Taxation in India

overview about the taxation in India

Taxes in India are levied by the Central Government and the state governments.

Taxation in medieval India

  • In many parts of the plains thorny jungles grow, behind the good defence of which the people… become stubbornly rebellious… and pay no taxes.
    • Babur in his memoir Baburnama
  • The Sultan then asked, "How are Hindus designated in the law, as payers of tributes or givers of tribute? The Kazi replied, "They are called payers of tribute, and when the revenue officer demands silver from them, they should tender gold. If the officer throws dirt into their mouths, they must without reluctance open their mouths to receive it. By doing so they show their respect for the officer. The due subordination of the zimmi is exhibited in this humble payment and by this throwing of dirt in their mouths. The glorification of Islam is a duty, and contempt of the Religion is vain. God holds them in contempt, for he says, "keep them under in subjection". To keep the Hindus in abasement is especially a religious duty, because they are the most inveterate enemies of the Prophet, and because the Prophet has commanded us to slay them, plunder them, and make them captive, saying, 'Convert them to Islam or kill them, enslave them and spoil their wealth and property.'No doctor but the great doctor (Hanifa), to whose school we belong, has assented to the imposition of the jizya (poll tax) on Hindus. Doctors of other schools allow no other alternative but 'Death or Islam.'"
    • Qazi Mughisuddin's reply to Sultan Alauddin Khalji. Tarikh-i Firoz Shahi, of Ziauddin Barani in Elliot and Dowson, Vol. III : Elliot and Dowson, History of India as told by its own Historians, 8 Volumes, Allahabad Reprint, 1964. pp. 184, chapter 15 [1]. Quoted in B.R. Ambedkar, Pakistan or The Partition of India (1946).
  • But the Mogul rule could scarcely be compared with administration by the Indian Civil Service. The brilliant courts were centers of conspicuous consumption on a scale which the Sun King at Versailles might have thought excessive. Thousands of servants and hangers-on, extravagant clothes and jewels and harems and menageries, vast arrays of bodyguards, could be paid for only by the creation of a systematic plunder machine. Tax collectors, required to provide fixed sums for their masters, preyed mercilessly upon peasant and merchant alike; whatever the state of the harvest or trade, the money had to come in. There being no constitutional or other checks—apart from rebellion—upon such depredations, it was not surprising that taxation was known as “eating.” For this colossal annual tribute, the population received next to nothing. There was little improvement in communications, and no machinery for assistance in the event of famine, flood, and plague—which were, of course, fairly regular occurrences. All this makes the Ming dynasty appear benign, almost progressive, by comparison. Technically, the Mogul Empire was to decline because it became increasingly difficult to maintain itself against the Marathas in the south, the Afghanis in the north, and, finally, the East India Company. In reality, the causes of its decay were much more internal than external.
    • Paul Kennedy, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers (1987), p. 13
  • The Hindu was taxed to the extent of half the produce of his land, and had to pay duties on all his buffaloes, goats, and other milk-cattle. The taxes were to be levied equally on rich and poor, at so much per acre, so much per animal. Any collectors or officers taking bribes were summarily dismissed and heavily punished with sticks, pincers, the rack, imprisonment and chains. The new rules were strictly carried out, so that one revenue officer would string together 20 Hindu notables and enforce payment by blows. No gold or silver, not even the betelnut, so cheering and stimulative to pleasure, was to be seen in a Hindu house, and the wives of the impoverished native officials were reduced to taking service in Muslim families. Revenue officers came to be regarded as more deadly than the plague; and to be a government clerk was disgrace worse than death, in so much that no Hindu would marry his daughter to such a man. ... [These edicts] were so strictly carried out that the chaukidars and khuts and muqad-dims were not able to ride on horseback, to find weapon, to wear fine clothes, or to indulge in betel. . .... No Hindu could hold up his head. ..... Blows, confinement in the stocks, imprisonment and chains were all employed to enforce payment. "
    • Stanley Lane-Poole : Medieval India, quoted from B.R. Ambedkar, Pakistan or The Partition of India (1946)
  • …The abolition of jizyah in Hindustan is a result of friendship which (Hindus) have acquired with the rulers of this land… What right have the rulers to stop exacting jizyah? Allah himself has commanded imposition of jizyah for their (infidels’) humiliation and degradation. What is required is their disgrace, and the prestige and power of Muslims. The slaughter of non-Muslims means gain for Islam…
    • Ahmad Sirhindi , Maktubat-i-Imam Rabbani translated into Urdu by Maulana Muhammad Sa’id Ahmad Naqshbandi, Deoband, 1988, Volume I, p.388 ff.This letter was written to Shaikh Farid alias Nawab Murtaza Khan who was opposed to Akbar’s religious policy, and who supported Jahangir’s accession after taking from the latter a promise that Islam will be upheld in the new reign.
  • The real purpose of levying jiziya on them is to humiliate them to such an extent that they may not be able to dress well and to live in grandeur. They should constantly remain terrified and trembling. It is intended to hold them under contempt and to uphold the honour and might of Islam.
    • Ahmad Sirhindi in S.A.A. Rizvi, Muslim Revivalist Movements in Northern India in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries, Agra, 1965, pp. 248-249. Quoted from Goel, Sita Ram (1995). Muslim separatism: Causes and consequences. ISBN 9788185990262
  • According to Mulla Ahmad, "the main object of levying of Jiziyah on them... is their humiliation... God established (the custom of realising) Jiziyah for their dishonour. The object is their humiliation and the (establishment of) prestige and dignity of the Muslims." Sri Ram Sharma reproduces Aurangzeb's order about the imposition and collection of Jiziyah dated 26th July, 1696. It says that "Jiziyah lapses on death and on acceptance of Islam".
    • Sri Ram Sharma, Aurangzeb's order, Mulla Ahmad, quoted in K.S. Lal. Theory and Practice of Muslim State in India (1999)
  • In fine, the tribute you demand from the Hindus is repugnant to justice; it is equally foreign from good policy, as it must impoverish the country; moreover, it is an innovation and an infringement of the laws of Hindostan.
    • Appeal to Aurangzeb by a delegation of Hindus [variously ascribed either to Shivaji or to Rana Raj Singh ] in protest against the imposition of the Jizya. In Smith, The Oxford History of India, 438–39. Quoted from Spencer, Robert (2018). The history of Jihad: From Muhammad to ISIS.
  • Thomas Roll, the president of the English factory in Surat wrote that jizyah was exacted by Aurangzeb for the duel purpose of enriching the treasury and for ‘‘forcing the poorer sections of the population to become Muslims.’’
    • Sharma SS (2004) Caliphs and Sultans: Religious Ideology and Political Praxis, Rupa & Co, New Delhi p 219, (quoted in Khan, M. A. (2011). Islamic Jihad: A legacy of forced conversion, imperialism and slavery ch 4)

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