ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Structural Violence and the Bengal Famine of 1943

Churchill's Secret War: The British Empire and the Ravaging of India during World War II by Madhusree Mukerjee (New York and Delhi: Random Books and Tranquebar), 2010; pp 352, Rs 495.

This book opens doors to understanding many neglected aspects of structural violence in the colonial era, with deep roots in Bengal, and repercussions that continue to colour patterns of violent repression in the state today. It combines riveting stories of the freedom struggle in Midnapore district with a refreshingly clear historical synthesis and analysis of the war years.

In particular, a mass of hitherto un­­published evidence reveals Winston Chur­chill not just as bigoted on Indian affairs, but blinkered and obsessed to an extraordinary degree, especially on the issue of Bengal, where his intransigent refusal to send urgently requested grain to areas already ravaged by a cyclone and “rice denial” stands revealed as a major cause of the Bengal famine, that probably killed as many as five million people.

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