Winston Churchill's legacy savaged over famine deaths

Former UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill is widely considered a British hero for his leadership during WWII. But for his former colonial subjects, memories aren't so pleasant.

There's been resurgence of interest in 'The Greatest Briton of All Time' following Gary Oldman's portrayal of him in the newly released film Darkest Hour, for which he won a Golden Globe award on Monday.

But some say it's time to re-evaluate Mr Churchill's influence. Sam Dalrymple's widely-shared article on Mr Churchill, published in Cherwell, attacks him as being "unduly lauded by the British people".

He spoke to RadioLIVE on Tuesday about Mr Churchill's legacy - and why it is tainted by the deaths of millions of people.

"What I discovered, just shortly before [Darkest Hour was released], was just the extent of his racism towards half the people under his control, the Indians," he told RadioLIVE.

"He wrote 'I hate Indians, they are a beastly people with a beastly religion who breed like rabbits'."

Mr Churchill has been blamed for overseeing widespread famine in India's Bengal region during WWII.

"It was in the midst of this famine that the British government, fearing a Japanese attack, enacted a scorched earth policy across Bengal, burning boats and fields of crops en masse," Mr Dalrymple writes.

"Hoarding began and soon starvation gave way to cholera, dysentery, malaria and smallpox."

It's estimated between two and four million people died during the Bengal famine. However Mr Churchill refused to send aid or release food from stockpiles.

In response to a telegram from Delhi, about the mounting number of victims, Mr Churchill asked "Why isn't Gandhi dead yet".

Mr Churchill has also been blamed for allowing communists to take over in Eastern Europe.

"He's the reason why the whole of Eastern Europe was handed off to the USSR," Mr Dalrymple says.

Mr Dalrymple wants more attention in biopics and the education system to focus on his relationship to the empire and his actions during the war which impacted on India and Eastern Europe.

Others however believe Mr Churchill's leadership to prevent Hitler winning outweighs his bad decisions, and that it's difficult to judge him by today's standards.

"You can revise history and blame him for these crimes. That's the luxury of doing so from 2017. Applying convenient western liberal ethics on a 1940s world," one person commented on Mr Dalrymple's article in Cherwell.

However Mr Dalrymple disagrees.

"Not one single portrayal of him seems to mention any of his relations to empire or his racism," he says.

"He's solely portrayed as the noble figure who oversaw victory against the Nazis."


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