The last chapter in the history of Second World War was written in early October 1945 at the famous trial, when the four prosecuting nations -- the United States Great Britain France and Russia -- issued an indictment against 24 men and six organizations. The individual defendants were charged with the systematic murder of millions of people.
Sixty years after the end of the war, time has come to reopen the case and institute a fresh Nuremberg trial - this time against one of the prosecuting nations -- Great Britain -- for systematic and intentional murder of millions of people. This genocide was not confined to the Second World War. In fact, only its last episode was played out during the war. The ghastly genocide, which used hunger and starvation as tools, lasted for about eighteen decades and was carried out in Bengal, India(at present is partly in India and partly in Bangladesh by the British colonial masters claiming about thirty million victims.
It started in 1770 with a big bang, when approximately one third of the total population of Bengal died because of a drought. About 10 million people died! East India Company, which had occupied the country five years earlier, did not even once attempt to introduce any measures of aid worth mentioning. British officers in
It must be mentioned here that
The last big famine in
The following facts deserve attention:
- In May 1942,
fell to Japanese. British were afraid that Japanese aided by Indian National Army (led by Subhash Chandra Bose) would invade Burma from the east. Bose's slogan - Dilli Chalo (Let us go to India ) - had struck fear in the hearts of British. The British followed a policy of 'scorched earth'. On one hand, this was to ensure denial of food to invading armies, in case the Japanese decided to march across Delhi Bengal. On the other hand, the British wanted to break the will and ability of people of Bengalto rise in rebellion in support of the invaders. It could not be a coincidence that British executed a military police action in October 1942, during which 193 camps and buildings of the Congress Party were destroyed and countless people arrested. Between August 1942 and February 1943, 43 persons were shot by the British occupation police. Additionally, British troops were involved in an unknown number of rapes and lootings of food supplies, among other things. Bengalwas overcrowded with refugees as well as with retreating soldiers from various British colonies which were temporarily occupied by the Japanese. In March 1942 alone, around 2,000 to 3,000 British soldiers and civilians arrived every day in and Calcutta , and in the month of May, a total of 300,000 were counted. As a result of the massive food purchases by the government, food prices in the countryside skyrocketed. Chittagong
- Expecting a Japanese landing in the
, the British authorities enacted the so-called "Boat-Denial Scheme" leading to confiscation of all boats and ships in the Gulfof Bengal which could carry more than 10 persons. This resulted in not less than 66,500 confiscated boats. Consequently, the inland navigation system collapsed completely. Fishing became practically impossible, and many rice and jute farmers could not ship their goods anymore. Subsequently the economy collapsed completely, especially in the lower Ganges-Delta. Gulfof Bengal
- The confiscations of land in connection with military fortifications and constructions (airplane landing places, military and refugee camps) led to the expulsion of about 150,000 to 180,000 people from their land, turning them practically into homeless persons.
- Food deliveries from other parts of the country to
Bengalwere refused by the government in order to make food artificially scarce. This was an especially cruel policy introduced in 1942 under the title "Rice Denial Scheme." The purpose of it was, as mentioned earlier, to deny an efficient food supply to the Japanese after a possible invasion. Simultaneously, the government authorized free merchants to purchase rice at any price and to sell it to the government for delivery into governmental food storage. So, on one hand government was buying every grain of rice that was around and on the other hand, it was blocking grain from coming into Bengalfrom other regions of the country.
- The blank check of the government (for food purchases) triggered price inflation. As a result, some merchants did not deliver food to the government but hoarded it, hoping for higher profit margins when selling it later. This led to further food shortages on the market and to further price increases.
- In addition to this inflationary thrust, massive military activities in
Bengalwere basically financed by overtime of money printing presses. Oversupply of paper money by Government led to a general inflation, which hit the impoverished population in the countryside especially hard.
- Even though British law in
provided that emergency laws were to be applied in case of famines, the famine in India Bengalwas never officially recognized as such; an emergency was not declared, and therefore no drastic counter measures were taken for its amelioration. It was not until October of 1943 that the British government took notice of the emergency situation, but it still refused to introduce any supportive measures that would have been necessary.
- Even though
imported about 1.8 million tons of cereals before the war, India made sure that Britain had an export surplus of rice at record levels in the tax year 1942/43. India
- The bad situation in
Bengalwas discussed in the British Parliament during a meeting at which only 10% of all members participated. Repeated requests for food imports to (400 Million people) led to the delivery of approximately half a million tons of cereal in the years 1943 and 1944. In contrast to this was the net import to India (50 Million people) of 10 million tons in the second half of the year 1943 alone. Churchill repeatedly denied all food exports to Great Britain , in spite of the fact that about 2.4 million Indians served in British units during the Second World War. India
Amartya Sen(one of those beneficiary class of British Raj – editor lokfolk) has used the
We are also told that the rulers of
Academicians have a tendency to miss (deliberately?) the holistic reality when they go hammer and tongs over fine details. Most academic debates about Bengal Famine have missed the most essential aspect - criminal act of the British Government. There is a tendency to study the
The Holocaust in
Is it not time that the descendants of the victims of The Great Holocaust of Bengal sought compensation from the present Government of the
The least that people of
Acknowledgement: The author is indebted to many scholars who have studied Bengal Famine. For the sake of brevity and readability, detailed references are not provided. However, special thanks are due to "The Unknown Famine Holocaust - About the Causes of Mass Starvation in Britain's Colony of India 1942-1945 by Wolfgang Pfitzner, The Revisionist 1(1) (2003), pp. 71-75;
ANIL CHAWLA is an engineer (and now a lawyer too) by qualification but a philosopher by vocation and a management consultant by profession.