What Happens when the Master Bites His Dog?

Last month, we had the following tweet exchange with a prominent successful Indian:

  • Our question – “why do Indians still read Economist? British mindshare still?”
  • His response – “Because @theeconomist is a great magazine”

We were not surprised. A subscription to the Economist is a conférer of status in India, the status of an “English Educated’ Indian. If you prefer Indian magazines, then you are to be pitied. And if you read American magazines, then they look down in you with undisguised contempt. After all, Americans are so crude, aren’t they?

This is neither hyperbole nor caricature. These are words that we have heard from people we know for years. The idea that Americans are dumb but lucky and the British are smart is deeply ingrained in  English-Educated Indians, even those who get paid to write for American publications.

These Indians got a big shock this week when the Economist published a cover story titled:

  • Can anyone stop Narendra Modi? – He will probably become India’s next prime minister. That does not mean he should be.

Core Indians were furious but not surprised. Most of the EE-Indians we know were stunned and sad. They could not understand how the magazine they respect so much could let them down so badly. After all, the British Government the first to reach out to shake proverbial hands with Mr. Modi. That action had justified their respect and love for Britain. So the decision of the Economist to not back Mr. Modi was a punch in the gut.

The deep pain of those we know made us read the article. Here is why the Economist could not “bring itself to back Mr Modi for India’s highest office“:

  • “The reason begins with a Hindu rampage against Muslims in Gujarat in 2002, in which at least 1,000 people were slaughtered. The orgy of murder and rape in Ahmedabad and the surrounding towns and villages was revenge for the killing of 59 Hindu pilgrims on a train by Muslims.”
  • “… he made speeches early in his career that shamelessly whipped up Hindus against Muslims”
  • If Mr. Modi were to explain his role in the violence and show genuine remorse, we would consider backing him, but he never has;

The first reason is commonly given by many Indians & others. The fact that Mr. Modi and his administration have been investigated by Indian agencies & found not guilty is deemed irrelevant by the Economist.

This seemed pretty cheeky to us. Or should we say “informed”? Because what you read above is a miniscule element of what was British practice and tradition in India.

The British commonly used mass slaughter of Indians as collective punishment during their 150-year occupation of  India. The most indiscriminate slaughter was in response to killing of English population. The mention of villages by the Economist brings to mind the following description:

  • “On this pretext, Neill ordered all villages beside the Grand Trunk Road to be burned and their inhabitants to be killed by hanging. Neill was killed in action at Lucknow on 26 September and was never called to account for his punitive measures, though contemporary British sources lionised him and his “gallant blue caps”.[103]”
  • “When the British retook Cawnpore, the soldiers took their sepoy prisoners to The Bibigarh and forced them to lick the bloodstains from the walls and floor.[104] They then hanged or “blew from the cannon”, the traditional Mughal punishment for mutiny, the majority of the sepoy prisoners.”

Perhaps, unknown to us, the Economist has expressed “genuine remorse” for the many acts of mass slaughter by British in India. In any case, let bygones be bygones, right?

Then we wondered what the Economist thinks of Winston Churchill? We found an article about Churchill on their website titled Wilfulness and will power. It offers the conclusion “But a big man, Churchill certainly was”. So no need for Churchill to show remorse, let alone the genuine kind. This article was published in the Economist in 2002, the same year Mr. Modi was expected to show genuine remorse.

But why should Churchill show any remorse at all? Just read how the Economist describes him:

  • “As a public figure he was exceptional. A brilliant orator, he was also more than competent at administration. He always had a broad perspective on affairs. He promoted social reform, patriotism, imperialist conservation and liberal individualism; his commitment to each of these waxed and waned according to circumstances, but they were constant elements in his thought.”

This was very revealing to us. Because we know a bit about Churchill’s brilliance in oratory and his concept of social reform. Why don’t we share a few examples of his words and actions below?

  • That very day, while discussing his forthcoming speech with Amery, Churchill exclaimed, “I hate Indians, They are a beastly people with a beastly religion.” Chapter 3 – reference number 56
  • …a pound of rice was feeding three [Indian] people. Sometime after that, the portion was further reduced, to four ounces per person per day, at the low end of the scale on which, at much the same time, inmates at Buchenwald were being fed.” Chapter 8- reference 44
  • An 1881 report by the (British-ruled) Government of India on preceding famines concluded that the poorest Indians were the worst affected by such calamities, and if relief measures were to prevent their deaths they would continue to breed, making the survivors even more penurious. Death might even come as deliverance to those nature had chosen to discard – Chapter 9 – page 204.
  • Churchill had corroborated Malthus’s perspective, writing of an 1989 Indian plague: “a philosopher may watch unmoved the destruction of some of those superfluous millions, whose life must of necessity be destitute of pleasure.”Chapter 9 – reference 36
  • More often that not the small, brown, fangless and numberless Indians whom the frail old pacifist personified brought to Churchill’s mind a prey species. – Chapter 9
  • All the evidence points to the prime minister< /b> and his closest advisor having believed that Indians were ordained to reside at the bottom of the social pyramid, – Chapter 12
  • Long after India had obtained independence, the Prof (Churchill’s closest advisor) would describe “the abdication of the white man” as the worst calamity of the twentieth centurymore deplorable than two world wars and the Holocaust.” Chapter 12 – reference 20

Ahh! The brilliance of Churchill’s oratory! The uplifting human spirit of Churchill’s social reform! Yes, Economist is right – Churchill is indeed a Big Man. No need for him to feel the slightest remorse, let alone express it.


The above quotes and references are from the book Churchill’s Secret War by Dr. Madhusree Mukerjee. The book provides detailed history of Churchill’s decisions that led to the genocide of 5 million Indians.

This scholarly book provides copious references and footnotes to each chapter. Dr. Mukerjee is a Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Chicago. She served for eight years, as we recall, on the Editorial Board of Scientific American and also served as a Guggenheim fellow.

You read the horrifying, nay deeply disgusting, account of Churchill’s deliberate actions and evil words and you will wonder as we did whether Churchill and Hitler were Birds of a Similar Feather?.

None of the above would excuse Mr. Modi if he were guilty. But he was not according to exhaustive investigations by agencies including one of the Supreme Court of India. In contrast, Churchill was never ever investigated to our knowledge; he was not even criticized for the genocide of 5 million Indians. Instead, he was lionized and to this day, despite all the facts in public domain, the Economist magazine praises him from the proverbial roof tops.

The Economist magazine has never, to our knowledge, published a detailed expose of human rights crimes committed by the British against Indians in India or in the UK. We recall that, in the 1980s, Indian women were subjected to the disgusting two-finger test to determine their virginity before allowing them entry into Britain. Wasn’t that during the reign of Margaret Thatcher, another prime minister hailed as great by the Economist?

And this magazine decides that Mr. Modi is not fit to become the Prime Minister of Indians, the same Indians who were massacred in millions by the leaders lionized by this magazine?

And why shouldn’t they? None of the Indians we know have cancelled their subscription to the Economist. You see, the Economist knows its Indians. They know how their Indian subscribers eagerly wait to hear what the Economist has to say. Just look at the famous British label below and you will know too. And you will also know the answer to the question in our title.  

                                His Master's Voice.jpg

What was our tweet response to the prominent successful Indian who called Economist a great magazine?

  • “1 billion Indians can’t produce a magazine they like?so they read a trite Brit one? sad isn’t it?”

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