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venerdì 17 marzo 2017

"Inglorious Empire" The Amritsar Massacre

Colonel Reginald Dyer fired upon a crowd of nonviolent protesters, who had gathered in Punjab on the 13 April 1919 killing 379 unarmed men, women and children.
It was an act that shocked the world. Secretary of State for War Winston Churchill called Dyer's actions 'monstrous', while former Prime Minister Herbert Asquith called it 'one of the worst outrages in our history', and for Tharoor the massacre remains the most obvious, single example of great wrong done for 'King and Country' during 200 years of Britain's time in India.

And it's because the massacre was done in the name of the Crown, Tharoor says that the apology should perhaps come from the Queen herself.

Tharoor's new book, Inglorious Empire, explores many of the murders, myths and misconceptions about Britain's Imperial endeavours in India.

According to Tharoor, 'when Britain arrived in India in the 1700s India accounted for 27% of global GDP - it was the richest country in the world.
'Britain accounted for just 1.8%.
'Through a combination of superior military technique, better guns and also the disunity of India's ruling establishment, this smaller country was able to conquer the larger one, and hold it.'

It would seem that Britain arrived for the money and stayed in India for the profit, but how did a small, grey island take control of the world's richest country?
'The simple answer often trotted out is, ''well you chaps just missed the bus for the industrial revolution - we had the technology and you didn't that's why we grew and you didn't'', Tharoor says.
Adding, 'But that's far too simplistic an explanation. If India missed the bus it's because Britain threw us under its wheels.
'As a prosperous economy India could have bought any technology - do you think that the leaders of industry didn't have the resources to go out and buy what they wanted?
'The colonial enterprise interrupted any prospect of India's natural development.'

When Tharoor argues that 'the death toll from the colonial holocausts is right up there with some of the most harrowing examples of man's inhumanity to man in modern times' we finally arrive at the end of Britain's 'moral' argument and justification for the Empire.
Tharoor says that while Britain was in India, the total death toll from famine is 'well over 35 million'.

The most infamous famine in India being the Bengal Famine 1943 when between 1.5 and 4 million people died of starvation as food was dispersed around the world for the war effort, but the people of Bengal were overlooked.

Tharoor himself refers to the famines as a 'failure of the British to fulfill their promise of good governance', but is it fair to use a term like the holocaust?
Does Britain's 'failure of governance' imply the malice aforethought - in the case of Nazi Germany the 'Final Solution' - rather than merely criminally poor bureaucracy?
Tharoor says, 'There is a certain amount of 'malice' in taking the position that you will not help those who are dying of starvation.
'Britain believed in three things, number one you can't interfere in the laws of the market and free trade. Second, the malthusian principle must apply - that is the land can't sustain the population trying to live off it, and people must die. And third, the Victorian principle of not spending money you haven't budgeted for.
'These three principles governed British policy on famines. They did the same to the Irish.

'A lot of people died unnecessary deaths because the government chose not to help them.
'If you don't want to call that a holocaust then don't, but it seems to me that when you're talking about 35 million lives lost which exceeds both Stalin's and Mao's worst campaigns, and when you hailing yourself as an apostle of democracy and freedom like Winston Churchill did, it becomes impossible to escape the charge'.

Shashi Tharoor on Winston Churchill 

'Winston Churchill has blood on his hands and I'm appalled by the willingness of the British to completely overlook his disgraceful record.

The Jallianwala Bagh massacre, also known as the Amritsar massacre, took place on 13 April 1919 when a crowd of nonviolent protesters, along with Baishakhi pilgrims, who had gathered in Jallianwala BaghAmritsarPunjab, were fired upon by troops of the British Indian Army under the command of Colonel Reginald Dyer. The civilians had assembled to participate in the annual Baisakhi celebrations, a religious and cultural festival for Punjabi people. Coming from outside the city, they may have been unaware of the imposition of martial law.
On Dyer's orders, his troops fired on the crowd for ten minutes, directing their bullets largely towards the few open gates through which people were trying to flee. The British government released figures stating 379 dead and 1,200 wounded.[1][3] Other sources place the number of dead at well over 1,000.[4] This "brutality stunned the entire nation",[5]resulting in a "wrenching loss of faith" of the general public in the intentions of the UK.[6] The ineffective inquiry and the initial accolades for Dyer by the House of Lords fuelled widespread anger, leading to the Non-cooperation Movement of 1920–22.[7]
The massacre caused a re-evaluation of the army's role, in which the new policy became minimum force. The army was retrained and developed less violent tactics for crowd control.[13] Some historians consider the episode a decisive step towards the end of British rule in India.[14]

Jallianwala Bagh massacre From Wikipedia

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