James Burnes (surgeon)

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James Burnes

James Burnes KH FRS (12 February 1801–19 September 1862) was a Scottish doctor and surgeon in India, who became physician-general of Bombay.


Narrative of a visit to the court of Sinde[edit]

Narrative of a visit to the court of Sinde [1] (also quoted in Jain, M. (2010). Parallel pathways: Essays on Hindu-Muslim relations, 1707-1857.)
  • When I left Sinde, I carried with me two gold watches belonging to the Ameers to be repaired ; but one of my servants having by chance hinted that there was a Hindoo in fihooj who was qua- lified for the task, they were not consigned to my charge, till I gave a pledge that they should notpass into the hands of an accursed JBoot Puriist, or worshipper of idols. Among the inscriptions inlaid in gold on a highly-valuable Damascus sword, with which their Highnesses presented me, there is a verse written by their vizier, and high- ly applauded by themselves, containing a prayer that a hundred thousand Hindoos may perish by its edge. [2]
  • A spirit of religious toleration cannot be enumerated among the few virtues of the Sinde government or its subjects ; and in no respect whatever is the oppression of the Ameers more apparent than in their zeal for the propagation of the Mahommedan faith. It is really difficult to conceive how any Hindoos should have continued to reside in the country ; and the fact can only be accounted for by that attachment, which man shares with the vegetable, to the soil in which he is reared. The indignities they suffer are of the most exasperating description. They are even forced to adopt the Mahom- medan dress, and to wear beards. Till lately, none of this class were permitted to ride on horse- back; and amongst the few who now enjoy the privilege, a small number only in the immediate service of government are allowed the comfort and honour, as it is esteemed, of a saddle. Merchants of wealth and respectability may be seen mounted on asses and mules ; animals considered so unclean, that none but the vilest outcasts in other countries can touch them with impunity : and, even from this humble conveyance, they are obliged to descend and stand aside when any bloated Mussulman passes by. [3]
  • The Mahomniedans are encouraged and exhorted to destroy all the emblems of idolatry they may see in Sinde. The degraded and unfortunate follower of Brahma, is denied the free exercise of his religion ; the tom-tom is seldom heard, being only beat when permission is granted ; and although there are a few temples without images at Hyderabad, the sound of music never echoes from their walls. It is in the power of any two " true believers, by declaring that a Hindoo has repeated a verse from the Koran, or the words ** Ala- hommed the Prophet, to procure his immediate circumcision. This is the most common, and, by the persecuted class themselves, considered the most cruel of all their calamities ; while, as it is resorted to on the slightest pretence, and always performed with a mockery of its being for the eternal happiness of the sufferer, mental agony is made to add its bitterness to bodily infliction. [4]
  • The Ameers heard me with great politeness ; expressed their regret at the circumstance ; and begged to know who the person was that had given me so much annoyance. I replied, a Hindoo. The name acted like a charm : Mourad Ali stop- ped me at once by pronouncing any investigation perfectly unnecessary, and forthwith issued his commands that the offender should be confined and admitted into the bosom of the faith ; an order which I observed several persons run with alacrity to perform. On my remonstrating against this extremity, his Highness replied with a savage grin, " You do not know the Hindoos of Sinde ; they are all blackguards and rascals." [5]
  • The evils of intolerance I have mentioned, are so glaring that it is scarcely possible for a stranger to be a week in the country without their being obtruded on his notice. The Hindoo vakeel who accompanied me, was the butt of every species of ribaldry and wit that could enter the imaginations of my conductors, or their followers, on the march ; and amongst the many who secretly pray for such a consummation, none seemed to have a more devout wish to see the British colours flying on the bastions of Hyderabad, than the Hindoos of respectability; who, uninvited, entered on the subject of their grievances, and discoursed largely of the cruelties and indignities to which they were subjected. [6]

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