|It took Adolf Hitler 12years to murder 6 million Jews, but Churchill murdered 4 million Indians in just over a year.
By Arun Haridas, An Indian
The Bengal famine - The India's forgotten holocaust
The Bengal Famine of 1943-44 must rank as the greatest disaster in the subcontinent in the 20th century. Nearly 4 million Indians died because of an artificial famine created by the British government, and yet it gets little more than a passing mention in Indian history books.
It took Adolf Hitler 12years to murder 6 million Jews, but Churchill murdered 4 million in just over a year.
Which roughly means 10,000 people dying every single day by starvation.
Bengal had a bountiful harvest in 1942, but the British started diverting vast quantities of food grain from India to Britain, contributing to a massive food shortage in the areas comprising present-day West Bengal, Odisha, Bihar and Bangladesh.
“Parents dumped their starving children into rivers and wells. Many took their lives by throwing themselves in front of trains. Starving people begged for the starchy water in which rice had been boiled. Children ate leaves and vines, yam stems and grass. People were too weak even to cremate their loved ones.”
By 1943 hordes of starving people were flooding into Calcutta, most dying on the streets.
Subhas Chandra Bose, who was then fighting on the side of the Axis forces, offered to send rice from Myanmar, but the British censors did not even allow his offer to be reported.
Churchill was totally remorseless in diverting food to the British troops and Greek civilians. To him, “the starvation of anyhow underfed Bengalis (was) less serious than sturdy Greeks”
When asked to release food stocks for India, Churchill responded with a telegram asking why Gandhi hadn’t died yet.
Churchill’s hostility toward Indians has long been documented. At a War Cabinet meeting, he blamed the Indians themselves for the famine, saying they “breed like rabbits”. His attitude toward Indians may be summed up in his words : “I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion.” On another occasion, he insisted they were “the beastliest people in the world next to the Germans”.
“Churchill’s attitude toward India was quite extreme, and he hated Indians, mainly because he knew India couldn’t be held for very long.”
“Churchill regarded wheat as too precious a food to expend on non-whites, let alone on recalcitrant subjects who were demanding independence from the British Empire. He preferred to stockpile the grain to feed Europeans after the war was over.”
Churchill was not only a racist but also a liar.
A history of holocausts
There were 31 serious famines in 120 years of British rule compared with 17 in the 2,000 years before British rule.
The famines that killed up to 29 million Indians. These people were murdered by British State policy. In 1876, when drought destituted the farmers of the Deccan plateau, there was a net surplus of rice and wheat in India. But the Viceroy, Robert Bulwer-Lytton, insisted that nothing should prevent their export to England.
In 1877 and 1878, there were labour camps set up by the British. Within these labour camps, the workers were given less food than the Jewish inmates the Nazi concentration camp.
In 1901,it is estimated that at least 19 million Indians had died in western India during the famine of the 1890s. The death toll was so high because the British refused to implement famine relief.
Israel, for instance, cannot forget the Holocaust; neither will it let others. Armenia cannot forget the Great Crime — the systematic massacre of 1.8 million Armenians by the Turks during World War I.
The Poles cannot forget Joseph Stalin’s Katyn massacre.
The Chinese want a clear apology and reparations from the Japanese for at least 40,000 killed and raped in Nanking during World War II.
And yet India alone refuses to ask for reparations, let alone an apology. Could it be because the British were the last in a long list of invaders, so why bother with an England suffering from post-imperial depression? Or is it because India’s English-speaking elites feel beholden to the British? Or are we simply a nation condemned to repeating our historical mistakes? Perhaps we forgive too easily.
But forgiveness is different from forgetting, which is what Indians are guilty of. It is an insult to the memory of millions of Indians whose lives were snuffed out in artificial famines.
British attitudes towards Indians have to seen in the backdrop of India’s contribution to the Allied war campaign. By 1943, more than 2.5 million Indian soldiers were fighting alongside the Allies in Europe, Africa and Southeast Asia. Vast quantities of arms, ammunition and raw materials sourced from across the country were shipped to Europe at no cost to Britain.
Britain’s debt to India is too great to be ignored by either nation. According to Cambridge University historians Tim Harper and Christopher Bayly, “It was Indian soldiers, civilian labourers and businessmen who made possible the victory of 1945. ”
Jallianwala Bagh massacre
On April 13, 1919, thousands of peaceful protesters defied a government order and demonstrated against British rule in Amritsar, India. Men, women, and children all gathered on the walled Jallianwala Gardens, hoping to make their voices heard. What happened next was one of the lowest points in British history.
At 4.30pm, troops blocked the exits to the Garden and opened fire on the crowd. They kept firing until they ran out of ammunition. In the space of ten minutes, they killed between 379 and 1,000 protesters and injured another 1,100. A stampede caused a lethal crush by the blocked exits. Over 100 women and children who looked for safety in a well drowned. Rifle fire tore the rest to shreds.
When the news reached London, Parliament was so shocked it recalled the man who ordered the massacre, Brigadier Reginald Dyer. In a depressing twist of fate, the British public labeled him a hero and raised £26,000 (around $900,000 in today’s money) for “the man who saved India.” He died peacefully, convinced right to the end that his mindless slaughter had been morally justifiable.
Partition of India
As a servant of the British Empire in 1947, Cyril Radcliffe has the distinction of killing more people with the stroke of a pen than anyone else in history. With almost zero time to prepare himself, Radcliffe was tasked with drawing the border between India and newly-created Pakistan that would split the subcontinent forever along religious lines. It was a tricky task, one that had the potential to cause massive displacement and ethnic violence even if handled carefully. Radcliffe, on the other hand, was asked to make some of the most-important decisions during the course of a single lunch.
The result was a border that made no ethnic or geographical sense. Terrified of being caught on the wrong side, Hindus in modern Pakistan and Muslims in modern India upped sticks and ran. The result was 30 million people trying desperately to escape one country or the other, a situation that quickly spiraled into mind-numbing violence.
Gangs of armed Muslims held up border trains and slaughtered any non-Muslims onboard. Hindu mobs chased and battered Muslim children to death in broad daylight. Houses were ransacked, villages burnt, and half a million people killed. It was a ridiculous waste of life, one that could have been largely avoided simply by giving the unfortunate Cyril Radcliffe enough time to do his job properly.
There is not enough wealth in all of Europe to compensate India for 250 years of colonial loot. Forget the money, do the British at least have the grace to offer an apology? Or will they, like Churchill, continue to delude themselves that English rule was India’s “Golden Age”?