Books Indians Should Read – 16 (Post No.8511)

WRITTEN BY R. NANJAPPA                        

Post No. 8511

Date uploaded in London – – – 15 August 2020   

Contact – swami_48@yahoo.com

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Books Indians Should Read – 16

Chapter 6 –Part 1

COLLECTED WRITINGS OF

 DHARAMPAL-1

R. Nanjappa

Who is Dharampal?

Dharampal [1922-2006] was a Gandhian worker and thinker. He took part in the freedom movement, discontinuing his college studies, culminating in the Quit India activities, when he went underground. He was imprisoned, and later released, with entry denied to Delhi. He got interested in community work, rediscovering and regenerating the indigenous sources and modes of the organization of rural life. This culminated in his discovery of the roots and nature of the Village Panchayat system. He was sorely disappointed that the Indian Constitution did not recognise and incorporate the Indian aspects of administration and governance, even where these could be easily adopted.

 He was outraged by the disgrace India faced  at the time of the Chinese aggression of 1962. He, along with two friends, wrote an open letter to the Members of Parliament, demanding that PM Jawaharlal Nehru should resign, owning moral responsibility.  As a result, he was imprisoned along with his friends, and put into Tihar Jail! This was the great  secularist darling Nehru’s idea and display of democratic spirit!
 [Incidentally, this is how governments of free India have been treating peaceful protesters and dissenters, whether it is Sunderlal Bahuguna or Anna Hazare!] 


What did he do?

His study of the panchayat system in the villages of Tamil Nadu acquainted him with the way the colonial power brutally destroyed that working system, also extensively disrupting in the process  the economic, social and political life of the people.
 He wanted to study in detail the nature of Indian society as it existed at the time of British colonisation. For this he undertook a detailed and painstaking study of the original material lying in various archives, libraries, museums, etc abroad and in India. He thus accessed the records prepared by the officials of the East India Company and government servants, detailed correspondence between officials of all grades, at all levels, right up to Governor General and the Board of Commissioners in London. In the absence of photocopying facilities, and the means to afford them, he wrote down the documents in long hand, running into millions of words and thousands of pages. His writings are based on these original records. He thus performed a task which no other academic historian has attempted.


His writings have been gathered into some books. The Other India Press, Mapusa, Goa has brought out a beautiful set of five volumes, [2016] containing his major writings. The volumes are organised around themes as under:

I. Indian Science and Technology in the Eighteenth Century.

II. Civil Disobedience and Indian Tradition.

III. The Beautiful Tree: Indigenous Indian Education in the Eighteenth Century.

IV. Panchayat Raj and India’s Polity.

V. Essays on Tradition, Recovery and Freedom.

What is the significance of his work?

Our knowledge of our history, in recent times, is largely derived from what foreigners have written. The foreigners were of different types, with different motives: plunderers, invaders, scholar-travellers, traders, etc. At last came the Europeans as traders, but soon developed territorial ambitions. The British succeeded in the end more than the others, and established colonial rule. 

Dharampal shows that though officially it was only in 1858 that the Crown took over direct administration, the fact is that right from 1785 it was the English government which was directing Indian affairs, and the Company was only the executing arm. In 1858, that executing arm was dispensed with.

The colonial power was only interested in maximising its revenue from India. [This fact was noted by the great Adam Smith in his ‘Wealth of Nations’, 1776.] They had to understand the indigenous industries, technology, trading systems so that they could eliminate indigenous products and sell their own. 

Later, as a fall out from the Scottish Enlightenment movement which was developing, some sections wanted to study the local philosophies, religions, social systems, etc so that valuable knowledge accumulated by these societies in the past would not be destroyed, as it had happened in the Americas. So, the company officials were asked to gather information and file reports. It is in this process that many reports containing much valuable information was gathered from original sources relating to almost all aspects of Indian life. Some of the early students of Indian systems of knowledge and its languages were truly impressed by what they found, and this gave rise to British Indology. 

However, as the imperial ambitions gathered force, the colonial power as the ruling class did not want to admit the achievements or superiority of Indians in any field. They deliberately suppressed the facts, and gave a distorted image of Indian society as poor, backward, etc denigrating Indians as a whole. Thematerial gathered in the reports filed by the company officials were not made public, and did not serve as the basis for their administration.


 The colonial power wrote our history giving this distorted picture, and the educational system they imposed here made every Indian believe that he was indeed backward! This is the image which is still persisting, 70 years into so called Independence!

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