The Bengal Famine: How the British engineered the worst genocide in human history for profit
Outbackjack: “I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion. The famine was their own fault for breeding like rabbits.”
The British had a ruthless economic agenda when it came to operating in India and that did not include empathy for native citizens. Under the British Raj, India suffered countless famines. But the worst hit was Bengal. The first of these was in 1770, followed by severe ones in 1783, 1866, 1873, 1892, 1897 and lastly 1943-44. Previously, when famines had hit the country, indigenous rulers were quick with useful responses to avert major disasters. After the advent of the British, most of the famines were a consequence of monsoonal delays along with the exploitation of the country’s natural resources by the British for their own financial gain. Yet they did little to acknowledge the havoc these actions wrought. If anything, they were irritated at the inconveniences in taxing the famines brought about.
Outbackjack: The first of these famines was in 1770 and was ghastly brutal. The first signs indicating the coming of such a huge famine manifested in 1769 and the famine itself went on till 1773. It killed approximately 10 million people, millions more than the Jews incarcerated during the Second World War. It wiped out one third the population of Bengal. John Fiske, in his book “The Unseen World”, wrote that the famine of 1770 in Bengal was far deadlier than the Black Plague that terrorized Europe in the fourteenth century. Under the Mughal rule, peasants were required to pay a tribute of 10-15 per cent of their cash harvest. This ensured a comfortable treasury for the rulers and a wide net of safety for the peasants in case the weather did not hold for future harvests. In 1765 the Treaty of Allahabad was signed and East India Company took over the task of collecting the tributes from the then Mughal emperor Shah Alam II. Overnight the tributes, the British insisted on calling them tributes and not taxes for reasons of suppressing rebellion, increased to 50 percent. The peasants were not even aware that the money had changed hands. They paid, still believing that it went to the Emperor.
Partial failure of crop was quite a regular occurrence in the Indian peasant’s life. That is why the surplus stock, which remained after paying the tributes, was so important to their livelihood. But with the increased taxation, this surplus deteriorated rapidly. When partial failure of crops came in 1768, this safety net was no longer in place. The rains of 1769 were dismal and herein the first signs of the terrible draught began to appear. The famine occurred mainly in the modern states of West Bengal and Bihar but also hit Orissa, Jharkhand and Bangladesh. Bengal was, of course, the worst hit. Among the worst affected areas were Birbum and Murshidabad in Bengal. Thousands depopulated the area in hopes of finding sustenance elsewhere, only to die of starvation later on. Those who stayed on perished nonetheless. Huge acres of farmland were abandoned. Wilderness started to thrive here, resulting in deep and inhabitable jungle areas. Tirhut, Champaran and Bettiah in Bihar were similarly affected in Bihar.
Prior to this, whenever the possibility of a famine had emerged, the Indian rulers would waive their taxes and see compensatory measures, such as irrigation, instituted to provide as much relief as possible to the stricken farmers. The colonial rulers continued to ignore any warnings that came their way regarding the famine, although starvation had set in from early 1770. Then the deaths started in 1771. That year, the company raised the land tax to 60 per cent in order to recompense themselves for the lost lives of so many peasants. Fewer peasants resulted in less crops that in turn meant less revenue. Hence the ones who did not yet succumb to the famine had to pay double the tax so as to ensure that the British treasury did not suffer any losses during this travesty.
After taking over from the Mughal rulers, the British had issued widespread orders for cash crops to be cultivated. These were intended to be exported. Thus farmers who were used to growing paddy and vegetables were now being forced to cultivate indigo, poppy and other such items that yielded a high market value for them but could be of no relief to a population starved of food. There was no backup of edible crops in case of a famine. The natural causes that had contributed to the draught were commonplace. It was the single minded motive for profit that wrought about the devastating consequences. No relief measure was provided for those affected. Rather, as mentioned above, taxation was increased to make up for any shortfall in revenue. What is more ironic is that the East India Company generated a profited higher in 1771 than they did in 1768.
Although the starved populace of Bengal did not know it yet, this was just the first of the umpteen famines, caused solely by the motive for profit, that was to slash across the country side. Although all these massacres were deadly in their own right, the deadliest one to occur after 1771 was in 1943 when three million people died and others resorted to eating grass and human flesh in order to survive.
Winston Churchill, the hallowed British War prime minister who saved Europe from a monster like Hitler was disturbingly callous about the roaring famine that was swallowing Bengal’s population. He casually diverted the supplies of medical aid and food that was being dispatched to the starving victims to the already well supplied soldiers of Europe. When entreated upon he said, “Famine or no famine, Indians will breed like rabbits.” The Delhi Government sent a telegram painting to him a picture of the horrible devastation and the number of people who had died. His only response was, “Then why hasn’t Gandhi died yet?”
Outbackjack: This Independence Day it is worthwhile to remember that the riches of the west were built on the graves of the East. While we honour the brave freedom fighters (as we should), it is victims like these, the ones sacrificed without a moment’s thought, who paid the ultimate price. Shed a tear in their memory and strive to make the most of this hard won independence that we take for granted today. Pledge to stand up those whose voice the world refuses to hear because they are too lowly to matter. To be free is a great privilege. But as a great superhero once said, “With great freedom comes great responsibility.”
Yan26: The 1943 Bengal famine was especially severe killing as many as 1.5 - 4 million people. That it should have happened in modern times when famine management was pretty well organised just goes to show how callous the government was. Yet not one person of the British administration was tried/sacked . In contrast hundereds of Germans were tried at the Nuremberg trials.It proves that WW2 was not won by the side that was good but the side that was stronger. The Allies and the Axis were just as bad.
chronology: Jack, with respect you have missed out an important factor in the Bengal famine. Namely Britain was expecting Japan to invade the district and there was a policy implemented to deprive Japan's invading Army of resources. Yes there is no defending the suffering of the people of Bengal, it was shocking, but it was not done for 'genocide' it was a 'sledghammer' reaction to a perceived invasion by Japan.
Yes Jack, we need to look again at history, Japan's occupation of Nanking was contovercial and described as a 'rape' of the region, but with new historical data it seems Japan was involved in a war there like Syria today. Are there war crimes by rival warlords in Syria, without doubt, just as without doubt there were shocking incidents in Nanking.
History is never clear cut Jack. The 'Pheonix Programme' in Vietnam was not just implemented for fun, it was a reaction to actions by the communists which were just as intimidating for the Vietnamese.
Bengal was not 'genocide' just the actions of a government very indifferent to the suffering they inflicting.
chronology: Not at all Jack, but Sir Winston was just disconnected from the results of his decisions, when he began the carpet bombing of German civilians he never saw the hospitals in German cities packed with women children and old people, after the air raids. Same with Bengal. People who claim the Iraq war was wrong, do not see the suffering of millions of Iraqis before the liberation.
Jack, you are not evil, or genocidal, but you slam the American liberation of Iraq. If you could see the suffering of Iraqis under sanctions, the old people dying, the grinding poverty and infant mortality, the theft of the Iraqi people's wealth, could you not consider that like Sir Winston, you are just not seeing the misery?
Outbackjack: F*CK Winston Churchill!!
He was a warmonger who led tens of thousands to unnecessary deaths at Gallipoli.
He sent in the army against his own people in 1926.
It is brain deaded bigots like you Rebecca who listen to all the patriotic bullshit espoused ad nauseam by your mainstream media about Imperialists like Winston Churchill.
And Chrono you are just an apologist for him.
chronology: Jack you fine fellow calm down. Sir Winston was a controversial figure no doubt about it. But he seems no more offensive than other notables of his day. Mr Hitler's vision was of a working class educated and living in clean modern housing, eating a healthy diet and eventually becoming a part of society again, brought in from the fringes of cities they subsisted in. Sir Winston thought all this was 'pie in the sky' his famous quip 'the working class should be kept out of the libraries and in the pubs'
R E B E C C A: Its very easy to point out the mistakes of the west, because when the west commit war crimes or do wrong it will be well documented, investigated, and most importantly, condemned.. However, eastern countries commit atrocities n they will just shrug it off n say it never happened. Then forget about it...... They never admit any wrong doing
The Armenian Genocide 1.8 million Christians gone, n no one ever held to account just denial it happened...what use is that? no lessons learned just fobbed off like it doesn't matter!...AND yet so vocal when non muslims do anything to muslims ...why is that?
And I think you mean f**k SIR Winston Churchill!
Outbackjack: Rebecca the West are the controllers of this planet.They have been for the past 600 years. Our people are the repressors.
You raise a very good point about Turkey.The Armenian genocide is not spoken of by the Turks just as the genocide in India is not spoken about in the U.K. It is denial just like Turkey kills the Kurdish people today.
So why is there silence when Turkey commits atrocities?
It is simple.Turkey is a major Western ally and one of the largest recipients of U.S military aid.
So you mean sir as in a half American knighted by the German...errr I mean Gree.... English (not really) Royal family?
R E B E C C A: geez so thats our fault too...like i said no responsibilty for anything....and thats what really stops you progressing
Outbackjack: There is a lot of evidence to prove the Armenian Genocide.Here's a good article for both of you from the U.K Independent:
Tuesday 9 March 2010
Robert Fisk: Living proof of the Armenian genocide
The US wants to deny that Turkey's slaughter of 1.5 million Armenians in 1915 was genocide. But the evidence is there, in a hilltop orphanage near Beirut
It's only a small grave, a rectangle of cheap concrete marking it out, blessed by a flourish of wild yellow lilies. Inside are the powdered bones and skulls and bits of femur of up to 300 children, Armenian orphans of the great 1915 genocide who died of cholera and starvation as the Turkish authorities tried to "Turkify" them in a converted Catholic college high above Beirut. But for once, it is the almost unknown story of the surviving 1,200 children – between three and 15 years old – who lived in the crowded dormitory of this ironically beautiful cut-stone school that proves that the Turks did indeed commit genocide against the Armenians in 1915.
Barack Obama and his pliant Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton – who are now campaigning so pitifully to prevent the US Congress acknowledging that the Ottoman Turkish massacre of 1.5 million Armenians was a genocide – should come here to this Lebanese hilltop village and hang their heads in shame. For this is a tragic, appalling tale of brutality against small and defenceless children whose families had already been murdered by Turkish forces at the height of the First World War, some of whom were to recall how they were forced to grind up and eat the skeletons of their dead fellow child orphans in order to survive starvation.
Jemal Pasha, one of the architects of the 1915 genocide, and – alas – Turkey's first feminist, Halide Edip Adivar, helped to run this orphanage of terror in which Armenian children were systematically deprived of their Armenian identity and given new Turkish names, forced to become Muslims and beaten savagely if they were heard to speak Armenian. The Antoura Lazarist college priests have recorded how its original Lazarist teachers were expelled by the Turks and how Jemal Pasha presented himself at the front door with his German bodyguard after a muezzin began calling for Muslim prayers once the statue of the Virgin Mary had been taken from the belfry.
Hitherto, the argument that Armenians suffered a genocide has rested on the deliberate nature of the slaughter. But Article II of the 1951 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide specifically states that the definition of genocide – "to destroy in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group" – includes "forcibly transferring children of the group to another group". This is exactly what the Turks did in Lebanon. Photographs still exist of hundreds of near-naked Armenian children performing physical exercises in the college grounds. One even shows Jemal Pasha standing on the steps in 1916, next to the young and beautiful Halide Adivar who – after some reluctance – agreed to run the orphanage.
Before he died in 1989, Karnig Panian – who was six years old when he arrived at Antoura in 1916 – recorded in Armenian how his own name was changed and how he was given a number, 551, as his identity. "At every sunset in the presence of over 1,000 orphans, when the Turkish flag was lowered, 'Long Live General Pasha!' was recited. That was the first part of the ceremony. Then it was time for punishment for the wrongdoers of the day. They beat us with the falakha [a rod used to beat the soles of the feet], and the top-rank punishment was for speaking Armenian."
Panian described how, after cruel treatment or through physical weakness, many children died. They were buried behind the old college chapel. "At night, the jackals and wild dogs would dig them up and throw their bones here and there ... at night, kids would run out to the nearby forest to get apples or any fruits they could find – and their feet would hit bones. They would take these bones back to their rooms and secretly grind them to make soup, or mix them with grain so they could eat them as there was not enough food at the orphanage. They were eating the bones of their dead friends."
Using college records, Emile Joppin, the head priest at the Lazarite Antoura college, wrote in the school's magazine in 1947 that "the Armenian orphans were Islamicised, circumcised and given new Arab or Turkish names. Their new names always kept the initials of the names in which they were baptised. Thus Haroutioun Nadjarian was given the name Hamed Nazih, Boghos Merdanian became Bekir Mohamed, to Sarkis Safarian was given the name Safouad Sulieman."
Lebanese-born Armenian-American electrical engineer Missak Kelechian researches Armenian history as a hobby and hunted down a privately printed and very rare 1918 report by an American Red Cross officer, Major Stephen Trowbridge, who arrived at the Antoura college after its liberation by British and French troops and who spoke to the surviving orphans. His much earlier account entirely supports that of Father Joppin's 1949 research.
"Every vestige, and as far as possible every memory, of the children's Armenian or Kurdish origin was to be done away with. Turkish names were assigned and the children were compelled to undergo the rites prescribed by Islamic law and tradition ... Not a word of Armenian or Kurdish was allowed. The teachers and overseers were carefully trained to impress Turkish ideas and customs upon the lives of the children and to catechize [sic] them regularly on ... the prestige of the Turkish race."
Halide Adivar, later to be lauded by The New York Times as "the Turkish Joan of Arc" – a description that Armenians obviously questioned – was born in Constantinople in 1884 and attended an American college in the Ottoman capital. She was twice married and wrote nine novels – even Trowbridge was to admit that she was "a lady of remarkable literary ability" – and served as a woman officer in Mustafa Ataturk's Turkish army of liberation after the First World War. She later lived in both Britain and France.
And it was Kelechian yet again who found Adivar's long-forgotten and self-serving memoirs, published in New York in 1926, in which she recalls how Jemal Pasha, commander of the Turkish 4th Army in Damascus, toured Antoura orphanage with her. "I said: 'You have been as good to Armenians as it is possible to be in these hard days. Why do you allow Armenian children to be called by Moslim [sic] names? It looks like turning the Armenians into Moslims, and history some day will revenge it on the coming generation of Turks.' 'You are an idealist,' he answered gravely and like all idealists lack a sense of reality ... This is a Moslem orphanage and only Moslem orphans are allowed.'" According to Adivar, Jemal Pasha said that he "cannot bear to see them die in the streets" and promised they would go "back to their people" after the war.
Adivar says she told the general that: "I will never have anything to do with such an orphanage" but claims that Jemal Pasha replied: "You will if you see them in misery and suffering, you will go to them and not think for a moment about their names and religion." Which is exactly what she did.
Later in the war, however, Adivar spoke to Talaat Pasha, the architect of the 20th century's first holocaust, and recalled how he almost lost his temper when discussing the Armenian "deportations" (as she put it), saying: "Look here, Halide ... I have a heart as good as yours, and it keeps me awake at night to think of the human suffering. But that is a personal thing, and I am here on this earth to think of my people and not of my sensibilities ... There was an equal number of Turks and Moslems massacred during the  Balkan war, yet the world kept a criminal silence. I have the conviction that as long as a nation does the best for its own interests, and succeeds, the world admires it and thinks it moral. I am ready to die for what I have done, and I know that I shall die for it."
The suffering of which Talaat Pasha spoke so chillingly was all too evident to Trowbridge when he himself met the orphans of Antoura. Many had seen their parents murdered and their sisters raped. Levon, who came from Malgara, was driven from his home with his sisters aged 12 and 14. The girls were taken by Kurds – allied to the Turks – as "concubines" and the boy was tortured and starved, Trowbridge records. He was eventually forced by his captors into the Antoura orphanage.
Ten-year-old Takhouhi – her name means "queen" in Armenian and she was from a rich background – from Rodosto on the Sea of Marmara was put with her family on a freight train to Konia. Two of her two brothers died in the truck, both parents caught typhus – they died in the arms of Takhouhi and her oldest brother in Aleppo – and she was eventually taken from him by a Turkish officer, given the Muslim name of Muzeyyan and ended up in Antoura. When Trowbridge suggested that he would try to find someone in Rodosto and return her family's property to her, he said she replied: "I don't want any of those things if I cannot find my brother again." Her brother was later reported to have died in Damascus.
Trowbridge records many other tragedies from the children he found at Antoura, commenting acidly that Halide "and Djemal [sic] Pasha delighted in having their photographs taken on the steps of the orphanage ... posing as the leaders of Ottoman modernism. Did they realise what the outside world would think of those photographs?" According to Trowbridge's account, only 669 of the children finally survived, 456 of them Armenian, 184 of them Kurds, along with 29 Syrians. Talaat Pasha did indeed die for his sins. He was assassinated by an Armenian in Berlin in 1922 – his body was later returned to Turkey on the express orders of Adolf Hitler. Jemal Pasha was murdered in the Turkish town of Tiflis. Halide Edip Adivar lived in England until 1939 when she returned to Turkey, became a professor of English literature, was elected to the Turkish parliament and died in 1964 at the age of 80.
It was only in 1993 that the bones of the children were discovered, when the Lazarite Fathers dug the foundations for new classrooms. What was left of the remains were moved respectfully to the little cemetery where the college's priests lie buried and put in a single, deep grave. Kelechian helped me over a 5ft wall to look at this place of sadness, shaded by tall trees. Neither name-plate nor headstone marks their mass grave.
chronology: Yes Jack, 'gossip, gossip and more gossip' where is your 'proof'. I am not a Arminian Holocaust Denier, I have little interest in the subject. But if you are going to accuse the Turkish Government of such, then provide the proof. You have just repeated gossip.
Are you aware the United States Congress has not recognised the Arminian Holocaust after being urged not to by 70 experts on Turkish History. Yes there are stories of Doctors injecting Armenians with poison, Armenians being drowned in their tens of thousands at sea. But these are stories, not factual history.
No offence at all to Armenians, they definitely suffered, no sensible person can deny that. But give us the proof of genocide Jack and we can believe you.
Outbackjack: There are mass graves,documentation and first hand accounts.I don't know how much more proof you want?
Here is some more proof from the U.N :
What are you going to do next? Deny the holocaust ever happened?
chronology: Jack, and there is the Document signed off by 70 of the leading American scholars in Turkish History who without reserve refute the 'evidence' you present and condemn it as politically motivated.
Jack there are numerous examples of populations being relocated for what the Authorities controlling the Districts they live in consider 'security' reasons. The Soviets 'relocated' millions of people, hundreds of thousands of those people died in detention camps or of starvation, was that deliberate? Thousands at least of Scottish Highlanders were 'relocated' to make way for the creation of Highland Estates, was that 'Genocide' , tens of thousands of Afrikaners were detained and died during the Boer War, was that 'Genocide' . And the Irish have endless stories about their 'Great Famine' that many of them claim was 'Genocide' . Hundreds of thousands of Sudetenland Germans were killed by forced eviction from Czechoslovakia at the end of WW2, was that 'Genocide' , If the U.S. Congress was to declare all of these, and many other of histories unpleasant moments, deliberate acts of Genocide then Washington would face a storm of protests from the Governments from Moscow to London to Prague. It is somewhat ironic the Czech Government declares the Arminian experience 'Genocide' but says nothing about the treatment of Sudetenland Germans.
Jack, throwing accusations of Genocide around is strong stuff, you are declaring Nations Governments to be deliberate mass murdering monsters.
Edit; my mistake, the Czech Government has expressed regret for the suffering of Germans expelled from it's country after WW2, my apology.
(Edited by chronology)
Outbackjack: I would like to see this so called document signed by 70 scholars.Please provide it?
"The Soviets 'relocated' millions of people, hundreds of thousands of those people died in detention camps or of starvation, was that deliberate? "
The gulags are well documented as Soviet concentration camps initiated by Stalin.
"Thousands at least of Scottish Highlanders were 'relocated' to make way for the creation of Highland Estates, was that 'Genocide' "
It was greed that led to genocide and the same as the enclosures that led to the English peasants having their land stolen in the 1600s onwards.
" tens of thousands of Afrikaners were detained and died during the Boer War, was that 'Genocide' "
Yes the worlds first concentration camps invented by the British.
I could go on but I can't be bothered.
chronology: New of the American Scholars Document is widely available on the Web you only have to search engine it.
Your Post has proved my point Jack, Bengal was, very sadly, nothing out of the ordinary for people to be treated that way.
Britain is no worse than any other country.
It was heartwarming to see American children donate their Christmas presents to help starving victims of that Tsunami, hundreds of millions of dollars sent from the U.S. and other countries. It shows we live in different times than Bengal in the 1930s.
Outbackjack: Provide me an exact link please.
"Your Post has proved my point Jack, Bengal was, very sadly, nothing out of the ordinary for people to be treated that way. "
I totally disagree. The original famine in the 17th Century India brought on by the British free traders set an actual precedent. 10 million deaths is a definitely a precedent when there wass not an actual lack of food.
But hey keep your head in the sand and pretend this is not so. Here's what the lady who adorns your British ten pound note has to say about the whole thing:
Florence Nightingale pointed out that the famines in British India were not caused by the lack of food in a particular geographical area. They were instead caused by inadequate transportation of food, which in turn was caused due to an absence of a political and social structure.
Nightingale identified two types of famine: a grain famine and a "money famine". Money was drained from the peasant to the landlord, making it impossible for the peasant to procure food. Money which should have been made available to the producers of food via public works projects and jobs was instead diverted to other uses. Nightingale pointed out that money needed to combat famine was being diverted towards activities like paying for the British military effort in Afghanistan in 1878–80.
"Britain is no worse than any other country."
Britain WAS worse than any other country. Fact. Would any other country have been any better had they colonised roughly half the planet?
On that we can only speculate.
chronology: Jack, check link for '69 U.S. Scholars deny genocide in Armenia' on Google. Also Wikipedia 'Armenian Holocaust Denial.
Yes Jack, we can only speculate how other countries would have behaved.