Times of India
UK TV to air real footage of India's partition
RASHMEE Z AHMED
TIMES NEWS NETWORK [ SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 01, 2002 6:26:16 PM ]
LONDON: The full force of the human misery during the world’s largest force mass migration – India’s partition – and Britain’s alleged abdication of responsibility during that terrible time, is soon to reportedly burst onto television screens in full-colour.
The unseen film footage, with scenes described by a British newspaper as a startling expose of "inglorious Empire", has been compared by stunned historians as a revelation of human suffering comparable to Bosnia and Rwanda.
Commentators have said it could forever change the way British colonialism was seen by the world and by itself and could even, in some instances, open up claims for compensation from the families of Indian and Pakistani victims of the uncaring Raj.
The footage, run together as a three-part TV series titled The British Empire in Colour is thought to underline the human cost of Britain’s fateful decision to pull out of India one year earlier than planned.
Equally controversially, some historians believe the so-far golden image of India’s last viceroy, Lord Mountbatten, is likely to be irretrievably damaged.
But some writers and academics have rejected what they call the film’s bias against the Raj and argued that Mountbatten could not be blamed for the sub-continent’s Hindu-Muslim tensions.
The film, which has just been restored after long years of reposing in London’s Imperial War Museum, is said to show thousands of dispossessed refugees trailing across the new line dividing India into two countries.
The Museum has long described its treasures of "the British withdrawal from Empire" as notable, but South Asian pundits have said no one suspected its unseen film footage was so graphic.
On Sunday, The Observer newspaper reported that the scenes would jolt Britain’s complacent self-image, the myth that colonial India was a caring orderly place and the carefully-perpetuated belief that Indian Independence came about in a "peaceful transfer of power".
It is said to show the British and, in particular, Lord Mountabatten as "vainglorious interlopers" who left the continent when trouble loomed.
Instead, pointed out Oxford academic Judith Brown, who advised the programme-makers on India, the film would be an "eye-opener" on "the awfulness of ethnic cleansing".
She said, "Once you start talking to any family in Delhi, they all have their own terrible story of Partition and it is the same on the other side of the border in Pakistan…"
..............COMMENT ON THE ABOVE:
Congratulations to the British for reminding the degraded Indian race of "mice and vermin" of their PARTITION.
In India they call it "INDEPENDENCE" on the orders of Bandit Nehru.
SHAME on ALL the SIKHS for not having even a single MEMORIAL to the immense loss of SIKH LIFE, SIKH PROPERTY and GURDWARAS including SRI NANKANA SAHIB TO THE MUSLIMS. Will the Muslims tolerate SIKH RAJ over Mecca?
I thought Guru Gobind Singh, with immense personal struggle and sacrifices, had made the Sikhs MORE THAN EQUAL to any Musalman on earth!
So, if his followers could not dream of conquering Mecca, how could they then tolerate the Flag of ALIEN Mohammed over Lahore, the city founded by Luv, the son of Lord Rama?
EVER SINCE 1947, THE SIKHS HAVE BEEN JUST A FLOCK OF SHEEP, SUBJECTED TO ANOTHER WELL DESERVED MASSACRE IN JUNE 1984.
...INDIRA KHANUM got them where JINNAH could not reach.
Do the Sikhs know of even one hero of 1947 who stood against that BOGUS Partition that broke up India into three despicable fragments, put a lethal "ISLAMIC CURTAIN" between Lahore and Amritsar, and started the perennial strife over KASHMIR in the same year?
HOW IS IT THAT THE P.L.O. DO NOT ACCEPT THE PARTITION OF PALESTINE WHILE THE SIKH SARDARS HAVE NEVER LOOKED BACK AT THE PARTITION OF PUNJAB?
How is it that the United States is commemorating their SEPTEMBER 11, while the HINDU WORLD has NO memory whatsoever of their worst ever defeat and surrenders in their entire history?
HOW IS IT THAT WHILE THE EAST BENGALI WILL NEVER ACCEPT A HINDU AS PRESIDENT THE HINDUS ACCEPT BOTH THE "MEM" FROM ITALY AND THE PRESIDENT FROM MOHAMMED?
Which HINDU FEMALE can relate to the PRESIDENT OF INDIA'S HOUSE?
How is it, that none is perturbed over what is coming to the Sikhs and the HINDUS in the near future? THEY WILL BE "SAVED" BY GOD and GURUS IN DELHI AS THEY WERE IN WEST PUNJAB AND EAST BENGAL.
Who is the most appropriate recipient of this mail? The average Member of Parliament in New Delhi.
........www.observer.co.uk International section
Revealed: last fearful days in India as Empire crumbled
Historians have been stunned by previously unseen footage of the human misery that followed India's Partition. Now the public can see it - and it could damage Mountbatten's reputation
Sunday September 1, 2002
They are images that will change the way we think about the British Empire. Since the last days of the Raj, historians have wrangled over the imperial legacy in India, but the full extent of the suffering inflicted when Mountbatten, the last Viceroy in charge of the continent, pulled out in 1947, is about to be revealed as never before.
Following the enormous success of The Second World War in Colour, ITV is now to screen The British Empire in Colour, an astonishing collection of original colour film footage shot at the far-flung outposts of empire and now restored for its first public viewing.
The three-part television series, broadcast later this month, will feature unseen colour sequences from Africa, Australia, Canada and the West Indies. Yet it is frames shot at the time of the Partition of India that have stunned audiences at early screenings and already provoked argument among eminent historians - some of whom have drawn comparisons with ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and Rwanda.
The British, and in particular Lord Louis Mountbatten, Prince Charles's great uncle and adored mentor, come across as vainglorious interlopers who left the continent when trouble loomed. Terrible scenes, not seen before, of thousands of dispossessed refugees trailing across the newly created border with Pakistan will make it hard to defend the memory of colonial India as a caring, orderly place, which was run in increasing collaboration with Indians.
But for the outspoken historian Andrew Roberts, and for Professor Judith Brown, the Oxford academic who advised the programme-makers on India, these distressing pictures will be a welcome jolt to Britain's complacent self-image.
'At the time of transition the British establishment admitted that around 100,000 had died,' said Roberts this weekend. 'But from my own researches the figure is more like three quarters of a million. A figure not unadjacent to what happened in Rwanda and worse, I think, than in Bosnia.
'It is high time that programmes such as these should bring us sharply up against our own failed responsibilities at the end of Empire.'
Brown also believes the Carlton/TWI series will at last show viewers 'the human cost' of Mountbatten's fateful decision to pull out of India at short notice and leave the Muslims and Hindus to fight over the new division of territory.
'This is going to be something of an eye-opener,' she said. 'We talk now about the awfulness of ethnic cleansing and, well, here it was. Once you start talking to any family in Delhi they all have their own terrible story of partition, and it is the same on the other side of the border in Pakistan.
'The footage shows terrible trails of people and much of this is not known about in Britain where it was described at the time as "a peaceful transfer of power".'
Brown argues that the British were obviously 'delighted to extricate themselves', but admits that the problems of partition cannot all be laid at Mountbatten's door. He had, after all, opened up the Viceregal Lodge to Indians and banned racist remarks.
'The diaries of the previous Viceroy, Wavell, show that he already knew the British were living on borrowed time,' she said.
'But we could not send out troops to help because there were coal shortages in Britain and people just wanted to have a roof over their head and some coal in the grate.'
The horrifying new footage paints an unfair picture of the Raj, however, according to the historian Jan Morris.
'On the whole the British Empire in India was benevolent and enlightened as empires go,' she said. 'Of course, we now know that the idea of Empire itself is wrong, but that doesn't mean all that was done there was wrong. Mountbatten can't be blamed for the antipathies between religions.'
Morris agrees with Brown that Mountbatten was something of a showman, but she argues that the Raj was maintained by 'generations of decent people who went out there selflessly'.
The controversial footage was bequeathed to the Imperial War Museum in the 1990s but has been watched by astonished curators for the first time this summer.
While there are impressive familiar images of colonial regalia and imperial pomp, it is the scenes of partition that struck the museum's archivist, Kay Gladstone.
'The refugee scenes are extraordinary,' he said. 'The immediacy of the colour makes us respond because we all lack the imagination to see this kind of pain in black and white newsreel.
'I don't think it can be viewed impartially,' he added. 'You can't be complacent about what was happening there.'
Series producer Lucy Carter is prepared to face criticism about editorial bias against Mountbatten and the British decision to pull out of India at high speed.
'I knew we were going to get asked about our objectivity,' she said. 'But the fact is that when you get into a story like this, your natural views come over.
'This is a story that still divides academics. Some think Mountbatten created chaos; all I can say is that this is the most historically breathtaking material I have ever seen.
'This was the largest forced migration the world had known and it manages to capture the epic proportions of it. It makes history suddenly become very real and we used as much of it as we could.'
· The TWI/Carlton series The British Empire in Colour will be broadcast on ITV this month. A book, video and DVD will also be available to coincide with the series