Opinion | The Malign Incompetence of the British Ruling Class

The re-imposition of a customs and immigration regime alongside Britain’s solely land border with the European Union was all the time prone to be resisted with violence. But Brexiteers, awakening late to this ominous chance, have tried to disclaim it. A leaked recording revealed Mr. Johnson scorning issues about the border as “pure millennium bug stuff.”

Politicians and journalists in Ireland are understandably aghast over the aggressive ignorance of English Brexiteers. Business folks in all places are outraged by their cavalier disregard for the financial penalties of new borders. But none of this could shock anybody who is aware of of the unconscionable breeziness with which the British ruling class first drew traces by Asia and Africa after which doomed the folks dwelling throughout them to infinite struggling.

The malign incompetence of the Brexiteers was exactly prefigured throughout Britain’s exit from India in 1947, most strikingly in the lack of orderly preparation for it. The British authorities had introduced that India would have independence by June 1948. In the first week of June 1947, nevertheless, Mountbatten instantly proclaimed that the switch of energy would occur on Aug. 15, 1947 — a “ludicrously early date,” as he himself blurted out. In July, a British lawyer named Cyril Radcliffe was entrusted with the job of drawing new boundaries of a rustic he had by no means beforehand visited.

Given solely round 5 weeks to invent the political geography of an India flanked by an japanese and a western wing known as Pakistan, Radcliffe failed to go to any villages, communities, rivers or forests alongside the border he deliberate to demarcate. Dividing agricultural hinterlands from port cities, and abruptly lowering Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs on both facet of the new border to a non secular minority, Radcliffe delivered a plan for partition that successfully sentenced hundreds of thousands to loss of life or desolation whereas bringing him the highest-ranked knighthood.

Up to 1 million folks died, numerous ladies had been kidnapped and raped, and the world’s largest refugee inhabitants was created throughout the inhabitants transfers throughout Radcliffe’s border — an intensive carnage that exceeds all apocalyptic situations of Brexit.

In retrospect, Mountbatten had even much less cause than Mrs. May to hurry up the exit clock — and create insoluble and everlasting issues. Just a couple of months after the botched partition, for example, India and Pakistan had been combating a battle over the disputed territory of Kashmir. None of the involved events had been pushing for a hasty British exit. As the historian Alex von Tunzelmann factors out, “the rush was Mountbatten’s, and his alone.”

Mountbatten was truly much less pigheaded than Winston Churchill, whose invocation stiffens the spines of many Brexiteers right now. Churchill, a fanatical imperialist, labored more durable than any British politician to thwart Indian independence and, as prime minister from 1940 to 1945, did a lot to compromise it. Seized by a racist fantasy about superior Anglo-Americans, he refused to assist Indians address famine in 1943 on the grounds that they “breed like rabbits.”

Source link Nytimes.com

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