for The Vaishnava Voice on Feb. 21, 2009
Photo Credits: Edward B.
Durbar Hall of the Foreign Office. From a suite of rooms off this great hall in Westminster, London, the ‘GBC’ was conceived and India’s administration directed.
This is not about the history of ISKCON’s GBC meetings, but of the original GBC that was created way back in the days of Queen Victoria.
The acronym GBC stands for ‘Governing Body Commission’ and was a term created by the British for its top executive body of the Indian Railways. The British-run railways were one of the miracles of Victorian India. Well organised and spanning the entire continent, they allowed the people of the farthest-flung corner of the British Raj to communicate as never before. They carried the messages of Britain with them and were thus an important tool in the continuing subjugation of the Indian continent.
At its height, the British administration in India totalled only 14,000 persons. You can get a lot done if you’re organised - and if the population have been subdued by cultural chauvinism enough to give them an inferiority complex. The British were quite clear on what they wanted from India. It was stated by Lord Macaulay back in 1835 to the members of Houses of Parliament:
“I have traveled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief, such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own,they will lose their self esteem, their native culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation.”
The GBC, along with all the other political and diplomatic machinery that helped perpetuate British interests in India, was created in the India Office section of the British Foreign Office. Just a few months ago, I took part in the celebration of a Diwali Festival there. The irony of the situation was not lost on us.
Not only had the culture of the Hindoos taken over the India Office in Westminster, but English men and women, dressed in dhotis and sarees, had even taken up the religion of the Hindoos. If Lord Macaulay could have seen us”¦
ISKCON’s GBC - the ultimate managerial body of the movement - was derived from the administrative body of the same name of the Gaudiya Mission which adopted the term in the 1930s.