11 May, 2021

Elephant And A Matilda

India was changed by WWII. This book does justice to its complexities.

Elephant And A Matilda

Independent India has had an uneasy relationship with its significant contribution to both world wars. While there has been a belated acknowledgement of the Indian role in World War I (1914-18) on the occasion of  its centenary, World War II (1939-45) also remains obscure in Indian memory. This is paradoxical, considering that these five tumultuous years were critical to India acquiring its freedom from the colonial yoke.

The scale of the Indian contribution to World War II is colossal; rigorous academic scholarship on the subject is slim. The Indian army alone deployed almost 2.5 million men, of whom as many as 90,000 were either killed or maimed for life. Millions of Indians contributed to the overall war effort in ordnance factories, military workshops, supply depots, repair yards and such like. And just as the subcontinent was ‘bled white’ in World War I, India as a colony paid with sweat, toil, blood and wealth even as its hapless millions had to suffer the privations of a famine and widespread food shortage during 1939-45.

As Raghavan notes in...

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