Saturday 28 January 2023

Churchill’s prejudices reflected in BBC docuseries (The Sunday Guardian)


There are indeed ‘men of straw’ in high positions, but not in the country where Churchill and his intellectual progenitors claimed they were.

According to Winston Churchill, “Hindoos were a beastly people”. As for those who were expected to take over the reins of a free India, they were “men of straw” of whom in a brief period, “no trace will remain”. Churchill opposed efforts in the 1930s to make India a Dominion rather than a colony of Britain, arguing that only those who had European ethnicity had the qualities needed to qualify as a Dominion rather than remain a colonised people. The 1947 Partition of India was the consequence of both the convincing of Whitehall by M A Jinnah during World War II that a newly created Pakistan would be a much more reliable post-colonial ally of Britain and the west in general than “Hindoo India”. Equally fraught was the decision taken in 1946 by the leadership of the Congress Party to ignore the wishes of Mahatma Gandhi and go accept rather than oppose the Labour PM Clement Attlee’s plan to partition India, Until 15 August 1947, it had been the policy of the Congress Party to emphasise (correctly) that dividing the people of India on the basis of whether they were Hindu or Muslim was absurd. Both the Hindu Mahasabha as well as the Muslim League was, in pre-Independence days, opposed by the Congress leadership. After Independence, in perhaps a reflex designed to smother any impetus towards a second partition on the same lines as the first, the new leadership of the country divided the population into the “majority community” (ie the Hindus) and the “minority community” (i.e., non-Hindus). Since then, the concept that the people of India are composed of two parts, minority and majority, has been allowed to take deep root, including in s administrative and legislative edicts forms.
Was Partition a good enough reason for creating such a distinction, a presumed difference that is difficult to explain, given the numerous common strands that bind together the people of India, no matter what their faith? Strands such as a common history spanning several thousands of years as well as cultural and societal fusion rather than the fission that the “Majority-Minority” binary explicitly assumes to be the case. It is in the context of the reality of the people of India having a common societal DNA irrespective of faith that the two-part BBC documentary titled “The Modi Question” needs to be viewed. There is nothing different in the documentary that a diligent search of YouTube would not be able to uncover, except the Straw Report. The BBC has given the names those who produced the two parts of its portrayal of India, a vision that is completely congruent with Churchill’s assertion that a people such as the citizens of India would never be able to cohere into a stable, progressive population, but would disintegrate into bits and pieces. The BBC worked tirelessly to defend British rule during the period when India was subjugated, has shown through this and other broadcasts that the channel believes that those who the people of India have been elected to power remain what Churchill vitriolically described them as being, “men of straw”. With unintended irony, the individual the channel turned to for validation (besides a surfeit of material of the kind available on YouTube) was a forgotten politician, Jack Straw.
The words “Nazi” and “Fascist” get blithely strewn across the landscape of political discourse in India and the world. After Part One was aired, Jack Straw was interviewed by a prominent television presenter, the entire interaction being subsequently aired on an equally prominent news website located in India. There are several media outlets that are critical of the present government, especially its top tier, as indeed they have a right to be in a democracy. That such news channels would not have survived a week in Nazi Germany or Fascist Italy does not seem to have troubled those in the BBC and elsewhere across the world that parrot the allegation of the Sino-Wahabis that India today is both Fascist as well as Nazi. And that the country is on the “brink of genocide”, something that has been repeatedly asserted by several Argumentative Indians since 2014 in varied locations, never mind that such a “brink” seems no closer to being crossed in 2023 than it was in 2014. Or that there are as many as 230 million non-Hindus in a country they claim is dominated by “Intolerant Hindus” who they claim routinely go about committing atrocities on non-Hindus. The steady growth of the population of minorities in India goes along with a comparative drop in the number of communal incidents in India since Modi took over as Prime Minister as compared to the period before that. It is not known who in the Government of India took the decision to block the BBC series on PM Modi from being digitally accessed in this country, but this is as unimplementable a proposition as the recent suggestion by the RBI that crypto assets should be banned. Morarji Desai was awarded the highest honour in Pakistan by General Zia. He ought to have been given similar recognition in Dubai as well, for it was his Gold Control Order that began the transformation of what was an insignificant trading post into a global dynamo. The prosperity of Dubai was founded on the smuggling of gold into India, a process that bloomed once Finance Minister Desai sought to turn back through a firman the waves of India’s attraction for gold. Blocking the series was a boon to the BBC, in that such a move has generated worldwide interest in a mediocre documentary that is an undiluted exercise in vilification directed at India, specifically at Hindus and still more directly at Prime Minister Modi.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi could not have been in the decision loop when the blocking of the BBC series was ordered, most likely much lower down. This BBC docuseries is only the latest in 999,999,999 earlier efforts at maligning him through regurgitating shaky arguments that have been used against Narendra Modi throughout his political career. None of such abuse has had any impact on his trajectory, which is why PM Modi must be unconcerned, indeed amused, by the BBC series.
Jack Straw’s Dodgy Dossier was taken to be gospel truth by the BBC in 2023, the way the channel accepted his equally mendacious litany of lies in 2003 that Saddam Hussein had huge stockpiles of WMD, including nuclear materials. Had that been true, there would never have been any US-UK invasion of Iraq. Ask Kim Jong Un, who is going forward with impunity in adding to his WMD stockpile, with a wink and a nod from Beijing and Moscow. The Straw Dossier that was the principal basis of the 2-part BBC documentary was an effort by the then British Foreign Secretary to serve his political interests. Foreign Office mandarins exhibited their fealty to Churchillian prejudices about India by obeying Jack Straw’s self-serving command to write a report whose conclusions had been pre-cooked, exactly as the Iraq WMD dossier was concocted a year later. The Straw dossier was based entirely on motivated gossip retailed within India and outside by those who for varied reasons opposed Narendra Modi. A hubbub is being sought to be created worldwide about what resembles a cut and paste job from YouTube, mixed with an interview with a politician previously discredited for his strident characterisation as fact the falsehoods that were used to justify the 2003 Bush-Blair war on Iraq. There are indeed men of straw in high positions, but not in the country where Churchill and his intellectual progenitors claimed they were, but in the land of Jack Straw and what must be a favourite channel of such individuals, the BBC.

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