The safest people in India

To make the protection of British lives the top priority was pretty much state policy. In February 1947 the governor of Bengal said that his ‘first action in the event of an announcement of a date for withdrawal of British power … would be to have the troops “standing to” and prepare for a concentration of outlying Europeans at very short notice as soon as hostile reactions began to show themselves’. In fact, in the summer of 1947 white men and women were the safest people in India. No one was interested in killing them. But their insecurities meant that many army units were placed near European settlements instead of being freed for riot control elsewhere.

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The decision of the CPM to join the government was preceded by a bitter debate, with Jyoti Basu speaking in favour and Promode Dasgupta against. Ultimately the party joined, only to create a great sense of expectation among the cadres. An early gesture was to rename Harrington Road after a hero of the world communist movement, so that at the height of the Vietnam War the address of the United States Consulate was 7 Ho Chi Minh Sarani, Calcutta.

– Ramachandran Guha, India After Gandhi

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