Shameful Flight: The Last Years of the British Empire in India

Shameful Flight: The Last Years of the British Empire in India

Shameful Flight: The Last Years of the British Empire in India

Shameful Flight: The Last Years of the British Empire in India

Synopsis

Here is the dramatic story of a truly pivotal moment in the history of India, Pakistan, and Britain, an event that ignited fires of political unrest that still burn in South Asia. Ranging from the fall of Singapore in 1942 to the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi in 1948, Shameful Flight provides a vivid behind-the-scenes look at Britain's decision to divest itself from the crown jewel of its empire, revealing how the headlong rush to disengage from India sparked a catastrophe that uprooted over ten million people.

Excerpt

In mid-August of 1947 the world’s mightiest modern empire, on which “the sun never set,” abandoned its vow to protect one-fifth of humankind. Britain’s shameful flight from its Indian Empire came only ten weeks after its last viceroy, Lord Louis (“Dickie”) Mountbatten, took it upon himself to cut ten months from the brief time allotted by the Labor government’s cabinet to withdraw its air and fleet cover, as well as the shield of British troops and arms, from South Asia’s 400 million Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs.

Prime Minister Clement Attlee and his cabinet gave Mountbatten until June of 1948 to try to facilitate agreement between the major competing political party leaders of India to work together within a single federation. But adrenaline-charged Mountbatten scuttled that last best hope of the British Imperial Raj (Sanskrit for “King” or “Ruler” and by extension “Rule” or “Government”) to leave India to a single independent government, deciding instead to divide British India into fragmented dominions of India and Pakistan. The hastily and ineptly drawn lines of partition of North India’s two greatest provinces, Punjab and Bengal, slashed through their multicultural heartlands. They were drawn by an English jurist who had never set foot on the soil of either province. Following Britain’s flight, a tsunami of more than ten million desperate refugees swept over North India: Hindus and Sikhs rushed to leave ancestral homes in newly created Pakistan, Muslims fled in panic out of India. Each sought shelter in next-door’s dominion. Estimates vary as to the number who expired or were murdered before ever reaching their promised land. A conservative statistic is 200,000; a more realistic total, at least one million.

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