The Benevolent British Raj?

Kapil Dudakia Wednesday 21st February 2024 05:38 EST

I have heard many people describe the British Empire as benevolent. Especially the British Raj in relation to India. Readers may recall I had written an article in November 2021 titled, ‘The Truth Commission’ in which I explore the damage done to India and Indians by the British. Thereafter I wrote an open letter to His Majesty, in June 2023 titled, ‘Letter for the King’ in which I champion the idea of a ‘Truth, Reconciliation and Reparation Commission’. It is of course a regret that Her Majesty failed in the time she had as our monarch to proactively take steps to remedy the wrongs of British history. I am hopeful that maybe His Majesty might read my letter again and appreciate, that for each day that goes by the genuineness of any future reparation and reconciliation will be undermined.

 It is my contention that the British Raj was the very opposite of being benevolent. This notion, a narrative to over egg the contribution of an occupying brutal force to hide the truth from history is now coming apart at the seams. In the 21st Century, with the advent of modern technology and the capacity of social media platforms, the descendants of the enslavedarerising upto correct history.

 Did you know that some 24 million Indians died during the time of the British Raj due to famine alone?  Yes, 24 million Indians literally died due to starvation whilst the British elite in India enjoyed their gratuitous lifestyle of wealth and splendour.

 Information from 1860 to 1943 (broadly the period of the British Raj in India) shows there were at least nine famines resulting in millions of deaths.

 Table 1:          Deaths due to Famine in India (1860 to 1943)



Note, even as the Britishwere in the last few years of their ‘Raj’, millions died due to starvation.


I have always had trouble accepting terms like the benevolent British Raj, or the benevolent Christian God. It has never made sense since their actions showcase only death and brutality.

 One wonders how many history books in the UK (or for that matter even in India) talk about and discuss why millions died in India during the Raj?

 Please do remember, this number represents deaths by way of hunger and starvation.  To know the real figure of how many Indians lost their lives during the raj of the British, I looked at research conducted by Dylan Sullivan and Jason Hickel titled ‘Capitalism and extreme poverty: A global analysis of real wages, human height, and Mortality since the long 16th century’ in the journal 'World Development'. In which they state, “If we measure excess mortality over England’s 16th- and 17th-century average death rate, we find 165 million excess deaths in India between 1880 and 1920. This figure is larger than the combined number of deaths from both World Wars, including the Nazi holocaust."

 To put this in some context, this is among the largest policy-induced mortality crises in human history. It is larger than the combined number of deaths that occurred during all famines in the Soviet Union, Maoist China, North Korea, Pol Pot’s Cambodia, and Mengistu’s Ethiopia.

 The benevolent British Raj is anything but that once you delve into the truth of the atrocities committed in the name of their Kings and Queens.

 We the living descendants of India that is Bharat today, seek that His Majesty and his Government establish a ‘Royal Truth Commission’ to document one of the most horrendous periodsin human history, and the role of Great Britian.

 I shall never cease in raising this as an issue time and again. One day, the truth will come out and I hope that not only India, but nations around the world who have suffered a similar historical wrong, may one day get justice.

 Was the British Raj benevolent? I dare you to answer that truthfully now. 

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