A recent book by Madhusuree Mukherjee titled “Churchill’s Secret War,” facts hidden for decades revealed on how the British purposely starved Bengalis to death in 1942. The man made famine resulted in massive deaths due to starvation and malnutrition.
There are many reasons why over 3 million Bengalis were starved to death in one of largest genocides committed due to lack of food.
1) Wheat from Australia transported to British troops in the Mediterranean and Balkans instead of starving Indians in Bengal.
2) Under Winston Churchill’s leadership, massive quantities of food was turned down from the United States and Canada.
3) “Scorched Earth Policy” In case the Japanese took over the Bay of Bengal, food was destroyed so that no food would be left for the Japanese
The author of the book blamed Churchill for the loss of human life in India.
“If it was someone else other than Churchill, I believe relief would have been sent, and, if it wasn’t for the war, the famine wouldn’t have occurred at all,” Mukherjee
“Churchill’s attitude toward India was quite extreme, and he hated Indians, mainly because he knew India couldn’t be held for very long. One can’t escape the really powerful, racist things that he was saying. It certainly was possible to send relief but for Churchill and the War Cabinet that were hoarding grain for use after the war.”
After receiving a telegram about the deaths related to famine in the Bengal, Churchill responded by saying that he regretted that nationalist Mahatma Gandhi was not a victim.
In a high level meeting Churchill was quoted saying the reason for famine was because Indians “breed like rabbits.”
Churchill has also been documented in saying “I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion.”
The other causes which contributed to the famine were: 1) Burma being taken by the Japanese 2) Cyclone in 1942 3) Panic that the Japanese would take the Bay of Bengal 4) Damage to rice crop due to tidal waves and fungal disease epidemic.
The occupation of Burma, a major rice exporter by the Japanese in 1942 caused a cut off of supply to bengal.
Dr. Gideon Polya, an Australian biochemist, has called the Bengal famine a man-made “holocaust.”
“The British brought an unsympathetic and ruthless economic agenda to India,” he wrote.
Polya went onto say “loss of rice from Burma and ineffective government controls on hoarding and profiteering led inevitably to enormous price rises. Thus it can be estimated that the price of rice in Dacca (East Bengal) increased about four-fold in the period from March to October 1943. Bengalis having to purchase food (e.g landless laborers) suffered immensely. Thus, it is estimated that about 30 percent of one particular laborer class died in the famine.”
Author Madhusree Mukerjee tracked down some of the survivors and paints a chilling picture of the effects of hunger and deprivation.
In Churchill’s Secret War, she writes: “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.”
“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.”
By 1943 hordes of starving people were flooding into Calcutta, most dying on the streets. The sight of well-fed white British soldiers amidst this apocalyptic landscape was “the final judgement on British rule in India”, said the Anglophile Jawaharlal Nehru.
Churchill could easily have prevented the famine. Even a few shipments of food grain would have helped, but the British prime minister adamantly turned down appeals from two successive Viceroys, his own Secretary of State for India and even the President of the US .
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”, a sentiment with which Secretary of State for India and Burma, Leopold Amery, concurred.
According to Mukerjee, “Churchill’s attitude toward India was quite extreme, and he hated Indians, mainly because he knew India couldn’t be held for very long.”