The Anarchy: William Dalrymple introduced by Sanjoy K. Roy
The story of the East India Company is not a fable about business, nor a fiction of adventure. It is one of abject looting, a scheme of wretched plundering of a huge country like India by a mere private corporation from Britain. In its five-hundred-year history, it is the account of how a trading corporation ruthlessly trained a security force of 200,000 men and subdued an entire subcontinent, robbing them of all their assets. The Anarchy is William Dalrymple’s most ambitious and riveting book on the East India Company, a portrayal ‘as it has never been told before’. In the concluding JLF Houston session, the author gave an elaborate and illustrative analysis of his creation to a captive audience.
The story begins with the company defeating the Mughal emperor in 1765 and forcing him to set up a new administration run by English merchants, collecting taxes through ruthless means and then changing from a company trading silk and spices to a colonial power camouflaged as a multinational business. The book explains the disintegration of an empire that is replaced by an unregulated private company. That was when India stumbled from the clutches of Islamic dominance to two hundred years of British anarchy, that stole our treasures, divided and ruled our people using an army of Indians, imposed their habits and style of education, ravished our culture, wiped us of our national pride and created generations of Indians who loathed India and behaved like trashy British appendages.
More treacherous than any crime thriller, and heinous than most espionage themes, the methodical launching and further scheming of a business establishment deliberating the takeover of nations, enslaving their populace and pillaging their resources for centuries may seem ludicrous, beyond even fictional imagination. But it was the reality of history as explicitly portrayed by The Anarchy. And further, the author postulates that the establishment of the East India Company paved the way for the genesis of modern corporations and their established ‘legal practice’ of greed, lobbying and influencing leaders at the expense of naïve participants and the helpless masses.
From the Indian perspective, it is prudent to take stock of how much we have progressed as an independent nation since we got liberated from London boardroom dictations over seven decades ago. Stories of religious disharmony, infighting, corruption, progress stagnating, lack of infrastructure, electricity, water and sanitary facilities, and a compelling absence of leadership are common topics of conversation even now. Let us trust that the experience under the British has taught us a lesson to act with pride and pitch in for an India worth its potential.