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Winston Churchill, a hero or monster?

Updated: Jan 25, 2022

My Anglo-Indian schooling conditioned me to be an Anglophile. Amongst the long list of Britishers I admired was Winston Churchill (1874 -1965). So when I learnt that a BBC 2002 poll on the 100 Greatest Britons of the last century, the British people chose Churchill as the greatest.

I decided to learn more about Churchill. It is painful to see your hero fall. I was dismayed to discover not a hero but a witty, evil, inhuman creature.

While Hitler and his Nazi cohorts took 12 years to round up and murder 6 million Jews on the basis of an absurd racist ideology, Racist Churchill took less than a year to gleefully kill between 4 to 5 million Indians.

Churchill exported the entire bountiful harvest of Bengal to Europe and deliberately starved Eastern India. He adamantly turned down appeals from two successive Viceroys, his own Secretary of State for India and even the President of America to stop the holocaust.

Unlike Hitler, slick historians and politicians of a victorious Britain glorified their own achievements and had Churchill duly glamourised and immortalised.

Australian biochemist Dr Gideon Polya has called the Bengal Famine of 1943-44 a “manmade holocaust”, the greatest disaster in the Indian subcontinent in the 20th century. Over 4 million Indians died because of an artificial famine engineered by Churchill's deliberate and direct policies".

Areas comprising present-day West Bengal, Odisha, Bihar and Bangladesh had a bountiful harvest in 1942, but the British diverted vast quantities of food grain from India to Britain, contributing to a massive food shortage in these very areas. Thus is while Britain already had more than adequate food stocks.

In her well researched book Churchill’s Secret War author Madhusree Mukerjee tracked down some of the survivors who revealed a chilling picture of the effects of hunger and deprivation.

“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 or bury their loved ones.”

“No one had the strength to perform rites,” a survivor tells Mukerjee. “Dogs and jackals feasted on piles of dead bodies in Bengal’s villages.”

The ones who got away were men who migrated to Calcutta for jobs and women who turned to prostitution to feed their families. “Mothers had turned into murderers, village belles into whores, fathers into traffickers of daughters,” writes Mukerjee.

Mani Lal Bhaumik, the first person to get a PhD from the prestigious IITs and whose invention of excimer surgery enabled Lasik eye surgery, has the famine burnt into his memory. His grandmother starved to death because she used to give him a portion of her food.

Even the diehard Anglophile Jawaharlal Nehru, felt compelled to condemn the British action.

Legendary freedom fighter Subhas Chandra Bose, offered to send rice from Myanmar, but the British not only rejected the offer but censored news of Bose's offer.

Secretary of State for India and Burma, Leopold Amery, denounced Churchill’s “Hitler-like attitude”.

When the scale of the emerging holocaust became known Amery and the then Viceroy Archibald Wavell beseeched Churchill to release food stocks for India, Churchill did nothing except respond with a telegram asking. 'Why Gandhi hadn’t died as yet?

Churchill’s excuse, currently being peddled by his family and supporters, was Britain could not spare the ships to transport emergency supplies. However Mukerjee has unearthed documents that challenge this lie.

She cites official records that reveal many ships carrying grain from Australia bypassed India on their way to the Mediterranean. Churchill could have saved millions of Indian lives but he chose not to.

Churchill was a racist who hated Indians for every conceivable reason and mostly because Indians expressed their desire to be free. At a War Cabinet meeting, he blamed the Indians themselves for the famine, saying they “breed like rabbits”. His attitude toward Indians both Hindus and Muslims may be summed up in his words to Amery: “I hate Indians, they are a beastly people with beastly religions.” and Churchill's 1899 book 'The River war', "Islam in a man is like rabies in a dog".

The author Mike Davis in his award winning book Late Victorian Holocausts points out that that there were 31 serious famines in 120 years of British rule compared with 17 in the 2,000 years before British rule.

15 Million Indians died because of Colonial Genocide.

Some fools, arrogant, vocal and ignorant about real history try to convince others that British rule was a glorious period in Indian history.

Nothing could be further from the truth. India's share went from 25% of global GDP in 1750 to 1.8% in 1947 (when the British left India).

Inexplicably these enslaved Indian minds still pine for their former colonial masters.

Are Indians really free?

We must choose our heroes well and our ideals even higher.

People like Churchill may have long gone but their legacy lives on, and that is what needs to be questioned and changed.

It's true, what has happened in the past cannot be undone, However we can create a better present and build a more prosperous and noble future.

India needs its own dreams, its own narrative, its own strategy, plan and actions, and not the blind import of obsolete, irrelevant or alien dreams and values.

We can consider ourselves free only when we have broken the shackles placed on our culture, mind and economy by Colonialism, Marxism, religious fundamentalism and pseudo secularism to contribute to a greater India and a better humanity.

None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.

~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


24 January is the anniversary of the death of Winston Churchill

26 January is celebrated as the Republic day of India

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