So I recently read: Churchill’s Secret War

It is not very common to believe that a Hero for one can be a Villain for others. Usually, heroes are heroes, universally. However, there are some heroes who have been catastrophic for others and that needs to be told to get the real picture.

Whenever you search for a quote about leadership, Winston Churchill’s name easily comes on top of the search results. In fact, the rhetoric device Anaphora, often referenced in speeches and in writing, is pretty easily understood by this example from his speech in 1940.

….We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender…

Winston Churchill is still considered a war hero for Britain because he was the Prime Minister of England who lead from the front and got the Allies their victory in the Second World War. They said they shall never surrender and they never did. Allies did win but at the cost of huge collateral damages in India, which was fighting the war for England without the due credit. I had read about multiple famines in India during the British Raj but didn’t realize that some of the famines were man-made. In particular, as the book ‘Churchill’s Secret War’ by Madhusree Mukerjee states, the Bengal famine in the 1940s killed 3 million people in India (we blame Hitler for killing 6 million Jews) because the food meant for Indians was not given to them. It was kept as a backup food for British fleets in the Indian Ocean. Despite multiple warnings from the local authorities, some interventions by the American Government, and the news of millions dying of hunger, Winston Churchill didn’t battle an eyelid. His sole aim was to fulfill his own army from whatever he could get from India.

Mukerjee’s book goes into in-depth detail about the days of the famine. It gives gory but true details about how people had to even sell their children in order to get a few grains of rice, just for survival. She also talks about how it was also possibly avoidable. But Indians were a colony of Britain and their motive was to loot it, not nurture it.

If the heroism stays unflinchingly strong even after 70 odd years, it’s remarkable as to how history once molded by the victors, takes humongous efforts to be re-written correctly even with facts. As they say, opinions trump facts. In India, we often forgive our foes from History and this is such an example.

So, I recently read ‘Churchill’s Secret War’ by Madhusree Mukerjee. You may check it out here:

Header Photo by Kristina G. on Unsplash

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