The British Empire was the largest and arguably the greatest empire in the world. Having made 57 present day countries as their colonies over 4 centuries, the strength of their administration was commendable. Though they implemented severe atrocities, discrimination and human rights violation; their main strength was their ability to divide the people they ruled upon. ‘Divide and Rule’ philosophy worked wonders for them. Making a nexus with the powerful too, was one of their key elements that kept major forces form collectively opposing them.
The British ruled India for a century and a half but, their strengths met a new challenge in Indian principles and patriotism. ‘Divide and Rule’ worked, but worked partially. So did their nexus with the powerful. Indian agitation would never stop once it initiated in the revolt of 1857. By the fall of the 19th century, the British knew that another force is requisite that would keep the revolutionary acts divided. The same force would also earn tremendous profits, though it was daylight robbery.
When the 80,000 armed soldiers of Britain, deployed in India to suppress the independence movement, seemed to have fallen short- a new method was necessary. Since the awakening of 1857, the British parliament drew immense attention towards sustaining India as their colony; the immense wealth of this land was the reason. The solution they found was on paper but, had an impact on the way the rulers ruled. Laws regarding many things were added to the British arsenal and things were never the same again.
The Indian barristers who studied law advocated the imposing laws of the British. These laws weren’t generally passed. The British Parliament keenly designed these laws to divide, break and defragment the Indian society so that their administration is not challenged. These laws were atrocious in nature. They broke all boundaries of discrimination and it is believed that the biggest slavery that was imposed was that of British laws and not the British themselves. Some of these laws are listed below-
Public Safety Bill and Trade Dispute Bill-
The economically draining tax imposition on working class of India led to a widespread strike in the late 1920’s. The Viceroy, using his special powers, had decided to pass the Public Safety Bill and Trade Dispute Bill immediately. These laws would declare all strikes as illegal and would term any strike as a mutiny against the administration. There was a provision in the law which empowered the police to throw anyone behind the bars without a trial. Bhagat Singh and Batukeshwar Dutt threw bombs in the assembly to oppose these Bills.
Land acquisition Act, 1894-
This act was passed to legally snatch away a piece of land if it favored the government’s policy. This land was to be used for ‘public purposes’. But, the provisions in this law enabled any Officer to snatch away any piece of land by claiming that it will be used better for ‘public purpose’. Thousands of farmers across India lost their land because of this act. Many still live in poverty due to this day light robbery. The British eventually built cantonments, cow slaughter houses, race courses, hostels etc, exclusively for the British. This discriminative act was repealed only in 2013 after multiple mass movements, mainly by farmers, and ‘The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013’ was passed. But, the basic structure of the former law stayed and only minor amendments were made later.
Rowlatt Act, 1919-
Nation-wide unrest and minimal resources on the part of the British due to the First World War meant that necessary measures had to be taken. As an emergency measure, The Rowlatt Act of 1919 was passed by the British parliament and imposed it on India. The law enabled the British army and Indian Police to arrest without warrants, to have a strangle hold on the press, to impose indefinite detention without trial and violently act on suspicious evidence.
In opposition to this act, the Jallianwala Baugh Massacre took place on 13th April 1919. Further, more horrific acts were conducted by the Police and Human Rights were violated without any measure or record.
Indian Police Act, 1861-
The revolt of 1857 had brought British masterminds back to their senses. They were reminded that India wasn’t for anybody’s taking and the small British Army wouldn’t survive for long in such circumstances. Hence, The Indian Police Act of 1861 was passed. This act provided the creation of the Police where the British were officers and Indians occupied ‘havaldar’ posts. This act worked very well as there was a great wave of unemployment in Indian youth and other British laws had chocked good possibilities in farming. Indians were employed to inflict atrocities on fellow Indians.
This act enabled policemen to violently discipline the people. This act still exists and no amendments are made till date. Atrocities by Police and apparently cases and complaints against them are common these days. Though this act is categorized as a law to protect citizens, it has harmed the people more than it could ever serve.