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Stereotypes of the Raj

August 29, 2009 2 comments
In the next one week ... Britain capitulated (Cartoon By Illingworth, Leslie Gilbert, (1902-1979) in Daily Mail on 25 February 1946. Click for larger image.

In the next one week ... Britain capitulated (Cartoon By Illingworth, Leslie Gilbert, (1902-1979) in Daily Mail on 25 February 1946. Click for larger image.

After the guns fell silent

At the end of WW2, Britain was a superpower, intact with its huge colonial Empire – apart from the massive debt that it owed the US. With Germany defeated and Hitler dead, Italy in shambles and Mussolini hanged, Britain sat at the head of ‘high tables’ in the post-WW2 world deciding the fate of the nations – with its partner in crime, the US of A.

The Raj propaganda

This cartoon from National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth by Leslie Gilbert Illingworth, (1902-1979) was first published by on 14 May 1946. A cartoonist with nearly 5000 cartoons, he was a solidly-establishment type man, who usually reflected the view of the masters.

This cartoon above shows a huge disconnect between British propaganda and reality. On 14th February, Illingsworth was busy depicting a ‘fractious’ India that would break up without the British Raj. Four days later, the 20 lakh colonial Indian armed forces, united and raised the banner of Independence. United across ranks, skin colour, language, geography, religion, caste, height, weight – with only one thing uniting them. They were all Indians.

The navy rebellion in Bombay in 1946, after which the army saw a mutiny in Jabalpur

The navy rebellion in Bombay in 1946, after which the army saw a mutiny in Jabalpur

Trouble from unexpected quarters

On February 18th, the lowly Naval Ratings from the Royal Indian Navy rained on the British parade – by raising the flag of Indian Independence. Britain did not have the stomach to take on the Indian Colonial Army, battle hardened and exposed to warfare in all the global theatres of WW2. The British acquiesced and 18 months later they were out.

The ruling Congress party distorted history and take all credit for the departure of the British colonialists. Contributions of leaders like SC Bose was ignored or the importance of the February 1946 joint action by the Indian armed forces against the colonial forces, was minimized to the ‘Naval Ratings Mutiny.’

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