With Due Apologies…
Ahead of the December 12 Parliamentary Elections, the Labour Party has announced that it will discuss the role of former Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill in the Great Famine of Bengal (in 1943-44). Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn made an announcement in this regard a couple of days ago, saying that his party would try to investigate the impact of British colonialism on Bengal and also on other parts of India. According to the Leader of Her Majesty’s Most Loyal Opposition, the Labour Party is ready to deal with uncomfortable questions!
In its Election Manifesto published on November 21, the Opposition Party stated that the British Government would tender apology to the People of India for the 1919 Jallianwala Bagh Massacre, if the Labour Party comes to power. It has also been mentioned in the Manifesto that it becomes important for Britain to introspect different aspects of its colonial inheritance and human rights abuses in former colonies across the Globe. Earlier, historians and diplomats had opined that such introspection could help rewrite the British History. Even some former British colonies and organisations had urged Britain to review its colonial past. However, London had rejected the request!
This year, India marked the Centenary of Jallianwala Bagh Massacre on April 13. India and many other countries wanted Britain to apologise to the South Asian nation for launching one of the deadliest attacks on peaceful civilians in the world. On April 13, 1919, soldiers of the British Indian Army, on the orders of Colonel (temporary Brigadier General) Reginald Dyer, had opened fire on peaceful and unarmed celebrators, including women and children, on the occasion of the Punjabi New Year (Baisakhi). Although the Theresa May Government admitted that it was a black spot in British history, it refused to seek an official apology! According to diplomats, former Prime Minister May did not apologise publicly as she wanted to avoid any debates on the compensation. The Labour Party, too, did not mention about compensation in its Manifesto, stating that the Party would review the history of British Colonialism.
The educationists, too, have advised the Government to review the history of British Colonialism that has been in the curriculum of schools and colleges. As per a survey conducted in 2016, nearly 44% of Britons are proud of the British Colonialism, while just 21% have a different feeling. Corbyn assured the educationists that his party would review the history curriculum, if it comes to power!
The British Imperialism
In 2018, the Indians marked the 75th anniversary of the Great Famine of Bengal that had claimed more than one million lives in the eastern province of undivided British India! Interestingly, the British Government had reportedly exported a huge amount of surplus food-grains from India in 1943, when Bengal was experiencing the famine. The Indian historians have blasted Sir Winston Churchill for triggering the ‘man-made‘ famine in Bengal (in order to feed his countrymen during the WWII)! Meanwhile, Corbyn has assured the voters that the Labour Party will discuss the issue and arrange debates on it at official level, if the party gets a chance to form the Government…
In its Manifesto, the Labour Party has given a special importance to the British Foreign Policy. Apart from discussing London’s relation with New Delhi, it has also mentioned that a Labour Government will recognise Palestine as an Independent State.
Great Bengal Femine, 1943-44
It seems that public opinion on Brexit, and also on the Colonial Past will determine the outcome of the Parliamentary Elections in Britain this time…
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