Before the dinner I spoke to some Germans, including the Deputy Ambassador. In my usual outspoken way, I said that you Germans are blamed for murdering 6 million Jews in gas chambers, which was of course terrible. But does anyone talk of what the British did to Indians during their rule here ? It was 10 times worse, but no one talks of that.
I explained by giving a few examples. Before the British came to India, India was a prosperous country, having over 30% of the world's trade. By its end in 1947 it was reduced to only about 2%.
We had a massive handicraft industry in India, exporting huge amounts of cotton textiles, silk, spices etc to the middle East and Europe. After the battle of Plassey in 1757 the British East India Company established its direct rule over Bengal ( which then included Bihar, Orissa and Assam). Within 40 years thereafter our exports almost stopped, because of the exorbitant export duty imposed by the British, and was replaced by imports of British mill made goods on a large scale, with almost no import duty. The immediate upshot of British rule was destruction of our massive industries, which resulted in tens of millions of Indians becoming unemployed, many starving to death, tripling of the land tax, and the devastating famine of 1770 which killed over 10 million people, one-third of the then population of Bengal.
Two decades later, in 1793, the British Governor General, Lord Cornwallis, created the 'permanent settlement', which resulted in British landlordism in India and dispossession of 20 million small farmers, many of whom starved, or became beggars ,or criminals.
Famine became a regular feature during British rule, killing millions of Indians by starvation every 10 years or so. No doubt there were famines before the coming of the British too ( due to failure of rains),. but these were ordinarily localised affairs, and the local kings used to store grain for such contingencies, so there was far less suffering. People during such famines used to get less to eat, but few starved to death. It was only during British rule that such horrors became a regular feature in India. In 1834 the British Governor General, Lord William Bentinck, said " The bones of the cotton weavers are bleaching the plains of India ".
The man made Great Famine of Bengal of 1943, killed 3 million people in just one province of India, Bengal, in just one year. During British rule, which lasted roughly from 1757 to 1947,over 100 million Indians either died of starvation,or became beggars, criminals or scavengers.
Nobody talks of all this. Many, including the Germans I was talking to, did not even know about it. So the British have got away with their horrible crimes, while the poor Germans are impaled.
After our conversation, there was a fantastic performance of Odissi dance by two dancers who had come from Orissa, Ibrahim and Geetika. Ibrahim told me that he was dancing Odissi for 40 years, though he looks young.
This was followed by an excellent dinner. On one side of the table were German dishes, while on the other side were Indian ones. I ate at the German side, since I get Indian food to eat daily, but German food is a rarity. The food, supervised by the Ambassador's wife, Mrs. Eliese Steiner , was delicious.
The Ambassador graciously took me by the hand and led me to the German Foreign Minister, to whom he introduced me.
It was a great evening, for which I am grateful to the Ambassador.