Saturday, 28 March 2020

The ''Spanish Flu'' of 1918 got the Indians united to fight for India's freedom from the British - many interesting facts!!

Spanish Flu, 1918, India .livemint.com/
Spanish Flu, 1918www.slideshare.net
Coronavirus is a  global pandemic  that we are passing through to day and it has shocked the world as it has caused the  sledge hammer-like impact on the world economy,  livelihood of millions of people and  total lock down of many countries. This cumulative occurrence of miseries, pain and death is  so devastating that it is much worse than  dropping off atomic bombs in a place or two.
When India was not a free country under the British Raj in 1918, it faced the worst situation  because of the onset of  the Spanish flu in the subcontinent.  It is considered the deadliest in modern history, killing at least 50 million plus people and infecting more than 500 million across the globe. The 1918 H1N1 airborne avian virus played a critical role in altering the course of India’s history.

Can you believe the flu  that was on during the WWI, caused the  largest death  in any country in the world  about 18 million people in India?  Yet another fact is  Mahatma Gandhi, who spear-headed India’s independence, also contracted  the flu and survived the dreaded flu attack!!  When news of his illness  and his daily liquid diet spread, a local newspaper took the news to the public by writing: "Gandhi's life does not belong to him - it belongs to India."  One positive aspect is this pandemic  brought about unity among the natives  against the British who had been exploiting the Indians for more than 150 years at that point of time. 
Spread of Spanish Flu, 1918, India. www.youtube.com
''Between 1918 and 1920, an estimated 18 million Indians lost their lives to influenza or its complications, making India the focal point of the disaster in terms of mortality. .......... but the story of how the disease ravaged the continent is relatively unknown. The 1918 flu pandemic has been called the “forgotten” pandemic, and ironically the continent that seems to have forgotten it most thoroughly is the one that bore the brunt of it''....................Laura Spinney (https://caravanmagazine.in/history/spanish-flu-1918-changed-india)
novel corona virus businesstoday.in
The Spanish Flu pandemic'' of 1918  in India helped Indians  get united to fight for freedom  from the British hegemony and the following  are interesting facts:
01. Britain forced  British India to participate in the WWI and  asked the Indians to  fight at many war fronts along with the British forces. Indians produced  many essential accessories, etc for the British military. Part of  revenue from India was spent on war efforts, not on the welfare of the natives.

02. During the Spanish  flu pandemic, the British had ignored the healthcare in the country and the medical service was in a mess. It implied racial discrimination during a crisis  situation.  After the pandemic, the British administration earned the ire of the natives. Now, people made up their mind to become untied to  fight for the freedom.businesstoday.in

03. Laura Spinney,  author of  Pale Rider: ''The Spanish Flu of 1918 and how it changed the world'' , in an interview with Patt Morrison of the Los Angeles Times said,  “People were dying in droves and in the absence of any British doctors. The British doctors…were very often at the front as well the hole was even more glaring.

04. The massacre of innocent people at  Jallianwala Bagh, in the state of Punjab on 13 April 1919 under  Brig. Gen.  Reginald Dyer shook the conscience of the whole world. For a short period, the media news reports were censored by the British, fearing escalation of protests and riots against the British.  Military officer Dyer was let off with de-promotion and minor punishment. 

05.  Continuous repressive policies of the British and denial of freedom persisted for some period. 

06. The British Govt.'s failure to honor Indian soldiers and officials' brave  participation in the war and the sacrifices made by them in various war theaters became a subject of discussion among national leaders.

07.  Over one million Indian troops served overseas in many continents under demanding, harsh conditions;  62,000 died and another 67,000 were wounded. In total at least 74,187 Indian soldiers died during the war. No war memorials in their names or a note of appreciation on the part of Britain. 

08.  The death of millions of natives, sufferings, pains  and misery  due to flu in 1918 further made the natives furious against the colonial imperialists. 

09.  More and more people across the country took the cudgels against the unjust misrule by the Raj and allied  themselves behind INC leaders like Gandhi, Patel, and others. 

10.  Newspapers  wrote articles complaining that  the British officials in India during the pandemic were  relaxing in the  resorts on the hill stations thus pushing  the administration to leave the fate of the natives  "on the hands of providence".

 11. Yet another frustration among  Indians was the colonial authorities  paid more attention to the WWI than to the health care of the people.  This grave negligence of  indigenous health care system  had left a bad impression on the colonialist.

 12. The hospitals under the British were not well-equipped to deal with an epidemic like situation.  

13. India continued to be Britain's cash cow and a large chunk of revenue was sent to the Government coffers  in London.  A decent amount of money was not spent  by the  Raj to  equip  certain important hospitals across India to deal with the disaster or an epidemic.

14. According to Ms. Spinney, ''....there was a shortage of doctors as many were away on the war front."  When the pandemic first landed in the Bombay Presidency in June 1918, it stayed there for a while and there itself it could have been contained had the British medical fraternity  acted on time. The  shortage of doctors further aggravated the distress situation. The British failed to give severe warning to the people who used crowded railways, etc  to travel to other regions.  Mismanagement of health department and lethargic attitude of the officials angered the people.

15. NGOs, volunteers and right-minded citizens  came together and formed anti-influenza committees. They, in large number, helped the poor people in the time of pain, misery and distress.

16. ''Community services'' became a watch word among the  educated and more fortunate people in the society. For the first time people in the higher strata of the society came together for a common  cause -  to help their poorer brethren  and give them solace. The powers that be - British Bobs  had let down the natives in their time of distress.

17. The  medical emergency provided an opportunity for  certain militant groups in the north and eastern India to work for India's freedom. They were against Gandhiji's principle of non-violence
for the simple reason the wily British did not take it seriously. So, they took to violence and striking terror to damage the morale of the British officers.
https://gulfnews.com/opinion/op-eds/how-the-spanish-flu-changed-the-course-of-indian-history-1.1584285312898