Comment on his view about India as revealed in speech on East India Bill.
Introduction: Edmund Burke’s (1729-1797) Speech on East India Bill concerns India particularly British rule in India. In the speech, Burke presented India in graphic detail including its history, geography, territorial vastness, culture, ethnicity, etc.
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Oppression against British colonial rule: Edmund Burke’s Speech on the East India Bill is a protest against the repression and tyranny caused by the British colonial rule over India. The rule of East India Company turned out to be a tyrannous one and the treachery and fraudulence of the Company took the country on the verge of destruction. The suffering of the people and the unethical policy and attitude of the Company shocked him deeply. Burke wants to bring major reform in the Company rule. He thinks that Parliament should intervene and that reforms should be made for the sake of humanity, justice, and principles of true policy.
Nature of India: Burke makes an inquiry regarding the number, quality, and description of the inhabitants of India. This multitude of men does not consist of an abject and barbarous populace; but a people for ages civilized and cultivated; cultivated by all the arts of polished life, whilst the British were yet in the woods. There have been princes once of great dignity, authority, and opulence. There are to be found the chiefs of tribes and nations. There is to be found an ancient and venerable priesthood, the depository of their laws, learning, and history, a nobility of great antiquity and renown; a multitude of cities merchants and bankers, individual houses of whom have once vied in the capital with the Bank of England.
Hampering administration power: As to emphasize the importance of India, Burke compares India as the nearest parallel with the empire of Germany. He also compares it with the Austrian dominions. He found the Nabob of Oude equal to the King of Prussia, while the Nabob of Arcot to the Elector of Saxony in regard to territory and revenue. Cheit Sing, the Rajah of Benares, might well rank with the Prince of Hesse at least; and the Rajah of Tanjore to the Elector of Bavaria. The Polygars and the northern Zamindars, and other great chiefs, might well class with the rest of the Princes, Dukes, Counts, Marquises, and Bishops in the empire.
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The hypocrisy of the Company: After describing the vast territory of India, Burke draws the attention of the members of Parliament to the attitude, atrocity, and oppression of the east India Company towards the Indians. Burke Comments:
“Through all that vast extent of the country there is not a man who eats a mouthful of rice but by permission of the East India Company.” Burke feels shocked to see the natives of India to be ruined by the hypocrisy of the Company.
Sufferings of Indian people: In his Speech on the East India Bill, he presents the suffering of the Indians at the hands of those who govern India. For example, Burke narrated the horrifying misfortunes of Shah Alam, the de facto Emperor of India, Hafiz Rhamet Khan, a leading Rohilla chief, Shuja al-Daula, and so on. Shuja al-Daula’s head was cut off and delivered for money to a barbarian. His wife and children were seen begging handfuls of rice through the English camp. The whole nation was massacred and the country was damaged by the invasion and turned into a dreary desert and jungles.
Conclusion: We can say that the monopoly of the East India Company and Hastings’s tyrannous rule not only goes beyond the limit of brutality and political norms but also raises questions about the supremacy of the British Monarchy and Parliament. He was deeply moved by the sufferings and grievances of the natives.
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