Random Thoughts

Bengal Famine Revisited

In 1943 close to three million persons died in Bengal during British rule because of famine. There had been earlier famines prior to 1857 when the East India company ruled Bengal. As many as ten million persons may have died then. The officers of the Company used their administrative power to hoard and profit from grain scarcity and rising prices instead of ameliorating suffering which was their primary responsibility as rulers.

I wrote about it in my article “The Confluence Of History, Economics & Politics”. I used the data from a book by a British author Nick Robbins –The Corporation That Changed The World. Amartya Sen, the Nobel Prize winning development economist and philosopher has written extensively about famines and their causation by government failure. He lived and matured through the 1943 famine.

Now comes a scathing indictment of the scum bucket Winston Churchill by Madhushree Mukerjee, a former editor at Scientific American and a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship. She has written a book titled “Churchill’s Secret War: The British Empire & Ravaging Of India During World War 2". She is interviewed by Scott Horton on behalf of Harper’s and the six questions and her documented answers are on the web at today’s (November 8, 2010) www.antiwar.com page and at www.harpers.org/archive/2010/11/hbc-90007797  

Let this be a warning to stupid anglophilic Indians like our prime minister who while accepting an honorary doctorate from a British University - which was as equally undeserved as his first such degree from the same institution - praised if not thanked Britain for the colonial experience bestowed on Bengal. I suspect that he probably then went on to put flowers at the graves of the two Dyers who served as the administrator and army general during the Jalianwala Bagh massacre in Amritsar and in future will appeal to rescind the impeachments of Robert Clive and Warren Hastings.

Such stupid leaders will crawl to Bush and Obama and overlook the US refusal to extradite Warren Anderson, accept a paltry 500 million dollars for tens of thousands of the dead and disabled at Bhopal and see no inconsistency or moral bankruptcy in Obama holding a gun to BP’s head for 20 Billion dollars for the Gulf disaster in which only twenty deaths and disability occurred.

It is the slave mentality and inferiority complex of our stupid and or corrupt leaders which is our biggest problem.
We spend billions of dollars in buying military equipment from a government which hides from us that one of its agents (David Headley) is a terrorist working for Pakistan and arms Pakistan with dangerous weapons for free. At the same time it puts restrictions on fully paid weapons bought by India by end user restrictive agreements, poor support for repairs and upgrades and denies the sophisticated communications equipment unless India agrees to humiliating, constraining and dictatorial agreements like CISMOA. 

If we as Indians or Americans think of ourselves as slaves or gullible idiots, no flattering exploiter with a pie in the sky promise of a future permanent seat on the UN Security Council or jingoistic cries of we are the greatest, will make us respected or respectable. Like in the Republican and Tea Party victory in America in 2010 and the election of a do nothing, blabbering hypocritical Obama in 2008, stupid Americans or Indians ultimately only get the government which they deserve on the basis of their knowledge, ability, temperament and prejudices.


More by :  Gaurang Bhatt, MD

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Views: 3366      Comments: 4

Comment I would be interested in other books related to the mistreatment or slaughter of Indians by Britons, other than Churchills Secret War and "Late VIctorian Holocausts." I, a Briton, was taught to think that we were the good guys. I need to reeducate myself. In view of the scale of the slaughter I apologize for the grotesque racism of my ancestors. And not only my ancestors.

My biggest fear is that the British Empire may continue today in the form of the petrodollar. A possibility is that British and Americans bomb Arabs, and their chlidren, forcing them to sell oil only in dollars and thereafter print wealth by taxing the rest of the world including Indians some of whom still suffer from malnutrition. So, presumably from a sense of superiority or entitlement of those in power, the horror which was then may yet continue.

Timothy Takemoto
06-Sep-2015 22:26 PM

Comment I would request Mr. Bhatt to read my article on Lord Curzon and the 1905 partition of Bengal already published in boloji.

kumud biswas
10-Nov-2010 01:04 AM

Comment It is very important for readers of my article and various comments to read the Harper's website interview. I did not wish to quote it in detail or paste from it, but without understanding the facts which Ms. Mukerjee elucidates, one cannot plumb the heinous depth of Churchill's racist thinking and policies. He insisted on exporting rice during the Bengal famine and either prevented import of grains or sequestered all imported grain for the benefit of the Indian army and police defending and perpetuating the British Empire and its exploitation of the country. He suggested that if any spare bombing planes were available they should be used to kill the Hindus who breed like rabbits and deserved death by starvation or other means. Bihar the other eastern province had the atrocities of Champaran. Students of history know that he wanted to use poison gas during the Iraqi occupation after WW1. Britain in Kenya and Afghanistan and France in Syria mercilessly bombed civilians by their air force. The history of Bengal, at one time India's richest province and its de-industrialization by the British during the industrial (steam engine) revolution is a tragic tale. But the blame lies with the degenerate Mughal Sultan who literally sold the Diwani of Bengal to the East India Company. The Company had collaborating Indian traitors like Jagat Seth (later hanged by the company) and Amichand, Mir Jafar and Mir Kasim. The Black Hole of Calcutta was a fabrication and the crooked corruptions of Robert Clive and Warren Hastings only brought a slap on the wrist (like Calley's in the My Lai massacre in Vietnam). By that time the East India Company officers learned that there was more money to be made by renting out their Indian sepoys to the highest bidder than by trading textiles. The shame once again falls first on us stupid slavish Indians, who hired ourselves as enforcers of a foreign power bent on ruling, exploiting and enslaving us. The greater tragedy is nothing has changed from the first raids of Mohammed Ghazni a thousand years ago and the occupation of Sind by the armies of the Baghdad Khalif and a whole millennium of idiocy. Today we have an Italian woman pulling the strings of our idiot puppet Singh from behind the curtain as he kowtows to Britain, USA and China. The little known fact not taught to our children in their history classes is how the British and others exploit the divide between Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and now Christians to keep India weak and divided. I was once giving a medical lecture in America to residents, a few of them were Bangladeshis and Indians(doctors educated in India and Bangladesh) born in their respective countries. I asked them about Curzon and the partition of Bengal and none of the six had any idea what I was talking about.
Gaurang Bhatt

gaurang bhatt
09-Nov-2010 14:20 PM

Comment I have dealt with both the famines of 1770 and 1943 in my essays Sir W.W.Hunter:The Annalist of the silent millions’ and ‘Damned if you do’ published in boloji long ago. Let me quote the relevant parts of those essays.

‘Bankimchandra opens his Anandamath with a graphic description of the village of Padachinha. It is a scene of utter desolation caused by the great famine of 1770. As it happened in the year 1176 of the Bengali calendar it is popularly known as “Chhiattarer manwantar”. It was a time out of joint. The great Mughal empire was in ruins and the British empire was yet to rise in its place. The interregnum between the two was politically very unsettled. Misgovernment under the so-called ‘diarchy’ or dual administration had already made the common people’s life miserable. Now nature seems to have chosen her moment to withhold her bounty from a province where her bounty is proverbial. The monsoon, the mainstay of Bengal’s agriculture, failed for two consecutive years and there was total failure of crops. Food grains became scarce and the prices shot up beyond anybody’s reach. The famine had started in its most virulent form The untold misery of the people was compounded by the increased demand of land revenue and the ruthless collection of a record amount in the very year when the famine was raging most fiercely. No suitable relief measures were taken and on the contrary hoarding was brazenly resorted to both by the traders for profits as well by the government for its garrisons cantoned at various strategic points. In spite of orders to the contrary the very people whose duty it was to provide succor to the starving population themselves unscrupulously indulged in speculation. People died like flies and as cremation of the dead had become a luxury which the starving people could ill afford epidemic followed the famine in its train. Worst of it all was that men were driven to feed on human flesh, parties being formed to seize and eat solitary victims. One-third of the population of Bengal is said to have perished. Once flourishing human settlements in the countryside had turned into jungles and had become haunts of wild beasts of prey. In living memory no other famine has been as devastating as that of 1770.’

And -

‘The year 1943 has perhaps been the worst of times in the history of modern Bengal. It is notorious for the Great Bengal Famine. The Bengalis call it 'panchaser manwantar' or 'the famine of the fifty' because it happened in the year 1350 of their calendar. It was totally man made. The second world war was in its heights and its theatre, so long mainly restricted to the western hemisphere, had, after the active participation of Japan, now extended also to the East. The 'Yellow peril' was irresistible and posed a real threat to the British Indian empire. All the plans and activities of the British in this country were therefore geared up to meet this menace. And the chief victim of this policy was Bengal. Though there had been more or less normal harvests in Bengal since the war began, most of the foodgrains got siphoned off by the war time inflationary market forces.
By 1943 the prices of foodgrains prevailing in 1941 had increased more than 3 times. It was being hoarded by the traders who were doing a brisk business by exporting great quantities out of the country every day and earning enormous profits. The people who had built up an empire on the principle of plunder – the so-called laissez faire -- did nothing to intervene in this free trade which was destabilizing the market and creating an artificial scarcity. What is worse, the government itself was also busy building a reserve stock as a part of its war efforts by buying and often requisitioning whatever little stock the poor farmers had retained for their own consumption. Its purpose was also to deprive the Japanese of foodstocks in case they succeeded in occupying this easternmost province of the empire.
The Japanese had already occupied Burma and the 'Rangoon rice' was therefore no longer available. The scarcity was great and the market was almost completely dry. Whatever little stock was there it was beyond the purchasing power of the people which had steadily eroded by the war time inflation. The sufferings of the people knew no bounds. According to Rudyard Kipling, who unceasingly sang the paeans of the empire, the best of the British breed was sent forth to take up the 'white man's burden' which, among many purportedly noble things, was
'To seek another's profit,
And work another's gain'
and also to
'Fill full the mouth of Famine
And bid the sickness cease'.
But during this great catastrophe, which was solely their own creation, all these flaunted noble sentiments were belied. The 1943 Bengal famine was only one of the many famines which occurred in this country during the British rule. They were virtually without count and prove that what Kipling claimed for the very people whose systematic exploitation made this country poor and caused these famines was nothing but high sounding humbug. The second world war had brought on the greatest ever crisis for their empire and the British were chiefly concerned about its safety and security. Relief measures were inexcusably inadequate and were meant mainly for the urban and industrial population to maintain war supplies. The rural people suffered the most. This man made famine and the epidemic that followed in its wake carried off millions in the countryside. To downplay the effects of the government's callousness and inhuman misdeeds the total mortality was underestimated by half by the Commission which was set up to investigate into this famine. Exactly 41 years after its occurrence this fact has at long last been admitted by none other than a member of this Commission, W.R.Aykroyd, in The Conquest of Famine published by him in 1974.’

kumud biswas
09-Nov-2010 04:17 AM

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