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EDITORIAL
Year : 2019  |  Volume : 8  |  Issue : 8  |  Page : 2555-2557  

Lord Mountbatten's The Last Supper: How the British empire botched up the futures of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh


President Academy of Family Physicians of India; Chief Editor, Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care, India

Date of Submission22-Aug-2019
Date of Decision25-Aug-2019
Date of Acceptance25-Aug-2019
Date of Web Publication28-Aug-2019

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Raman Kumar
No. 049, Crema Tower, Mahagun Mascot, Crossing Republik, Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh - 201 016
India
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/jfmpc.jfmpc_674_19

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  Abstract 


The Lancet, a leading health science journal, has published a political editorial, raising interest in the impact of British colonization on the current status of healthcare, economy and development of the Indian subcontinent. Over two centuries, the East India Company and the British empire siphoned out at least £ 9.2 trillion- or $44.6 trillion; since the exchange rate was $4.8 per pound sterling during much of the colonial period. It is to be noted that the life expectancy of Indians at birth was just 22 years in 1911. Food grain was available, however the purchasing power of ordinary Indians was being squeezed. The per capita annual consumption of food grains went down from 200kg in 1900 to 157kg on the eve of World War II, and further down to 37kg by 1946 (Prof Utsa Patnaik).. The Indian sub-continent has still not come out of the systemic malnutrition inflicted upon the population. Today, just under two billion people, or a quarter of the earth's population, live in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The landlocked populations of these countries are known as the black hole of humanity, waiting for ultimate catastrophe- either natural or man-made humanitarian crisis. What happens to these countries now was determined long ago and planned by the British empire when their representatives packed bags and transferred power to the local natives. The partition of India was the most tragic ever human genocide artificially perpetrated in the human history. More than 14 million people were displaced and close to two million people died or went missing. It was the parting gift by the British empire to the people of the Indian sub-continent. This was more tragic than the holocaust. A permanent scar and hatred that would not heal even after a century was created by the British empire. The 200 years of anti-incumbency and hatred against the British was forgotten and used to build a civil war. Enough hatred was fumed between the native population of India and Pakistan. This hatred was further institutionalized between the two countries by having them develop separate militaries. It was a grand exit plan for the empire leaving behind no traces of the crime, while keeping their aura of pride and benevolence intact. After seventy years, it is important to revisit the political circumstances prevailing during the colonial period. It is important for the people India, Pakistan and Bangladesh to think about the future and not be victims of the political game rolled out as an exit plan by the empire.

Keywords: Bangladesh, Colonial India, India, South Asia, Pakistan, Partition of India


How to cite this article:
Kumar R. Lord Mountbatten's The Last Supper: How the British empire botched up the futures of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. J Family Med Prim Care 2019;8:2555-7

How to cite this URL:
Kumar R. Lord Mountbatten's The Last Supper: How the British empire botched up the futures of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. J Family Med Prim Care [serial online] 2019 [cited 2019 Sep 15];8:2555-7. Available from: http://www.jfmpc.com/text.asp?2019/8/8/2555/265610




  Viceroy's Wedding Silver Anniversary Celebration Top


Lord Mountbatten was the last Viceroy of India. He also became the first Governor-General of Independent India. He was the architect of the future for the people of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh that we live in today. It was on 18th of July 1947, less than a month before the partition of India, as proposed under the Indian Independence Act 1947 passed in the British Parliament (Westminster Abby); Lady and Lord Mountbatten were celebrating their silver jubilee wedding anniversary at the Viceroy House, New Delhi; now Rashtrapati Bhawan - The President's House.

The guest list of the anniversary celebration is available even today and worth taking a closer look. The guests were dignitaries from the Indian politics, princely royalties and the great leaders of the freedom movement. The table was set and the guests were seated according to the dinner plan. Any protocol-conscience person would consider it as normal. However, it is important is to note the fineness of the seating arrangements for future political leaders of India and Pakistan and the would-be future enemies; reflects the power, influence, and control of the Mountbatten over Indian politics of that time. Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru was seated with Lord Mountbatten on one side of the table while Mr. Jinnah was sitting on the opposite side with Lady Mountbatten. Sir Radcliffe who drew the partition map of India was also on the guest list of the party. Lord Mountbatten was the person in charge and responsible for what was orchestrated during the dinner party and also what was to happen a month later after 14-15th of August 1947 [Figure 1] and [Figure 2].
Figure 1: Their Excellencies Silver Wedding - Invitation (Image courtesy Dr. Ashok Prasad)

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Figure 2: Mountbatten's Dinner Plan, The Last Supper (Image courtesy Dr. Ashok Prasad)

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  The Indian Independence of Act, 1947 Top


The Indian Independence Act, 1947, is an act voted by the British parliamentarians in the British parliament. This act was the British law under which colonial India's future was to be determined. This act was, in fact, the tool for the partition of India. This act mandated that there would be two separate dominions - India and Pakistan (Muslim majority) partitioned out of the directly administered British colony. Also, there were more than 500 smaller kingdoms (princely states) who were given freedom to choose any one of the dominions (India or Pakistan) or to remain free as independent states under the Act. More than 500 potential fragments of colonial India were envisaged under this act. Also, there would be not one but two Pakistans (East - now Bangladesh and West Pakistan), one each on either side of India located thousands of miles apart. Bangladesh became an independent country in 1971 at the peak of the Cold War. Hostilities between India and Pakistan didn't have its origins among the people or the governments of India and Pakistan. Rather, the clauses mentioned in this particular British Act are the principal cause of triggering and smoldering continued hostility between the two nations.

The act was indeed well-drafted and steered in the desired direction considering the future of international geopolitics after the Second World war had concluded. The colonized Indians, having directly fought and laid lives for the crown, had also borne the financial burden of the two world wars. Their future generations would still be required as human resources for fighting with the communist super-power- the Soviet Union. Pakistan soon became the direct military partner of the world powers, supporting the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan. Simultaneously the continued military hostility between India and Pakistan kept India off balance for decades in the development sector. This situation also continued to nudge Pakistan to the economic status of what it finds itself in today.


  Mountbatten's Plan Top


Before taking charge of India, Lord Mountbatten had promised to the emotional British emperor, his cousin, that he would at least keep India and Pakistan as dominions under the crown, an entity called Commonwealth Nations - former colonies of the British empire. In 2010, India proudly hosted the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi. The legacy of Commonwealth that continues till today and is a testimony to the success of the Mountbatten's plan! Long ago, in 1857, the first revolt was raised by the native Indians against the British. At that time the Indian colony was an East India Company administered territory. The native soldiers of the company army revolted and declared Bahadur Shah Jafar, the last Mughal emperor, a Muslim, as their leader. The revolt or mutiny, also known as India's first war of independence, was however brutally suppressed. After this, the Indian colony was directly taken over by the crown. It was only three decades later, in 1885, that a political process started under the umbrella of the Indian National Congress. The Indian freedom movement is largely known for the nonviolent campaign led by Mahatma Gandhi. Meanwhile, the Pakistan movement also gained momentum under the leadership of Muhammed Ali Jinnah, demanding for a separate homeland for Indian Muslims. And the British policy was to divide and rule.


  1947 and the Partition of India Top


By the early 20th century, there was considerable outrage against the British empire. Apart from the direct transfer of wealth, millions of Indians had died during successive famines. The Bengal famine remains the most infamous one, caused due to deliberate mismanagement by the British raj. Over two centuries, the East India Company and the British empire siphoned out at least £ 9.2 trillion (Prof Utsa Patnaik). At the time when the British left in 1947 the average life span of an Indian was less than 30 years (Bhore committee). After World War ll, India became ungovernable and non-profitable for the British Raj. The native Indian soldiers of the British Army had returned home victorious from the war. The Indian National Army raised by Subhash Chandra Bose though defeated, had significantly fueled nationalism among common Indians. The last straw for the British was the naval mutiny by the native Indian soldiers in Bombay. The British Empire had started to look for an honorable exit plan from India.

To everyone's surprise, the British prime minister Clement Attlee announced transfer of power to the native Indians in 1947. The British had ruled and exploited India for almost 200 years. Mountbatten was called in to transfer the power to the Indian leaders. The native freedom-fighter leaders were only leading civil movements. They had no administrative and military control in 1947. Lord Mountbatten was in the position of absolute power. He was the person in charge for the implementation of the Independence of India Act, Partition of India and Transfer of Power. Mohammed Ali Jinnah never believed that he would see Pakistan during his lifetime. Mountbatten negotiated the partition plan for and to everyone. A date was fixed for the partition of India and transfer of power. Lord Radcliffe, a gentleman was called from England to draw lines of partition between India and Pakistan. He had no idea about India, or anything about the history, culture or geography of India, a person who had never lived in India. It is said that he just drew a line over a map. India and Pakistan were created over a map. The horror began. Mass population transfer of Hindus and Muslims and vice versa was planned by the Mountbatten administration. Millions of people were impacted. People of this ancient civilization, who had been living for thousands of years in their cities, towns and villages were uprooted from their houses and homes in a blink of a moment. Thanks, Lord Mountbatten!


  Making of a Humanitarian Crisis Bigger Than the Holocaust Top


There was great uncertainty in the minds of the people. To everyone's surprise, the transfer of power was advanced by one month. Suddenly all hell broke out. Before people could make up their minds, violence had erupted and engulfed the whole region. People who had lived side by side for centuries were bloodthirsty for each other. There were mass murders, rapes, looting, kidnappings. Friends, neighbors, and brothers were made killed each other.This was the most tragic human genocide artificially perpetrated genocide in human history and Lord Mountbatten was the person in charge. More than fourteen million people were displaced and close to two million people died or went missing during the partition of India. It was the parting gift by the British empire to the people of India. This was more tragic than the holocaust and world wars but it is never taught in world history. Friends, neighbors, and brothers were made killed each other.


  The Grand Exit of British Empire Top


A permanent scar and hatred that would not heal even after a century was created by the British empire. The 200 years of anti-incumbency and hatred against the British was forgotten and used to build a civil war. Enough hatred was fumed between the native population of India and Pakistan. This hatred was further institutionalized between the two countries by having separate militaries. It was a grand exit plan for the empire, leaving behind no traces of crime and keeping their pride intact. Many geopolitical objectives were achieved. The game was also set for the future. Outwardly maintaining a benevolent image has helped Britain to maintain a friendly relationship with both India and Pakistan. At the same time, murderers, scammers, ex dictators and hoarders of black money from South Asia continue to relocate to Britain.


  Future of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh Top


Now lastly, can India and Pakistan solve their problems? Probably not! Because this problem is embedded within an act of the British Parliament - The Indian Independence Act, 1947, London. It is beyond the reference points and comprehension of the political structures of the two countries. Additionally, ongoing antagonism helps the current geopolitical objectives of the five veto powers of the United Nations. Just under two billion people, or a quarter of the earth population, live in South Asia. Bangladesh is the world's most densely populated country, sandwiched between the Bay of Bengal and the international border with India. India is bordered between a hostile Pakistan and pressing population of Bangladesh. Pakistan is landlocked between the hostile territories of India and Afghanistan. Afghanistan stands a destroyed country of Mujahideen and further acts barrier for South Asian population to make any shift. These international compartments of landlocked populations have become a black hole of humanity waiting for an ultimate catastrophe - natural or man-made. The people of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh continue to live in guilt, shame, and self-blame for their ongoing malaise. People continue to make Gandhi and Jinnah; their heroes or villains. However, Lord Mountbatten as the representative of the empire was the man responsible. He had the political and military powers as the absolute administrator. There are enough reasons for not forgetting the atrocities of the British Empire. Lord Mountbatten was the architect of the future of colonial India (now India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh) that we live in today. When Bangladeshi citizens are shot down in the remote land of New Zealand, it is a direct fallout of what happened in 1947 to the formal British colony called India. The people of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh cannot solve their problems until they are in the position of altering the world agenda. The people of these countries may not be in a position to change it in the immediate future. But after seventy years of the Indian Independence Act, it is at least good to be aware and start thinking about the future and not allow anyone else to manipulate or set the future agenda!

The malnourished children of South Asia are carrying forward the legacy of their colonized ancestors who suffered extreme hunger, poverty, and disease burden.



The future of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh depends upon pragmatic collaborations on more serious issues such as nutrition, health, economic development, population, climate change, and planetary health; instead of military antagonism. The disaster bomb is already ticking and it need not be the nuclear one. It is time to act, develop synergistic partnerships and move forward towards everlasting peace, happiness and welfare for the people of this region.

Disclaimer: The opinion expressed in this article is that solely of the author and does not reflect the official position of any other affiliated institution or agency affiliated in past or present.




    Figures

  [Figure 1], [Figure 2]



 

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   Viceroy's We...
   The Indian Indep...
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   1947 and the Par...
   Making of a Huma...
   The Grand Exit o...
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