Friday, October 1, 2010

Review: Churchill's Secret War

A dogged enemy of Hitler, resolute ally of the Americans, and inspiring leader through World War II, Winston Churchill is venerated as one of the truly great statesmen of the last century. But while he has been widely extolled for his achievements, parts of Churchill’s record have gone woefully unexamined. As journalist Madhusree Mukherjee reveals, at the same time that Churchill brilliantly opposed the barbarism of the Nazis, he governed India with a fierce resolve to crush its Freedom Movement and profound contempt for native lives.

Churchill was a confirmed Imperialist and although he is revered by the Britishers as the leader who won them the World War II little is known about his blind hatred of Indian Independence struggle especially the Congress leadership. Churchill executed lots of repressive policies to crush the Indian freedom movement. A series of decisions taken by Churchill between 1940 and 1944 directly and inevitably led to the deaths of some three million Indians. During the WW II India was used as the supply basket for the British war machinery. The Indian industry was expected to churn out war material for the British Army. The Indian agriculture produce was diverted to feed the allied armies and the residents of Britain. This caused an unprecedented famine in Bengal leading to loss of several lives due to hunger and starvation. The streets of Eastern Indian cities were lined with corpses, yet instead of sending emergency food shipments Churchill used the wheat and ships at his disposal to build stockpiles for post war Britain and Europe. Not just that, Churchill in order to divert attention from the famine instigated the divide and rule policy which finally culminated in the partition of India.

The book is very meticulously researched and gives a riveting account of the era. It gives the reader a perspective of what Churchill was to India and India’s role in the World War II. The book does tend to be slow paced at times and also drags at some places, making it difficult for a reader to concentrate and keep sustained interest in the book.

Nevertheless a book to be picked for understanding Churchill’s role in shaping the Indian history and its destiny. 

About the Author:

Madhusree Mukherjee won a Guggenheim fellowship to write her previous book, The Land of Naked People. She previously served on the board of editors of Scientific American. She lives near Frankfurt, Germany.

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