Indian nationalists and supposed leftists of various hues ignorantly imagine the British Labour party was more sympathetic to them historically. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Labour party always had a slightly distinctive outward public stance, but, in reality, shared the Victorian imperialist view of India of Winston Churchill, the wartime prime minister. The latter thought Hindus ‘beastly’ and was perfectly willing to inflict one of the worst famines on India in enraged pique. But both British political parties were unwilling to countenance Indian self-determination. In the contemporary period both Britain’s major political parties share the view that Indians could and should be managed to defer to British interests. Indeed very little has changed in the past century, with the Labour party now even more hostile to India and disdainful of its Hindu identity today.
The duplicity of the Labour party was exposed long ago by M. N. Roy, the only Indian Leftist with any intellectual proficiency in his analysis of Britain’s first Labour Prime Minister, Ramsay MacDonald. He abandoned his earlier espousal of self-determination for India and Britain’s other colonies the moment he became Prime Minister in 1924. Of course, he also ceased to subscribe to the idea of disarmament, promising instead to defend empire. The arch imperialist London Times daily was so impressed by the volte-face of the Labour leader that it accorded him a certificate of imperialist probity, praising his sagacity.
In 1932, by then a political renegade, MacDonald’s communal award laid the groundwork for Indian partition by creating separate constituencies for Hindus, Muslims and so called untouchables, anticipating the instigation of societal divisions in the future. He was the political embodiment of previous Viceroys Curzon and Morley rolled into one, ensuring the deepening of Muslim separatism, initially encouraged in 1906 to undermine growing nationalist revolt against the British rule. It is pertinent to recall that stifling Indian dissent had always been the norm, the Indian mutiny suppressed pitilessly, with racially-motivated revenge killings on an astronomical scale, several million according to one recent estimate. Many British intellectuals and writers, like the author Charles Dickens, thought it was fully justified to murder Indians en masse after the revolt of 1857!
Yet it was a Labour party successor, Clement Attlee, becoming Prime Minister at the end of WWII, who delivered the worst blow to India since the imperial conquest of 1757 by the freebooter, Robert Clive. The actual unfolding of the blood-soaked partition of India was principally Clement Attlee’s responsibility though Mohammed Ali Jinnah was its ultimate architect. As Lord Privy Seal, Attlee authored a Memorandum in February 1942 expressing the hope that Indian independence could be thwarted and the Sir Stafford Cripps mission to India echoed his sentiments a month later. The cast of villainous incompetents who probably worsened the slaughter that accompanied independence included contemporary political leaders like Baldev Singh, the provocative Master Tara Singh and imprudent Bhim Sen Sachar, whose son has since come to haunt India’s Hindus with slanderous and illogical accusations of communal discrimination. The army and police had stood idly by while Muslim rioters burnt, looted and raped during the Great Calcutta Killings, with Bengal Governor John Frederick Burrows uninterested, a grim story repeated in Multan.
By accelerating the date of Indian independence without reasonable cause Attlee ensured there was no preparation for the holocaust that was fully anticipated would follow partition, since plenty of vicious killings had already occurred in the preceding months and year in Bengal and the North. His reported comment in 1956 to incumbent West Bengal Governor, P. B. Chakraborthy that Indian independence was prompted by the revolt Subhas Bose had instigated within British India’s armed forces, offers a clue as to his motivation. The hatred of Britain’s wartime Cabinet, in which Attlee was prominent, for Subhas Bose because of his dealings with the Axis powers and their possible complicity in his murder, explains the rage likely to have prompted Attlee to teach ‘beastly’ Hindus, as Churchill deplored them, a lesson they would not forget.
Britain’s ruling elites were destined to become paltry retainers of post-war US Imperium, which even the infamous Conservative Member of Parliament, Enoch Powell, had noted with distaste. Its ruling elites supported the assault on Vietnam, leaving shocking desolation from which Southeast Asia is yet to recover. The Labour party, despite Leftist pretensions, was pertinacious in adhering to US imperial whims, embracing Pakistan with shameful conviction once its Cold War allegiance to the West had been established. When the late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto persuaded Pakistani dictator Ayub Khan and unleashed an invasion, Labour Prime Minister, Harold Wilson was quick to blame India. He was ably misled by Sir Frank Roberts, a diplomat in the Curzonian mould, with particular animus towards wretched Banias and evident appreciation of the nobility of the Pathan and Punjabi martial spirit.
The Labour leadership subsequently failed to support India’s 1971 humanitarian intervention to end genocide in East Pakistan. Their vastly overrated and arrogant former luminary, David Miliband caused serious offence in Delhi during his visit because of supercilious behaviour with President Pranab Mukherjee, who was India’s foreign minister at the time. As Arundhati Ghose, India’s former ambassador to the United Nations, said: “He was totally tactless. It was so familiar that it is almost condescending”. One also recalls schoolboy Miliband’s pathetic attempt to ingratiate himself with China by announcing that Britain repudiated aspects of the 1914 Simla Convention, an issue on which it had long ceased to have any locus standi. Miliband abandoned the established British position as an “anachronism” based on “the outdated concept of suzerainty”. Instead, he announced, “Like every other EU member state, and the United States, we regard Tibet as part of the People’s Republic of China.”
The British Labour party’s unstoppable descent into a final ideological implosion was predictable as socialism retreated and newer political constituencies had to be cultivated to gain political power. It chose Pakistani Mirpuris and Muslims generally as the political constituency that would prove the critical facilitator of Labour political aspirations. In a resolution adopted at its annual conference in September 1995, less than two years before it came to power, the party clearly stated: “Britain must accept its responsibility as the former imperial power in a dispute that dates from the arrangements for (Indian and Pakistani) independence. Britain is under an obligation to seek a solution based on our commitment to peace, democracy, human rights and mutual tolerance.” The revealing key word is ‘democracy’ which is barely disguised code for a plebiscite in Kashmir, exactly what Pakistan rejected in 1954 and now considers a politically expedient moment to demand.
The decisive importance of the Muslim vote, sixty percent of who vote for the Labour party, can be inferred from research indicating that in 159 of Britain’s 632 constituencies, the number of Muslim voters was greater than the margin of victory in 2010. Of these 159 seats, 90 were considered marginal. Muslim voters do care about various issues, but Palestine and Kashmir are the two most prominent political issues that dominate their voting preferences. In the recent past, invasions of Middle Eastern countries and domestic counter terrorism measures have also become factors in Muslim perceptions. However, Palestine and Kashmir are a constant refrain for the 500 or so mosques, schools and associations that influence Muslim voting behaviour. Labour MPs complied with Jihadi sentiments by deviously denouncing Salman Rushdie though he was facing a fatwa calling for his death. They also have had no difficulty participating in segregated political events, where women are kept at a distance.
More recently, many Labour politicians, including the current leadership, signed an early day motion (EDM) in 2013 demanding Shri Narendra Modi’s exclusion from Britain. But they also sought to cleverly deploy some individual Labour MPs to express a contrary view in public, but that did not alter the Labour party’s established anti India policies. It served to confuse British voters of Indian origin and conveyed a pleasing message to an easily gratified India. But the 1995 resolution on Kashmir remains intact because the Labour party dare not rescind it and nor have Labour leaders withdrawn their names from the 2013 EDM against Prime Minister Modi. Another EDM against Narendra Modi was signed by forty Labour party MPs in 2015, gratuitously accusing his government of human rights violations. All of a piece and consistent with the socialist Labour’s reflexive hostility towards what it regards as Bania Hindu culture.
Yet leading British Hindu activists cheerfully support the Labour party and dishonestly advocate it with ill-informed Indian politicians. Some prominent British Hindus campaigned for London mayoral candidate, the Pakistani-origin, Sadiq Khan, though his views on Kashmir and the diabolical assault on British Hindus, with his party’s support for the anti-caste legislation, will hardly surprise. This is the greatest transgression the Labour party is poised to commit against Hindus and Sikhs by demonising them as incorrigibly racist through its determined support for the anti-caste legislation. There is no evidence of caste discrimination in the UK though the church and its Labour and Lib-Dem supporters are happy to clutch at any fabricated straw as evidence, thirty reported incidents to be exact, twenty seven of them levelled against Jat Sikhs. Not one of them would survive cross examination in a magistrate’s court by an unqualified articled clerk!
Yet the legislation against fictitious caste discrimination will transform the lives of Hindus and Sikhs in the UK forever, compelled to know the caste identity of anyone they encounter. They will have to ensure they do not inadvertently contravene the law by failing to observe demonstrable standards of impartiality in all their interactions with each other. Every private company and voluntary association will also need to keep caste records to ensure their recruitment and promotion policies adhere strictly to some unprecedentedly novel notion of fair play. Indian companies, major investors in the UK, will also be affected and the onus will be on them to prove their innocence if accused, but the standard of proof for conviction will be much lower than in criminal cases. The British legal system has already shown itself to be singularly incapable of grappling with the issue of caste, assuming guilt at its mere mention by a complainant, much to the delight of Christian evangelists.
Labour party politicians who are enthusiastic supporters of the anti-caste legislation are nevertheless treated with deference by Indian diplomats in London and greeted with bewildering courtesy while in India. The most vehement supporter of the anti-caste legislation, the Labour party MP for Southall and Ealing, is an honoured guest at virtually every event sponsored by Hindu organisations although they may soon to find their charitable status and very survival in doubt should they accidentally fail to observe caste neutrality. Most disheartening for campaigners against the British caste legislation is the conspiracy of the two leading Hindu religious orders in the UK and their senior officials with the Labour party to ensure its passage, scheduled to be taken up by parliament shortly.
Even more astonishing is the covert support of some prominent British Hindus for the legislation and they will no doubt be rewarded by the Labour party with elevation to the House of Lords. No Indian-origin Labour party member of the House of Lords is known to defend legitimate Indian or British Hindu interests. Almost all of them repeat the slanders of Church of England Bishops and church leaders in the House of Lords, vindictively proclaiming their own moral superiority over allegedly casteist British Hindus. And the worst of it all is the failure of Indian diplomats and politicians to understand that the British anti caste legislation is designed to discomfit India at international forums. Once similar statutes are adopted across the world, as seems likely, a global campaign to extend reservations to Indian Christian and Muslim converts will assuredly begin.
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Dr. Gautam Sen taught international political economy at the London School of Economics and Political Science for over two decades.