“Rascals, etc….”: Churchill & India

“Rascals, etc….”: Churchill & India

“Rascals, Rogues and Freebooters”

“Pow­er will go to the hands of ras­cals, rogues, free­boot­ers; all Indi­an lead­ers will be of low cal­i­bre & men of straw. They will have sweet tongues and sil­ly hearts. They will fight amongst them­selves for pow­er and India will be lost in polit­i­cal squab­bles.”

The state­ment above is attrib­uted to Churchill. I can­not find it, as a speech or in a book. Although it is wide­ly and increas­ing­ly quot­ed in the Indi­an press and, giv­en what is hap­pen­ing, he seems to have been prophet­ic! —K.P., India

rascalsI searched for this line, and iso­lat­ed key word com­bi­na­tions (ras­cals, etc.), with­out suc­cess. It sounds like his ear­ly sen­ti­ments toward the Con­gress Par­ty, but I can­not con­firm that he said these words.

Churchill was more nuanced about India than is com­mon­ly under­stood. For instance, he defend­ed the Indi­an minor­i­ty in South Africa when he was at the Colo­nial Office in 1906. This left  Gand­hi quite favor­ably dis­posed toward him. In 1935, Churchill, who had soft­ened his view of the Mahat­ma, sent this mes­sage to Gand­hi:

I do not care whether you are more or less loy­al to Great Britain. I do not mind about edu­ca­tion, but give the mass­es more butter….Tell Mr. Gand­hi to use the pow­ers that are offered and make the thing a success….I am gen­uine­ly sym­pa­thet­ic towards India. I have got real fears about the future…But you have got the things now; make a suc­cess and if you do I will advo­cate your get­ting much more.

Gandhi, Birla, Nehru

Churchill wrote this to Ghan­shyam Das Bir­la, a Gand­hi sup­port­er who had lunched with Churchill at Chartwell. Bir­la repeat­ed the con­ver­sa­tion. Gand­hi replied: “I have got a good rec­ol­lec­tion of Mr. Churchill when he was in the Colo­nial Office and some­how or oth­er since then I have held the opin­ion that I can always rely on his sym­pa­thy and good­will.”

Part of Churchill’s friend­ly over­ture to Gand­hi in 1935 was prompt­ed by Gandhi’s (and Birla’s) defense of the Dalit, or Untouch­ables.

Remem­ber also that twen­ty years lat­er, Churchill became quite friend­ly with Nehru, whom he thought no ras­cal, part­ly because they were both Har­row Old Boys. Churchill By Him­self, page 163:

I have worked very hard with Nehru. I told him he should be the light of Asia, to show all those mil­lions how they can shine out, instead of accept­ing the dark­ness of Com­mu­nism.      —18 Feb­ru­ary 1955, WSC to Eden’s pri­vate sec­re­tary Eve­lyn Shuck­burgh.

Arthur Herman’s 2008 book Gand­hi and Churchill is a bril­liant piece of writ­ing that is fair and bal­anced toward both lead­ers, and effec­tive­ly cap­tures their mutu­al gen­eros­i­ty of soul. The sins of past and present politi­cians aside, Churchill would be as proud as Gand­hi over the democ­ra­cy that is mod­ern India.

2017:

Repub­lished with read­er com­ments, July 2017. This quote has drawn the most com­ments of any on this web­site.

27 thoughts on ““Rascals, etc….”: Churchill & India

  1. India and Indi­ans need to wake up to cur­rent-day issues and not hiber­nate dream­ing of past glo­ry. Take one day at a time and solve prob­lems. Noth­ing wrong if Churchill is quot­ed. It is what it is. Look ahead and move on.

  2. Since you have read all this on the web, and since we all know every­thing on the web is true, per­haps you wouldn’t mind read­ing some oth­er URLs:

    1) While a dogged believ­er in the Empire, Churchill believed more fun­da­men­tal­ly in con­sti­tu­tion­al lib­er­ty. The salient fact is not that Churchill shared cer­tain views of his time about the Empire, but that Churchill believed “peo­ple of all col­ors should enjoy the same rights, and that it was the mis­sion of his coun­try, and the Empire while it last­ed, to pro­tect those rights.”
    https://richardlangworth.com/churchill-racism-think-little-deeper

    2) Churchill’s instruc­tions to the new Viceroy of India, Gen­er­al Wavell, in 1943: “Every effort should be made by you to assuage the strife between the Hin­dus and Moslems and to induce them to work togeth­er for the com­mon good. No form of demo­c­ra­t­ic Gov­ern­ment can flour­ish in India while so many mil­lions are by their birth exclud­ed from those fun­da­men­tal rights of equal­i­ty between man and man, upon which all healthy human soci­eties must stand.” So much for a “yoke for per­pe­tu­ity.” Gand­hi was him­self mur­dered by a Hin­du who reject­ed his out­reach to Mus­lims.
    https://richardlangworth.com/fateful-questions-world-war-ii-microcosm-1

    3) Despite the new Mount­bat­ten white­wash film, claim­ing that dur­ing the divi­sion of India Churchill demand­ed Mount­bat­ten favor Jin­na and Pak­istan, Churchill had been out of office two years when the sep­a­ra­tion took place. He was in no posi­tion to influ­ence Mount­bat­ten, who made a mess of the job all by him­self. http://dailym.ai/2pJBvrJ

    4) On the Ben­gal Famine, what Churchill was respon­si­ble for was a sus­tained effort to alle­vi­ate the short­ages, scour­ing the globe for grain and the means to ship it, try­ing to locate sub­sti­tute grains, even appeal­ing to Roo­sevelt (who refused). All the doc­u­ments sup­port his­to­ri­an Arthur Herman’s con­clu­sion: ”With­out Churchill, the Ben­gal Famine would have been worse.”

    5) I have no quar­rel with the fact that Churchill tried to con­vince Nehru, a fel­low Har­rov­ian whom he called “The Light of Asia,” not to allow com­mu­nism to get a foothold in India. If you think that was a bad thing, stand up!

  3. Churchill may have been a great leader for Britain but he was staunch­ly a colo­nial­ist whose one great desire was to see India under the British yoke for per­pe­tu­ity. When things were get­ting out of hand, he advised Lord Mount­bat­ten to ensure that the Mus­lims in India, as they had proved loy­al to the British crown, are not denied their sep­a­rate nation that they were clam­or­ing for. The present day phe­nom­e­non of Islam­ic extrem­ism is to an extent the result of his work­ing as the cre­ation of Pak­istan had been instru­men­tal in bol­ster­ing the Islam­ic fun­da­men­tal­ist feel­ing and in the process has some­what mar­gin­al­ized the san­er and more mod­er­ate voic­es of Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ty. Last but not the least he was direct­ly respon­si­ble for the man made famine in Ben­gal in the 40’s that took a toll of three mil­lion Indi­ans liv­ing in the east­ern province of Ben­gal. He thought Indi­an lives that cheap. This can only be par­al­leled with the holo­caust of the sec­ond world war. And after India manged to get India inde­pen­dent his deep root­ed abhor­rence of Com­mu­nism led him to try to con­vince Nehru that he nev­er allows Com­mu­nism to get a foothold in India. Churchill was by no means good for India.

  4. Here’s Churchill on Haile Selassie, 27 Feb­ru­ary 1945, from my book, Churchill by Him­self:

    “It was a sat­is­fac­tion for me to see for the first time in the flesh Haile Selassie, that his­tor­i­cal fig­ure who plead­ed the cause of his coun­try amid the storms of the League of Nations, who was the first vic­tim of Mussolini’s lust for pow­er and con­quest, and who was also the first to be restored to his ancient throne by the heavy exer­tions of our British and Indi­an armies in the far-off days of 1940 and 1941.”

  5. I am a long­time Churchill fan and love the insights on your blog. Churchill was a great leader and all the talk of him being racist is a lot of hys­te­ria. I want to get your books. I am a Ras­ta­man and writer, check my books. Haile Selassie is my inspi­ra­tion and leader, but Churchill is my oth­er favorite states­man. Peace.

  6. It is inter­est­ing to see this 2012 blog still alive—but no won­der, it’s the ‘demon­e­ti­za­tion’ that’s help­ing. The very fact that 90% of the cash is back in the sys­tem and it was sus­pect­ed not more than 50% would make it back is forc­ing an opti­mist like myself also become a pes­simist and believe in what Churchill “quot­ed.”

    As for the idea of India to con­tin­ue, only the choic­es India and Indi­ans make in the present will decide her future and in that sense, his­to­ry, whether 6 months ago or 6000 years, is irrel­e­vant to me. We Indi­ans must learn that bask­ing on the past glo­ry won’t do any good at the same time be aware that there is some­thing in this coun­try (‘sanatan-dhar­ma’) that some­how keeps it run­ning and always look alive, cor­rupt or oth­er­wise. The way we need to approach is; wake up in the morn­ing and work to fix the damn prob­lem, one-day-at-a-time. Even­tu­al­ly, in hind­sight, that becomes his­to­ry.

  7. I appre­ci­ate the thought­ful com­ments by Indi­ans reply­ing to this post. Per­son­al­ly I think India has been around quite a long time, and it’s pre­ma­ture to con­tem­plate the demise of even the idea.

    For the ben­e­fit of read­ers, Google records: “Bhak­ts is a San­skrit word and also used in Hin­di, mean­ing a per­son who believes in some­one he fol­lows. As far as the Indi­an polit­i­cal sce­nario is con­sid­ered, this term is coined by Mr. Digvi­jay Singh and usu­al­ly applied to Modi sup­port­ers.”

  8. Per­fect­ly true. Just because some blind bhak­ts can­not see what the Great Vision­ary saw does not mean he was wrong. Instead of tak­ing the gov­ern­ment to task, these bhak­ts are has­ten­ing the demise of the Idea called India.

  9. What Win­ston Churchill said is true to India both eco­nom­i­cal­ly and polit­i­cal­ly. 1 When you see any Indi­an in for­eign soil ,he will say i am from Andhra,Karnataka,Tamil Nadu etc Not as Indian,(seperation of states in Lan­guage biggest mis­take 2.Did we achieve any major devel­op­ment in Infrastructure,In roads,Railways, Bridges,Nuclear plants, Defense in the past 70 years.(read APJ Kalam’S col­lege days book How he was sent from pil­lar to post 3 Caste and reli­gion is pre­dom­i­nant in decid­ing a Coun­cil­lor seat (have a open /objective sur­vey with respect to selec­tion of can­di­date and come out with white paper .What is true face of all polit­i­cal par­ties 4. cor­rup­tion even with dead body and bur­ial ground .5 Did you ful­fill any water (see Kar­nata­ka hav­ing prob­lem with all states .How because of Posi­tion­ing of Tamil Nadu oth­er states store water and Tamil Nadu is starv­ing ) this applies to Maharashtra,Gujarat ,Rajasthan also (but Kar­nata­ka is Worst state in India) ,food (mil­lions of peo­ple are with­out one time food and eat­ing what is thrown out in the streets ,shel­ter (just vis­it Major met­ro­pol­i­tan cities and peo­ple are in fam­i­ly way in streets) self suf­fi­cien­cy to all Indi­ans (basic needs) Much more due to space i left out Both Nation­al par­ties will point out each oth­er .Even in Nation­al secu­ri­ty we did not have one voice .Our Insti­tu­tions like Supreme court,Election commission,CAG ,CBI suc­ces­sive­ly degrad­ed /diluted by politi­cians .You may ask whether oth­er coun­tries are free from above issues . Yes, every coun­try has own problems.but in India every indi­vid­ual has own set of rules ,this is not in oth­er coun­tries . 99% of corrupt,Rapers ,Theif can go scot free in India .But in oth­er coun­tires the chances of peo­ple scoot free are may be 10-15 % .Hence i ful­ly sup­port what Win­ston Churchill said .Even if WC has not told the state­ment . The state­ment is true and applic­a­ble to Indi­an sys­tem of course to me also .Since i am also part of the sys­tem Talk­ing about what is hap­pen­ing in 4000-5000 years old But nev­er think on world has changed.The dif­fer­ence between age old and con­tem­po­rary is very WIDE .

  10. “Your guys?” I’m not British. Seems to me that India was free to choose its sys­tems from 1947, and tried most of them, includ­ing a pret­ty abject form of social­ism. India’s British-style par­lia­ment has its roots in Magna Car­ta, which applies as well to Ice­landers as to Eng­lish­men. Reminds me of Churchill’s quote from an old adage that democ­ra­cy is the worst pos­si­ble sys­tem, except for all the oth­er sys­tems that have been tried from time to time. I think how­ev­er that you could be right about paper mon­ey, ethics and ice­bergs.

    I asked an emi­nent econ­o­mist and thinker for his com­ments: “Any­one who thinks the Indi­an sys­tem was (is) less cor­rupt than the Anglo-Sax­on sys­tem, or that India’s prob­lems can be blamed on Britain or any­one else, is beyond rea­son. Oth­ers might like to con­sid­er that for all its faults the Anglo-Sax­on bank­ing sys­tem has pro­vid­ed the liq­uid­i­ty and cap­i­tal to fuel economies that have pro­pelled liv­ing stan­dards to heights not dreamed of a short time ago. Also, it has demon­strat­ed a capac­i­ty for reform that must have Mr. Modi green with envy as he attempts to bring India into the 21st cen­tu­ry. It is true that cen­tral banks are grop­ing for ways to pre­vent slow growth from mor­ph­ing into reces­sion, and some of the tools they have whipped out of their kits do con­tain the dan­ger of unde­sir­able future con­se­quences. But bet­ter that than any­thing else that seems on offer.”

  11. ” True, the Raj was around for a very short time in India’s long his­to­ry, but free India adopt­ed British insti­tu­tions of Par­lia­men­tary gov­ern­ment which have stood her well since 1947.”

    Well what could we pos­si­bly do, the amount of filth your guys had left by com­plete­ly trans­form­ing Indi­an eco­nom­ics to their cor­rupt Anglo-Sax­on bank­ing treach­ery, we just have to take it as it is. Any attempt to change this would have cre­at­ed more chaos. This obvi­ous­ly nev­er proves that your sys­tem was bet­ter than any sys­tem exist­ing in India pri­or to British rule or for that mat­ter pri­or to Mughal rule. This only says the amount of trans­for­ma­tion that had tak­en place due to mis-rule of first Mughals then British.

    On a sep­a­rate note, we all know how dis­gust­ing is this Bank­ing sys­tem Anglo-Sax­ons have levied on the whole world, where the bankers go about loan­ing tax pay­ers mon­ey to all of the so called elites, who year on year basis crook their books to show prof­its. Banks con­ve­nient­ly show these loss­es as NPAs. A sys­tem where in a deep under­stand­ing exists between politi­cians, elites and bankers. Tip of ice­berg, let me not open my mouth to show with proof, to demon­strate how the whole world is inch­ing towards destruc­tion day by day by your sys­tem! Not to men­tion Bank Of Eng­land has been worse hit late­ly by your own holy sys­tem of bank­ing and eco­nom­ics. Print more paper mon­ey and reduce inter­est rate we will, until we destroy that every bit of ethics!

  12. By your stan­dard the French­man de Toc­queville should not have writ­ten about the USA, or the Eng­lish­man Macaulay about the Roman Empire, and Dipesh Chakrabar­ty had no busi­ness writ­ing Provin­cial­iz­ing Europe. True, the Raj was around for a very short time in India’s long his­to­ry, but free India adopt­ed British insti­tu­tions of Par­lia­men­tary gov­ern­ment which have stood her well since 1947. Churchill prob­a­bly did have a supe­ri­or­i­ty com­plex. After one of his rants about the India Bill, Stan­ley Bald­win said the prin­ci­ple fact was that “the unchang­ing East has changed.” “With that one nugget,” wrote Man­fred Wei­d­horn, “the usu­al­ly pedes­tri­an Bald­win shoots the usu­al­ly elo­quent Churchill, with his roman­tic, Vic­to­ri­an, impe­r­i­al rhetoric, right out of the water.” All this is incon­tro­vert­ible; but in the end Churchill wished Gand­hi and Nehru well. And that is to his cred­it.

  13. If Sir Win­ston was here I would have said to him, “India was there ages before the British­ers knew how to brush their teeth, India was there when the British­ers ruled, and India is still there and the world’s biggest and glo­ri­fied democ­ra­cy and British­ers are long gone.” Churchill is no one to talk about my nation. If some­one wants to talk, that per­son needs to be among us, who knows the prob­lems we Indi­ans are going through. Still we are here in the map with 6000 years of his­to­ry, and where were the British­ers then? Churchill said these words because he was suf­fer­ing from supe­ri­or­i­ty com­plex, peri­od.

  14. Thanks Mr Lang­worth for clear­ing this con­fu­sion. Though the words look chill­ing­ly prophet­ic, it seemed to me that he would nev­er have said it, even con­sid­er­ing his scathing­ly crit­i­cal nature. We have done well, we Indi­ans, but I believe if we were more pro-coun­try instead of being pro-our­selves, we would have been on top of the world. Agree with you that there are no dearth of loot­ers any­where in the world!

  15. I am not suf­fi­cient­ly versed to under­stand all your points but I gath­er this is a mes­sage to Indi­an com­men­ta­tors below, and a kind of back-hand­ed agree­ment with words ascribed to Churchill which he appar­ent­ly nev­er said. But if you are say­ing that “ras­cals, rogues and free­boot­ers” exist in democ­ra­cies because peo­ple elect them, I agree. The quote you men­tion (“…igno­rance of vot­ers”) was nev­er said by Churchill, who had more respect than that for the aver­age vot­er. Nor did Churchill ever wish Indi­ans to be slaves. 

    As for Sir Winston’s present loca­tion, I’m remind­ed of Robert Lovett’s ques­tion when Churchill asked Pres­i­dent Tru­man what they would say to their Mak­er on their day of judg­ment: “Are you sure, Prime Min­is­ter, that you are going to be in the same place as the Pres­i­dent for that inter­ro­ga­tion? It could be in anoth­er court far away.” I think we have to regard the answer to Mr. Lovett’s ques­tion as “unde­ter­mined.”

  16. I’m real­ly upset with Indi­ans who say the words of a per­son who want­ed us to be slaves is cor­rect. Did you they for­get the strug­gles behind our free­dom? What they or their elders of inde­pen­dent India did to pre­serve and take India for­ward to its zenith? Even after 74% lit­er­a­cy we don’t do our demo­c­ra­t­ic duty of elect­ing our rulers. Are we all not respon­si­ble for elect­ing ras­cals, rogues and free­boot­ers? This same Win­ston Churchill said “The fail­ure of democ­ra­cy is because igno­rance of vot­ers.” Fail­ing to do our duty, be it vot­ing or vot­ing for great leader or NOTA if you don’t feel there is one, we vote for our fam­i­ly mem­ber or a rel­a­tive or some­one from our caste or seine who give some­thing free to us. After select­ing these lead­ers, which is our mis­take, we blame the gov­ern­ment in turn blame the coun­try. With­out patri­o­tism today many are com­par­ing India with USA and prais­ing the lat­ter.

    I would say if a leader select­ed through elec­tions is a ras­cal, then the peo­ple who elect­ed him are ras­cals. Rap­ing a child, being addict­ed to liquor with­out car­ing for wife and kids, spoil­ing self-edu­ca­tion in name of love and get­ting divorce soon­er if at all mar­ried, killing elder­ly for 1 gram of gold, did gov­ern­ment ask you to do this? A coun­try filled by these ras­cals will elect ras­cals (as you peo­ple say). 

    I say this coun­try is ruled and being ruled by good lead­ers from Nehru to Naren­dra Modi. They are sup­posed to be great lead­ers which did not hap­pen because of the cit­i­zens who do the above two things. When cit­i­zens are patri­ot­ic, self dis­ci­plined, well edu­cat­ed, enthused for growth, then the good lead­ers become great lead­ers. Jai Hind! I say to Win­ston Churchill now India is the largest suc­cess­ful democ­ra­cy of the world which he will watch from hell…

  17. All free peo­ples tend to think at times that their coun­tries are gov­erned by “ras­cals, rogues and free­boot­ers.” Churchill urged us all to “Nev­er Despair,” and to K.B.O. –good advice, I sus­pect.

  18. Very true state­ments. Giv­en the way India is being gov­erned, I do not see any hope or future on this coun­try.

  19. I wel­come these views from India, while know­ing noth­ing of your cur­rent pol­i­tics. In the larg­er pic­ture I believe Churchill would be pleased to see India the world’s largest democ­ra­cy, though gov­ern­ing in a democ­ra­cy is nev­er easy.

  20. About what Churchill said, true ras­cals are there. Nehru was the man who spoiled India with his so-called social­ism and brought a com­mu­nal- and caste-based con­sti­tu­tion to keep the Indi­ans in a divid­ed spir­it….

  21. The actu­al writer of these lines was so good an observ­er: Indi­ans are try­ing their best to prove the prophe­cy right, irre­spec­tive of who said it. 

  22. I too have researched on these lines a while ago. I received the fol­low­ing offi­cial response from Lau­re Clin­quin at the Churchill Archives Cen­tre:

    I searched the quote in a vari­ety a sources, includ­ing our cat­a­logue of the Churchill Papers: http://www-archives.chu.cam.ac.uk/perl/search and Churchill by Him­self, a book of attest­ed quo­ta­tions by Churchill by Richard Lang­worth (Lon­don: Ebury, 2008), in par­tic­u­lar Chap­ter 6, “Britain, Empire and Com­mon­wealth”, and some quo­ta­tions on India (pp. 162-165). I also checked the speech­es on India in 1946 and 1947 includ­ed in Robert Rhodes James, ed., Win­ston S. Churchill: His Com­plete Speech­es 1897-1963. (New York: Bowk­er, 1974, vol.7, 1943-1949). Unfor­tu­nate­ly I haven’t found a ref­er­ence to this quo­ta­tion in any of these author­i­ta­tive sources. While this sen­tence might have been pro­nounced by him, it seems that no hard evi­dence can back this attri­bu­tion.

    While no cer­tain source can be found for this quote, I wish, look­ing at the state of India after 65 years of inde­pen­dence, that he had said it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *