The history of the British involvement with the Indian sub-continent contains many extraordinary and contradictory stories. The relationship between the local inhabitants and the British is special and complex. This new book tells the story of Major William Brown and his personal mutiny. It provides insights in the dash from Empire in the late 1940s and 1950s and shows how tensions today could have been avoided had the British taken a more careful approach to independence in India. The author took great personal risks and this is a book that demands to be read. It is provoking and moving, a great read.
NAME: Gilgit Rebellion, the Major Who Mutinied over Partition of India
AUTHOR: William Brown
PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword
BINDING: hard back
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT: India, Indian Army Commission, Partition, rush from Empire, Hindu, Muslim, Pakistan, North West Frontier, 10/12 Frontier Force Regiment, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, Himalayan Society, Viceroy, Lord Louis Mountbatten,1948
DESCRIPTION: The history of the British involvement with the Indian sub-continent contains many extraordinary and contradictory stories. The relationship between the local inhabitants and the British is special and complex. This new book tells the story of Major William Brown and his personal mutiny. It provides insights in the dash from Empire in the late 1940s and 1950s and shows how tensions today could have been avoided had the British taken a more careful approach to independence in India. The author took great personal risks and this is a book that demands to be read. It is provoking and moving, a great read.
The development of Britain into a unique and great Empire contains many surprises when its history is studied. The political Left in Britain has been keen to show the British Empire as cruel and exploitive, although it was a Labour Government that presided over the royal mess of Indian independence that was to be repeated many times as the Atlee Government attempted to introduce a policy of managed decline that was to lead on to Britain turning its back on former colonies and dependencies as it dithered its way into a corrupt new empire being built from Brussels.
Some empires have been driven by political will, ambitious monarchs, religious belief and national greed. The British Empire was almost an Empire by accident. Traders, sailors and pirates travelled around the world and built small presences from which they operated. Elizabeth Tudor invested in her corsairs and their voyages. She encouraged them, but not as a deliberate policy of a nation. Protestant preachers did travel out to these small enclaves, but not as a deliberate attempt to covert the ‘heathen hordes’ and without any direction or encouragement from British Governments. A common instrument of colonization was the Grant of Monopoly. This allowed commercial organizations to operate in foreign lands without any negotiation with the people of those lands and with very little support for those traders. There was very little effort placed into governing the monopoly holders. Some prospered and others did not. The East India Company proved very profitable and, although it requested support of British arms on occasion, it was very happy to maintain its independence from control by monarchs or politicians.
India was a good example of how the British ruled by using local rulers to act in their interests. Employees negotiated as though they were representing a nation state even though they were motivated primarily by the commercial interests of their employers. The result was that India was really a collection of principalities that agreed allegiance to the British East India Company and the British Monarch, but continued to rule their territories as they had for hundreds of years. This meant that there were relatively few tensions between Hindu and Muslim because they lived in their own areas in the main. An Indian civil service evolved and Indians staffed the railways as they were built.
Independence preparations changed all of that because Indian politicians wanted a single independent nation when the British withdrew. However, this produced growing conflict between Hindu and Muslim. Both groups held conflicting views that placed each as a superior race and that race conflict was also rooted firmly in religion to produce the most explosive mix. Since Indian independence, it has never been resolved, with Muslim Pakistan and an India, with a strong Hindu element, operating since 1948 as two competing nations, going to war on several occasions and total peace has not been achieved, with long running border disputes and internal dissent. Now that both nations have developed their own nuclear weapons, the situation has become worse over the decades rather than better.
Acting Major Brown was one of those individuals who appreciated the dangers and developed their own views about how matters should unfold. In Brown’s case, he had developed a love of India and its people and was prepared to act for the people of Gilgit even if it placed him seriously at odds with the British and Indian establishments. In effect, he handed Gilgit over to Pakistan and could have been imprisoned and executed by the British or the Indian Government for treason.
This is an extraordinary story that almost defies belief, but it is a true story and after his death the Pakistan President awarded a posthumous medal in recognition of his actions. Study of the history of the British Empire will show that this personal action was not unique. Many British individuals acted in the interest of local people against the interests of Empire and were not punished for their work.