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Friday, March 1, 2024

Asymmetry and Star-Dot-Star Colonialism

(This article is the 3rd part of a 4-part series. Read Part 1 and Part 2)

PART 3: Asymmetry and Star-Dot-Star Colonialism: Two Sides of the Same Coin

In Part 1, we saw that Star-Dot-Star colonialism is essentially a Win-Lose paradigm despite all claims to the contrary by the propagators and beneficiaries of such colonial ventures. Many studies show that exchanges under colonial frameworks have been grossly asymmetrical: be it in Bharat, Africa, Asian or the Latin American colonies. The value of wealth extracted has been of gigantic proportions when compared with the ‘investment in infrastructure and education’ by the colonizers.

Yet, the gaze has always been diverted towards these miniscule benefits dished out by colonizers and rarely to the disproportionate costs that were inflicted upon the colonized or the profiteering that happened. In the rare cases when this does happen, the exposure is quickly limited using various damage control techniques.

After winning the Battle of Plassey in 1757, the East India Company – the British front for Colonial entry at that time – secured control of Bengal (present day parts of Bihar, Jharkand, Orissa, West Bengal and Bangladesh). The East India Company (EIC) secured a treasury that was several times greater than the entire reserves of the Bank of England at that time. A mere 13 years after this incredible heist, history witnessed one of the blackest chapters: the horrors of the Bengal Famines of 1770-1773.  Ten million deaths occurred in this period. It was an act of genocide of staggering proportions: a quarter of the population of that area at that time was starved in one of the most fertile regions of the world. The EIC had dictated the cultivation of Opium instead of food crops which it supplied to China in exchange for paper, gunpowder, tea and silk. The British had done a pilot program in Ireland – the Irish Famine – and then rolled out a larger version of this in Bengal.

A century later, when a famine occurred in Madras Presidency, the British Colonial Government enacted the Anti-Charitable Contributions Act, 1877 prohibiting private relief work as it interfered with price fixing mechanism designed to export food from Bharat to Europe. This Act was framed and justified under the doctrine of ‘Free Markets’ doctrine of Adam Smith[1]. The act prevented, under the penalty of going to jail, anyone from making charitable contributions to support famine victims. The famine resulted in large scale migration pressure towards cities. It also created conditions for cheap labour under slave like conditions to build the railway lines. The railway lines were invariably built to exploit the movement of food grains and precious raw materials away from rural Bharat to the ports for onward distribution to Britain and Europe: both these initiatives created scarcity of food & resources and high prices for local buyers.

This policy of exploitation continued even into the 20th Century: in 1942, in just one year alone, 4 million Bengalis died (a scenario was pictured in Part 1 of this Article). That year, there was no famine –the production was rather normal. The shortage was man-made under British rule. The death rate outstripped the 6 million Jews killed by the Nazi state during a 12 year period. Yet, no proceedings were set up for this crime against Humanity or by any of the Global Human Rights groups. School and College students of Bharat know more about the Holocaust than the Bengal Famines. Mani Bhaumik, the inventor of the revolutionary laser eye surgery technology, recounts in his autobiographical book[2] how his grandmother starved herself so that her share could go to feed him. It is a point to consider: how much of Bharat’s genius was left to die a pathetic death of starvation. The opportunity cost and direct damage due to colonialism is staggering.

Famines during British Hegemony
25 major famines struck Bharat during British rule, from Tamil Nadu to Bengal to Bihar (more than the preceding 1000 years)

Today, the erstwhile Bengal presidency area still remains as one of the most underdeveloped regions in Bharat and its neighbourhood. Such has been the impact of a ruthless colonial rule on the psyche of the common man. Most areas under direct British rule have even now less public goods than those states under indirect rule in territories governed by local rulers[1] and on many economic indices, fare poorer than some sub-Saharan regions to this day. Such has been the ruthless asymmetry of exchange during colonial rule.

Before the French, British, Dutch and Portuguese colonial interventions, an earlier phase saw a series of Islamic colonial conquests spanning nearly 800 years. This phase of colonization was again fuelled by a doctrinal engine that saw immense violence and cruelty being inflicted upon an ancient knowledge based civilization. During this phase, the economy declined from nearly 40% of global GDP to 25% during these 800 years. This decline was accompanied along with greater income inequality, impoverishment of farmers, skilled workers. Many defenders of Islamic colonizers including modern-day ‘eminent’ historians refuse to call it ‘colonialism’. They state that during Islamic conquests, no wealth was siphoned outside of the country. However, wealth was being siphoned off. It was being extracted from a wealthy, secure working class of artisans, peasants, and small businesses. At the same time, the intellectual class and institutions were being smashed. A middle class Bharat was being dismantled and knowledge systems being destroyed under rulers who were following practices that were sanctified according to doctrines alien to the ethos of Bharat, and most importantly doctrines which were explicit in their aims to destroy the pillars of a prosperous, knowledge and wealth creating system that Bharat had evolved.

The people of Bharat at that time perhaps did not realize that such sanctions serve as powerful tools to condition human minds to inflict discriminatory and barbaric acts upon fellow beings. To understand how such sanction can cause perfectly normal people to behave so monstrously, it is worthwhile to take a moment to understand the Stanford Prison Experiment. In this experiment, Prof. Zimbardo of Stanford University gave student volunteers of his psychology class designated roles as prison guards and as prisoners. He gave sanction to the guards to discipline prisoners in the course of their ‘internment’. The escalation of humiliation was such that the experiment was called off within days. During this short time, students designated as ‘jail warders’ inflicted severely traumatic acts upon their fellow volunteer students designated as ‘prisoners’. The Stanford Prison Experiment shows how in real world scenarios, sanction based on interpretations of an ultimate authority of a God can condition the human mind to commit unimaginable acts on fellow human beings. The mutilation of Saurabh Kalia in the Kargil War, the inhumane treatment of captives by ISIS and the expulsion of native Kashmiri Pandits from Kashmir are examples of such perverse conditioning. Terror has been utilized as an instrument of Star-dot-Star colonial governance and this includes systems of the 20th Century such as Communism which is in fact just another form of Star-dot-Star colonialism. To see the impact of colonization on the civilization of Bharat, below are two accounts of Bharat by visitors. One was about 500 years before and the other about 500 years after Islamic colonization.

Star-Dot-Star Colonialism

Islamic colonization succeeded in imposing upon the people of Bharat an alien system, an increasing loss of freedom to conduct business, exploitation of the lower classes. A formerly prosperous and knowledge based society was now unable to engage in knowledge and capital formation. Over time, Islamic colonizers installed a feudalistic administration that co-opted many Hindus as book keepers, accountants, soldiers and commanders, slaves, court officials and zamindars to extract taxes from the local populations. The economy and institutional development were frozen and aligned to yield wealth to a set of rulers for whom self-aggrandizement and imposition of an alien system were the key objectives. Over many generations, it created a living eco-system of willing and capable native enablers who provided crucial enabling support for this colonization in the form of book keepers, court officials, bureaucracy and even loyal armies to the cause of the colonizers. In addition, the intellectual class was marginalized in Bharat and a knowledge society had become, in a large measure, a society fighting to somehow keep itself intact. The tax rates were such that almost no one had any surplus as the extract below shows.

Star-Dot-Star Colonialism

The British and other European Colonizers took over an exhausted country that was fighting to free itself from the Islamic phase of colonization. The Islamic phase had degenerated into becoming an intensely debauched and exploitative Feudal system set up to extract wealth from the general populace and terrorise anyone attempting to uphold their natural rights. Islamic rule had destroyed a more self-sufficient and less unequal society that existed before and the degenerate administrative machinery it had in the late 18th century made Bharat ripe for another wave of colonizers to take over.

With the arrival of the British, the greatest ever flight of capital, technology and knowledge took place from Bharat: the key inputs that enabled the formation of capital and technology to establish the Industrial revolution. The flight of Technology and know-how from Bharat has been documented in the painstaking work of Dharampal (A Beautiful Tree) which merits greater study to understand the extent of appropriation of Technology during the 17th and 18th Centuries. Dharampal’s book is based on facts documented by the East India Company itself.

From the chart below (from Angus Maddison’s work) the economic impact of Islamic and European colonization on Bharat may be seen clearly. The black call-out boxes have been inserted by the author to correlate the economic cycles with the two major phases of Star-dot-Star colonialism on Bharat. Silicon Valley Investor and Facebook Director, Marc Andreesen (see context in Part 1), may well educate himself: colonialism was and still is catastrophic for Bharat: economically, psychologically, socially and institutionally.

Star-Dot-Star Colonialism

In a telling reflection of this asymmetry that continues in policy making to this era, in December 2006 the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said plans for minorities, particularly Muslims, must have the first claim on resources so that benefits of development reach them equitably.[4] In Education, this has been happening for a long time. Minority run Educational Institutions had a free run and in a curious case of self-colonization, the education for the vast majority was shackled under a License-Permit Raj system. The Right To Education Act promises to cripple it under the lofty garb of providing accessible education. In Independent Bharat, there was a new form of colonization influencing the mind: Socialism based on Communist philosophy and an appeasement of Star-dot-Star Colonial forces. The period under Islamic colonialism saw a decline of global GDP share of Bharat from about 40% to 25% in nearly 800 years. During this decline, a middle class was eliminated, income inequality increased and a feudal machinery extracted wealth from the populace. In the second phase, the decline in Bharat was dramatic – from about 25% to a mere 3% of Global GDP in 200 years.

The decolonization of Bharat’s mindset in policy making, executive machinery, judiciary, business, education and society is a mammoth task. Some issues and challenges in the path to decolonize Bharat are discussed in Part 4.



[1] It is interesting to note that while Adam Smith was touted to allow millions to die, the same Adam Smith doctrine was scuttled while rescuing the giant financial institutions during the 2008 Financial Collapse. Thus we see that the concept of ‘Free Markets’ is actually a selective tool in the hands of colonizers. It is yet another example of asymmetry and duplicity of Star-dot-Star colonialism.

[2] Code Named God – Mani Bhaumik.

[3] Source: – The Long Term Impact of Colonial Rule: Evidence from India, Lakshmi Iyer, Harvard Business School

[4] For a report on this, please read The Times Of India report:

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Prashant Singh
Prashant Singh
Prashant Singh is a private citizen and an independent observer of current business, social and global developments. Twitter ID: ps_009


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