‘Churchills’ Secret War’ by Madhushree Mukerjee has been a great yet melancholic read. The book talks about the complete disdain that Winston Churchill had for India and its people, how he looked the other way when there was an artificial famine created in India during World War II so that the British soldiers got food elsewhere as a result of which many thousands of poor Indians starved to death.
When the world was besieged by fascism and nazism and democracy and equality were threatened by the Axis powers, Britain under Churchill was supposed to be the harbinger of freedom and democracy. Hence they fought against tyranny and in-humanity unleashed by the Axis powers Japan, Germany and Italy while indulging in tyranny themselves in India and other colonies. Britain and Churchill fought for democracy and freedom while denying India, its colony then, those egalitarian concepts.
Churchill was and is still regarded as the hero of World War II and is called as the savior of millions of freedom loving people all over the world, but what is not known is the complete travesty of these very same ideals by him on Britain’s colony, India. The ways he employed to quell the independence movement, the methods he adopted to kill the unity among the different religions in India so that they would remain un-united and thus ensure Britain’s domination of the Indian subcontinent- speak less respectfully of Churchill. His stature as a world statesman certainly takes a dent as one goes through reams and reams of evidence of Churchill’s’ rough handed treatment of the natives.
Churchill was utterly disrespectful of Gandhi’s peaceful movement. He made fun of the Mahatma ( great soul ) many times, called him names, was not in the least bothered about Gandhi’s fast-unto-death protests and wanted to ensure that Gandhi died so that the trouble maker and the ‘personification of evil’ as he described Gandhi ,gets out of the scene. A leader of Churchill’s stature would call Gandhi such and would stoop to such a low level of public discourse and treacherous behavior speaks volumes of the much acclaimed British love for decency in public life. All these he did in the name of his ‘love of Britain’.
Millions of tons of rice and wheat were siphoned off to Egypt and Arabia where the British soldiers were fighting wars when thousands of Indians were starving for food. Churchill authorized these acts despite claiming that the small island was protecting the vast land scape that was India. He was ensuring the complete bankruptcy of India while ensuring that Indian soldiers were fighting for a cause that they were not going to derive any benefit from.
During the great depression, President F.D.Roosevelt banned selling of gold and silver from the US thus strengthening the dollar. But Britain took large quantities of gold and silver from India to the UK thus depleting the purchasing power for the nation expressly for fighting the war. Such callousness during such a time of economic depression can only be the hallmark of economic exploitation. And Britain excelled in that.
Churchill is quoted as having said that the unity of hindus and muslims would be a deterrent to Britain’s holding on India. He was a strong proponent of the partition of the Indian continent into India and Pakistan on religious lines and all means at his disposal to instill distrust in the minds of the Muslims of India. He transacted in secrecy with Mohammad Ali Jinnah ( the creator of Pakistan ) and ensured that the latter stood fast in his stand for a separate nation for the Muslims. And the world has had enough problems from Pakistan since then.
I adore Churchill for the gift of the gab that he had but I also despise him for his acerbic tongue that he used with impunity to describe Indian leaders and ordinary people from India.
It is a matter of surprise as to why the Indian government, after all these years, has not made such books as part of essential history for the Indian students.
Madhushree Mukerjee has put in exemplary efforts to bring out the happenings of those times. And it shows in the volume of reference material that she quotes from to establish her lines of thought.
An essential read for Indians in particular and students of history in general on the atrocities that ‘democratic’ Britain willingly committed on its crown jewel of a colony – India.