Page 6 - Science India August 2022
P. 6

Swatantrata ka Amrut Mahotsava
als. This was an attack on the very identity, i.e., ‘swa’ of the nation. The most effective tool to achieve this ‘higher’ goal, obviously, was ‘science’.
Renowned scholar Ashish Nandy has exposed the foul play of colonis- ers based on ‘science’. He writes, ‘The reader may remember popular anec- dotes about colonial adventurers, or scientifically-minded explorers who sometimes scared off or impressed the natives of Asia and Africa with new forms of black magic based on the dis- coveries of modern science. The civi- lizing mission of colonialism thrived on this folklore of encounter between western science and savage supersti- tions. But in each such instance, it was science that was put to the use of the colonial state; the state was not put to the use of science.’
It was a serious attempt of British rulers to conquer the ‘swa’ of India by using ‘science’. This was a life-threat- ening attack. Indians were shaken to
It has been estimated today that Britain stole around $45 trillion from India during its rule
of 190 years
the core. It was an existential crisis, indeed, and all geared up to take on this unprecedented challenge.
Science was used to subjugate In- dia in an all-encompassing manner. Even before the East India Company’s political hegemony was firmly estab- lished, the company had set up the Survey of India in 1767 to explore and map the rich natural resources of Bharatvarsha in a scientific manner. Thus was set in motion the systematic exploitative annihilation of India’s ag- riculture, mineral wealth and village industries, and the need to construct the Railways to be able to transport the country’s wealth from inland to port cities and thence to Britain.
Of special note is the heart-rending tale of how the country that supplied food grains to the world since ancient times, was reduced to a state of fam- ine, occurring successively since the late 18th century right up to 1943. It is shocking that these were man- made famines. The food shortage for Indians was created by the mindless policies of the British. The farmers were forced to give up cultivation of cereals for cash crops such as indigo, cotton, tea, coffee, jute, as these pow- ered Britain’s global trade. The profits of this trade were used to strengthen the British economy and no benefits ever reached Indians in terms of rev- enue and food grains. In his ‘Drain of Wealth’ theory, Dadabhai Naoroji estimated that half of India’s revenue and more than a third of its savings were drained to Britain.
Not a single aspect of life in Bharat was left untouched by the diabolical British rule. Its administrators de-
clared Indians to be an inferior race, with no knowledge of science whatsoever, no tradition of higher learning and even no capacity to learn anything ‘modern’, which they interpreted as ‘western’. In one fell swoop, centuries of India’s achieve- ments in science — from metallurgy to mathematics, from agriculture to Ayurveda and astronomy — were be- littled, disregarded and dishonoured
fundamentally and so powerfully that many Indians started believing in their own inferiority.
Science was thus administered for the first time to plunder India’s wealth. It has been estimated today that Brit- ain stole around $45 trillion from In- dia during its rule of 190 years.
To add insult to injury, the British blatantly and shamelessly stole some of the finest specimens of our heritage that can now be found in their mu- seums.
It was the domain of science from where the conch was blown to chal- lenge the British intellectual hege-
mony. Dr Mahendralal Sircar, a suc- cessful medical practitioner having experienced the bitter hegemonic attitude of the adherents of west- ern science, rose against injustice and pledged to establish a Swadeshi scientific institution. With the help of munificent fellow Indians, he es- tablished an Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science (IACS) in 1876, which was ‘solely native and purely national’. He had a convic- tion that ‘science’ is the instrument for national reconstruction and en- visioned a glorious India through indigenously developed science.
Along with Dr Sircar, Acharya JC Bose and Acharya PC Ray, the leading lights of Indian science initi- ated a vigorous and creative struggle in the domain of science to achieve Swatantrata. Many others followed them. It is extremely difficult to es- timate their awesome contributions. The sheer immensity of their offer- ings suggests that by all means, they will be remembered as the epoch- makers in Swatantra Bharat, as they laid the foundation for the develop- ment and progress of science to be utilised for the national resurrection and reconstruction.
In the 75th year of Swatantrata, paying tributes to these science war- riors will be truly meaningful if we could imbibe their spirit and under- stand their dream about Swatantra Bharat, and take the pledge to make ourselves worthy to walk that spirit and strive hard to realise their dream.
I would also like to take this op- portunity to extend best wishes to all the readers of Science India on the festival of Ganesh Chaturthi, which itself has its roots in India’s struggle to assert its ‘swa’. As we all know, it was started by Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak in 1893 in the public domain, to create a platform from where na- tionalist ideas could be preached and spread to the masses.
* The writer is Chief Editorial Advisor, Science India

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