers trying to escape were shot to death. One soldier describes the incident thus; " We took eighteen of them prisoners; they were all tied together, and we fired a volley at them and shot them on the spot".

General Neill had another plan also. On his marching map, he marked those villages that he chose for special treatment. The soldiers would loot, burn and kill the inhabitants of villages without mercy.

In his book, "Our Bones Are Scattered" Andrew Ward writes: "Neill appointed commissioners to oversee the retribution, including one particularly homicidal civilian who on June 28 boasted that we have the power of life and death in our hands, and I assure you we spare not.' Each day he had strung up eight and ten men' and after a summary trial' each prisoner was' placed under a tree with rope around his neck, on the top of a carriage; and when it is pulled away, off he swings "

Stringing and shooting the men in front of their family was a sport the troops enjoyed. Watching women stooping and begging for the lives of their men seemed to thrill the young soldiers and their officers.

The prisoners were made to stand under the hot summer sun for hours till they fainted. It was easy to flog them when they were half conscience, otherwise, they would squirm and make it hard to strike. Flogging invariably ended in killing of the victims.

The English wanted to break the faith of their Hindu and Moslem prisoners. The prisoners accused of evenly remotely participating in revolt had to crawl on their four limbs, lick the blood off the floor and forced to eat beef and pork before being executed. The beef eating was reserved for Hindus and pork meat for the Moslems before their execution.

Cannon-shows were announced to a whole village. Here, a prisoner would be tied to the mouth of cannon. The cannon would then be fired blowing the poor man to pieces. Small bits of flesh mixed with fresh blood exploding in the air made a spectacular show. The next prisoner was forced to pick the flesh pieces from the ground, clean the cannon before he was tied to the cannon mouth. In several cases, a victim would be flogged before being sewn alive in pigskin and be left in the sun to die of asphyxiation and heat. Such punishment was meant to demonstrate the military power of the British and to instill fear in the minds of the public.

The revenge killings went on for several weeks. The Indians now convinced themselves that it all proved their earlier suspicion that the English came to India not to trade but destroy their faith. According to Lawrence James: "The laws of evidence were suspended, age and sex ignored, and those who carried out the killings were proud of their deeds, which they justified as revenge for the atrocities at Meerut and Delhi."

Soldiers and officers writing to their families in England used phrases like; "Lots of blackguards are hanged every morning The more the merrier I am delighted to see that good folks at home hate the Pandies almost as much as we do You say Delhi ought to be thoroughly destroyed. We all say the same. Some 300 or 400 were shot yesterday There are several mosques in the city most beautiful to look at. But I should like to see them all destroyed. The rascally brutes desecrated our churches and graveyards and I do not think we ought to have any regard for their religion." " to my certain knowledge many soldiers of the English regiments got possession of jewellary and gold ornaments taken from the bodies of the slain city inhabitants, and I was shown by men of my regiment strings of pearl and gold mohur which had fallen into their hands That many of provate soldiers of my regiment succeeded in acquiring a great quantity of valuable plunder was fully demonstrted soon after our return to England."

Both Indians and the British troops participated in extensive looting, robbing and stealing as well as exhorting money and property from wealthier citizens. However, the English were more systematic and organized in their approach towards this.. According to one English soldier;

" . they shut him up in a dark celler and fired pistols over his head until he got into such a state of alarm that he told them where they could find Rs. 50,000 of his own and Rs. 40,000 of a friend of his The next day they got hold of another corpolent nigger, who however was upto the dodge of the pistols, and did not even care about knives being thrown all around him .so they loaded a pistol before his eyes, and sent the bullet through his turban, which he thought was getting beyond a joke, so he divulged the whereabouts of Rs. 40,000."

No end to the bloodshed of the Indians seemed in sight. Lawrence from Punjab finally wrote to General Penny, the Commander in Delhi;

"I wish I could induce you to interfere in this matter. I believe we shall lastingly, and , indeed, justly be abused for the way in which we have despoiled all classes without distinction I have even heard, though it seems incredible, that officers have gone about and murdered, natives in cold blood. You may depend upon it we cannot allow such acts to pass unnoticed. If we have no higher motives, the common dictates of policy should make us refrain from such outrages Unless we endevour to distinguish friend from foe, we shall unite all classes against us."

In spite of Lawrence's call for restrain, the killings, and looting continued for several more weeks. Hundreds of citizens were shot, hanged or killed by the sword while the English smoked their cigars'. On several occasions, the British soldiers bribed the executioners to keep the noose lose enough for the victims to go slowly towards their death. The English called slow dangling of the body on a rope, the "Pandies' hornpipe" thus describing a dying man's struggle on the rope that resembled a hornpipe. It reminded the English of a spirited fifteenth century folkdance accompanied by the hornpipe, popular in the nineteenth century Britain.

On November 1, 1858, the peace was declared by the Governor General of India. The British Government abolished the East India Company and took over the reigns of India's administration. The Queen's proclamation also declared that all rebels would be pardoned if they had not murdered any Europeans and that the religious tolerance would be respected.

One hundred and forty five years have passed since the revolt was suppressed. Indians have asked the question "What were the English doing in India in the first place and why did the Indians allow themselves to be treated in such a manner?" The answers are hard to come by. It seems certain that the causes of mutiny were several.

By 1850s, the Indians had become deeply dependent upon the East India Company for their security and economic wellbeing. It controlled the internal and external trade and affected its economy. The rapid decline of the Mughal Empire resulted in a power vacuum that the British were lucky enough to exploit.

Although the Mughal Empire created one of the strongest and most powerful kingdoms in the world, it remained a land based and isolated. This was in contrast with the British who had just defeated the Russians in Crimean War and had sowed the seeds of building an Empire that would control forty percent of the globe and all sea-lanes. They were the prime naval power.

The rulers of various Indian states never understood changes occurring outside their own world. Arguments, dissentions and divisions between them over succession, division of boundaries and control of weaker states by the stronger ones made them target of East India Company. The Company took advantage of the opportunity. Thus, the East India Company won the day by playing politics, deceit, chutzpah and sheer luck.

During the initial years of the Company's involvement in India, each ruler raised his own army to protect itself from external and internal attacks. Once the Company controlled the subcontinent, the need for multiple armies receded. The Company became the main employer. The competition in hiring the Sepoys disappeared. It became a monopoly in recruiting its military needs. It set the price, the pay, the benefits and conditions of service. The potential soldier and the Sepoy lost his bargaining power. Once this happened in favor of the Company, the soldiers became disenchanted and helpless. In this they were no different than the lettuce growers of California before Chavez organized them.

By 1850s, the English had over 300,000 strong Indian men in uniform. The Company had only 30,000 English soldiers but in command over the Indian soldiers,

In the beginning, the relationship between the Indians and the English was cordial and respectful. The English dressed and ate with the Indians. They learnt the local language and adopted local customs.

All this changed by the middle of the nineteenth century. Average Englishman became more educated and increased their standard of living the Indian standard of living declined. The Company opened special schools in England to train young men for the Company services. These young men were different culturally and were brash. At the same time the Company allowed young women to follow the men. Intermingling between the Indians and English began to be discouraged. The cordial and understanding relationship between the English officers and the Indian soldier declined. Sita Ram Pandey a Brahmin soldier of high cast describes these feelings:

"In those days the sahibs could speak our language much better than they do now, and they mixed more with us. Although officers today have to pass the language examination, and have to read books, they do not understand our language . The only language they learn is that of lower orders, which they pick up from their servants, and which is unsuitable to be used in polite conversation."

Most British officers hardly noticed an Indian face even though they were surrounded by them. When they did notice, it was to abuse them. These abuses included calling insulting names and swearing. One British resident in India once wrote:

" the sepoy is regarded as an inferior creature. He is sworn at. He is treated roughly. He is spoken as nigger'. He is addressed as suar' or pig, epithet most opprobrious to a respectable native, especially the Mussalman, and which cuts him to the quick. The old (officers) are less guilty But the younger men seem to regard it as an excellent joke, as an evidence of spirit and praiseworthy sense of superiority over the sepoy to treat him as an inferior animal."

Several dozen servants or "Khitmutgar" meaning "the one who serves" served an Englishman regardless of his position in his own society. An English household had the Khansaama', for his the kitchen a Mali' for his garden, an Ayah, to nurse his children and multitude of other servants to do things that an Englishman loathed to do him. He hardly raised a finger for all his comfort, little or large.

The English masters demanded complete loyalty from their servants. These servants were beaten and abused on the slightest mistake.

The treatment of Sepoy was not much different. By 1850's the relationship of the English officers and the sepoy was that of a ruler and the ruled. A common belief among the local population that the English had no respects or regards for the people's religion, culture or local customs created even more resentment.

Indians felt; "Who were the Feringhis or the foreigners to tell them how they wanted to live their lives?" For the Moslems it was even more insulting. For over eight centuries, they ruled the Indian subcontinent. They felt cheated and deprived.

The Company control of the country brought a horde of Christian Missionaries to India. Their mission was to "Civilize" the Godless. The Indians resented their presence. Just before the mutiny, the Company administration actively participated in conversion of local population to Christianity of those, they captured as prisoners and those who they employed. The Company freely distributed copies of the Bible as an inducement to the prisoners who were at its mercy. Even worse was a practice by the Company to require that all Moslem prisoners must shave off their beard. For a Moslem shaving, his beard is blasphemous.

In the hospitals the English doctors, nurses and administrators confined men, women and children in the same ward regardless of their feelings. According the Hibberrt, a Subedar named Hedayet Ali laments that "the intention of the British (was) to take away the dignity and honour of all."

The resentment stayed bottled up and in 1857; then it exploded. The grease in the cartridge provided the spark. The mutiny surprised and shocked the English and caught him unawares. To the Indian it was not a surprise. The massacre at Bibighar was a heinous crime, no doubt. It occurred because the sepoys and the people heard of the atrocities by the soldiers of the 78th Highlanders under Havelock and Neills on their way to Cawnpore. Both the English and the Indians lacked maturity and dispassion. They took their gloves off and proceeded to kill each other with no mercy-one in revolt and the other in revenge.

The discipline in the British army broke down completely after their victory at Cawnpore. Freely available liquor at Nana's warehouse acted as the fuel to the fire. The English soldiers got drunk and lost their sense of right and wrong. They went on a rampage, broke down the godowns, looted them, and drank liquor to their hearts content.

To this day, the English and Indians have their own version of the gory event. Both defend their points of view evoking strong emotions.

The British were very proud of their Indian dominion. They convinced themselves that Indians would be grateful of the English rule. There is a little story that has made rounds in social gatherings and told by P.J.O Taylor in his book A Star Shall Fall. It goes like this; "An English superior once asked an Indian subordinate was he not glad to be under the rule of Queen Victoria.' He seemed to have hesitated, but when pressed, asked to be excused a direct reply, but would the Sahib please listen to a little Indian tale?"

"This was the tale.

"There was once a washerman who owned a donkey. Every day he loaded up the beast with very heavy bundles of dirty clothing and drove him down to the edge of the river. There the donkey was hobbled and left to scratch a poor feed from the sparse dry grass on the river bank. The washerman meanwhile would join his fellows in the shallows and wash the clothing they had brought"

"One day a thief crept up and un-hobbled the donkey and led it away. Hours later the washerman discovered his loss, and with help of villagers tracked down the donkey: the thief fled and was caught. The washerman was very angry, and took out his displeasure on the donkey, saying you stupid animal, why did you not bray and call me? I would have come running atonce!' The donkey replied why should I be pleased either to stay with one master or go with another? Am I to be better treated and better fed with one rather than the other? The only improvement for me would be to have no master at all."


1. Mughal rule in India by S.M. Edwardes, C.S.I., C.V.O. and H.L.O. Garrett, M.A. 1930 Oxford University Press, London.

2. Theories of the Indian Mutiny 1857-59 by S. B. Chaudhury, World Press Private Ltd., Calcutta, 1965.

3. The Great Mutiny India 1857 by Christopher Hibbert, Penguin Books, London, 1978.

4. The Indian Mutiny 1857 by Saul David, Viking an imprint of Penguin Books.

5. What Really Happened During the Mutiny: a Day to Day Account of The Major Events of 1857-1859, by A.J.O. Taylor M.A.(Oxen.) Formerly of the Mahratta Light Infantry. Oxford University Press, Delhi, 1997.

6. Our Bones are Scattered, the Cawnpore Massacre and the Indian Mutiny by Andrew Ward, published by Henry Holtand Company, New York.

7. Raj-The Making and Unmaking of the British India by Lawrence James published by St. Martin's Press, New York1997.

8. The Devil's Wind, Nana Saheb's Story by Manohar Malgonkar published by the Viking Press, New York, 1972.

9.The Last Empire -- Photography in British India, 1855-1911, Published by Aperture, Inc,, 1977. 1.

10. The Raj at the Table by David Burton -- A culinary history of the British in India. Published by Faber and Faber 1993.

11. A Star Shall Fall by P.J.O.Taylor, published by Indus, an imprint of Harper Collins India Pvt. Ltd 1993.

12. The Last Empire: Photography in British India, 1855- 1911 Published by Aperture Inc., 1976.

13. Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan's History of the Bijnor Rebellion Published by Asian Studies Center, Michigan State University, Michigan. South Asia Series Occasional Paper No. 17.

14. Armies of the Raj, From the Great Mutiny to Independence: 1858-1947.

15. The Mughal Empire by John F. Richards, Published by Cambridge University Press, 1993.

16. The Competition Wallah by Sir George Otto Trevelyan, first published in 1866 and republished by Indus, an imprint of Harper Collins Publishers India Pvt. Ltd. 1992.

17. We Fought Together for Freedom, Chapters from the Indian National Movement, edited by Ravi Dayal, Published by Oxford University Press, Delhi 1998.

18. Aankhon Dekha Ghadar (Eye witness to the revolt) by Vishnu Bhatt Godshe and translated by Amritlal Nagar from Maradhi to Hindi. Published by Rajpal and Sons, Kashmir Gate, Delhi, 1998

Slumdog Millionaire – a post hype review


(this was written a week before the oscars)

A pip-squeak of dissent is peeping through the fog of euphoria.

Slumdog was going straight to DVD but it was pulled from that fate and lo – 10 Oscar noms?

I said, Really?

If people like their social realism packaged like a cake of detergent with large letters and bold graphic design, so be it. Flock to the cinemas and let Fox Searchlight clean up behind them, but ‘masterpiece’, ‘brilliant’?


Even last year’s best pic winner – the scorching No Country For Old Men by Hollywood outsiders, Joel and Ethan Coen, would find it uncomfortable dragging that kind of obligation around.

So what to make of the universal, unquestioning adulation Slum has received from the world? Why are ordinary people are finding this ordinary film exceptional?

I guess public perception is driven increasingly towards homogeneity and stick figure fantasies sell easier than nuanced realities blah, blah, blah. We know all about hegemony. More Blah Blah Blah.

What Slum interestingly shows is the power of mass conversion, and how advocates are made in this world of instant coffee; where generic, uncomplicated social realism is intravenously consumed – no need to tax the taste buds here, needle straight to the blood stream and the rest is a joy-ride through wonderland.

All of it made even artistic by the slick, visceral visual style of an unquestionably talented director at the height of his magic; squalor throbbing to the the pulsating grooves of a talented composer; and populated by unidimensional munchkins masquerading as people thanks to an unrelenting screenplay by a fine screenwriter, though one that seems to be written at the first-class bar in the nine hours it takes to fly Virgin Atlantic to Bombay.

A miscast lead, the tortured, awkward Londoner nearly equalled the embarrassment of Sir Alec Guiness in brown paint and lungi (harking back to the awkward reincarnation of Obi-Wan-Kanobi as Godbole, the Hindu priest in Sir David Lean’s Passage To India). In the case of Slumdog Millionaire, this time the British casting director left the cosy corridors of RADA (Royal Academy of Dramatic Art) stepped out of the familiar streets of Kensington and braved the wilderness of Wembly or Southall to deliver a casting coup of sorts.

No, she didn’t do even that.

Someone at Danny’s local saw their Dev Patel on a popular television show. The color was brown this time and the accent slightly North London but hey remember, colonialism is long behind us. The rest, including Dev’s unfortunate north London accent jerked me so hard out of the film each time he opened his mouth that I felt I was being shunted around through Bombay in a taxi without suspension.
Wither the emotional connect of Kaun Banega Crorepati hosts Shah Rukh and Amitabh Bachan with their middle class audience – the bond of affection, encouragement, love even – and whither this portrayal of the same game-show…? Every adult in Boyle’s Bombay is uniformly evil and twisted – but none more so than the crabby talkshow host. Contorting his way through contrived and overly plotted devices – c’mon, who uses hot water to wash hands in sweaty Bombay, other than a talk show host who has to write the wrong answer on a mirror – seemed a tad convenient didn’t it, Mr. Beufoy? And just to vindicate his overblown reaction to Dev Patel’s triumphant march through improbable knowledge, like a taxi in Andheri, we are asked to suspend disbelief to spring-busting limits. A two line throw away bathroom accounts for Mr. Kapoor’s bizarre behavior…

Noh! Really? HE was a slumdog too.

‘I have it all, I come from where you did, and I will make sure your ascent is stymied’. There you have it too – the famed Indian crab mentality covered by what’s rapidly becoming the great Indian film. Another box checked.

As to the hammy love affair between Mr. P and the to-be misses, suffice to say, my skin crawled as it became alarmingly apparent that this was the motor, the engine, the flux capacitor of Slumdog Millionaire. ‘No’ I screamed inside, ‘this can not be the reason why I am watching this movie’.

But, what of the children! Those wonderfully innocent, wide-eyed, mischievous slum-pups, who jumped on trains, got their eyes taken out, sang plaintively – weren’t they just brilliant? And what of the imagery – the Star-Trek child-Krishana energized into a Hindu-Muslim riot, the Taj Mahal appearing in the gold-dust of tumbling kids. B’jeez, this film has magical realism too – its grog that would make Tim Burton flush.

I, for one, was having nightmares. Images of matka-filling-belle-at-village-well-and-the-jhatka-of-the-walking-across-the-dunes-in-the-slanting-suns-of-the-twilight-hour – yes, that kind of cringe movie; the heaving of the collective Indian mid-riff, the fakirs on a bed of nails and the snake-charmer before it; in the rich tradition of Sabu and Godbole – aye, Danny, that’s the rub – that really sold it to ‘em.

Unfortunately, if and when the magical cow-dust is allowed to settle, the film did not amount to more than an entertaining, larger than life (overlong) music video celebrating an ascent of a cartoon character from crap. But with marketing dollars strapped to it like an emergency parachute, its managed to pull off nothing short of a miraculous leap out of DVD hell screaming – ‘we are legit cause we can slum wash, and do it doggedly, till we do it so much that everyone says so, we’ll keep barking till you buy the ticket, tune-in and pick up the DVD version too’.

This is 21st century entertainment by a decidedly 20th century fox who figured that once the obligatory box of social relevance is checked, its all legit; in their euphoric way members of the academy, the Globers, the Screeners, even the BAFTAS shall obediently fall into line.

This is briefer-than-match-light illumination of a dark continent for the underexposed waspy American (who’s box office drives the global film business), who is (of late) finding it kinda cool to engage with the rest of the world. Perhaps its because of the new dude in the white house, perhaps its a seeking of enlightenment cause America is searching for its soul, being out of work makes people introspective, meaning-of-life questions appear meaningful. Perhaps its simpler than that. Just a purging of collective guilt through a convenient screen, or even the visceral thrill of catching a fleeting glimpse of poverty – a wide-eyed backpacking teenager – ready to absorb, believe and frighteningly conclude without history, geography; without context or parameters.

Whatever the state of the world, and the complicated forces that contribute to public sentiment, Slumdog Millionaire is not a cinematic masterpiece.

Sorry. It just ‘aint.

I watch a lot of entertaining yet soulless films and after the obligatory post-film-dinner conversation, in which the falafel off a freeway in Los Angeles feels more authentic than the film that preceded it, the memory eases into the recycle bin of images – a blur.

Slumdog engaged me in a simmilar way. I saw the film a few months ago at a Fox premiere in LA, and similarly forgot about it till now – that is, till the universal adulation and the carpet bombing of awards. I was forced to sit up and wonder whether the world had gone collectively cuckoo.

There are films that slam you in the gut, that take the wind of out you, that render you speechless, that wrench your heart till you think its going to pop, that cause a rock to form in your throat, that creep under your skin – films that make you squirm and realize how shitty things really are or those that lift your spirit in a collective sigh. There are films that reveal something between the folds of our world, or show us mindscapes twisted or elevated, or landscapes that make us gasp. From those cinematic experiences we emerge stunned, educated, sensitized, horrified, mesmerized.

Trainspotting, for instance, was one such film.

I don’t doubt the sincerity and genuine effort on Mr. Boyle’s part to frame the milieu in which this unfortunate yarn is set; and by all accounts, he is a humble, generous man. A great spirit on set and saintly to those who come in touch with him. But for all his goodness and talent this is potential belied, a promise unfulfilled and particularly so, because it was Bombay, it was India and it was Danny Boyle. And this is one that I REALLY wanted to like.
Hmm. Anyway, enjoy the Oscars but don’t go looking for Bombay here – you may not find it.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

sexual harrasment and rape

Arab Men Should Sexually Harass Israeli Woman As Resistance

Other Islamist threats in Pakistan

The other Islamist threat in Pakistan

By Selig S. Harrison | June 17, 2009

Boston Globe

THE DANGER of an Islamist takeover of Pakistan is real. But it does not come from the Taliban guerrillas now battling the Pakistan Army in the Swat borderlands. It comes from a proliferating network of heavily armed Islamist militias in the Punjab heartland and major cities directed by Lashkar-e-Taiba, a close ally of Al Qaeda, which staged the terrorist attack last November in Mumbai, India.

Pakistan’s failure to crack down on Lashkar-e-Taiba militias and the recent release of two of its leaders jailed after the Mumbai attack led to an angry exchange on Monday at a meeting in Russia between Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistan Prime Minister Asif Ali Zardari.

No new US aid commitments should be made to Islamabad until it takes decisive action to disarm Lashkar-e-Taiba in accordance with Article 256 of the Pakistan Constitution, which bars private militias. The administration wants to provide $3 billion in new military aid on top of the $10 billion already showered on Pakistan since 2001, together with a five-year, $7.5 billion program of economic aid. Surprisingly, while congressional leaders are seeking to attach a variety of conditions to the aid package, they have so far ignored the critical issue of the militias.

Disarming Lashkar-e-Taiba should be the top US priority in Pakistan because it would greatly reduce the possibility of a coup by Islamist sympathizers in the armed forces. The closet Islamists in the Army and the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) are not likely to risk a coup in Islamabad unless they can count on armed support from Lashkar-e-Taiba and its allies to help them consolidate their grip on the countryside.

Equally important, a strong US stand on Lashkar-e-Taiba is necessary to defuse India-Pakistan tensions that could lead to another war and to sustain the improvement now taking place in US relations with India, a rising power eight times larger than Pakistan.

New Delhi fears a repeat of the Mumbai massacre, in which 166 were killed, and views US readiness to pressure Islamabad on the militias as a litmus test of US friendship.

To be sure, the Pakistan government did make a show of cracking down on Lashkar-e-Taiba after the Mumbai tragedy. It banned it, placed two of its leaders under house arrest, and jailed and arrested six of its operatives on charges of “facilitating a terrorist act.’’ But the two leaders were released on June 2. The government stopped short of breaking up the militias and destroying the weapons stockpiles at their four training camps near Muridke and Muzaffarabad, and it has yet to prosecute the six prisoners or to arrest Zaki-ur-Rahman Lakhvi, identified by US and Indian intelligence sources as the ringleader of the Mumbai attack, who is still at large.

Under a new name, Jawad-ud-Dawa, Lashkar-e-Taiba has continued to operate its militias, its FM radio station, and hundreds of seminaries where jihadis are trained, in addition to its legitimate charities and educational institutions. When the UN designated Jawat-ud-Dawa as a terrorist group, the Pakistan government issued another ban and Jawat-ud-Dawa changed its name to the Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation.

The “foundation’’ now has 2,000 members doing relief work in war-torn Swat with the approval of the Pakistan government, amid credible reports that it is using its humanitarian cover to recruit new members as it did after the 2002 Kashmir earthquake.

Lashkar-e-Taiba is on the Sunni side of the Sunni-Shia doctrinal divide in Islam and has its deepest roots in a 20,000-square-mile swath of southern Punjab between Jhang and Bahawalpur, where it champions the cause of landless Sunni peasants indentured to big Shia landowners.

“It is common knowledge that the local police are in their pocket in much of that area,’’ retired diplomat Tariq Fatemi, a former ambassador to Washington, told me recently.

Sunni extremist groups have been active in the Punjab since the creation of Pakistan and became the nucleus of Lashkar-e-Taiba when the ISI, with US funding, built up a jihadi movement to fight against Soviet forces in Afghanistan. Lashkar-e-Taiba and key allies such as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi still get ISI support and have close ties with other intelligence agencies, but how much and how close remain uncertain.

Like Al Qaeda to Americans, Lashkar-e-Taiba is a powerful emotive symbol to the 1.2 billion people of India. Hindu nationalists use this symbolism to fan fears of another Mumbai and to step up demands for reprisals against Pakistan. Increasingly, they are criticizing the United States for giving Pakistan money and weaponry without monitoring whether they are being used to strengthen Pakistan forces on the Indian border.

Why, they ask, should the United States give another $10.5 billion in aid, on top of the $14 billion already provided since 2001, to a government in Islamabad that is unwilling or unable to disarm home-grown terrorists who threaten India?

Why, indeed.

Selig S. Harrison is author of “Pakistan, The State of the Union,’’ a report just published by the Center for International Policy, where he is director of the Asia program.