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HM-216 Science, Technology and Society

-Prof. Madhumita Mazumdar

Colonial science and its socio, political and economic impact on India
Group G Batch-2009

SR No . 1. 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21

STUDENT ID 200901005 200901019 200901026 200901034 200901039 200901094 200901098 200901104 200901113 200901115 200901127 200901129 200901135 200901140 200901164 200901166 200901175 200901187 200901194 200901213 200901220



Group Representative: Rini Joshi (200901135)


Colonial science and its social, political and economic impact on India The Introduction:I saw them bury a dead child In a cardboard box (this is true and I wont forget this) On the box there was a stamp General Electric Company Progress is our Best Product - Louis Afredo Arrago, Gautemala, 1967 The above lines epitomize the sublime innocence that was put to a prolonged confrontation and scrutiny before modern Western colonialism and its various exploitative and psychological repercussions. Modernity was a vision of conquest. Every structure of conquest needs a calendar as a liturgy of its power. To acquire one it has to capture or re-write time. Time, till the advent of modernity, was capable of reversal. Therefore, the first project of modernity and of modern science was to escape from their own pasts. Imperialism was not merely the logic of capitalism but also the charter of science. 1 Through this turbulence of Colonial Conquest, almost every indigenous meaning was altered; the classical Indic definitions were transformed in the process of modernizing the so-called non-west. As Ashish Nandy summarizes This colonialism colonizes minds in addition to bodies and it releases forces within colonized societies to alter their cultural priorities once and for all. Particularly, once the British rulers and the exposed sections of Indians internalized the colonial role definitions. The battle for the minds of men was to a great extent won by the Raj.2 It was an atrocity, a cage of freedom of the cultural, political and economic India. More specifically, only a meeting in an alien Westernized world, under conditions shaped by Western ways of thinking. We were a people without our own representation system, wherein we either got reduced to being intellectual consumers looking up to the dominant culture or simply became intellectual producers, but only within the representation system as defined and controlled by the dominant culture. The repetitious use of a given representation system eventually leads to a widely accepted set of essences as stated by Friedreich Nietzsche: The reputation, name, and appearance, the usual measure and weight of a thing, what it counts for -- originally almost always wrong and arbitrary -- grows from generation unto generation, merely because people believe in it, until it gradually grows to be a part of the thing and turns into
1 2

Shiv Visvanathan, On the Annals of the Laboratory State, Carnival for Science,1997 The intimate enemy, Ashis Nandy,OUP 2000

its very body. What at first was appearance becomes in the end, almost invariably, the essence and is effective as such. Therefore, control over the representation of knowledge is analogous to control over the operating system of computers: representation systems are to competing ideas what operating systems are to computer applications. Control over this platform, especially its invisible standards and rules, is of strategic consequence. As we all know much of the Wests intellectual and cultural treasure was imbibed from the ancient Greeks and Romans. Ironically, the Greeks never invented imperialism because they believed in geography and lived with the illusion that there were scattered and peculiar times appropriate for each substance and each particular place. The moderns on the other hand were able to invent the idea of an empire because they no longer believed in nature or geography but in an infinite, uniform and homogenous space reduced to a single law of identical temporality.3 Therefore comes an anthropological conclusion, A society with a hunting culture is more primitive and less evolved than one with a hoe culture or a simple pastoralism and these in turn are more primitive than one with industrialization.4

Paradigms of scientific development during colonial time Pre-colonial Science The history of British India during the last century spectacularly illustrates a close link between science and imperialism. Objections may be raised to use of term colonial science but it has to be understood that science is and in fact has always been not an esoteric but a social activity. The ideas of science are not the simple products of logic of experimenting methods rather they stem from the socio-economic background of previous times. The intellectual atmosphere of 19th century dominated, as it were, by the rising class of manufacturers favored the adventure of science and this in turn gave birth to a phenomenon which for want of a better term may be called the phase of colonial science. Perhaps no other word can describe so aptly the travails of science groaning under a colonial framework. Colonial science is a dependent science, wherein the result oriented research in applied science heavily supersedes the curiosity oriented research in pure science.

3 4

Bernard Henry Levy, Barbarism with a Human Face (New York Harper & Row,1977) E A Hoebel, Darwinism and Human Affairs,1979

In 1894, according to Engels if a technique largely depends on the state of science, science depends far more still on the state and requirements of technique.5 In the 19th century British India, bears full testimony to this observation. With the establishment of imperial hegemony popular local knowledge and skills suffer an eclipse and in its place came what Anees Alam calls Production Science- that is a science for profit, science for the accumulation of capital aiming at the full exploitation of raw materials and maximum profit at minimum cost.6

George Basalla, euphemistically, calls it the spread of western science7 to the non-western world and tries to explain the phenomenon with the help of a triangular model. The three ends of the triangle are Non- scientific society provides a source for the European science Marking of a period of colonial science A process of transplantation with a struggle to achieve an independent scientific tradition or culture

Science during the initial phase is an extension of geographical explorations plus the appraisal of natural resources but one may justifiably grudge Basallas description of the colony as a nonscientific society. What about India? In fact every society cherishes some scientific traditions however true it might be in form and application. 16th century India for instance had a scientist of remarkable versatility in Fathulla Siraji who made the first multi-barreled cannon and also worked out the Ilahi era. Jahangir took a keen interest in the fields of animals and plants and also in chemical technology, medicine and astrology. Of Radhanath Sikdar, who is said to have discovered the highest mountain peak in the world, Everest, the then Surveyor General of India, observed in his mathematical attainments there are few in India, European or native that can at all compete with him. Even in Europe these attainments would rank high. In view of the above mentioned examples one can hardly deny of non-scientific society before the advent of colonial science. In fact this may be termed as the pre-colonial science. Colonial Science Colonial science undoubtedly advances over the pre-colonial science. How did that emerge? It can mainly be attributed to the reason as it comes from most philosophers that in addition to greed for riches and domination, the white man became possessed suddenly of a strange spirit of adventure of an insatiable, intellectual curiosity. But is the phenomenon so simple? Basalla uses colonial science as a pejorative term implying the existence of some sort of scientific
5 6

Marks and Engels, Selected Correspondence, Moscow, 1975 Alam Anees, Imperialism and Science, Social Scientist, Dec 1977 7 Basalla George, Spread of Western Science, Vol 156, 1967

imperialism, whereby science in the non-European nation is suppressed or maintained in a servile state by the imperial power.8 India at time manufactured its own metals and inorganic chemicals, but with the opening of the Suez canal and with concurrent improvements in marine engineering, freight charges from Europe became so reduced that the European manufacturing chemist dumped his bye-products at Indian ports, and from there their growing network of railways had distributed the imports, to kill the native industries altogether, or to drive them back to remote parts of the country.9 The establishment of the Royale botanic garden, the vigorous survey works, and various geological explorations are illustrations as to how a colonial power utilized the various branches of natural science for spreading its economic tentacles. For instance, the plan of a botanic garden owes its origin to the need of growing Burma teak on the banks of Hoogly for ship building purposes. Robert Kyd, the then Secretary to the Military department of inspection, took up the challenge, got full support from the Company necessitated a thorough geographical knowledge of the sub-continent; hence the Survey of India.10 By far the best illustration of the use of science for colonial purposes can be found in the working of the geological survey of India. The economic value of the geographical investigations proved of immediate concern to the East India Company with the coalfields of eastern India looming large in the first quarter of the nineteenth century noted mineralogists and surveyors like Laidlow, Voysey, Dangerfield, and Herbert were exploring Kumaon, malwa and Himalaya regions. But these works were little more than sporadic reconnaissance with natural history. A definite shape, however, emerges when the Company appointed a committee for the investigation of the Coal and mineral resources of India in 1836. This committee stands as a milestone in the evolution of colonial science in India because here for the first time various types of minerals and coal were listed along with the map illustration of the sites as well. 11But it is quite doubtful whether these surveys could at all help western science take roots on Indian soil. Since the Company always insisted on the secrecy of maps and surveys and restricted the art of surveying to their military servants. Which company came to my land to open up a Karkhana ? It awakened it name in the rivers and ponds calling itself D.V.C. It throws earth, dug by a machine, into the river. It has cut the mountain and made a bridge. The water runs beneath. Roads are coming, they are giving us electricity, having opened up the Karkhana. The praja all question them. They ask to what this name belongs? When evening falls they give paper notes as pay.
8 9

Medelssohn K , Science and Western Dominition, London 1976 Holland TH, Trends of mineral developments in India, Journal of Royal Society of Arts 10 K Biswas, Calcutta Royal Botanic Garden, 1942 11 Deepak Kumar, Colonial Science in India, 1979

Where will I keep these paper notes? They melt away in the water. This Santhal tongue of ours has been destroyed in the district. You came and made this a bloody burning ghat, calling yourself D.V.C. - A song sung in the Purulia District of West Bengal (Translated by Roma Chatterjee) Secondly, Indians were seldom allowed to climb up in the scientific hierarchy. Radhanath Sikdar remained where he was even after his election (in 1864) as a corresponding member of the society of natural history (bavaria)- a rare distinction conferred by a reputed German philosophical society on a foreigner. In the G.S.I the first Indian apprentice was appointed in 1873 and a graded post was given in as late as 1880. Thus the Indians were excluded , as a matter of policy, from any effective participation in the government scientific undertakings, and the exciting work of a century by many able minds was largely lost on the Asiatic Society from 1784 to 1883, the reviewer could mention only two papers by two Indian authors out of 347 papers on mathematical and physical sciences, and even on geological works which were the most systematic under the then existing situation, the author found only two Indian contributing three papers out of 296 papers.12 Another reason why western science could not take firm roots in India, and as such an important characteristic of colonial science, is the utter neglect of technical education. Even the much publicized Woods dispatch of 1854 did not pay required attention to the field of scientific education, and research. A few schools were, at best, a defective instrument of education owing to the non-commercial conditions under which it must necessarily be carried on.13 The non-teaching character of the universities established in 1857 was another handicap. At the presidency college the government made provisions for professorships in natural philosophy and geology, but the non-governmental colleges where the majority of students received instructions , had no means to appoint qualified science teachers and established laboratories, and therefore, to offer science courses. Also students of European and Anglo-Indian origin were preferred for science education. In 1864, for instance, an official proposal came to make available works on science and literature for European students.14 A good example of how scientific inventions were pressed into imperial services can be found in the working and extension of telegraphic services during the 1850s and 1860s. The Morse Code found in America was imported to India in very little time and modified accordingly to be used indigenously. The telegraph was sought to be used also for fanning out British influence in the flanking as well as far flung areas. 15

12 13

Bose, Natural Sciences, Centenary Review of Asiatic Society of Bengal, part 3 , Calcutta 1885 Indian Industrial Commission Report, Calcutta 1918 14 National Archives of India, Public Works, march 1864 15 National Archives of India, PWD, Electric Telegraphs 1859

Another significant feature of colonial science phase in India is the relative neglect of medical and zoological sciences. Medicine was a subject of exploitative experimentation and trial on the poor and bourgeoisie including Vivisection.16 To cite an example, when epidemic raged India, Hauffkine, after whom the Plague research institute in Mumbai is named, ruled out every bonafide sanitary measures and instead saw to it that his vaccinations experimentation is carried on successfully only.17 Vivisection is the infliction of pain for experimental purposes of understanding and control, where pain and suffering are justified in the pursuit of scientific knowledge as an absolute value. The idea is as explained by Claude Bernard after dissecting the dead; one must go on to dissect the living to uncover the functioning of those parts that are hidden or concealed. In short, the science of Vivisection was nothing but violence rioted and tested upon the indigenous. Neocolonialism Neocolonialism is basically the signature of the prolonged exploitation and methodologies that were coerced upon the people of this country knowingly or un-knowingly. It is the Science which poignantly highlights our obsessed bonds inherited from the West, wherein we have lost our own identity. The origins of this form of Science are multifold. To cite a few prominent ones, neglect of rich classical Indic texts in the academic curricula unlike the ancient intellectual Greeks and Romans text for the West. Secondly, a complete transformation of language by the West in the sense of its coherence and in-depth meanings as it were originally incorporated in Sanskrit or Persian. Itihasa is neither history nor myth in the Western sense. As explained by Ranajit Guha, Puranetihasa is its own unique genre of text with no western equivalent. 18 Thirdly, there have been anti-colonial writers and thinkers who themselves are propagating neocolonialism by dealing with a Eurocentric representation of knowledge and discourse. Similarly, neocolonialism has its vicious roots engraved into the operating systems of the Independent India unconsciously as proxies to the Western World.

I sometimes wonder what is worse A secret or a lie A word unspoken or left unsaid When either way a man is dead
16 17

Science, Hegemony and Violence, Ashish Nandy 1999 Shiv Visvanathan, Carnival of Science, OUP 1997 18 Rajiv Malhotra, U-Turn Theory

I still maintain, It is not death that is important But the manner of dying Like a childs first poem Wiped by a careless eraser -

Villagers dying in Bhabha city

Illustrations of the colonial science and their living legacies :TEXTILE INDUSTRY- An economic intervention in indian society

For centuries before the advent of colonial rule, India had been renowned for its textiles and particularly for the quality and colourful variety of its cotton goods. The traditional textile industry of India was virtually decayed during the colonial regime. British cotton mills first cut of Indias export markets and then flooded India itself with cheap goods against which handloom production could not compete. Weavers had no capital of their own to invest in improving production, nor was there a technologically minded class of superior artisans and entrepreneurs to experiment with, invent or improve machinery as in eighteenth-century Britain. The textile industry came to a halt and Indian artisans, craftsmen and important trading centres collapsed and whatever manufacturing activity existed was destroyed under the impact of imports of cotton manufacture almost exclusively from Britain. More than 90 per cent of the textile machinery for cotton and jute mills imported into India between the 1850s and 1930s came from Britain and India thus became a market for all British goods. Impoverished weavers were driven into the already crowded ranks of agricultural labourers. Growth of Indias railway system intensified the impact of imported textiles , destroyed the old textile industry in Bengal, and crippled that in many other parts of India. The nationalist point of view was articulated nearly 100 year ago by RC Dutt19 when he commented that Britain had transformed India from an exporter of manufactured goods to an importer of cloth , using political power to keep down the competitor with whom the British manufacturer could not have competed on normal terms. In most areas of India during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries there was a long-term decline in the number both of weavers and of looms. Handloom industry did not die out entirely, but survived through a process of adaptation and specialization that left it much reduced in size but technologically more sophisticated than it had previously been. Availability of yarn from foreign and, after the 1850s, Indian mills gave handloom weavers access to larger and more reliable quantities of their basic material, while technological innovations added speed and consistency of quality and design to handloom production. After 1920 electric power brought further benefits and helped sustain the dynamics of continuity in the handloom industry.

RCDutt (1848-1909)was a historian, economist, civil servant, politician 10

The cotton textile industry made rapid progress in the second half of the nineteenth century and by the end of the century there were 178 cotton textile mills. The two world War and the Swadeshi movement provided great stimulus to the Indian cotton textile industry. The cotton textile industry is rightly described as a Swadeshi industry because it was developed with indigenous entrepreneurship and capital and in the pre-independence era the Swadeshi movement stimulated demand for Indian textile in the country20i. However, during the period 1922 to 1937 the industry was in doldrums and during this period a number of the Bombay mills changed hands. The second World War, during which textile import from Japan completely stopped, however, brought about an unprecedented growth of this industry. The number of mills increased from 178 with 4.05 lakh looms in 1901 to 249 mills with 13.35 lakh looms in 1921 and further to 396 mills with over 20 lakh looms in 1941. By 1945 there were 417 mills employing 5.10 lakh workers. The partition of the country at the time of independence affected the cotton textile industry also. For a number of years since independence, Indian mills had to import cotton from Pakistan and other countries. After independence, the cotton textile industry made rapid strides under the Plans between 1951 and 1982 the total number of spindles doubled from 11 million to 22 million. It increased further to well over 26 million by 1989-90. The Indian textile industry is currently one of the largest and most important sector in the economy in terms of output foreign exchange earnings and employment in India. The Textile industry has the potential to scale new height in the globalized economy. The textile industry in India has gone through significant charges in anticipation of increased international competition. It contributes 20 percent of industrial production, 9 percent of excise collections, 18percent of employment in the industrial sector, nearly 20 percent to the countrys total export earning and 4 percent to the Gross Domestic Product.




THE INDIAN RAILWAYS- AN ECONOMIC IMPACT Railways will afford the means of diminishing the amount and the cost of the military establishments. Col. Warren, Town Major of the Fort St. William, stated before a Select Committee of the House of Commons: The practicability of receiving intelligence from distant parts of the country, in as many hours as at present it requires days and even weeks, and of sending instructions, with troops and stores, in the more brief period, are considerations which cannot be too highly estimated. Troops could be kept at more distant and healthier stations than at present, and much loss of life from sickness would by this means be spared. Stores could not to the same extent he required at the various depots, and. the loss by decay, and the destruction incidental to the climate, would also be avoided. The number of troops might be diminished in direct proportion to their effectiveness. The novel plan for the introduction of a rail system, transformed the whole history of India. This innovative plan was first proposed in 1832; however no auxiliary actions were taken for over a decade. In the year 1844, private entrepreneurs were allowed to launch a rail system by Lord Hardinge, who was the Governor-General of India. By the year 1845, two companies were formed and the East India Company was requested to support them in the matter. By 1895, India had started manufacturing its own locomotives. In no time, different kingdoms assembled their independent rail systems and the network extended to the regions including Assam, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh. In 1901, a Railway Board was formed though the administrative power was reserved for the Viceroy, Lord Curzon. The Railway Board worked under the guidance of the Deptt of Commerce and Industry. It was comprised of three members - a Chairman, a Railway Manager and an Agent respectively. For the very first time in its history, the Railways instigated to draw a neat profit. In 1907, most of the rail companies were came under the government control. Subsequently, the first electric locomotive emerged in the next year. During the First World War, the railways were exclusively used by the British. In view of the War, the condition of railways became miserable. In 1920, the Government captured the administration of the Railways and the linkage between the funding of the Railways and other governmental revenues was detached. 21 Indian Response:




Indian economy before the arrival of the British was agrarian, the thinking and the daily lives of the people revolved around the agricultural know and how at that time. The means of transport from village to village or city to city was mainly on animal ridden vehicles, the bullock cart is one such example. The introduction of railway in India can be considered to be the most important development or shift of in those times. The time took during travels from one location to another was time consuming and long journeys were usually avoided in those times. Railways not only were a development in this area but it also reduced the time of travels exponentially. It also turned out to be a livelihood for those who left their homes to give their destiny a chance by going to the cities. Thus railways were a great advancement in the prevalent means of communications at that time. Legacies: "What an amazing system, one of the worlds greatest! Six billion passengers is a lot of people to transport. Indian railways provide jobs to more than a million and a half employees! How in the world did it get so big, so important to the social, economic and cultural life of India?" ( Exploring Indian Railway, OUP India, New Edition, 1996, by Bill Aitken.)22 Today we cannot imagine our lives without the railway system. Every single day millions of people travel large and small distances by rail, thus making travelling a jiffy of time. India has a large framework of the railway systems in the world making it one of the most efficient modes of transportation for a common man in a developing country like ours. Without the railway system the present economic boom in India would never have taken place. The British Raj left behind an efficient and smoothly operating infrastructure, India Railway, second to none in the world! The old Indian trains with their grand steam engines foster nostalgia, memories of sounds and sights that remain for a lifetime. However, just after British left India, Railway was in one of its worst position with frequent accidents, due outdated railway tracks and signal system used. Obviously railways was also a part of the exploitative nature of colonialism. However we pushed ourselves and managed to build one of the largest frameworks in the world as of today. Even though it took India 40 years, to modernize the colonial railway system, we should be thankful. Remember, they could have uprooted the rails, and taken away the wagons and engines. After all, Indian Railways was the biggest scrap iron collection in the world at that time.23

22 23

http://2ndlook.wordpress.com/2010/08/26/indian-railways-the-british-legacy/ http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1853/07/22.htm http://desicritics.org/2007/10/30/004034.php



Medicine occupied a central place in Western scientific thought and activity in nineteenth-century India. The reason was that medicine played an important role in the European investigation of the Indian environment (including its topography, climate and diseases), and hence in understanding the living conditions of human condition in India. In this way medicine also represented direct intervention in, and interaction with, the social, cultural and material lives of the Indian people. Although medical and sanitary intervention was initially driven by the scientific interests of the colonial state, gradually medicine began to serve other agendas and to inform a wider cultural and political dialogue. Indian Medical Service was one of the principal scientific agencies in India during the Company period. Indian Medical Service came into existence because of the medical and military requirements of early colonial rule. By the 1860s the IMS had matured into a major colonial service, devoted to the military and administrative needs of the colonial state and had almost only Europeans in the staff who were specially recruited for the purpose. In the book Studying colonial medicine , Mark Harrison has stated that the British state gives least priority to the public health as compared to the areas such as defense , civil services and police. Indians had little opportunity to enter the IMS, still less to rise to senior positions in the service. It wasnt considered to be safe to give the lives of Company servants in the hands of indigenous practitioners who had no training in Western medicine and the state had, therefore, to provide Indians with some appropriate form of medical education. In Calcutta in 1824 and in Bombay two years later, training institutions were set up for this purpose, primarily designed to supply the army with sub-assistant surgeons, dressers and apothecaries. Calcuttas Native Medical Institution, was set up to provide the Company with a regular supply of native doctors, taught through the vernaculars and through translations of English textbooks, but with parallel instruction in the indigenous medical systems. Classes in Ayurveda were also given at the Sanskrit College, using the works of Caraka and Susruta, while Muslim students learned Unani medicine in Urdu at the Calcutta Madrassa. A similar pattern of translation and vernacular instruction was followed at Bombay. Perhaps because of high-caste Hindu taboos, or from the continuing strength of indigenous medicine in many parts of the country, but also because of the limited career prospects and financial rewards Western medicine offered, an Indian medical profession developed only gradually, more slowly than in the more lucrative and prestigious fields of law and government service. The British appreciated that there was much that they might usefully learn from indigenous medicine, accumulated over centuries of empirical trial and observation, but they had little time for its religious sanctions and cultural cosmologies. Given the cost and scarcity of imported drugs, such as the Peruvian bark (cinchona) used to treat malaria, there were strong financial as well as therapeutic incentives to find local substitutes, and this was a major stimulus to the botanical investigations of Roxburgh and other early surgeon-botanists. 14

Thus the Britishers started the implementation of the western medical science but the colonial medical intervention was not much effective and it was basically used for the administrative and military purposes. Finally it can be said that when the British assumed control over India in the mid 19th century, they spent a great deal of time and effort trying to establish COLONIALISM , reform its population, another word for eradicating the subcontinent of its primitive and un-Christian practices. Thus, the practice of Ayurveda was systematically undermined by the British, and at one time to practice of Ayurveda was punishable by death. Nonetheless, Ayurveda continued to exist, but deprived of state funding its importance was relegated to the status of folklore, and many of its advanced techniques, such as the surgical techniques described in the Sushruta samhita, were lost in some areas of India. However, such as in the remote southern province of Kerala, Ayurvedic medicine was preserved despite the centuries of Arab, Persian and European invasions from northern India. Kerala and its various Ayurvedic hospitals, clinics, and colleges is the leading center for the study and practice of Ayurveda. LEGACY Western medicine had become dominant in India, with the educated elite of the pre and postBritish India actively encouraging its populace to discard its time-honoured traditions. Fortunately, this trend was countered in the late 1960s and early 70s under the government of Indira Gandhi. Ayurveda, as well as Unani medicine, began to receive the support of the central government, and since that time Ayurveda has been state-funded and regulated by the Indian Medicine Central Council Act of 1970. Today there are Ayurvedic colleges all over India, although the quality and content of the various programs can vary enormously. More recently, Ayurveda has undergone a resurgence in popularity, initially in North America, and now, as Indians are recognizing some of the pitfalls of Western medicine, in India also. Unfortunately, many of the concepts promulgated as belonging to Ayurveda bear no relation to its historical practice. For example, Ayurveda is often equated with vegetarianism. This probably arose because it was the primarily vegetarian priestly caste of the Brahmins that preserved the practice of Ayurveda in medieval and modern times. Nonetheless, the extant texts of Ayurveda make no mention of vegetarianism, listing instead many products of animal origin, such as meat, bone, rendered fat, and certain organs, in the prevention and treatment of disease. It is in North America however, that such preconceptions and misinformation are especially rampant.24









Colonial conquest was not just the result of the power of superior arms, political power or economic wealth, but was made possible, sustained and strengthened with time as much by cultural technologies of rule as it were by the obvious and brutal modes of conquest. The cultural effects of colonial power is displaced into the inevitable logic of modernization and world capitalism and as Nicholas Dirks sites that colonialism was itself a cultural project of control. But the question arises, how did this project control succeed in controlling our society culturally??? Ruling India through the delineation and reconstruction of systematic grammars for vernacular languages, representing India through the mastery and display of archaeological memories and religious texts, Britain set in motion transformations every bit as powerful as the better known consequences of military and economic imperialism. In India the British entered a new world that they tried to comprehend using their own forms of knowledge and thinking. They believed they cud conquer and explore india through establishing correspondence. In coming to India they unknowingly and unwittingly invaded and conquered not only a territory but an epistemological space as well and the British believed they could explore and conquer it through translation: establishing correspondence could make the known unknown and the strange knowable. This lead to their 1st step in learning evidently the then spoken vernacular and classical languages spoken in India. Bernard Cohn rightfully suggests that the learning of language, in our case Persian and then Sanskrit was deemed critical in the effort to rule India properly and profitably and to create other forms of knowledge about the people they were ruling. These imperatives shaped the investigative modalities devised by the British to collect facts.26. Some of the investigative27modalities of the colonial project were quite general such as historiography28 and museology. Other modalities such as surveys and the census were highly defined and clearly related to administrative questions. Many of the modalities were transformed into sciences such as economics, ethnology, tropical medicine, comparative law or cartography.

25 26

Title of a book by Bernard Cohn

-Beyond the Fringe: The Nation State, Colonialism, and technologies of Power by Bernard Cohn and Nicholas Dirks in Journal of Historical Sociology(1988)

(investigative modality includes the definition of information that is needed, the procedures by which appropriate knowledge is gathered, its ordering and classification , and then how it is transformed into usable forms such as published reports, histories, legal codes, etc. 28 modality of history of india


As the British dominance and power grew in India, it became difficult for them to import work class people at different levels of administration from Britain. This led to indoctrination of an elite layer within Indian society (termed as the brown sahibs by the britishers) who was artfully tutored into becoming model British subjects. In 1835, Thomas Macaulay articulated the goals of British colonial imperialism most succinctly: "We must do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern, a class of persons Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, words and intellect."29 But the eliteness of the class of brown sahibs was brought about by the introduction of western science to them. They were among the first Indians to be educated in English medium and served the British administration at clergy positions. The British colonial power started Indian universities in 1858 as institutional plants imported from Great Britain. The main objective behind the move was to connect Indian education to European knowledge.30 However the 1st generation recepients of the western knowledge realized the exploitative nature of Indian socio-religious practices. Also the advancements of Christian missionaries awakened intellectects of that time like Raja Ram Mohan Roy and made them aware of the need of social reforms in Hindu society. This led to widespread awareness among the people even though the primary motive of the britishers of introducing western science and education was to produce trained labours. The Britishers undermined the Indians in every respect. They imposed Indians as mystical, traditional, not rational and not capable of studying science. And hence named their conquest of India as a Civilizing mission to civilize and modernize the colonized. However with the entrenchenment of colonialism, the contributions made by others in the field of science and technology, including india was ignored. The british colonizers could never accept that the Indians were highly civilized as far back as the 3rd millennium BCE when the British were still in the barbarian stage. Such acknowledgment would destroy Europes intellectual premise for colonization-its civilizing mission. But colonial exploitation had created a new imperative for the colonial lords. It could no longer be truthfully acknowledged that India had a rich civilization of its own - that its philosophical and scientific contributions may have influenced European scholars - or helped in shaping the European Renaissance. Britain needed a class of intellectuals meek and docile in their attitude towards the British, but full of hatred towards their fellow citizens. It was thus important to emphasize the negative aspects of the Indian tradition, and obliterate or obscure the positive5.(5- History of Indian Science & Technology By Rajiv Malhotra and Jay Patel)
An arch-racist, Thomas Macaulay had nothing but scornful disdain for Indian history and civilization. In his infamous minute of 1835, he wrote that he had "never found one among them (speaking of Orientalists, an opposing political faction) who could deny that a single shelf of a good European library was worth the whole native literature of India and Arabia". "It is, no exaggeration to say, that all the historical information which has been collected from all the

Page 3- Education and Politics in India by Rudolph and Rudolph



books written in Sanskrit language is less valuable than what may be found in the paltriest abridgments used at preparatory schools in England". Indians were to be taught that they were a deeply conservative and fatalist people - genetically predisposed to irrational superstitions and mystic belief systems. That they had no concept of nation, national feelings or a history. If they had any culture, it had been brought to them by invaders - that they themselves lacked the creative energy to achieve anything by themselves. But the British, on the other hand epitomized modernity - they were the harbingers of all that was rational and scientific in the world. With their unique organizational skills and energetic zeal, they would raise India from the morass of casteism and religious bigotry. These and other such ideas were repeatedly filled in the minds of the young Indians who received instruction in the British schools. All manner of conscious (and subconscious) British (and European) agents would henceforth embark on a journey to rape and conquer the Indian mind. DAWN AND CULTURE OF WESTERN SCIENCE IN INDIA The introduction of western science in the 18th and early 19th had been a part and parcel of the western system of education as Europe was in its scientific boom at that time. However there was only a thin and sporadic flow of Europian medical naturalists which started in 16th century, developed by the middle of the 19th century into steady stream of scientists, mostly medical men and army engineers. They were responsible for making available in India a large amount of European literature of science and technology and advantages of research by methods of western science and founded some of the most important scientific institutions and societies the country posses today. But the intriguing fact is that despite such close and long contacts during the very creative and expansive phase of European science, its introduction to India was extremely tardy and hardly noticeable until towards the closing years of 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, and that it showed little or no sign of taking roots in Indian soil. As S.N Sen of IACS pointed out in his book The character of the introduction of western science in India during the 18th and 19th centuries that while it almost took a hundred years to produce a PN Bose, a JC Bose and a PC Ray to do worthwhile research work in geology, physics, plant physiology, and chemistry, it did not take Japan more than 20 years to produce a band of young Japanese researchers in new science of geophysics under the American and british teachers. SN Sen believed that a reasonable explanation of an inordinate delay inclined to the inadequate introduction of western science in India. There were various reasons for this like the Indian scholars could pursue higher education in India further than their graduate. Even the most qualified Indian researches, or professors were discriminated against in terms of work salary or the of their research work as welleg establishment of laboratory etc. Throughout the 18th and a good amount of 19th century, the court of directors of the east india company insisted on the secrecy of maps and surveys and restricted the art of surveying to their own covenanted or military servants. However another opportunity for for the introduction of western science was presented itself through education after the Orientalists lost their battle to the Anglicists during the 1st quarter of the 19th century. Gradually mathematics and science classes were started in Calcutta Madrasa, the 18

Sanskrit college and other institutions. The study of natural philosophy, chemistry in particular revived impetus . These subjects had now been due importance and capable men were appointed to teach. The Despatch of 185431, reiterated the diffusion of the improved arts, science, philosophy and literature of Europe. But the idea of diffusion had its own flaws at it undermined reciprocity and shows that the society in which they knowledge enters is blank. It is important to note that the emphasis on scientific research and the lead to create conditions for young Indians to engage themselves in such areas came from Indians itself. Mahendralal Sircar put forward a plan for founding a research institute, equipped with library and labs. He sought to establish such an institution for the dual purpose of diffusing the knowledge of science and in extending the bounds wledge by original research. These efforts brought about a fundamental change in the scientific effort to the country. It is therefore correct to say that science returned to india largely as a consequence of the movement for national self-determination. The exponential growth of science in the 20th century, more marked from 1947, coinciding with the period of active growth of national movement, as against the static state of scientific education and research prevailing for the greater part of the 19th century despite the sizeable activity of imported scientists, summarizes and justifies the delayed introduction of western science in India. LEGACY: Unable to rise above the colonial paradigms, we still continue to fumble with colonially inspired doctrines that run counter to the emerging historical record. At present we are still obsessed with the foreign system of knowledge and continue to be binded by it. The number of students obtaining education with English as their 1st language is increasing in leaps and bounds. Today we grow up learning about Pythagoras, Archimedes, Galileo and Newton without ever learning about Panini, Aryabhatta, Bhaskar or Bhaskaracharya. The logic and epistemology of the Nyaya Sutras, the rationality of the early Buddhists or the intriguing philosophical systems of the Jains is buried dead somewhere in the past. Neither is there any awareness of the numerous examples of dialectics in nature that are to be found in Indian texts. They may have read Homer or Dickens but not the Panchatantra, the Jataka tales or anything from the Indian epics. Schooled in the aesthetic and literary theories of the West, today many feel embarrassed in acknowledging Indian contributions in the arts and literature.32 Some have even attempted to construct artificially hyped views of Indian history where there is little attempt to distinguish myth from fact. Strong communal biases continue to prevail, as do xenophobic rejections of even potentially useful and valid Western constructs, even as Westernimposed hegemonic economic systems and exploitative economic models continue to dominate the Indian economic landscape and often find unquestioning acceptance.


in the book of SN Sen


http://india_resource.tripod.com/britishedu.htm 19

The implications leave us to choices that are are dramatic and opposite: Should India upgrade its higher education in order to compete globally as an intellectual place of learning, competing with the West's best universities for the multi-billion dollar education industry? This would be a return to India's role in classical times, when its viharas (intellectual hubs) such as Nalanda and Taxashila attracted the cream of Asia's scholars much like Ivy League institutions in the United States do now. Or should India continue to depend on Western higher education for its paradigms, frameworks, research and development, certification of competence and credibility, careers and legitimacy for its brightest youth? 33

And the stand to take is debatable.




Indian Response to Colonial Science:

Earlier the Indians remained dormant to the advent of colonial science. They learnt only as much as necessary for getting employment. Science was basically an alien field to them. Initially they even resisted the scientific advancement and research in the country. They took science as a threat to their traditional methods and they even resisted it. However, slowly they realized that science was necessary for India. This era was marked with people like Mahendra Lal Sircar, who opened the gateways of western science for Indian people by establishing The Indian Association for The Cultivation of Science on 15 January 1876. The main objectives of the institution were to popularize science among the Indians and to inspire and provide opportunities to Indians to learn science and opt for original research in science. The institute played a crucial role in popularizing science in early Indian society. However, the enthusiasm to take up science was unsatisfactory. Later, J.C. Bose emerged as a successful scientist from the east. He was the first Indian to have studied abroad. He was well known in the west for his scientific abilities. He was the first known rational personnel from the east. The west found it very hard to believe that a man from the east could think scientifically. Their utter disbelief can be understood from the British media commenting that Bose was a magician. He was an exceptional case and he could never represent the whole eastern mind. Thus, initially Bose was an individual with scientific rational and coincidentally found from the east. Later, Bose befriended Tagore and he told him how he represented the whole Indian community to the west and how much he was grateful to him for this. He pleaded him to tell the west, how great Indian culture and traditions are and that Indians can also think rationally. Bose soon took up this greater quest and started working towards this noble objective. With the success of J.C.Bose and C.V.Raman in these years, Indians started taking interest in science. P.C.Ray was also a remarkable person of this period. He became well known as a scientist after his discovery of murcurous nitrite. However, it is to be noted that during those days, mercury was an element known for alchemy. Thus, it didnt put forward a scientific, rational eastern identity explicitly. However, P.C.Ray wasnt interested in changing the identity of east; but he tried to industrialize India. He was inspired by the German model of industrialization. He wanted India to industrialize as fast as possible. However, after the arrival of Gandhi, he was very much influenced by his ideas of nonindustrialization and moving back to the village system as it were. They thought of the rural India and the impact fast industrialization would bring among them. Thus, he changed his ideas. Thus, the Indian response to Colonial Science had different phases and after a common resistance, it was widely accepted as a means of opposition to the Raj and for the spread and rise of 21

nationalism. An important point to be noted is that during this period of acceptance, there was a widespread revival of Indian traditional knowledge. It was mainly done with a view to present India as a scientific nation and Indian thinking not just spiritual but also rational. Thus, the Indian response to colonial science largely invoked the feeling of nationalism among Indians.


With the entrenchment of colonialism, the contribution made by others, including India, was ignored. The British colonizers could never accept that Indians were highly civilized as far back as the third millennium BCE when the British were still in a barbarian stage. Such acknowledgment would destroy Europe's intellectual premise for colonization its civilizing mission. Early British scholars documented Indian thought and its external manifestations as systems competing with their own and thus facilitated the transfer of technology into what became known as Britain's Industrial Revolution. What was found valuable was quickly appropriated and its Indian manufacturers were forced out of business, often through draconian laws enacted by the British. This was, in many instances, justified as civilizing them. Meanwhile, a new history of India was fabricated to ensure that generations of mentally colonized people would believe in the inherent inferiority of their own traditional knowledge. This has been called Macaulayism, named after Thomas Macaulay, the civil servant who became the most prominent champion of such British cultural imperialism strategy starting in the 1830s. It is important to note that among all the conquered and colonized civilizations of the Old World, India is unique in the following respect: its wealth was industrial and created by its workers' ingenuity and labor. In the case of the Native Americans, the plunder by the colonizers was mainly of land, gold and other natural assets. In the case of the Africans, the plunder was both of natural assets and of slave labor. But in India's case, the colonizers had a windfall extraordinary profit margins from the control of India's exports, the taxation of its economic production, and eventually the transfer of its technology and production to the colonizer's home. After independence, many Indian intellectuals continued to use the pre-colonial, feudalistic framework of Indian society. In contrast, Arab scholars have brought out the important role of Islamic empires in the transmission of ideas into Europe. However, many discoveries and innovations of India, as acknowledged by the Arab translators themselves, are now often depicted as being of Arab origin, when in fact, the Arabs often retransmitted what they had learnt from India over to Europe. Unfortunately, India is yet to achieve this kind of intellectual repositioning. It continues to be depicted through caste, cows and curry images all too often. Indian culture is frequently portrayed as being mystical in the sense of being irrational, and in lacking a sense of advancement in the material plane of society. Often, many Westernized Indians internalize these colonial stereotypes. Amartya Sen expressed his views on this as follows:
Fear of elitism did not, happily, deter Joseph Needham from writing his authoritative account of the history of science and technology in China, and to dismiss that work as elitist history would be a serious neglect of China's past A similar history of India's science and technology has not yet been attempted, though many of the elements have been well discussed in particular studies. The absence of a general study like Needham's is influenced by an attitudinal dichotomy. On the one hand, those who take a rather spiritual even perhaps a religious view of India's history do not have a great interest in the analytical and scientific parts of India's past, except to use it as a piece of propaganda about India's greatness (as in the bloated account of what is imaginatively called Vedic mathematics', missing the really creative period in Indian mathematics by many centuries). On the other hand, many who oppose religious and communal politics are particularly suspicious of what may even look like a glorification' of India's past. The need for a work like Needham's has remained unmet (Sen, 1997: 32).34

Today we are living with these legacies passed on to us by our colonial rulers. India has diversified in its cultural, political and economic parts in the past centuries, making its own identity at the global level. But




can we say that on the basis of the points mentioned above that these would lead us to the path ahead? The answer is to be thought by us alone.



Text-Science, Technology and Medicine in colonial India by David Arnold( Text- Western Science in Modern India by Pratik Chakrabarti Text- Mapping an empireText- Science and the Raj- Deepak Kumar Text- Technology and the Raj-Deepak Kumar Text- The character of the introduction of western science in India during the 18th and 19th centuries by S.N. Sen Text- Colonialism and its forms of knowledge by Bernard Cohn Text- Domesticating Modern Science in India by Dhruv Raina and S Irfan Habib Internet Resourses:




http://2ndlook.wordpress.com/2010/08/26/indian-railways-the-britishlegacy/ http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1853/07/22.htm http://desicritics.org/2007/10/30/004034.php


Arnold, David, Science, Technology and Medicine in Colonial India, (Cambridge,2000)


Colonialism and its forms of knowledge:



http://docs.google.com/viewer? a=v&q=cache:pmIL6ueVX3wJ:www.new.dli.ernet.in/rawdataupload/upload/insa/INSA_ 1/20005aef_112.pdf+western+science+in+india&hl=en&gl=in&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEES hsqcaFdlfiO1_w6EAjCTb1r7j-Ob_zD9ZbTcPJ_Ls_csJzeWnqgvwOmRJQQrpBw4yBeOcFCmwVduBl_JWXhQbTCbK_eM7SfEmIO3BN3FNhOi5LwKXdKyWRO0eHKb7x0UENe7&sig=AHIEtbSgAqgX2MInYJrC-i5qmPviBYH9g http://india_resource.tripod.com/britishedu.htm http://www.southasiaanalysis.org/%5Cpapers3%5Cpaper299.html