Monday 17 June 2024

Susannah Herbert v Janam Mukherjee

Under the terms of the 1935 Government of India Act, the Provinces were granted autonomy. Provision was also made for the formation of a Federal Government at the center. If the Indians had been able to reach an agreement on this, the country would in effect have been a Dominion like Canada or Australia. 

The anti- British BBC does not understand this. Its presenter, Kavita Puri, has an interview with a dim bint who believes that her 'grandad ran Bengal when famine killed millions'. The truth is less glamorous. Gramps was merely a ceremonial figure like the Lord Lieutenant of a County. The Premier of Bengal-  who was an elected darkie, not a stupid White  aristocrat who was no longer wanted on the backbenches- and his Cabinet had complete control over Food. That is why the famine was so bad. Bengali Muslim politicians were corrupt or incompetent though, it must be admitted, they were less shit than Bengali Hindu politicians. 

Democracy brought famine to Bengal twice- first in 1943 and then in 1974. Had civil servants- even Bengali civil servants like B.R. Sen- held power, there would have been much lower mortality. 

"I feel enormous shame about what happened," Susannah Herbert tells me.

This is like my feeling enormous shame for not proving the Reimann hypothesis when I was 17 because I was too busy having sex with Charlie's Angels.  

Her grandfather was the governor of Bengal, in British India, during the run-up and height of the 1943 famine which killed at least three million people.

He had no power. Still, he was a fine gentleman and neither stole money from the Red Cross (which is what the Governor of Madras did) nor did he run away with his family as the Japs closed in. Still, the Viceroy did say he was as stupid as shit.  

She is only just learning about his significant role in the catastrophe, and confronting a complex family legacy.

He had no role. Had Congress won the elections and then resigned office in 1939 (which is what they did in Hindu majority provinces) then Civil Servants like B.R Sen would have ensured that grain procured for the public distribution system did not 'leak' into the black market.  One or two individual District Magistrates did use ad hoc measures which proved successful but where elected politicians were determined to enrich their black market cronies, their hands were tied. 

It must be said that because the Indians had failed to form a Federal Government, the Viceroy retained control of anything to do with Defense. Thus, the stupid and defeatist 'denial' policy was dictated by Delhi. Herbert's mistake was not to consult Haq even though the Hindu ICS officer in charge had done a deal with the Ispahanis to buy up and remove surplus rice so that it didn't fall into the hands of the Japs. The truth is Herbert lacked political savvy. Still, in no sense can he be said to have made or executed policy. 


When I first meet her, she is clutching a photograph from 1940. It's Christmas Day at the governor's residence in Bengal. It's formal, with people sitting in rows, in their finery, staring straight into camera.

Why were they not naked? Also,  how come Governor Sahib was not depicted as being sodomized by the punkah-wallah? Is it because Whitey is homophobic?  Homophobia is totes evil. Homophobes should be buggered to death. 

In the front are the dignitaries - Viceroy Linlithgow, one of the most important colonial figures in India,

He was the most important Imperial figure. He represented the King Emperor.  

and her grandfather Sir John Herbert, Bengal's governor.

Who had no fucking power.  On the other hand, ICS officers- like Hugh Dow, Governor of Sindh, or Andrew Clow, Governor of Assam- who knew the country well were suspected of having played politics and, by their dark arts turned 'minority coalitions' into 'majority coalitions'. The good thing about Herbert was that everybody could see he was as thick as shit. 

At their feet is a little boy, in a white shirt and shorts, knee-high socks and shiny shoes. It's Susannah's father.

Why is the little boy not being sodomized by the punkah-wallah? No wonder Suzie is so ashamed.  


Susannah's father told her little of her grandfather

because he was 9 years old when Daddy died. Sadly, he also lost his Mummy a few years later.  

He had told her some stories of growing up in India, like the day Father Christmas came in on an elephant, but not much more.

He did not know much more. Sadly, he passed away earlier this year.  

But little was spoken of her grandfather, who died in late 1943.

He was a good man who didn't steal money from the Red Cross. Still, he must have been pretty useless if he was sent off to Bengal to occupy a purely ceremonial post.  

The causes of the famine are many and complex.

No. It was a war-time famine caused by Japanese aggression- in particular their conquest of Burma and their naval operations which made it difficult to import food from Australia. Still, Punjab was food surplus and could have supplied Bengal. Sadly, provincial Indian politicians followed 'beggar my neighbor' policies. This is one reason that India chose to be Unitary and not Federal.  

While John Herbert was the most important colonial figure in Bengal, he was part of a wider colonial structure.

That 'colonial structure' could have been abolished if Indian politicians had been able to agree to form a Federal Government.  

He reported to his bosses in Delhi, who reported to theirs in London.

He reported to the Viceroy who reported to the Secretary of State for India who reported to the Cabinet. However, as a ceremonial figure-head, what he communicated was largely dictated by the elected Premier of the Province.  

Dr Janam Mukherjee,

who is only half-White and thus as angry as hell 

historian and the author of Hungry Bengal,

he only returned to College after History as a discipline had turned into a branch of Grievance Studies 

tells me Herbert "was the colonial official most directly linked to the famine because he was the chief executive of the province of Bengal at that time".

No. The Governor, under the 1935 Act, was the nominal head of Government. The Premier was the effective head executive.  

One of the policies he executed during World War Two was known as "denial", where boats and rice – the staple food – were confiscated or destroyed in thousands of villages.

This was 'executed' by the Army over which he had no control. Moreover 'denial' was the avowed policy of the elected Government.  

It was done because of the fear of a Japanese invasion and the aim was to deny the enemy local resources to fuel their advance into India.

Japan should have been provided with money and food so as to invade and enslave India. Also, Governor Sahib should have insisted that Japanese sailors sodomize him regularly.  

However, the colonial policy was catastrophic for the already fragile local economy.

Which had become more fragile because elected politicians had taken over.  

Fishermen couldn't go to sea, farmers weren't able to go upstream to their plots, and artisans were unable to get their goods to market. Critically, rice could not be moved around.

Because of the Japanese. Still, had the Civil Service been in charge, the Famine Code would have been implemented. People would have gone hungry but famine mortality would have been much lower. It should also be mentioned that there were natural disasters and a fungal epidemic which added to Bengal's woes.  

Susannah says there is no doubt the policies of Sir John Herbert, pictured here with his wife Lady Mary in 1940, "contributed enormously to the scale and impact of the famine"

Gramps had no fucking power. He was merely a ceremonial figure. The Premier and his Cabinet was responsible for 'policy'. The politician most to blame was Suhrawardy precisely because he was smart. But his popularity increased thanks to famine and ethnic cleansing and he is still highly rated in Bengal.  

Inflation was already high, as the colonial government in Delhi was printing money to pay for the vast war effort on the Asian front.

Britain was borrowing money from India to pay for Indian troops on foreign soil. This meant that after the War, if India expropriated British property, the Brits could refuse to repay 'sterling balances'.  

The hundreds of thousands of Allied soldiers in Kolkata - then Calcutta - were straining food resources.

They were bringing in food. Americans, in particular, were generous in handing out candy.  Still, it is true that Whites were very evil in that they were trying to protect darkies from the slitty eyed Japanese. 

Rice imports to Bengal from Burma had halted after it fell to the Japanese. Rice was hoarded, often for profit.

Actually, there was little hoarding. This is because hoarders get raided or else are killed by angry mobs.  

And a deadly cyclone hit, wiping out much of Bengal's rice crop.

Grandpa should have told cyclone to fuck off. Why did he fail to do so? Suzie feels so much shame.  

Repeated demands - in the middle of the war - to the war cabinet and Prime Minister Winston Churchill for food imports were denied or partially heeded at the time.

Also repeated demands to Cycloneji to fuck the fuck off were denied or only partially heeded. Suzie's grandpa was totes evil.  

The numbers who died are overwhelming. I wondered why Susannah, the granddaughter of Bengal’s governor, felt shame so many decades later.

The lass is mourning her daddy. I suppose she is having to go through his papers. She found pictures of Gramps and, discovering he was a White heterosexual and not a disabled Lesbian of Color as she had fondly believed, she is feeling very very ashamed.  

She tries to explain. "When I was young there was something almost glamorous about having a connection with the British Empire."

It was also almost glamorous to believe that your grandfather had a penis. Nowadays, finding out Daddy wasn't a disabled transgender Lesbian child soldier from Uganda is enough to cause little Suzies to cry themselves to sleep. 

She says she used to borrow a lot of her grandfather's old clothes.

He was dead and thus in no position to object.  

"There were silk scarves, with a nametape saying 'Made in British India'.

So, Governor Sahib supported 'Swadeshi' policies. Good for him.  

"And now when I see them at the back of a cupboard, I kind of shudder and say, why would I even want to wear these things?

Who would want to wear a scarf made by darkies? Suzie is shuddering and shuddering. I may mention, I only wear underwear made by nice White nuns.  

Because the words 'British India' on the label seem inappropriate to wear now."

Worse yet, a fucking Hindoooo is PM. Vote for Farage! Britain should only have White peeps. Did you know Rishi's grandparents were made in 'British India'? It is totes inappropriate to wear him as a hat- unless you are his wife and were made in Indian India.  

Susannah is determined to know more about her grandfather's life in British India, and to make sense of things.

He had no power. If you can understand the role of a Lord Lieutenant of a English County, you can understand this well enough.  

She is reading everything she can on the Bengal famine,

Which was like the Bangladesh famine 

going through stacks of her grandparents' papers at the Herbert archive in the family home in Wales. They're kept in a climate-controlled room, and an archivist visits once a month.

I bet her gramps would have liked to have been kept in a 'climate-controlled room' rather than having to sweat like a pig in between bouts of dysentery.  Still, an archivist visiting once a month is still better than bleeding from the twat every four weeks. 

She starts to realise more about her grandfather. "There's absolutely no doubt that the policies he implemented and initiated contributed enormously to the scale and impact of the famine.

He neither implemented nor initiated anything. He was a particularly useless backbencher who was packed off to Bengal precisely because he was as stupid as shit. Also, he was hetero. His punkah-wallah wouldn't have to sodomize him incessantly.  


"He had skills,

No. He was a one term MP for Monmouth- a safe Tory seat. Since he was utterly useless he was packed off to Ind's coral strand. Previously, Bengal had been important enough to get higher caliber Governors- generally they were Lords who had served as under-secretaries at the India Office or had other relevant experience- but, because of Provincial Autonomy under the 1935 Act, by the time Suzie's gramps was sent out, any duffer would do. Still, it must be said, he was appointed before the outbreak of war. After Pearl Harbor, it became obvious that you needed smart peeps in places like Calcutta and Rangoon. 

Take the 'Denial' policy. It was as stupid as shit. Destroying boats capable of carrying more than ten people meant that the Brits weren't planning to put up a fight. The Japs would have a walk-over. A smart Governor would have pointed this out. Also, what the Brits needed to be doing- more particularly after Bose ran off to cuddle with Hitler- was getting the Bengali Muslim fired up about the suffering of Indonesian and Malaysian (and, a little later, Rohingya) Muslims under Jap rule. East Bengal should have been turned into a jehadi stronghold under Faraizi leadership. True, the Hindus would have their throats slit but the Bengali Hindu was seditious when he wasn't wholly useless. 

he had honour. And he should not have been appointed to the post of running the lives of 60 million people in a faraway corner of the British Empire. He just should not have been appointed."

He wasn't running shit. There was an elected Premier. Still, even the Viceroy remarked his stupidity. His successor was a clever Australian.  

In the family archive she found a letter from Lady Mary,

she was called that because her dad was an Earl. Hubby, if he managed to survive dysentery in Bengal, would be made a Baron sooner or later. Perhaps, their son might go one up on Daddy and get made a Viscount. After that, they'd be within spitting distance of becoming Earls. As for Marquesses, they should just fuck off. Dukes are okay. Earls are okay. But Marquesses, as Stendhal pointed out, are totes Gay. 

her grandmother, written to her husband in 1939, on hearing he had been offered the job of governor.

In consequence of which he was knighted. In the old days, he would have been raised into the peerage. Bengal deserves at least a Baron, more particularly because there was a Bengali Baron- Lord Sinha. 

It's a letter of pros and cons. She clearly had no desire for them to go,

India was as boring as shit unless dysentery was what you were in to.  

though she writes she would accept whatever decision he took.

Does she mention punkah-wallahs? No? In that case the fellow was a boring heterosexual and not an ancestor anyone would be proud of. 

"You read them [the letters] with hindsight, you read them knowing what the writer and reader did not know. If you could reach out to the past, you'd say: don't do it. Don't go, don't go to India. You will not do a good job."

He did a good enough job- i.e. neither stole from the Red Cross nor fucked the punkah-wallah. Still, his successor was miles better. Ozzies generally are. But, by then, the tide of war had begun to turn.  

Over the months I have been following Susannah Herbert’s journey into the past, she has had many detailed questions about her grandfather.

There is only one answer to those questions. Gramps had about as much power as the Lord Lieutenant of a County. True, he was as thick as shit but at least he didn't fuck the punkah-wallah.  

She has been keen to meet Janam Mukherjee, the historian, to ask him directly.

I am keen to beat Janam Mukherjee. Sadly, Bengali, or even half-Bengali, dudes can be surprisingly muscular. I will content myself with jeering at him from the safe space of my blog.  

They meet in June.

And are wed in July?  

Janam admits he never imagined he would ever be sitting opposite the granddaughter of John Herbert.

For the same reason I never imagined I would be sitting opposite the granddaughter of George Whatley who ran a successful haberdashery in Preston back in the Fifties. This is because George Whatley had little importance save to his own loving family. 

Susannah wants to know why her grandfather, a provincial MP and government whip, was appointed in the first place, when he had virtually no experience of Indian politics, beyond a brief spell in Delhi as a young officer.

The answer is that he was a dim bulb. This would reassure Fazl ul Haq- the Premier who presided over an unstable coalition- that no back-stairs intrigue was being conducted in the Governor's mansion.  

"It's part and parcel of colonialism and stems from an idea of supremacy," Janam explains.

The Tories passed the 1935 Act granting Provincial Autonomy and permitting the Indians to form their own Federal Government. Britain had made its 'settler' colonies self-administering and self-garrisoning in the late Nineteenth Century. A.O Hulme set up the INC hoping Indians would come together to raise agricultural productivity and create a virtuous circle of investment in public goods yielding higher tax revenues which in turn could be ploughed back into more such investments. He failed because Indian politicians before and after Independence were stupid when they weren't corrupt or wholly incompetent. 

As for 'ideas of supremacy'- that is what the half-Italian dynasty possesses unless, as in Bengal, it has been displaced by a Didi who will pass power to her nephew.  

"Some MP who has no colonial experience, who has no linguistic capacities, who has not worked in a political system outside of Britain, can simply go and inhabit the governor's house in Kolkata, and make decisions about an entire population of people that he knows nothing about."

He couldn't make decisions. His function was wholly ceremonial. 

While Herbert was not popular among elected Indian politicians in Bengal, even his seniors in Delhi seem to have doubted his competence, including Viceroy Linlithgow.

Nobody back in England was saying 'I wish Herbert were here. He is a smart dude.' Still, Herbert, unlike Hope, did not steal from the Red Cross.  

"Linlithgow called him the weakest of the governors in India. They, in fact, were interested in removing him, but they were worried about how that might be received," says Janam.

Actually, a weak and stupid Governor reassured the Bengalis that no back-stairs intrigue was occurring. The problem was that Calcutta had a large European community who were very angry with 'Authority' because the Government had requisitioned their air-conditioners and sent them to a hospital for soldiers with V.D.  One such Englishman- Ian Stephens of the Statesman- broke the Famine story though, to please his pay-masters, he shifted the blame from the elected politicians in Calcutta to the bureaucrats in Delhi who had no power over Food policy under the terms of the 1935 Act. 

"That is hard listening," Susannah replies.

Janam is saying 'your gramps was a fucking cretin, mate.' She should reply 'fuck off back to America you great big poncey ponce.'  

I am struck that for both there is a personal connection. Janam and Susannah had fathers in Kolkata who were little boys at the same time but were living completely different lives.

Their daddies were paid by the Government. But Janam's gramps, a retired cop, was a slum-landlord who extorted money from his tenants. 

They've both died now. Susannah at least has photographs.

Janam's gramps either didn't want to pay a couple of bucks to get a family photo or else his Dad didn't bother to preserve any such thing.  

For Janam, there were no pictures of his father as a child.

Because Gramps wouldn't shell out a couple of bucks.  

"So what I knew was from his nightmares and from the few stories he told me of his experience in childhood, in a colonized war zone.

Would he rather have been in Japanese occupied Rangoon? It must be said, Dorman-Smith- Governor of Burma- was worse than Herbert. Mountbatten got rid of that nutter who believed that England should revert to feudalism. I believe his brother joined the IRA. 

"I come from a sense of trying to think about my father's very damaged life

his life was damaged by Bengali politicians. His ancestral house was set on fire by a Muslim mob while the family sheltered on the roof. Luckily they had a rifle and the mob dispersed after his elder brother started shooting. Still, he saw the family cook being beheaded. No wonder he moved heaven and earth to emigrate to Jim Crow Amrika which is where Janam was born.  Darkies, it seems, prefer living in White ruled places because their ancestor's lives were horribly damaged by other darkies. 

and understand how that impacts me as his descendant."

He makes a living by whining about Whitey. He completely ignores the fact that dicks cause RAPE! Ban them immediately. What Suzie should feel ashamed about is that gramps had a dick.  

And then he says something I wasn't expecting.

"My grandfather also worked for the colonial police force. So my grandfather himself was complicit with the colonial system in many ways.

Very true. Gramps prevented nice Muslim mobs from killing Hindus the way Allah intended.  

So there are these interesting similarities in our motivations of understanding."

Nope. Herbert and his son were British people who remained in their ancestral land. They weren't 'complicit' in the conquest or administration of their country by a foreign power. True, Suzie is complicit  in the Hindu tyranny established by Rishi Sunak. Hopefully, she will vote for Nigel Farage. 

At least three million people died in the Bengal famine

The Bangladesh famine may have killed 1.5 million people. Had Muslims been ruling West Bengal, total fatalities would have been 3 million.  

and there is no memorial - or even a plaque - to them anywhere in the world.

Because Bengalis are too lazy to put up such a plaque.  

Susannah can at least point to a memorial to her grandfather.

Because British peeps aren't lazy.  

"The church where we worship has a plaque honouring him." She explains it's in the absence of a grave. She's not sure where his remains are, perhaps in Kolkata.

Okay. Some Brits are lazy. Email the Diocese of Calcutta and they will locate it soon enough. 

Honour is a word that Susannah used to describe her grandfather,

There is a biblical injunction to honor your father. Honoring his daddy is part and parcel of honoring him. On the other hand, if he had a dick and did not use it exclusively on the punkah-wallah, then you should feel deep, deep, shame.  

even though she acknowledges his failures.

He had no power. Still, he could have stolen money from the Red Cross or buggered his punkah-wallah. He didn't. Honor him by all means.  

"While I find it relatively easy to accept that history is much more complicated than what we were originally told, I still find it hard to envisage John Herbert […] acting in any way, dishonourably."

He didn't. But then, he wasn't Bengali.  

Janam takes a different view. "These questions of intention have never interested me in many ways. I'm much more interested in the historical course of events because I think intentions can always mask what happens."

Janam's intention is to cash in on the Grievance Studies bandwagon. He is pretending Bengalis were forced to pluck cotton under the lash.  

Eighty years on this is still complicated,

Nope. Read the 1935 Act. Check if any complaint was made that a particular Governor had acted unconstitutionally. That's it. Simples.  

and raw. I wonder if months into her research, Susannah still feels "shame" is the right emotion to describe how she feels?

No. She is mourning her beloved daddy and got sidetracked by a photo she found of him as a little boy.  

She tells me she has changed her view. "I think the word shame centres it too much on my feelings.

what else can it center on? The fucking Eiffel Tower?  

It's not just about me and what I think.

Yes it is.  If you think Herbert had no business being in India because he was White, you may soon come to think that peeps like me and Rishi should fuck off to India. 

"It's part of a greater project, I suppose, of understanding and transmitting understanding of how we got to where we are. We? I mean Britain, I mean, this country."

If the British Empire was a bad thing, immigrants from the colonies are a bad thing. Send them back on banana boats. Vote Farage! 

Janam agrees that "as a descendant of a colonial official, I don't think there is any particular shame that accrues intergenerationally. I think it's Britain's shame.

The fucker is American. He feels no shame about the genocide and expropriation of the First Nations.  

"I mean people died of starvation in Bengal.

Because of the Japs. It must be said, we should feel gratitude to America for kicking their asses.  

So I think there's cause for historical reflection on the individual level as well as the collective level."

The historical fact is that the Brits transferred control of Food, Land, etc. to the Provinces in 1937. Elected Bengali politicians presided over famine and genocide.  

Susannah is reflecting on her legacy. She wants to share her findings with her wider family, and she's not sure how they'll receive it.

If they are smart, they will say 'Gramps was like the Lord Lieutenant of a County except that he got paid. He had no power. Deal with it.'  

She is hoping her children might help her work her way through the mountains of papers in the family archive in Wales.

She will learn nothing about India there.  On the other hand, she is bound to discover an ancestor who married a ewe. 

They too are contending with a complex personal legacy, as Britain tries to figure out what to do with this difficult part of its war story and colonial past.

If you are stupid enough to do so you will end up voting for Nigel Farage. People like me and Rishi Sunak were brought here in chains by evil Ashkenazi slave-traders. We should be reunited with our families in Africa or Asia. If this has to be done forcibly- so be it.  

As for Janam, the fact is, he first went to Calcutta to research the 1946 riots which were called into existence by Premier Suhrawardy and his 'Direct Action Day'. The aim was to secure Calcutta as the capital of a united Bengal ruled by Muslims. Sadly, Hindus soon turned the tables on the Muslims thus securing the City for India. Since Janam is a stupid American, he doesn't understand this. There were riots in Calcutta for the same reason there were riots in Lahore. Bengal was food deficit. Punjab was food surplus. Communal violence has nothing to do with famine. 

Janam writes in his dissertation-

'In as much as the riots emerged from a specific socio-political context in Calcutta during the 1940s, 

which was the same context as riots in Lahore a little later

the over-determining social fact - for the vast majority of the population of Bengal - of this same period was famine.

No. It didn't matter in the slightest. Food surplus States had riots if there was a struggle between Muslims and non-Muslims over who would get to rule. 

My search for an understanding of the Calcutta riots, then, has been unavoidably transformed into a "search for famine."

The shithead hadn't noticed that Bangladesh's big famine occurred some years after after a big exercise in genocide. There was no causal link between the two. 

 In the final chapter of this work, I examine the Calcutta riots from this perspective - as the culmination of a period of cumulative violence that is punctuated by calamitous internecine fury.

It was no such thing. Premier Suhrawardy controlled the administration. On 'Direct Action Day' government employees were given leave to get busy killing non-Muslims. Sadly, two can play at that game. 

 All existing scholarship on the riots has focused on the "communal" nature of the outburst, giving primary consideration to the divisive political environment in which they erupted. 

Existing scholarship is very evil. It focuses on facts not make-believe. 

This explanation, however, cannot account for the full extent of the violence that visited Calcutta in 1946.

Yes it can. Moreover, it explains why the violence stopped before every last Muslim was slaughtered. Briefly, this was because killers prefer to be paid for killing. But nobody would pay for poor workers to be killed. 



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