Anti-Indian sentiment

Anti-Indian sentiment or Indophobia refers to negative feelings and hatred towards India, Indians, and Indian culture.[1] Indophobia is formally defined in the context of anti-Indian prejudice in East Africa as "a tendency to react negatively towards people of Indian extraction against aspects of Indian culture and normative habits".[2] Its opposite is Indomania.

Historic anti-India sentiment

By the late 19th century, sinophobia had already emerged in North America over Chinese immigration and the cheap labour it supplied, mostly for railroad construction in California and elsewhere on the West Coast.[3] In jargon common in the day, ordinary workers, newspapers and politicians opposed this "Yellow Peril". The common cause of eradicating Asians from the workforce gave rise to the Asiatic Exclusion League. As the Indian community of mostly Punjabi Sikhs settled in California, the xenophobia expanded to encompass immigrants from British India.[4][5][6]

Colonial period


The relationship between "Indomania" and "Indophobia" in colonial era British Indology was discussed by American Indologist Thomas Trautmann (1997) who found that Indomania had become a norm in early 19th century Britain as the result of a conscious agenda of Evangelicalism and utilitarianism, especially by Charles Grant and James Mill.[7] Historians noted that during the British Empire, "evangelical influence drove British policy down a path that tended to minimize and denigrate the accomplishments of Indian civilization and to position itself as the negation of the earlier British Indomania that was nourished by belief in Indian wisdom."[8]

In Grant's highly influential "Observations on the ...Asiatic subjects of Great Britain" (1796),[9] he criticized the Orientalists for being too respectful to Indian culture and religion. His work tried to determine the Hindus' "true place in the moral scale" and he alleged that the Hindus are "a people exceedingly depraved". Grant believed that Great Britain's duty was to civilise and Christianize the natives.

Lord Macaulay, serving on the Supreme Council of India between 1834 and 1838, was instrumental in creating the foundations of bilingual colonial India. He convinced the Governor-General to adopt English as the medium of instruction in higher education from the sixth year of schooling onwards, rather than Sanskrit or Arabic. He claimed: "I have never found one among them who could deny that a single shelf of a good European library was worth the whole native literature of India and Arabia."[10] He wrote that Arabic and Sanskrit works on medicine contain "medical doctrines which would disgrace an English Farrier – Astronomy, which would move laughter in girls at an English boarding school – History, abounding with kings thirty feet high reigns thirty thousand years long – and Geography made up of seas of treacle and seas of butter".[11]

One of the most influential historians of India during the British Empire, James Mill was criticised for prejudice against Hindus.[12] Horace Hayman Wilson wrote that the tendency of Mill's work was "evil".[13] Mill claimed that both Indians and Chinese people are cowardly, unfeeling and mendacious. Both Mill and Grant attacked Orientalist scholarship that was too respectful of Indian culture: "It was unfortunate that a mind so pure, so warm in the pursuit of truth so devoted to oriental learning, as that of Sir William Jones, should have adopted the hypothesis of a high state of civilization in the principal countries of Asia."[14]

Dadabhai Naoroji spoke against such anti-India sentiment.[15]


Stereotypes of Indians intensified during and after the Indian Rebellion of 1857, known as India's First War of Independence to the Indians and as the Sepoy Mutiny to the British, when Indian sepoys rebelled against the British East India Company's rule in India. Allegations of war rape were used as propaganda by British colonialists in order to justify the colonization of India. While incidents of rape committed by Indian rebels against British women and girls were generally uncommon, this was exaggerated by the British media to justify continued British intervention in the Indian subcontinent.[16]

At the time, British newspapers had printed various apparently eyewitness accounts of British women and girls being raped by Indian rebels, but cited little physical evidence. It was later found that some were fictions created to paint the native people as savages who needed to be civilized, a mission sometimes known as "The White Man's Burden". One such account published by The Times, regarding an incident where 48 British girls as young as 10–14 had been raped by Indian rebels in Delhi, was criticized as propaganda by Karl Marx, who pointed out that the story was written by a clergyman in Bangalore, far from the events.[17] A wave of anti-Indian vandalism accompanied the rebellion. When Delhi fell to the British, the city was ransacked, the palaces looted and the mosques desecrated in what has been called "a deliberate act of unnecessary vandalism".[18]

Despite the questionable authenticity of colonial accounts regarding the rebellion, the stereotype of the Indian "dark-skinned rapist" occurred frequently in English literature of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The idea of protecting British "female chastity" from the "lustful Indian male" had a significant influence on the British Raj's policies outlawing miscegenation between the British and the Indians. While some restrictive policies were imposed on British females to "protect" them from miscegenation, most were directed against Indians.[19][20] For example, the 1883 Ilbert Bill, which would have granted Indian judges the right to judge British offenders, was opposed by many British colonialists on the grounds that Indian judges could not be trusted in cases alleging the rape of British females.[21]


Contemporary Indophobia has risen in the western world, particularly the United States, on account of the rise of the Indian American community and the increase in offshoring of white-collar jobs to India by American multinational corporations.[22] Indophobia in the west manifests itself through intimidation and harassment, such as the case of the Dotbusters, a hate group targeting South Asians.