The Gandhi Way

February 15, 2018

Click and Open:



Poem by Leonard Dabydeen

February 4, 2018

Itinerant Poet

Itinerant Poet



“The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.”

~ Louis L’Amour


You are not alone on this wind-rush march,

Itinerant ink scribing papyrus

Upon demands and deadlines flaming porch;

Or over ant-hills disturbed omnibus.


Sometimes the hour is long as day or night,

And eyes rebel to yawning sleep-o-tide;

But you cannot haul sail in a ship’s flight

For the ink must flow where shadows abide.


When it is not by your will, but dharma

This oeuvre fest embellishes your mind,

Deep in all your literary karma

And unfurl all your constraints free from bind.


Where vista cravings for horizons tempt,

Our writing rhapsody must be well spent.



POEM by Swami Vivekananda

February 4, 2018


By Swami Vivekananda

(12 January 1863 – 4 July 1902 / Calcutta / India)

(Written on 1 September,1898.)

Angels Unawares


One bending low with load of life —

That meant no joy, but suffering harsh and hard —

And wending on his way through dark and dismal paths

Without a flash of light from brain or heart

To give a moment’s cheer, till the line

That marks out pain from pleasure, death from life,

And good from what is evil was well-nigh wiped from sight,

Saw, one blessed night, a faint but beautiful ray of light

Descend to him. He knew not what or wherefrom,

But called it God and worshipped.

Hope, an utter stranger, came to him and spread

Through all his parts, and life to him meant more

Than he could ever dream and covered all he knew,

Nay, peeped beyond his world. The Sages

Winked, and smiled, and called it ‘superstition’.

But he did feel its power and peace

And gently answered back —

‘O Blessed Superstition! ‘



One drunk with wine of wealth and power

And health to enjoy them both, whirled on

His maddening course, till the earth, he thought,

Was made for him, his pleasure-garden, and man,

The crawling worm, was made to find him sport,

Till the thousand lights of joy, with pleasure fed,

That flickered day and night before his eyes,

With constant change of colours, began to blur

His sight, and cloy his senses; till selfishness,

Like a horny growth, had spread all o’er his heart;

And pleasure meant to him no more than pain,

Bereft of feeling; and life in the sense,

So joyful, precious once, a rotting corpse between his arms,

Which he forsooth would shun, but more he tried, the more

It clung to him; and wished, with frenzied brain,

A thousand forms of death, but quailed before the charm,

Then sorrow came — and Wealth and Power went —

And made him kinship find with all the human race

In groans and tears, and though his friends would laugh,

His lips would speak in grateful accents —

‘O Blessed Misery! ‘



One born with healthy frame — but not of will

That can resist emotions deep and strong,

Nor impulse throw, surcharged with potent strength —

And just the sort that pass as good and kind,

Beheld that he was safe, whilst others long

And vain did struggle ‘gainst the surging waves.

Till, morbid grown, his mind could see, like flies

That seek the putrid part, but what was bad.

Then Fortune smiled on him, and his foot slipped.

That ope’d his eyes for e’er, and made him find

That stones and trees ne’er break the law,

But stones and trees remain; that man alone

Is blest with power to fight and conquer Fate,

Transcending bounds and laws.

From him his passive nature fell, and life appeared

As broad and new, and broader, newer grew,

Till light ahead began to break, and glimpse of That

Where Peace Eternal dwells — yet one can only reach

By wading through the sea of struggles — courage-giving, came.

Then looking back on all that made him kin

To stocks and stones, and on to what the world

Had shunned him for, his fall, he blessed the fall,

And with a joyful heart, declared it —

‘Blessed Sin! ‘

February 1, 2018




February 1, 2018


Gandhi_student JPEG

(salutation to M K Gandhi)

By Leonard Dabydeen


We are all at fault

you and I

and others too

in the canon of our trajectory

catapulting peace over perjury

harmony versus angst

no one cooks rice

without sifting it

always some undesirables

within complex webs

of our minds

where our karma revolts

or echoes involuntarily

in matrix of peace and sanctity

as we grapple with sinews

and seek bhakti

embellishing dharma

being this change we wish

for you and me

immersing melodic stotras

within gems of Bhagavad Gita.


February 1, 2018


Patchareeporn Sakoolchai / Getty Images

Religion & Spirituality

by By Shri Gyan Rajhans, CIH, ROH, P.Eng.
Updated September 23, 2017


Westerners think of Hinduism as a “religion,” but this is perhaps not the best translation. More precisely, Hinduism is better thought of as a “Dharma.”​

The word religion literally means “that which leads one to God.” The word Dharma, on the other hand, is derived from the root Sanskrit word “dhri” which means “to hold together, ” and thus has a wider meaning than the word ​religion. And there is no truly equivalent word for Dharma in either English or in any other language, for that matter.

Because Hinduism does not “lead to God” but rather seeks union, in this sense, Hinduism is not a religion, but rather a dharma. Those who profess the Hindu Dharma and seek to follow it, are guided by spiritual, social and moral rules, actions, knowledge, and duties which are responsible for holding the human race together.Hindu Dharma is also known by the names Sanatana Dharma and Vaidik Dharma. “Sanatana” means eternal and all-pervading and “Vaidik Dharma” means the Dharma based on the Vedas. In simple terms, one can say that Dharma means a code of conduct, i.e. doing the right thing, in thought, word, and deed, having always in mind that behind all our deeds there is a Supreme Being. This is the teaching of the Vedas, which are the original source of our Dharma–“Vedo-Khilo Dharma Moolam.”

Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, the great philosopher, statesman and former President of India has described what is Dharma in these words:
“Dharma is that which binds society together. That which divides society, breaks it up into parts and makes people fight one another is Adharma (non-religion). Dharma is nothing more than the realization of the Supreme and acting in every small act of your life with that Supreme present in your mind. If you are able to do so, you are performing Dharma. If other interests pervade you, and you try to translate your mind into other regions, even though you may think you are a believer, you will not become a true believer. The real believer in God has his heart always lifted to Dharma”.

According to Swami Sivananda,

“Hinduism allows absolute freedom to the rational mind of man. It never demands any undue restraint upon the freedom of human reason, the freedom of thought, feeling and will of man. Hinduism is a religion of freedom, allowing the widest margin of freedom in matters of faith and worship. It allows absolute freedom of human reason and heart with regard to such questions as to the nature of God, soul, form of worship, creation, and the goal of life. It does not force anybody to accept particular dogmas or forms of worship. It allows everybody to reflect, investigate, enquire and cogitate.”
Hence all manner of religious faiths, various forms of worship or spiritual practices, diverse rituals and customs have found their place, side by side, within Hinduism, and are cultured and developed in harmony with one another. Hinduism, unlike other religions, does not dogmatically assert that the final emancipation or liberation is possible only through its means and not through any other. It is only a means to an end, and in this philosophy, all means that ultimately lead to the final goal are accepted

The religious hospitality of Hinduism is legendary. Hinduism is fundamentally liberal and catholic in its openness to variety.

It pays respect to all religious traditions, accepting and honoring truth from wherever it may come and in whatever garb it is presented.

“Yato Dhrmah Tato Jayah”–Where Dharma exists victory is guaranteed.










February 1, 2018


Namaste, Gandhiji –

Poem by Leonard Dabydeen

(Tuesday, October 2, 2012)

Footprints On The Sands Of Time


Footprints on the sands of time

glow with birthmark

each glittering step

unshaken and challenging

not by yielding to temptation

but thirst for truth

for the awakening of men

for soul-searching

in glimpses of the Transvaal

for monsoon moments

in vestibules of maharajas

turnstiles in South Africa

under a mango tree in India

ricocheting in global rumbles

for peace and non-violence

and as the wind whispers

in a stormy weather

where wars create bedrocks

for sleepless journeys

I clasp my hands

in solemn gesture

as if it were the beginning

of the end

namaste, Gandhiji.



India Today Magazine: January 29, 2018

Gopalkrishna Gandhi


Dharma as Intuition

To be dharmic, one has to be good, do right, neither be frightened by might nor act like a fool



MY FIRST ‘RELIGIOUS’ memory is shrouded in death.

And is yet more alive than most things I know.

Its ‘home’ is a photograph, black and white as photographs used to be in that era, of a man’s, an old man’s, prone figure on the floor. He is covered in white, his chest bare. Mourners are huddled beside it.


How quickly, in a single moment, a man or a woman becomes ‘the remains’, ‘the body’, ‘it’.

Vasamsi jirnani yatha vihaya Navani grhnati naro ‘parani Tatha sarirani vihaya jirnany Anyani samyati navani dehi (As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, similarly, the soul gives up the old and accepts new ones.)

That is how the Bhagavad Gita describes Crossings. And that is how it was with this one.

I am told I was there at the time, all of three years, but have no memory of it, which does not matter, as that photograph, taken an hour or so after Gandhi was struck down, is immovably etched in my mind’s eye. It has captured the moment for all time.

It has been and stays, for me, a deeply religious moment, a deeply Hindu moment. I have been to temples, attended discourses, read Hindu scripture. But there is no experience that I have been through—in this case entirely in my mind’s eye—when I have felt more religious, more Hindu, than when I am one with that image, that moment, of a death which, for me, is about life and its renewal. About living.

The scene is accompanied in my mind by a scent, the scent of incense and a sound, the sound of prayer. I can hear in that picture Raghupati Raghava Raja Ram being sung. That being the song, which Gandhi had chosen, adapted to join Allah to Ishvar, introduced into his daily prayer congregations.

My mind has superimposed that fragrance and that prayer-song onto the picture. And together, they comprise my first religious memory, my first ‘Hindu’ memory, and my first awareness of being Hindu. That triptych of an image, a scent and a song belong to a connected sequence. And that sequence goes like this:


On January 20, 1948, at the Birla House grounds, in New Delhi when Gandhi was addressing his daily prayer meeting—not just a meeting, a prayer meeting—a low-grade explosion broke the congregation’s peace. Gandhi did not, could not, know what had caused the explosion, but he said nonetheless to the agitated gathering “Suno, suno, suno sab suno…kuchh nahin hua hai… (Listen, listen, listen…it is nothing, it is nothing)” And then as the gathering’s nervous chatter subsided he asked for Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram to be sung. And all became quiet, all became calm.

The explosion was from a small bomb which Madanlal Pahwa, a young Hindu refugee from Pakistan, had detonated. This was not a loner’s doing. He was part of a plot to cause a commotion in the prayer meeting and use that moment of confusion and agitation to assassinate Gandhi. Pahwa’s fellow conspirators slunk away unseen when, thanks to Gandhi’s prayerful presence of mind and the congregation’s maturity, the expected mayhem did not happen.



ON THE EVENING OF JANUARY 30, 1948, more than 2,000 kilometres away, in Madras, Madurai Shanmukhavadivu Subbulakshmi, celebrated as ‘MS’, was listening to Saint Tyagaraja’s devotional music on the radio when the programme was interrupted for an announcement. The Mahatma is no more. Shot dead. By a man said to belong to a militant Hindu organisation. She listened with thousands, stunned. A moment later, she heard her own voice over the same radio. All India Radio played, with great imagination and equal reflexes, immediately after the announcement a Mirabai song Subbulakshmi had recorded for Gandhi, through AIR:

Hari, tum haro jana ki bhir (God, take away people’s fears) Some scholars render jana ki bhir as jana ki pir, the last word, in Braj, meaning pain.

This is a sequence, starting with an explosion that is followed by suno, suno and the becalming Raghupati Raghav, then going through January 30’s three bullets and Ram! terminates in Subbulakshmi listening to her own Hari, tum haro jana ki bhir.

That sequence is my personal anchor in the religion of my forebears. The religion they thought of and spoke of, simply, as dharma or ‘the right way of living’. Did they call that dharma ‘Hindu’? I think they did, but when their forebears or their forebears began using the term ‘Hindu’, I cannot tell. I simply lack the scholarship. But this I know, they never ceased calling their belief dharma. They might have used ‘Hindu’ as a prefix or amplification to dharma, but it was dharma, doing right, that mattered. Dharma was their religion’s doctrine, dharma its practice. Dharma pre-existed codes, shastras and samhitas. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan says so aptly, “Hinduism… is the union of reason and intuition that cannot be defined, but is only to be experienced…”

There is in the heart of the January 1948 sequence an extraordinarily dharmic chain of intuition and experience, which at the same time is extraordinarily aesthetic, dharmically aesthetic. Violence is perpetrated on a peaceful prayer congregation, an inherently adharmic act. And that is responded to not by counter-violence but by a call, spurred by intuition, for more prayer, the very antithesis of violence. Then violence returns with greater precision and diabolism, to be matched by greater prayer and the highest form of non-violent dharma—the living experience of death merging with a call to Rama, in a perfect act of surrender to the finality of God’s will, without resentment or recrimination, in an appeal to God to receive his life, his soul, his all. And then, even as Gandhi’s corporeal frame awaits co-mingling with the elements, the ‘daughter of Madurai’s goddess Meenakshi’, muse of all devotion and only maestro of her kind, Subbulakshmi, listens to her own voice singing to all humankind the song of Mewar’s daughter Mirabai seeking a deliverance for humanity from fear, from pain.

Fear. Pain. Fear of what? What pain?

Fear of the tyranny of violence, the pain that is inflicted by superior might. The song, Hari, tum haro jana ki bhir acknowledges the existence of tyranny, of brute force, of violence. And it admits, honestly and humbly, that fear of all those things exists, that pain is a fact of human life. It talks of Draupadi being saved from the lust of Duhshasana, the all-powerful demon Hiranyakashipu being slain by Narasimha, an avatar of Vishnu, an elephant being rescued from the jaws of a crocodile, as examples of Divine Grace exerting the superiority of moral over physical force.

DHARMA, HINDU DHARMA, as I see it from my utter theological ordinariness, grants that malevolence exists, both as a mega presence and in individual manifestations of it. The why and how of malevolence, of asuras, rakshasas, of ‘evil’ is not sought to be unravelled. The man who burst a bomb in the prayer meeting, it is said, thought he was doing his dharma. The man who shot Gandhi, he said, believed he was doing his dharma. And Gandhi, of course, was doing his, intuitively, experientially.

Whose dharma was the right dharma? Whose dharma was rightly Hindu?

The question beguiles.

It uses the cunning of argument, tarka, to give crime, aparadha, credit.

It subterfuges truth, subverts dharma.

Crime cannot rival its target, nor the criminal equal his victim. Hatred is no dharmic emotion and murder, selfdefiningly adharmic. There are, of course, exceptions—murder in self-defence or to save another in danger. But murder per se can neither requite any provocation, nor fulfil any injunction. It is, simply, base. Even as rape can never be dharmic, murder cannot cite scripture. If hatred may be termed a disease, murder has to be described as depraved. And mass murder, pogroms, such as terror or racism occasions, simply and utterly diabolic. The tyrannous Hiranyakashipu, the depraved Duhshasana and the metaphorical crocodile’s razor-jaws are real and contemporarily so. To resist them, seeking Grace in so doing, is dharma.

To see in caste religious sanction is faddism, not dharma. To see in bigotry faith is viciousness, not dharma.

I am no expert in Arabic and am un-versed in the Holy Quran, but I would think iman comes close to dharma, as does conscience.

Who says all this, who feels so ?

Plain I.

A Hindu.

I, simple, inconsequential. I, who have no learning, no training in the agama or the Vedas, but possess like anyone else what Radhakrishnan has called “religious intuition” which Hindus know as dharma. The ‘freedom’ of a Hindu to self-define her or his dharma is the greatest asset that Hinduism confers. The same ‘freedom’, when used to subvert, subterfuge dharma is the cunning’s sly theft of that asset.

To be dharmic is to be good and do right, it is not to be frightened by might. It is not to be a fool.

Gopalkrishna Gandhi is a retired administrator, diplomat and governor. He teaches history and writes columns for Indian dailies on matters old and of current interest.












Where Have the Roses Gone

January 11, 2018


Where have the roses gone from my garden?
Look how those left freeze in cold winter wind;
Nothing I can do nor ask for pardon
To save the lovely petals as they’re thinned.

Here in the kitchen I gaze in dismay,
Looking at the sky with kind entreaty;
Hoping snowflakes will not fall on this day
Not till I’ve picked these roses’ beauty.

But soon the snowflakes will come, I know;
And marigold of bright yellow and pink
Will shiver and go to sleep in the snow;
It matters not how I feel; what I think.

When Nature brings forth all its nuisances,
Our roses must yield up their fragrances.


Leonard Dabydeen is author of Watching You, A Collection of Tetractys Poems , Xlibris Publication(2012); Searching for You, A Collection of Tetractys and Fibonacci Poems, Xlibris Publication (2015)


My, Oh My Spring Sunshine

January 11, 2018


Spring Sunshine

(a sonnet in iambic pentameter)


It’s that feeling of joyful expression,

That moment of lifting your spirit high

When you watch the momentous recession

Of snow-plough going off street with a sigh.


It’s that ecstatic gilt, glee and glamour,

That any chance feeling of freezing cold

Will be gone till the month of December

While you refresh the tired lawn with new mold.


It’s that end of winter solstice, long days

That bring sunshine, fluttering birds and bees;

While children speak of kites in many ways

And best of them all, sprouting leaves on trees.


Some will chart timely eclipse of the moon,

But my, oh my spring sunshine will be soon.



British Colonials Starved to Death 60 million-plus Indians, But, Why?

December 9, 2017

British Colonials Starved to Death 60 million-plus Indians, But, Why?

by Ramtanu Maitra July 3, 2015 EIR

The chronic want of food and water, the lack of sanitation and medical help, the neglect of means of communication, the poverty of educational provision, the all-pervading spirit of depression that I have myself seen to prevail in our villages after over a hundred years of British rule make me despair of its beneficence. — Rabindranath Tagore

If the history of British rule in India were to be condensed to a single fact, it is this: there was no increase in India’s per-capita income from 1757 to 1947.[1]

Churchill, explaining why he defended the stockpiling of food within Britain, while millions died of starvation in Bengal, told his private secretary that “the Hindus were a foul race, protected by their mere pullulation from the doom that is their due.”[2]

June 27— During its 190 years of looting and pillaging, the Indian Subcontininent as a whole underwent at least two dozen major famines, which collectively killed millions of Indians throughout the length and breadth of the land. How many millions succumbed to the famines cannot be fully ascertained. However, colonial rulers’ official numbers indicate it could be 60 million deaths. In reality, it could be significantly higher.

British colonial analysts cited droughts as the cause of fallen agricultural production that led to these famines, but that is a lie. British rulers, fighting wars in Europe and elsewhere, and colonizing parts of Africa, were exporting grains from India to keep up their colonial conquests—while famines were raging. People in the famineaffected areas, resembling skeletons covered by skin only, were wandering around, huddling in corners and dying by the millions. The Satanic nature of these British rulers cannot be overstated.

A Systematic Depopulation Policy

Although no accurate census figure is available, in the year 1750 India’s population was close to 155 million. At the time British colonial rule ended in 1947, undivided India’s population reached close to 390 million. In other words, during these 190 years of colonial looting and organized famines, India’s population rose by 240 million. Since 1947, during the next 68-year period, Indian Subcontininent’s population, including those of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, has grown to close to 1.6 billion. Thus, despite poverty and economic depravity in the post-independent Indian Subcontininent, during those 68 years population has grown by almost 1.2 billion.

Records show that during the post-independence period, the Subcontininent has undergone drought conditions in parts of the land from time to time, but there was no famine, although thousands still die in the Subcontininent annually due to the lack of adequate amount of food, a poor food distribution system, and lack of sufficient nourishment. It is also to be noted that before the British colonials’ jackboots got firmly planted in India, famines had occurred but with much less frequency—maybe once in a century.

There was indeed no reason for these famines to occur They occurred only because The Empire engineered them, intending to strengthen the Empire by ruthless looting and adoption of an unstated policy to depopulate India. This, they believed would bring down the Empire’s cost of sustaining India.

Take, for instance, the case of Bengal, which is in the eastern part of the Subcontininent where the British East India Company (HEIC, Honorable East India Company, according to Elizabeth I’s charter) had first planted its jackboots in 1757. The rapacious looters, under the leadership of Robert Clive—a degenerate and opium addict, who blew his brains out in 1774 in the London Berkley Square residence he had procured with the benefits of his looting—got control of what is now West Bengal, Bangladesh, Bihar, and Odisha (earlier, Orissa), in 1765. At the time, historical records indicate India represented close to 25% of the world’s GDP, second only to China, while Britain had a paltry 2%. Bengal was the richest of the Indian provinces.

Following his securing control of Bengal by ousting the Nawab in a devious battle at Plassey (Palashi), Clive placed a puppet on the throne, paid him off, and negotiated an agreement with him for the HEIC to become the sole tax collector, while leaving the nominal responsibility for government to his puppet. That arrangement lasted for a century, as more and more Indian states were bankrupted to facilitate future famines. The tax money went into British coffers, while millions were starved to death in Bengal and Bihar.

Clive, who was made a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1768 and whose statue stands near the British Empire’s evil center, Whitehall, near the Cabinet War Room, had this to say in his defense when the British Parliament, playing “fair,” accused him of looting and other abuses in India:

Consider the situation which the Victory of Plassey had placed on me. A great Prince was dependent upon my pleasure; an opulent city lay at my mercy; its richest bankers bid against each other for my smiles; I walked through vaults which were thrown open to me alone, piled on either hand with gold and jewels! By God, Mr. Chairman, at this moment I stand astonished at my own moderation.

However, Clive was not the only murderous British colonial ruler. The British Empire had sent one butcher after another to India, all of whom engineered looting and its consequent depopulation.

By 1770, when the first great famine occurred in Bengal, the province had been looted to the core. What followed was sheer horror. Here is how John Fiske in his American Philosopher in the Unseen World depicted the Bengal famine:

All through the stifling summer of 1770 the people went on dying. The husbandmen sold their cattle; they sold their implements of agriculture; they devoured their seed-grain; they sold their sons and daughters, till at length no buyer of children could be found; they ate the leaves of trees and the grass of the field. . . . The streets were blocked up with promiscuous heaps of the dying and dead. Interment could not do its work quick enough; even the dogs and jackals, the public scavengers of the East, became unable to accomplish their revolting work, and the multitude of mangled and festering corpses at length threatened the existence of the citizens…. [3]

Was there any reason for the famine to occur? Not if the British had not wanted it. Bengal, then, as now, harvested three crops a year. It is located in the delta of the Gangetic plain where water is more than plentiful. Even if drought occurs, it does not destroy all three crops. Moreover, as was prevalent during the Moghul days, and in earlier time, the surplus grain was stored to tide the population over if there were one or two bad crops.

But the looting of grains carried out by Clive, and his gang of bandits and killers, drained grain from Bengal and resulted in 10 million deaths in the great famine, eliminating one-third of Bengal’s population.

It should be noted that Britain’s much-touted industrial revolution began in 1770, the very same year people were dying all over Bengal. The Boston Tea Party that triggered the American Revolution had taken place in 1773. The Boston Tea Party made the Empire realize that its days in America were numbered, and led Britain to concentrate even more on organizing the looting of India.

Why Famines Became So Prevalent During the British Raj Days

The prime reason why these devastating famines took place at a regular intervals, and were allowed to continue for years, was the British Empire’s policy of depopulating its colonies. If these famines had not occurred, India’s population would have reached a billion people long before the Twentieth Century arrived. That, the British Empire saw as a disaster.

To begin with, a larger Indian population would mean larger consumption by the locals, and deprive the British Raj to a greater amount of loot. The logical way to deal with the problem was to develop India’s agricultural infrastructure. But that would not only force Britain to spend more money to run its colonial and bestial empire; it would also develop a healthy population which could rise up to get rid of the abomination called the British Raj. These massive famines also succeeded in weakening the social structure and backbone of the Indians, making rebellions against the colonial forces less likely. In order to perpetuate famines, and thus depopulate the “heathen” and “dark” Indians, the British imperialists launched a systematic propaganda campaign. They propped up the fraudster Parson Thomas Malthus and promoted his non-scientific gobbledygook, “The Essay on Population.” There he claimed:

This natural inequality of the two powers of population and of production in the earth, and that great law of our nature which must constantly keep their effects equal, form the great difficulty that to me appears insurmountable in the way to the perfectibility of society. All other arguments are of slight and subordinate consideration in comparison of this. I see no way by which man can escape from the weight of this law which pervades all animated nature.

Although Malthus was ordained in the Anglican Church, British Empire made him a paid “economist” of the British East India Company, which, with the charter from Queen Elizabeth I under its belt, monopolized trade in Asia, colonizing vast tracts of the continent using its well-armed militia fighting under the English flag of St. George.

Malthus was picked up at the Haileybury and Imperial Service College, which was also the recruiting ground of some of the worst colonial criminals. This college was where the makers of British Empire’s murderous policies in India were trained. Some prominent alumni of Haileybury include Sir John Lawrence (Viceroy of India from 1864-68) and Sir Richard Temple (Lt. Governor of Bengal and later, Governor of Bombay presidency).

While Parson Malthus was putting forward his sinister “scientific theory” to justify depopulation as a natural and necessary process, The British Empire collected a whole bunch of other “economists” who wrote about the necessity of free trade. Free trade played a major role in pushing through the Empire’s genocidal depopulation of India, through the British Raj’s efforts. In fact, free trade is the other side of the Malthus’ population-control coin.

By the time the great famine of 1876 arrived, Britain had already built some railroads in India. The railroads, which were touted as institutional safeguards against famines, were instead used by merchants to ship grain inventories from outlying drought-stricken districts to central depots for hoarding. In addition, free traders’ opposition to price control ushered in a frenzy of grain speculation. As a result, capital was raised to import grains from drought-stricken areas, and further the calamity. The rise of price of grain was spectacularly rapid, and grain was taken from where it was most needed, to be stored in warehouses until the prices rose even higher.

The British Raj knew or should have known. Even if the British rulers did not openly encourage this process, they were fully aware of it, and they were perfectly comfortable in promoting free trade at the expense of millions of lives. This is how Mike Davis described what happened:

The rise [of prices] was so extraordinary, and the available supply, as compared with well-known requirements, so scanty that merchants and dealers, hopeful of enormous future gains, appeared determined to hold their stocks for some indefinite time and not to part with the article which was becoming of such unwonted value. It was apparent to the Government that facilities for moving grain by the rail were rapidly raising prices everywhere, and that the activity of apparent importation and railway transit, did not indicate any addition to the food stocks of the Presidency . …retail trade up-country was almost at a standstill. Either prices were asked which were beyond the means of the multitude to pay, or shops remained entirely closed.

At the time, Lord Lytton, a favorite poet of Queen Victoria who is known as a “butcher” to many Indians, was the Viceroy. He wholeheartedly opposed all efforts to stockpile grain to feed the famine-stricken population because that would interfere with market forces. In the autumn of 1876, while the monsoon crop was withering in the fields of southern India, Lytton was absorbed in organizing the immense Imperial Assemblage in Delhi to proclaim Victoria Empress of India.

How did Lytton justify this? He was an avowed admirer and follower of Adam Smith. Author Mike Davis writes that Smith

a century earlier in The Wealth of Nations had asserted (vis-à-vis the terrible Bengal drought and famine of 1770) that famine has never arisen from any other cause but the violence of government attempting, by improper means, to remedy the inconvenience of dearth, Lytton was implementing what Smith had taught him and other believers of free trade. Smith’s injunction against state attempts to regulate the price of grain during the 1770 famine had been taught for years in the East India Company’s famous college at Haileybury.[4]

Lytton issued strict orders that “there is to be no interference of any kind on the part of Government with the object of reducing the price of food,” and “in his letters home to the India Office and to politicians of both parties, he denounced ‘humanitarian hysterics’.” By official diktat, India, like Ireland before it, had become a Utilitarian laboratory where millions of lives were gambled, pursuant to dogmatic faith in omnipotent markets overcoming the “inconvenience of dearth.”[5]

The Great Famines

Depicting the two dozen famines that killed more than 60 million Indians would require a lot of space, so I limit myself here to those that killed more than one million:

The Bengal Famine of 1770: This catastrophicfamine occurred between 1769 and 1773, and affected the lower Gangetic plain of India. The territory, then ruled by the British East India Company, included modern West Bengal, Bangladesh, and parts of Assam, Orissa, Bihar, and Jharkhand. The famine is supposed to have caused the deaths of an estimated 10 million people, approximately one-third of the population at the time.

The Chalisa Famine of 1783-84: The Chalisa famine affected many parts of North India, especially the Delhi territories, present-day Uttar Pradesh, Eastern Punjab, Rajputana (now named, Rajasthan), and Kashmir, then all ruled by different Indian rulers. The Chalisa was preceded by a famine in the previous year, 1782-83, in South India, including Madras City (now named Chennai) and surrounding areas (under British East India Company rule), and in the extended Kingdom of Mysore. Together, these two famines had taken at least 11 million lives, reports indicate.

The Doji Bara Famine (or Skull Famine) of 1791- 92: This famine caused widespread mortality in Hyderabad, Southern Maratha Kingdom, Deccan, Gujarat, and Marwar (also called Jodhpur region in Rajasthan). The British policy of diverting food to Europe, of pricing the remaining grain out of reach of native Indians, and adopting agriculture policy that destroyed food production, was responsible for this one. The British had surplus supplies of grain, which was not distributed to the very people that had grown it. As a result, about 11 million died between 1789-92 of starvation and accompanying epidemics that followed.

The Upper Doab Famine of 1860-61: The 1860-61 famine occurred in the British-controlled Ganga-Yamuna Doab (two waters, or two rivers) area engulfing large parts of Rohilkhand and Ayodhya, and the Delhi and Hissar divisions of the then-Punjab. Eastern part of the princely state of Rajputana. According to “official” British reports, about two million people were killed by this famine.

The Orissa Famine of 1866: Although it affected Orissa the most, this famine affected India’s east coast along the Bay of Bengal stretching down south to Madras, covering a vast area. One million died, according to the British “official” version.

The Rajputana famine of 1869: The Rajputana famine of 1869 affected an area of close to 300,000 square miles which belonged mostly to the princely states and the British territory of Ajmer. This famine, according to “official” British claim, killed 1.5 million.

The Great Famine of 1876-78: This famine killed untold numbers of Indians in the southern part and raged for about four years. It affected Madras, Mysore, Hyderabad and Bombay (now called, Mumbai). The famine also subsequently visited Central Province (now called, Madhya Pradesh) and parts of undivided Punjab. The death toll from this famine was in the range of 5.5 million people. Some other figures indicate the number of deaths could be as high as 11 million.

Indian famine of 1896-97 and 1899-1900: This one affected Madras, Bombay, Deccan, Bengal, United Provinces (now called, Uttar Pradesh), Central Provinces, Northern and eastern Rajputana, parts of Central India, and Hyderabad: six million reportedly died in British territory during these two famines. The number of deaths occurred in the princely states is not known.


The Bengal Famine of 1943-44: This Churchill-orchestrated famine in Bengal in 1943-1944 killed an estimated 3.5 to 5 million people.


Relief Camps, or Concentration camps

There were several policy-arrows which Adolf Hitler might have borrowed from the British quiver to kill millions, but one that he borrowed for certain in setting up his death camps, was how the British ran the camps to provide “relief” to the starving millions. Anyone who entered these relief camps, did not exit alive.

Take the actions of Viceroy Lytton’s deputy, Richard Temple, another Haileybury product imbued with the doctrine of depopulation as the necessary means to keep the Empire strong and vigorous. Temple was under orders from Lytton to make sure there was no “unnecessary” expenditure on relief works.

According to some analysts, Temple’s camps were not very different from Nazi concentration camps. People already half-dead from starvation had to walk hundreds of miles to reach these relief camps. Additionally, he instituted a food ration for starving people working in the camps, which was less than that was given to the inmates of Nazi concentration camps.

The British refused to provide adequate relief for famine victims on the grounds that this would encourage indolence. Sir Richard Temple, who was selected to organize famine relief efforts in 1877, set the food allotment for starving Indians at 16 ounces of rice per day—less than the diet for inmates at the Buchenwald concentration camp for the Jews in Hitler’s Germany. British disinclination to respond with urgency and vigor to food deficits resulted in a succession of about two dozen appalling famines during the British occupation of India. These swept away tens of millions of people. The frequency of famine showed a disconcerting increase in the nineteenth century.[6]

It was deliberate then, and it’s deliberate now.

______________ 1. Davis, Mike. Late Victorian Holocausts: El Nino Famines and the Making of the Third World, London, Verso Books, 2001.

  1. Madhusree Mukerjee, Churchill’s Secret War: The British Empire and the Ravaging of India during World War II, New York: Basic Books.
  2. Davis, op. cit.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid
  5. Bhatia, B.M., Famines in India, A Study in Some Aspects of the Economic History of India, 1860-1945, Asia Publishing House, Bombay, 1963.

Dr Ramtanu Maitra A specialist on South Asian Affairs who operates out of Washington D.C. Ramtanu Maitra specialises on strategic and infrastructural developmental studies with the focus on South Asia. He holds a Masters Degree in Structural Engineering and was working as a Senior Project Engineer with the Nuclear Power Services, Secaucus, NJ. Ramtanu Maitra participated in developing a document, India: An agro-industrial superpower by 2020, in 1981. He established and published a quarterly journal, Fusion Asia, on science, technology, energy and economics from New Delhi for more than 10 years (1984-1994). He wrote and published the first feature report on India’s high-energy physics program based in PRL, Ahmedabad. Prepared and published a detailed report on Ganges River Valley Development that was presented at an international conference inaugurated by the late president of India, Shri K.R. Narayanan, then Minister for Planning. He participated on behalf of Fusion Asia on a feasibility study that also involved the Mitsubishi Research Institute (Tokyo) and the Thai Citizen Forum. Presented papers at a number of international conferences on strategic infrastructures in Bogota, Colombia, Tokyo, Japan, Kolkata, Indore, Madurai, Indore, New Delhi, among other Indian cities. In 1994, Shri Maitra established New Delhi bureau for Asia Times, a Bangkok-based news daily published simultaneously from Bangkok, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur and New York. Presently, he conducts research, analysis, writing on international economic and strategic developments for publications internationally, including: Foresight (Japan); Aakrosh, Agni, Indian Defense and Technology (India); Asia Times Online (Hong Kong); and Executive Intelligence Review (USA).

Ramtanu Maitra is a regular columnist with the Executive Intelligence Review (EIR), a news weekly published from Washington DC. He writes columns for Asia Times of Hong Kong, Frontier Post of Peshawar and some other newspapers in Asia on South Asian political economy and Asian security. He has written on terrorism in a number of publications in the United States and India.