chapter  7
18 Pages

Internationalizing the Indian War on Opium: Colonial policy, the nationalist movement and the League of Nations


In December 1924 at the annual meeting of the Indian National Congress in Belgaum the following resolution was adopted:

The Congress is of opinion that the policy of the Government of India in using the drink and drug habit of the people as a source of revenue is detrimental to the moral welfare of the people of India and would therefore welcome its abolition. The Congress is further of opinion that the regulation by the Government of India of the opium traffi c is detrimental not only to the moral welfare of India but of the whole world, and that the cultivation of opium in India which is out of all proportion to medical and scientifi c requirements should be restricted to such requirements. 1

This resolution clearly revealed the Indian National Congress’ dismissal of the offi cial opium policy of the British Indian government. In addition it touched upon several globally discussed issues in regard to opium consumption such as the medical usage of the drug, ethical questions of opium abuse as well as the fi nancial side of any curtailment of opium production and distribution. While the Congress reference to the question of restricting opium cultivation to medical and scientifi c requirements demonstrates the organization’s knowledge of contemporary global debates taking place in the League of Nations, the resolution remained silent about the institution’s responsibility for framing international drug control initiatives in the interwar period.