When children quarrel, it’s natural for the victimized child to report the incident to an higher-up and try and get justice. This is because he (or she) believes that the higher-up will look at the matter from a neutral standpoint, if not his or her own standpoint, and protect him (or her) from the other child using methods inaccessible to him (or her). This belief, of course, is acquired. Children are instructed to bring such matters to the notice of adults and refrain from trying to settle it themselves “beyond a point”.

Colonialism works exactly like this. British colonialists in India, who looked at Indian rulers as adults would children, declared it to be the duty assigned to them by Providence to maintain peace and calm by intervening as the greater power in the quarrels of the natives.

General Marquess Wellesley used this idea to justify the Subsidiary Alliance in 1804 [Ref 1]. Without British intervention ‘warfare, turbulence, and disorder’ would remain ‘irremediable’ according to him. Not only that, placing the kids at a high degree of ‘dependence on the British power’ was important in making sure that they didn’t form ‘a confederacy hazardous to the security of the British empire’.

This latter motivation is normally absent in the adult-child relationship. The adult who cares for the children wants peace and tranquility alright, but he or she also wants them to learn how to work and play in a group. That is, the ‘confederacy’ that the colonialist fears is exactly what a loving adult actually wishes to see in children. This is because the higher-up, in this case, has no intention to run an Empire.

The analogy remains valid, however, in the case where the intention does exist. If the adult doesn’t care much for the children but acts entirely in his or her own narrow self-interest, he or she would do exactly like the colonialist: keep the children from uniting, always ask them to come to him or her to settle disputes, and extract his or her pound of flesh for ‘keeping general tranquility’.

It is the overall organization of politics and commerce which the Wellesleys of India created that we call as the Government of India today.

The spirit of the Subsidiary Alliance is so deeply entrenched into India’s political establishment that even to this day, the Government of India considers itself the higher-up who needs to intervene in order to maintain tranquility. The ‘kids’, i.e., State governments and political parties vying for power at the State level, for their part, have been brainwashed into believing that they need to appeal to this higher-up whenever any quarrel arises.

In reality, the relationship between the States and the Centre is not constrained to be analogous to the child-adult relationship. It can potentially resemble an employer-employee relationship. That is, the States can potentially look at the Centre as a service-provider who is called, employed, and paid according to the quality of service, when and where the need arises.

For this to happen in reality, the States have to find a cure for the disease they contacted during British days: the Higher-Up Syndrome. That cure is not complicated. They just have to realize that they aren’t kids and there’s no higher-up to go to. The higher-up who does show up is not the loving adult we all went to as kids after quarreling, but the ghost of Lord Wellesley.


  1. For further info and a quote from Wellesley’s dispatch to the Resident at Hyderabad on 4 Feb 1804, see Ch. 5 of The Pyramid of Corruption.