'Though the seeds of this great disaster (the Bengal famine) were laid by the previous government, which because of incompetence and lack of foresight, had not taken the necessary steps to avoid this, the blame for it was put on the Muslim League Government in whose tenure of office the results began to show. Then, and afterwards, the Hindu dominated Press of India, and the Western Press have blamed the Muslim League Ministry for the tragedy which was not of its making. It was merely reaping the whirlwind the previous government had sown, but to this day, whoever writes about this disaster always blames the Muslim League Ministry. It surprises me because some of these writers are men of international repute and yet are content to repeat a canard without taking the trouble to sift the facts for themselves.
Shaheed Bhai (Suhrawardy) was appointed Minister for Civil Supplies; he was also holding the portfolio for Finance. He worked day and night organizing food distribution centres, and gruel kitchens allover the city. He mobilized the students for doing this work. By threatening dire punishment, he did get the rice hoarders and blackmarketeers (mostly Hindus) to disgorge their ill- gotten stocks, and rice did appear in the shops of Calcutta sooner than it would have otherwise. Rice could not be imported from the surrounding countries because they were under enemy occupation. Wheat from north India was of no use because the Bengalis were not used to eating bread, though as a result of the Bengal famine a drastic change did come about in their eating habits and I understand they do eat bread now.
Shaheed Bhai came to New Delhi many times and spent hours with officials in charge of food supplies, arranging to send as much rice as possible to famine-striken Bengal because the agents handling rice import were Ispahani and Company. The Hindu Provinces did not want to send rice. Shaheed Bhai tried to persuade the Ministry to appoint one or two Hindu agents for which he earned the enmity of the Ispahanis. The Hindu writers still blame communal consideration in the handling of rice as one of the causes of famine.
It was mainly due to Shaheed Bhai 's indefatigable energy that the Bengal famine came to an end when it did, but he has received scant thanks for it.'
(fromHuseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy: A Biography by Begum Shaista Suhrawardy Ikramullah, Oxford University Press, 1991)
Amartya Sen- an eye witness to the Bengal famine- wrote, ''No famine has ever taken place in the history of the world in a functioning democracy,'' in his book ''Democracy as Freedom'' (Anchor, 1999). This, he explained, is because democratic governments ''have to win elections and face public criticism, and have strong incentive to undertake measures to avert famines and other catastrophes.''
Yet, Bengal had an elected Government during the Famine. True, this was on a restricted franchise but the outcome would have been the same under universal adult suffrage. The Premier of Bengal, at the start of the famine, was A.K Fazl ul Haq, who was a close friend of Sikandar Hyat, the Premier of Punjab, and joined with him in presenting the Lahore Resolution- demanding the creation of Pakistan. Punjab was the sole grain surplus state. Like Bengal, it had a Muslim majority. Its leaders were closely allied with the leaders of Bengal. Yet they refused to send food to the Bengalis until a new Viceroy, Lord Wavell, twisted their arm.
This did not cause the Muslim rulers of Bengal any great inconvenience. They blamed the famine on Hindu merchants- even thought the agents for grain imports were all Muslims. Suhrawardy tried (how hard?) to get a couple of Hindus included but the powerful Ispahani's blocked him. Still, this did not stop the Muslim League Govt. from continuing to denounce the Indian National Congress as 'bania Raj'- rule by the cunning and hypocritical Hindu merchant- and to blame the Famine upon their machinations. Shaheed Suhrawardy made a great show of raiding the premises of supposed hoarders. Later he organized 'Direct Action Day'- mob violence on a massive scale- so as to reinforce the demand for Partition. Neither the Famine nor the terrible Communal violence orchestrated by his Party did him or Fazl ul Haq any harm whatsoever.
Bengali Hindu intellectuals- like Madshusree Mukherjee- refuse to hold the elected Government of Bengal, at the time of the famine, accountable for its actions. They don't ask why a Muslim Govt. in a grain surplus State refused to send food to their allies and co-religionists in a grain-shortage state even though the profit on the transaction would be made by Muslim merchants, not Hindus. Why? Are these Bengali intellectuals afraid of being labeled 'Hindutva' extremists? I suppose they are right to be afraid of that imputation- it is pretty much the kiss of death, career wise.
On the other hand, blaming Churchill is always a safe bet.
On the other hand, blaming Churchill is always a safe bet.
A Muslim Government in Punjab refuses to send food to a Muslim Government in Bengal. Whose fault is that? Churchill's.
Clearly, Churchill was a dictator who could force the entire British Empire to do whatever he wanted. The Deputy Prime Minister in the War-time Coalition Government, Clement Atlee, who was a friend of Nehru's, was a complete cypher. This is because, under the British parliamentary system, Coalition partners have no say in anything. Churchill used to beat Atlee unmercifully and use him as a spittoon. After Aneurin Bevan's unsuccessful assassination attempt on him, Churchill conducted a ruthless purge of the Parliamentary Labor Party- hundreds of M.Ps were garroted with piano wire. It was upon his insistence, that Wales was renamed West Churchill-land-on-Sea.
These are historical facts. Churchill and Churchill alone wielded power at every level of the British Empire. In 1944, a crow pecked my Mummy's foot. It was acting on Churchill's orders.
True, those evil Hindu banias went and stole all the rice and hid it so as to make the Muslim Government look bad. But, they too were only following Churchill's orders. This is the real scandal of the Bengal Famine.
Incidentally, like Hitler and Stalin and the Queen-God-bless-her, Churchill was a crypto-Jew. His real name was Moshe Weinstein and he is alive and well and running a pawn shop off the Uxbridge Road. Bastard refused to advance me any money on my pure gold Rolex which has been cunningly disguised to look like a cheap plastic digital watch which stopped working in 1983. I tell you, Bengal famine is the least of his crimes! Who is making all those calls to sex-lines from my office phone? Proper investigation by leading Scientists will show that only Churchill could have carried out this diabolical plot.
'Those who do not learn from History are condemned to Repeat it.' I myself spent three years in the Second Grade only for that reason.
Mind it kindly.