Lead book review

The making of modern India

Srinath Raghavan shows how fighting with the Allies in the second world war would profoundly affect India’s future, for better or worse

26 March 2016

9:00 AM

26 March 2016

9:00 AM

India’s War: The Making of Modern South Asia, 1939–1945 Srinath Raghavan

Allen Lane, pp.608, £30, ISBN: 9781846145414

The other day, some anti-imperialist students were questioning the presence in their institutions of statues of Cecil Rhodes, a West African cockerel and, very strangely in view of her conspicuously anti-racist convictions, Queen Victoria. In response, a Guardian columnist, who has probably made less effort to learn Hindi than Queen Victoria did, amusingly said that it was time to ‘start a debate’ about the British empire. I would have thought that we have spent much of the last century energetically examining the subject from topknot to shoesole. Nevertheless, there remain some large areas which haven’t been properly considered, and among them is the complex story of India’s role in the second world war.

Srinath Raghavan is the author of an excellent study of the 1971 Bangladesh war of independence. It’s worth thinking for a moment about the connections between the subjects of these two books. In some very peculiar ways, the extraordinary and savage war of 1971 was the consequence of British imperial attitudes and decisions — of Curzon’s 1905 decision to split Bengal into two and of the disastrous decision in 1947 to yield to Jinnah’s plan for a country separated in two, united only by religion.

Most of all, the course of the war was shaped by the lingering belief — not all of it springing from the British — that some of the races of India were ‘martial’ and some were not. In 1971 it was widely taken for granted that the ‘martial’ Pakistani Punjabis would defeat the ‘non-martial’ Bengalis. Having explored, with memorable results, the last outing of this bizarre belief, Raghavan has returned to India’s experience of the second world war. As he shows, it was the war that, in large part, created modern India. It may be that the extreme experiences of wartime tested and hardened some political positions which had previously been largely theoretical, for good or ill.

By the time war broke out in 1939, nobody seriously doubted that India would be governed increasingly less by the British. It was already a regional power, as well as a colonial entity, and, as Raghavan says, in some ways it exercised greater freedom in its external relations than the imperial dominions of Australia, Canada and South Africa. Congress — the body of Indian politicians — had a range of opinions about its duty or indeed its capacity to contribute to the war. The viceroy, the Marquess of Linlithgow, and his staff could not be sure what support they could count on from Indian politicians or the people. The princes, who still ruled over their own territories up to a point, and who had no great desire to hasten an independence which might very well deprive them of their lands, put on quite a show of loyalty: they were to give cash grants of £13.5 million, war materials worth £5 million and 300,000 men in the course of the war. As the war unfolded, loyalties and duties played out in unpredictable and far-reaching ways.

Although it was made clear from the outbreak of war that any question of independence must be put on hold, there was no immediate outbreak of rebellion. A pressing problem arose when the viceroy tried to explain to Gandhi that non-violent civil disobedience might be equated with conscientious objection in Britain — meaning that it could be practised but not preached. Meanwhile, other Indian politicians found that their distaste for fascism, even if inspired by orthodox Marxism, required them to advocate fighting with the imperialist overlord. One such, M.N. Roy, was stripped of his membership of Congress for arguing such a thing. Others, as Raghavan relates, saw an excellent opportunity or two.


The arguments went on, but India was mobilised. The military forces were hugely increased: the army from under 200,000 to over two million; the air force from 285 to nearly 30,000; the navy from under 2,000 to over 30,000. Inevitably, the forces were, at first, chronically undertrained and underequipped. They were paid much less than British troops — there was an amusing irony later on when British soldiers in India started to complain loudly at being paid so much less than their American allies. Racial theories played a strong role in recruitment — from the 1880s onwards, most Indian soldiers were recruited from the north-west.

Larger strategic thinking, on examination, clearly treated the Indian forces as cannon-fodder, to be moved about at will — the 4th Indian Division arrived in Egypt ‘seriously underprepared for desert warfare… neither the officers nor the men had ever handled an anti-tank rifle or a mortar’. Despite that, their fighting capacities could be very effective; Raghavan, who was an officer in the Indian army, narrates the battles with clarity. There was, too, the constant background muttering of Indian politicians. The result was that most Indians who signed up ‘saw it simply as an avenue of employment’ — there are only a very few officers who can be identified as saying that they ‘wanted to do their bit to fight the Nazis’.

Nevertheless, loyalty to Britain held, more or less. There were other pressures. The Pan-Asiatic movement that inspired Tagore to visit Japan had ambiguous powers of influence; did it connect India with Axis Japan, which had invested substantially in India in the previous decade, or with America’s ally Chiang Kai-Shek, who cheerfully confessed that he knew nothing whatso-ever about Indian politics? The Americans did not see their role as shoring up British imperial interests. Much of Indian political opinion accorded with Gandhi’s private views: ‘Help the British anyhow. They are better than the others and will improve further hereafter.’ It was quickly established, with the arrival of Sir Stafford Cripps, that India held the upper hand; any offer falling short of what Congress required could, quite rightly, be dismissed as a ‘post-dated cheque’.

It is surprising, all in all, that so few Indians committed what the British would have regarded as treason. The Bengali leader Subhas Chandra Bose was unusual in flying to Berlin to offer his support to the Nazis, but his plan to foment revolt among the Indian troops came to nothing. Only after the fall of Singapore did Indian soldiers desert to join the Japanese, to form an Indian National Army — those who refused were treated by the Japanese with abominable cruelty. At the end of the war, attempts by the British to prosecute the INA for treason hit a wall of public opposition. Bose, curiously, is still a great national hero in Bengal.

India suffered, colossally. The best-known and best-studied episode of the Indian war is the Bengal famine of 1942–3, in which three million died. For their failure to relieve it, Churchill personally, and British policies generally, bear a heavy responsibility. As Raghavan shows, this was only one of many avoidable famines throughout India at the time. (It is a mystery to me why anti-imperialist rhetoricians focus on the Amritsar massacre — which London deplored and whose perpetrators it took action against — rather than these catastrophic 1940s famines, to which it showed a shameful indifference.)

But the war also transformed India into an industrial power. Manufacturing output expanded by 61.6 percent; 1.1 million were added to the industrial workforce; local firms supplied up to 60 per cent of India’s machine-tool requirements. Without the accelerated development of wartime, India would have been much less ready for independence. On the other hand, you can argue that it was imperialist subjection in the first place that had left India with such a small airforce in 1939.

What was the effect of the imperialists’ last war on the greatest imperial possession? It isn’t easy to answer. In a virtuoso few pages, Raghavan sets out a range of rumours which obsessed the Indian population at one stage of the war. In a way, we are now in the same position regarding our imperial history as were the children of oppressors or subjects: passing on in self-satisfaction or alarm what we believe to be the case without having any substantial means of exploring the truth.

I feel close to this subject, since my husband’s family experienced the war under British rule; have tales of Bose (a small bust of whom sits by the telly); and are only one generation away from the Bengal famine. My husband’s uncle, the young son of a Calcutta lawyer, was killed during the Japanese bombing of the city. Nevertheless, I finished this absorbing and important book with the (surely correct) sense that I know rather less than I thought about the effects of imperialism, the intentions of leaders and the merging and dissolution of cultures. In a real — rather than emptily pious — sense, this rational and detailed book should start a debate.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

Available from the Spectator Bookshop, £25.00. Tel: 08430 600033. Philip Hensher’s novels include The Mulberry Empire, about Afghanistan in the 1830s.

You might disagree with half of it, but you’ll enjoy reading all of it. Try your first 10 weeks for just $10


Show comments
  • Christian

    The next but last sentence is right, and wholly winning: it almost sounds like the first awakening of a developed faculty for historical imagination (but I’m sure that can’t be right). From the start the review feels locked into a particular contemporary liberal perspective: every expression of surprise speaks of a wonder that non-Europeans from a faraway time somehow did not share our own moral assumptions and political concerns.

    PS Martial races – is the objection to using the word “race” when differentiating populations? Try thinking of it as “martial cultures”. Or is it to the idea that peoples can differ one from another at all?

  • MC

    Most people who want to rewrite history in regards the British empire neglect to focus on the more hideous muslim / Mughal empire. The Mughals killed millions of hindus (some estimates over 20 million) and destroyed huge amounts of Indian architecture, similar to the way ISIS are doing now. The overall empire building model of the muslim world is largely ignored, despite the obvious brutality making the British Empire seem rather benign.
    When the muslim empire retracts back to Saudi and stays there, I’ll support removal of the Rhodes statue. Until then, it should stay.

    • amartya

      as an Indian,i would say you said truth.

    • Bonkim

      Looking at history by today’s standards is idiotic. People and cultures were different and there were huge divisions within all societies – and there was no India during the times under discussion.

      • Goinlike Billio

        Agreed .You cannot view the past from the perspective of the present. It arises from the left wing progressive view of history.

  • Frank

    I am sorry, but you are misinformed about the Bengal Famine of 1942-433. It was the Indian Government’s responsibility and fault that it did not react sufficiently quickly. The Government of India eventually took action just ahead of the arrival of the new Viceroy (General Wavell) and the internal movement and trade in grain in India was resumed. Wikipedia has a good mini article on this famine. To seek to blame Churchill is more than slightly absurd. It suggests that this book may need to be taken with a reasonable dose of caution.

    • Goinlike Billio

      Indeed why does a British writer promote myths against Britain ?
      The view is very widespread in India at present so there is no need to reinforce it.

      • Frank

        Probably reinforces his political view, or he is lazy and has only talked to one group, etc?

        • Goinlike Billio

          I am afraid it is a ‘she’. It sounds as if ‘ Philip Hensher ‘ is forcing his wife to write his articles for him ! She talks about ‘my husband’s family’. A bit of a giveaway.

  • Hegelman

    In proportion to population, Churchill was a far bigger killer than Stalin.

    In 1943, he refused with foul abuse to alleviate until too late for millions a famine in the Indian state of Bengal. One tenth of the population perished.

    This famine in Bengal in 1943 (British rule in India was replete with famines each killing
    millions, so one has to specify the place and year) killed about 3 million people – one tenth of all Bengalis. This is as if 6 and a half million Britons were allowed to starve to death today.

    Despite desperate pleas for famine relief from the British Viceroy in India, Lord Wavell, Churchill refused aid until millions were dead. This was after he had been draining food from India for years, and when millions of Indians were fighting on the side of Britain.

    What is more, Churchill forbade the US and Australia to send famine relief to Bengal either, as they offered to do. So Australian ships filled with grain by-passed a starving Bengal whose fields and roads were lined with the dead and dying.

    In the Whites Only clubs of Calcutta the British ate and drank without stint, as did Churchill at home. (One of his ministers, Lord Reith, seeing the food bill for a Churchill-Roosevelt summit, commented,”I wonder how much Roosevelt got.”)

    Wavell wondered in his published diaries if the Churchill Cabinet was not the most contemptible Britain had ever had. (See “The Viceroy’s Memoirs”, London, 1970).

    Other colleagues of Churchill were disgusted by his Bengal famine policy, too. Lord Alanbrooke, his Chief Military Adviser, remarked, “Winston seems content to starve India while using it as a
    military base.” See Patrick French’s well known book on India’s transition to Independence, “Liberty or Death”.

    Desperate famine victims thronged the streets of Calcutta while the British were feasting in their clubs and hotels; some tried to get into the hospitals but were thrown out by British staff who pointed out that they weren’t ill but merely starving. A distinction that would have pleased Iain Duncan Smith.

    Churchill forbade India to use its own ships and money to bring in food; later British rulers stopped India from applying to the UN for famine aid; so Indian contributions to the UN went to feed Europeans while Indians starved.

    A highly praised history of this appalling episode in the life of Britain’s supposed greatest man is Madhusree Mukerjee’s “Churchill’s Secret War”. It has been lauded by the leading Churchill authority, Sir Max Hastings. His review of the book is in the The Sunday Times.

    • rjbh

      my dad was in India then, 1943 …I remember him telling me.. how officers explained to NCOs ( like him) that if they ran over someone on the roads or tracks etc injuring them…. they were to make sure they finished them off by shooting them…. Indian life was considered cheap.

  • “In response, a Guardian columnist, who has probably made less effort to learn Hindi than Queen Victoria did, amusingly said that it was time to ‘start a debate’ about the British empire.”

    Which British Empire would that be? The Christian-based empire pre-1870, or the Marxist co-opted empire that followed?

  • Philsopinion

    Yet another debate? For what purpose? So that the descendants of some people who suffered can have a stick to beat people who had nothing to do with it?

    Jog on.

  • Ronnie

    Kind of interesting how present day Indians blame Britons for their malady, but chooses to gloss over bloody Muslim rule for 1000 years which preceded British rule. Somehow the Mughal brutality is regarded as “defeat” to present day Pakistan, however the same is “victimhood” in context of British rule. Additionally, the Muslim attackers somehow look like NW Indians and hence considered as a superior variant of themselves in larger Indian ethnic spectrum. But British are downright outsider.

    • Headstrong

      Um… not quite.
      1. Present day Indians do not ‘blame’ the British for any ‘malady’. In fact, we have a lot to thank the Brits for – English, infrastructure, codified legal system, rooting out of a few social ills et al – not least the geographical entity called India (and Pakistan and Bangladesh of course). Before the Brits came in, the land was a potpourri of kingdoms and fiefdoms. Consider the present state of relations between India and UK – it is, and has always been, excellent with the prospect of getting even better. There’s hardly any bitterness – some loony fringes will always exist, who would be the exception proving the rule
      2. ‘the Mughal brutality is regarded as “defeat” to present day Pakistan’ – again, wrong. Mughals were as Indian as the kings they defeated (Babur excepted, as he had conquered the Delhi throne as an Afghan – the rest were all ‘Indians’). Just because they were Muslim doesn’t mean we consider them present day Pakistani. India does have the second largest Muslim population in the world, even if they constitute on 13% of the population
      3. ‘the Muslim attackers somehow look like NW Indians and hence considered as a superior variant of themselves in larger Indian ethnic spectrum’ Uhhh?

      • Ronnie

        Yes.. Let me guess, chiseled featured NW Indian Punjabi (and similar ethnic variant Pathan), Mongoloid NE Indians, and Dravidian South Indian do not exactly enjoy same social standing, do they ? Med face North Indians still have much higher aspirational value than others. As evident in Bollywood, and sky high sales of fairness creams..
        And let’s take a neutral group : Bengali, which is neither North nor South Indian, is much more likely to pick up Punjabi cultural norms after 5 years stay in Delhi, than Kannada after 5 years in Bangalore..
        Truth hurts, my dear..
        PS: Mughals did not consider themselves as Indian… Their cultures, practices, food were distinctly Persian / central Asian.

        • Headstrong

          That may be what is taught in your text books – after all the chip you people have on your shoulder is a boulder. Let’s face it – any Muslim would rather be in India than in Pakistan

          • Ronnie

            Whose text book ? Who is Muslim here ?

          • Headstrong

            Maybe you ought to revisit your tendency to judge a whole people by superfluous stuff. Bollywood gives you insight into the social standing in India? That would be really funny, until I realised you were serious.
            Mughals did not consider themselves Indians – that is correct. Because, surprise surprise – there was no India then. Did my OP go over you?

          • Ronnie

            Ok. Let’s rephrase it. Mughals considered themselves as outsiders, and superior overlord to Natives. Nawabs of Lucknow and Bengal were lot more indigenous (culturally and ethnically) than Mughals.

          • Headstrong

            Rephrase all you want – still doesn’t hide your ignorance. Nawabs of Lucknow and Bengal had little to do with ‘Indians’ of other regions too. Apparently you seem incapable of getting it that there was no ‘India’ then. The Nawabs of Lucknow and Bengal were as indigenous as the Mughals were in Delhi (Babar excepted, as I pointed out).
            But, whatever….

          • Ronnie

            Does not negate the point at hand, that Central Asian origin (now insider, or rather forced by liberal brigade to accept as such) as as much alien to Subcontinent as Britons.
            Fight for some Aid from Iran and Uzbekistan. Let me know how much success you see.

          • Headstrong

            Ask the Muslims from North India where they’re from. You can then keep rephrasing away

          • Ronnie

            Average North Indian Muslims are low caste convert. But the former ruling elite were Persians. The one who tormented you. Desecrated Somnath, destroyed Multan Sun Temple and Nalanda. And proselytized millions. The very presence of Muslims in North India, disproves your claim.

          • Headstrong

            ‘The very presence of Muslims in North India, disproves your claim’ – there goes your credibility

          • Ronnie

            But right there lies you denial, and desperation to have the last word. Very North Indian.

          • Headstrong

            Ha! North Indian. As I said, the display of your ignorance goes on. Feel free to have the ‘last word’, if that is what you were after….

          • Ronnie

            Yet another reply without an answer. Prove the ignorance. You already admitted the foreignness of Muslims in India.

    • Bonkim

      Where do you live? And what do you know about India?

      • Ronnie

        Where I live or come from, is a matter of supreme indifference. The famous Indian “who are you / so are you / how dare you ” argument.. The very fact that you have nothing else to add, proves that you have accepted my point.

        • Bonkim

          Quite confused about the make up of India and Indian history hence my query.

          • Ronnie

            Just that I refuse to accept your existing narrative means, I am confused.
            The narrative being, Britons = Brutal Colonizer, NW Indians = Superior end of Indian spectrum, Persians (and similar ethnics, and descendants) = Ex oppressor, but insider if ‘identify’ as Indians (a variant of Superior Punjabis, Rajputs) Dravidian = Inferior end of Indian spectrum, NE Indians = Chinki, and the perennial outsider.

          • Bonkim

            Understand India, its history and that of the British Empire very well. Not sure what you are taliking about. India was not a political entity until after the break up of the British Empire. Brits and Indians had a splendid working relationship, were sensitive to each others’ values, cultures and sensitivities – otherwise the Indian Empire would not have lasted so long. Many aspects of modern india were shaped by individual English, Sct, Welsh and Irish – India’s education, administrative organisation, trading, science, engineering, even democracy, were shaped and evolved through two centuries when saw similar transformations across the Empire.

            India has been and still is a land of divisions – ethnic, cultural, linguistic, religious, class, caste and more.

            Indians played important roles in the development of the Empire, its administration, and in the armed forces. Millions of Indians fought in both world wars,and many Indians were proud of being part of a worldwide Empire and were honoured for various deeds. Notions of the nation state, and nationalism – even their Indian political movements evolved in parallel to similar movements across the Empire – often initiated and supported by Brits of various shades.

            In many ways India has reverted to its corrupt, class and caste-ridden state where Indians exploit other Indians and minorities are discriminated against or exploited. India is a land of voluntary Apartheid, not unlike the US before abolition and civil rights or South Africa – only Indians accept that as a natural part of their religious and cultural make up.

          • Ronnie

            I am talking about how Indians perceive and interpret their history. Indians’ sense of culture, history, revanchism, superiority / inferiority complex, victory and victim-hood. Gleaned through Indus Valley, Aryan age (not using the term Aryan invasion), Maurya, Gupta, Harshvardhan, Islamic conquest, British India, post Independence.

          • Bonkim

            Majority of Indians are busy making a living and don’t worry about such things. Most have clue of their history apart from soundbytes. India and Indians today are quite different to those that lived on the land a generation or two back, and have very little of the ideals and humanity that pre-Independence Indians had. It is all about making money now.

          • Ronnie

            Very true. Indians on online forum are all about “who are you / so are you / how dare you / pot calls the kettle black”. High on decibel and low on reasons, logic, morals, ethics . Masters of distraction, obfuscation techniques. Don’t believe me ? Just watch any 9 pm Prime Time News channel “debate”.

          • Bonkim

            Don’t watch Time News or discussion. And Indians have lost the art of serious evidence based discussion – not in their culture. They live in a narrow world of hierarchies, social and economic levels. Most have no clue to the long and eventful history or cultures of modern India – easily influenced by loud sounds and displays.

          • Headstrong

            Judging India by news channel debates would be like judging Brits by their tabloids. You may have some growing up to do

          • Ronnie

            Perhaps you need to put your house in order. NDTV, Times Now and CNN IBN are mainstream, or at least they claim to be. They are not regarded as tabloid, not even my educated middle class.
            And as pointed out (admitted) by Bonku very correctly, Indians feed on high pitch, high decibel emotional blather. Reason and logic are not exactly their strength. News channel merely cater to the demand.

          • Headstrong

            Perhaps you need to brush up on your comprehension skills. At no point did I mention that the ‘mainstream’ Indian news channels are tabloid. What seems to have escaped you is that these news channels do not represent the majority of Indians (just as the Brit tabloids do not represent the majority of Brits). Less than 13% of Indians watch news channels.

          • Ronnie

            Perhaps you need to hold a mirror in front of you. I love the Indian “never say die” spirit. Maybe the society is so Darwinian cut throat, that these behaviours are instilled right from cradle.
            PS: 87% of those Indians (have-nots) have little say beyond finding themselves appeased as vote bank.

          • Headstrong

            Wonderful – if an Indian does not watch news channels, he is a ‘have-not’? Conversely, if he does, what does that make him – a ‘have’? Not too bright, are you?
            But, whatever….

          • Ronnie

            So you mean there are masses of Indians (Middle Class or otherwise), who sticks to BBC, France 24 and Deutsche Welle for their regular news. Tell me more.

          • Headstrong

            As I said, not too bright….

          • Ronnie

            Strong irony, coming from someone with profile name HEADSTRONG. Cannot be more apt.

          • Headstrong

            Ironical, alright – your predilection to judge a whole people by news channels, and others by their profile names.

          • Ronnie

            And your predisposition to deny the obvious, that Indians in general tend to be illogical, irrational, high pitch and high decibel people with special mastery in art of distraction and obfuscation.
            Any wonder why India is such a chaotic, anarchist mess.
            Ever read “Argumentative Indian” ?

          • Headstrong

            There are books and there are books. Your tendency to generalise only shows your bigotry. Feel free to have the last word, as it appears that is what matters to you – more than facts, anyway

          • Ronnie

            Honduras and South Africa are the most dangerous countries on Earth. Every single citizen in those Nation does not need to be murderous criminal. Those who are, are in large numbers to achieve the notoriety. Same goes for India, whatever “stereotyping” you accuse me of.

          • Longshoreman Philosopher

            ” Indians feed on high pitch, high decibel emotional blather. Reason and logic are not exactly their strength.”

            This is actually spot on.

          • Longshoreman Philosopher

            The part about regression and discrimination is grossly erroneous. While there is discrimination and exploitation present, we certainly haven’t regressed since the empire days. I wouldn’t go on the news headlines as much as the raw data of what is happening. Back in the time of empire, concerns of discrimination within Indian society are on the back of everyone’s minds so it didn’t come up.

            India has improved on virtually every metric, from women’s rights to minorities and discrimination against lower castes. This does not mean that India has reached an ideal state where they don’t exist, they do, and in big numbers, but far less than they did before at any point of time in history.

            There is a strong “positive discrimination” (affirmative action) in place for lower castes, which virtually goes on to guarantee them jobs in the public sector. The number of violent conflicts between religious communities are on a downward trajectory. the passive discrimination against minorities has become a topic of serious debate which it never was to this extent.

            India has a lot way to go indeed, but to say it has regressed is completely wrong.

          • Bonkim

            In absolute terms yes. But Indian society is still deeply entrenched in its caste/class mindset – arranged marriages, seggregated housing, schooling, worship, etc, etc, although legally open and accommodating of the diversity, in practice voluntary Apartheid is the order even in urban areas. In the rural districts it is rampant and much violence against the minorities and economically and culturally divided. Many young men and women are unable to get marred in the rural areas under threat of physical violence. Some states more advanced than others – those in the North particularly backward.

          • Longshoreman Philosopher

            I emphasized that yes, they exist, my contention is that they haven’t gotten worse in any way or form. You listed a bunch of problems, there used to be another one – child marriage.

            Semi-arranged marriages are starting to substitute arranged marriages in urban areas so much so that even the economist wrote an article on it, inter-caste marriages among upper and lower castes are still low but they’ve increased amongst them. There is casteism amongst lower classes too, it’s of particularly vicious form.

            Segregated housing along hindu/muslim lines exist, otherwise, not much. I’m not aware of any segregation whatsoever in schooling. I grew up in lower class neighborhood myself, I went to extremely cheap private school, didn’t see any.

            “although legally open and accommodating of the diversity” That’s not all there is to, there are preventive laws which can be described as pretty draconian.

            Apartheid is an extremely loaded word, I’m not sure I’d call the stratification of Indian society something even close to it. There are specific quotas for lower castes in education institutes across the board, there are quotas in public sector jobs too, that’s forced integration if anything.

            Rural districts – “Much violence against minorities”, no, there isn’t. Per capita violence is low and given the media reporting of virtually every scuffle with religious angle, you can’t claim they’re under-reported. You’d think that only if you exclusively read the BBC. And even then the scuffles aren’t “majority oppressing minority” as your narrative puts it. I’ll never understand the western infatuation with the word minorities, but it doesn’t work the same way in truly plural societies like India with everyone being a native.

            Which society *isn’t* economically divided? India has lower economic inequality than the most redistributive states in the developed world.

            I’ll concede you the physical violence and marriage among inter-caste/religion in rural areas.

            Does “north” here include UP/Bihar?

            The funny thing is, I’m a vocal critic of Indian society the way it is and here I feel like I’m a ferocious defender of it. I’m in no way asserting there aren’t points of criticisms, there are, PLENTY of them, it’s just that your knowledge seems dated.

    • Tim Gilling

      Have you been to India? I suspect 99.999% of Indians hardly ever think of British impact on their history and culture – let alone blame us for their ‘malady’. (And what malady might that be?) We’re just not on their radar. You appear to have a massive chip on your shoulder.

      • Ronnie

        Maybe not in their daily lives. But on Online forums, Indian troll army are known for doing quite a lot of chest thumping. And get rid of that red herring profile name..

        • Tim Gilling

          Nobody in his or her right mind would base an opinion on online forums – certainly not an opinion of what might form a consensus.

          The profile name is mine. I have this theory that, if everyone used their real name, the internet would be a better and politer place. I’d like to see anonymity proscribed by law. As well as the internet turned off on Sundays.

          The photo isn’t of me though. It’s the great Greg Lemond after Paris Roubaix. I hope he wouldn’t mind.

          • Ronnie

            Curious to know what is your source of information regarding Indians ? And other South Asians ?
            In reality, Indian internet users are top 10% of their country. They are way more abusive than their Western or East Asian counterparts. Specially those from North Western India (ethnically the most Arab-Persian end).

          • Headstrong

            Quite the bigot, aren’t you?

          • Ronnie

            Against whom exactly ?

          • Longshoreman Philosopher

            How exactly is he one? He’s simply discussing his observations, whatever they may be, with no connotations. I’m a desi, didn’t get that vibe from him.

          • Headstrong

            No connotations? Have you read his posts?

          • Ronnie

            Howrah Bridge standing after nearly a century.. And under construction flyovers fall like pack of cards !! And ‘chalta hai’ Indian mob is up in arms with high pitch “pot calls the kettle black” argument. Still looking for bigotry ?
            Small suggestion : Maybe you can Google “flyover collapse in UK / USA / Australia / Canada / Germany”.

          • Headstrong

            Don’t have to look too far to find bigotry. You’re a sterling example. Thrilled aren’t you, at this news? You really think I’m trying to compare India to UK / USA / Australia / Canada / Germany? I’m only too aware of India’s numerous shortcomings – just as I am proud of its numerous achievements.
            In addition to what I’ve suggested to you, here’s one more – get a life, instead of gloating at others’ suffering

          • Ronnie

            Aww diddum…Still in fight back mode, after your “chalta hai” Engineering Construction firm’s flyover crushed hundreds.. Aye haaye.. “Praan Jaaye par shaan naa jaaye”.

            Are you from JNU by any chance ? or random North West Indian commerce / BBA college. Like Lovely Professional University..

            Speaking of your shortcomings, first fix that h3ll h-ole of a Nation. There are too many shortcomings to even count. But that does not stop our little HeadStrong from engaging in chest thumping on Internet. Does it dear ?

            What are you proud of exactly ? Corruption, r ape, Black money stacked in Swiss banks, Cafe Coffee day gang and their Splitsvilla / Roadies inspired swagger.. or the general “chill maar” attitude ?

            Or their dream to settle down in Yash Raj locales, will India will never be in next one millennium…

          • Headstrong

            You think we even care about nitwits like you? We’ve heard the likes of you for ages – and we’re still here.
            Yes, India has issues – major issues. And they’re being addressed – pace could be better, but we’ll get there.
            Meanwhile, the likes of you can keep gloating (bleating, actually). As far as we’re concerned, you can go take a hike.

            Now, the last word’s all yours…. enjoy! Get a life, if you can 🙂

          • Ronnie

            Of course you don’t care about anything other than Bolly trash, IPL and chest thumping to be seen as next big thing..
            India has issues, because nitwit Indians like you have issues. Admission is the first step. Imperious bluster, off topic rant, blaming Sakshi Dhoni and Anushka Sharma for India’s defeat, blaming God for flyover collapse : not so much..

      • Headstrong

        That chip is a boulder actually

      • OmnipotentWizard

        You were doing fine until “We’re just not on their radar.” The opposite is true:

        “Britain is already the largest investor in India among G20 nations, and India invests more in the UK than it does in the rest of the EU combined.” (Yahoo 12/11/2015)

    • OmnipotentWizard

      It is Indians that blame the British it is our own media. In general most Indian see the UK as a friendly country and one they can do business with.

    • Longshoreman Philosopher

      Your average normal Indian would blame Mughals more than Brits any day of the week, but those are Indians you don’t get to see on the internet. The ones who you probably hear are those influenced by marxist intellectuals, who have done a spectacular job of papering over the last 1000 years of Mughal brutality. Blaming the imperialistic Britain also aids their anti-Western agenda.

      There was even a leaked memo of a state government official instructing historians to emit mughal brutality in school textbooks in order to prevent negative publicity of muslims or something to that accord.

      I’m an Indian living in India.

      • Ronnie

        True. Herds of sheep posing as free thinking rationalists are real threat to any society. And Indians are a unique species. They have herd mentality of East Asia, but not their discipline. They pretend to be free thinking enlightened West, but they are not enlightened enough.
        A cursory comparison of (even low brow Daily Mail) and Times of India comment forum would prove that.

  • Minstrel Boy

    The British military conquest of India reveals some startling disparities between the relative size of the opposing armies. The Indians were fighting on home ground, with enormous resources in terms of weapons, ammunition and manpower, yet still fled each battlefield in numbers not seen since the conquests of Caesar. The main source of the British East India Company’s army was the population of Ireland, Scotland and South Yorkshire. Arthur Wellesley and his brother went there as penniless Anglo-Irish minor aristocrats and returned as billionaires. Loot was a lucrative enterprise!
    During the campaign to end the 1850’sIndian Mutiny, British regiments originating in Ireland gained a notorious reputation for taking revenge upon the Indian rebels. The justification offered for their ‘No Quarter’ approach was the accurate perception that many of those Irish born British soldiers had taken Indian wives and had mixed-race children who were slaughtered by the rebels.
    The mass defection of multiple thousands of Indian Army soldiers to the Japanese after the Fall of Singapore in 1942 was redacted from the official War Record for many years and attempts to prosecute captured defectors were dropped in the face of the Indian public’s hostility after the defeat of Japan. The Marching Song of the most elite regiments of Indian paratroopers is the same marching song developed for the Indian units which fought for the Japanese during WW2,
    So much for ‘the love affair’ between the ‘British’ and the Indians.

    • Headstrong

      Ok, so you have 3 examples or so.
      EVERY Indian infantry regiment draws its traditions from the British from the times it served as part of the Royal Indian Army. Over 7 million Indians fought for the Allies in the Second World War. In spite of (some) bitterness at the time of independence, India (and Pakistan and Bangladesh) chose to be part of the Commonwealth. Countless other such facts.

      Yes, there IS a ‘love affair’

  • AI

    “Bose, curiously, is still a great national hero in Bengal.”

    Why is it curious? There were may different paths to independence. The Gandhi/Nehru path was the predominant one, but a more militant stance was also quite popular, and Bose was a symbol of that. While the Indian National Congress was the umbrella organization that led the fight for independence, it included a wide range of ideologies, only held together by their desire for independence. On the flip side, why should India show loyalty to their colonial masters, who never considered them their equal?

    • Bonkim

      No one is demanding loyalty – Colonial history is gone long ago – and in an case the concept of the nation state is a recent one in history – prior to the 20th century, the age of Empires was the norm – in India too – the Mughals before the British and even within India’s pre-Islamic history various regional Empires prevailed before that of the Mughals. Budhism was the dominant religion too stretching from present day Afghanistan to much of South East asia with various Empires dominating the region.

      One needs to make decisions today based on today’s needs, priorities, and expectations and also today’s political realities.

      Regarding concepts of equality – Indians come in various shades of equality and privileges associated with birth and acquired wealth. Not all were equal in India as they are not today.

      • AI

        Without getting into any of that, my question is more fundamental: Why is it curious that Bose is still a national hero today? He represents something that many people believe was heroic and in independent India’s interest.

        The reason I brought up loyalty to the British is that that is the only reason I can think of that would diminish Bose in the opinion of his compatriots. This is especially keeping in mind the context of this article that talks of the role of Indians supporting the Allies in WW2.

        • Bonkim

          Subhash Bose was a freedom fighter and a doer. He managed to escape from house arrest and mobilized Indian POWs held by the Japanese to form the Free Indian Army, he went to Germany to get aid from Hitler; many ex-Jap POWs also served with Hitler’s Armies.

          He challenged the British Imperial power. There were a number of others that used violence/terrorist acts to make their point through the early 20th century – many were later honored as freedom fighters. Yesterday’s terrorists become latter day Freedom fighters.

          However his legacy apart from a nationalist hero in India is scant – he is all but forgotten except in Bengal as the majority of Indians followed the establishment/civilized route to freedom through non-violent protests, and negotiations. That is how history evolves. Anti-British sentiments were erased from Indian history simply because Indians and the British collaborated and gained much from each other – the break up of the Indian Empire was through a negotiated process – all within the rule of Law. The Indian constitution has much in common with the British and also the legal and administrative systems.

          History blends values and the British were very good at departing as friends unlike the French, Italians and other European colonists who were thrown out through violent confrontation. Look at the french experience in Indo-China and north Africa and compare that with the way Britain decolonized.

          Just to reflect on the parallels – the American revolution started as a rebel movement against the British colonial government, then the war of independence and for a period the rebels joined up with the French against the British. The French and the British were fighting each other to gain a foothold in India and other parts of the world. That is how history evolves.

          It is idiotic to dwell on the rights and wrongs of history and try to pass judgement based on today’s world view.

          • AI

            All this is irrelevant. The article stated: “Bose, curiously, is still a great national hero in Bengal.”

            Why is that curious? It seems perfectly natural to me.

          • Bonkim

            Not many Indians today remember Subhash bose or the many other freedom fighters apart from vague notions of the nasty British – forgetting that many Indians continue to be nast to their less privileged fellow countrymen and women – Older generations of indians thought British Raj was great as the rule of law prevailed much more than it does today. The freedom fighters of yesterday would be disappointed with today’s generation hooked on cricket and social media knowing little about India.

            India today is an intolerant and corrupt place with big-headed politicians at the head – despite the veneer of democracy – the average man on the street has no idea who is in control. india runs itself as long as you don’t ask any questions. Discussion about Subhash bose or earlier idealists that gave themselves for the country has no relevance today.

  • dalip bhati

    Indians soldiers from time immemorial fight for Dharma and not for employment

Close