Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Atrocities carried out by the British Empire

A poll found 43 per cent of Brits thought the British Empire was a good thing, while 44 per cent were proud of Britain's history of colonialism.

1. Boer concentration camps
During the Second Boer War (1899-1902), the British rounded up around a sixth of the Boer population - mainly women and children - and detained them in camps, which were overcrowded and prone to outbreaks of disease, with scant food rations. Of the 107,000 people interned in the camps, 27,927 Boers died, along with an unknown number of black Africans.

2. Amritsar massacre
When peaceful protesters defied a government order and demonstrated against British colonial rule in Amritsar, India, on 13 April 1919, they were blocked inside the walled Jallianwala Gardens and fired upon by Gurkha soldiers. The soldiers, under the orders of Brigadier Reginald Dyer, kept firing until they ran out of ammunition, killing between 379 and 1,000 protesters and injuring another 1,100 within 10 minutes.  Brigadier Dyer was later lauded a hero by the British public, who raised £26,000 for him as a thank you.

3. Partitioning of India
In 1947, Cyril Radcliffe was tasked with drawing the border between India and the newly created state of Pakistan over the course of a single lunch. After Cyril Radcliffe split the subcontinent along religious lines, uprooting over 10 million people, Hindus in Pakistan and Muslims in India were forced to escape their homes as the situation quickly descended into violence.  Some estimates suggest up to one million people lost their lives in sectarian killings.

4. Mau Mau Uprising
Thousands of elderly Kenyans, who claim British colonial forces mistreated, raped and tortured them during the Mau Mau Uprising (1951-1960), have launched a £200m damages claim against the UK Government.  Members of the Kikuyu tribe were detained in camps, since described as "Britain's gulags" or concentration camps, where they allege they were systematically tortured and suffered serious sexual assault. Estimates of the deaths vary widely: historian David Anderson estimates there were 20,000, whereas Caroline Elkins believes up to 100,000 could have died.

5. Famines in India

Between 12 and 29 million Indians died of starvation while it was under the control of the British Empire, as millions of tons of wheat were exported to Britain as famine raged in India. In 1943, up to four million Bengalis starved to death when Winston Churchill diverted food to British soldiers and countries such as Greece while a deadly famine swept through Bengal.  Talking about the Bengal famine in 1943, Churchill said: “I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion. The famine was their own fault for breeding like rabbits.”


anon scotland said...

In the context of the British Empire's conduct on the world stage, is it any wonder some of the Irish decided to violently try and hit back 100 years ago?

ajohnstone said...

But as Fisk points out, they sought the support of another Empire who had recently conducted the attempted genocide of the Hetero people in German South-West Africa (now Namibia)

anon scotland said...

I expect it is true what you are saying, but with the actions and repressions of the British Empire and in specific interventions in Ireland over centuries, some spirited people with non-British identities are going to try and hit back with whatever they can muster . Its nothing to do with the theory and practice of socialism, but to me it is very understandable in the context of the way states and Empires have evolved. Rebellions all over the world, often crushed.

ajohnstone said...

As you say there is understandable frustration and pressure to do something but it is incumbent us not to take the nationalist road and ally with a section of our class enemies. Adopting or even flirting with nationalism is always a danger best avoided.

I know what-ifs are a sterile argument ...but what if the ICA had been intact and had not engaged in the civil war ...what if it kept its rifles as Connolly suggested for the war against the Irish Free State's and the IRA's repression and suppression of the Irish working class...Instead we could have had Connolly defending the interests of the workers who were said to be “endangering” the unity of the new nation such as when troops were used against post office strikers. On the land where the tenants were seizing the estates only to find themselves held back by Sinn Fein and the IRA, who carried out evictions in order to break the land-seizure movement, the ICA could have been a counter-force defending the occupiers...but all speculation...