Jeg faldt over en lille brevveksling mellem en samvittighedsfuld britisk skatteopkræver og hans foresatte i et ikke nærmere angivet distrikt i Gujarat anno 1877. Den begynder med skatteopkræverens notits til den distriktsansvarlige:
Looking at the wide-spread misery of the ryots, their distressing past and hopeless future, I respectfully submit that their arrears be remitted them, or at least the payment deferred till better times.
Den distriktsansvarlige svarer prompte:
The undersigned read the Collector’s insane letter with pity and disgust; and has done his duty by forwarding the same to head-quarters. Undersigned is afraid the Collector will have to pass a bad half hour with His Excellency, but it will serve him right.
Kort efter følger også den regeringsansvarlige sig kaldet til at kommentere:
Your strange communication, forwarded by the Commissioner of your Division, has excited much amusement. His Excellency in Council vows and declares such unpatriotic proceeding on your part is highly reprehensible. But in consideration of your past meritorious services, your folly is forgiven; should you, however, repeat it, His Excellency will be forced to make an example of you. If you have so much sentiment about you, why don’t you resign? You will have a crust of bread for your old age.
Og som om det ikke var nok, så resulterer sagen afslutningsvis i en generel og nærmest visionær rundskrivelse til det britiske imperies udsendte tjenere:
Whereas a certain District Revenue Official (name withheld out of consideration for long service) has dared to suggest the remission of our just and lawful dues, it is hereby notified for the general information of the whole Civil Service that His Excellency will visit with his utmost displeasure any such weakness, which may lead to gross crimes, such as riot, burglary, dacoity, and murder, and ultimately tarnish the fair fame of Britain. Times change, and with them must we. The people may die, that is the only means to the salvation of this conquered land. They may starve, languish, sell their children, or eat them. That is no concern of such high-minded Christian rulers as we are. We must look to the remote future. There we descry hoards of Afghans and Cossacks overrunning the fair fields of Cashmere. (Is not he our neighbour? and what is our duty by our neighbour?) And would it be Christian of us to rest before we have made a trans-Himalayan tramway, and till we take our formidable future foes home to Afghanistan and Siberia, wash the one and put the other to bed? Think over these complications before you talk of remission and this and that remedy.
Den kristen-imperialistiske medfølelse anno 1877 er slående. Jeg har læst om tilfælde hvor fattige indiske familier har solgt et eller flere af deres børn for at overleve, men jeg har endnu ikke hørt at de skulle være begyndt at spise dem for moderlandets frelse. På den anden side er Indien selvfølgelig heller ikke blevet invaderet af hverken afghanere eller kossakker, og den transhimalayanske jernbane synes endnu at have lange udsigter.
Så det kan jo være at det kommer. Engang i den fjerne fremtid.