“There were no benign or beneficial motives for the British East India Company when they started the railways”, says Shashi Tharoor in a recent interview about British Raj in the Indian subcontinent.
The Congress MP has been greatly vocal about Britain’s rule in India. In 2015, he gave a speech at the Oxford Union, arguing that the British owed reparations to the Indian subcontinent for its exploitation. The video of his speech was widely shared on social media.
In his recent interview, he targetted Britishers on the construction of Indian railways, which is often seen as a significant contribution by the British to India. Quoting a memo written by Lord Dalhousie, he said, “The important role that India could play as a market for British goods and as a market for agricultural raw materials for Britain would be facilitated by the railways.”
In 1843, when trains were just invented, the governor-general of the East India Company believed that the railways would be beneficial for the commerce, government, and military control of the country, Tharoor added. From the very start, the British wanted to construct railways for their purposes.
“The railways were a gigantic colonial scam,” says Tharoor. “The British did so at the expense of the Indians. It was the Indian taxpayers money that paid for the entire construction of the Indian railways, but the profits were all made by the British.”
He also highlighted the different expenses borne by Indians for its construction. One mile of railway cost 18,000 pounds in India, whereas the same one mile cost 2000 pounds in the United States. Indians paid 9 times more than what they needed to pay for the construction of the railways and that money entirely went to the British.
After the first world war, many English men were killed and jobs in the Indian railways were vacant. The English searched for the most British-like Indian workers and this created the identification of the Anglo-Indian community, revealed Tharoor.
The author and politician ended the interview by saying,
“I have no problem with the Indian willingness to forgive and forget. But all I can say to my fellow Indians is – By all means let us forget, but not forgive. Memory and remembrance are very important. Let us know what our country went through for 200 years so we can be sure that it will never be repeated.”