The] Indian government [has] announced an international competition to design a National War Memorial in New Delhi, to honour all of the Indian soldiers who served in the various wars and counter-insurgency campaigns from 1947 onwards. The terms of the competition also specified that the new structure would be built adjacent to the India Gate – a memorial to the Indian soldiers who died in the First World War. Between the old imperialist memorial and the proposed nationalist one, India’s contribution to the Second World War is airbrushed out of existence.
The Indian government’s conception of the war memorial was not merely absent-minded. Rather, it accurately reflected the fact that both academic history and popular memory have yet to come to terms with India’s Second World War, which continues to be seen as little more than mood music in the drama of India’s advance towards independence and partition in 1947. Further, the political trajectory of the postwar subcontinent has militated against popular remembrance of the war. With partition and the onset of the India-Pakistan rivalry, both of the new nations needed fresh stories for self-legitimisation rather than focusing on shared wartime experiences.
However, the Second World War played a crucial role in both the independence and partition of India. . . . The Indian army recruited, trained and deployed some 2.5 million men, almost 90,000 of which were killed and many more injured. Even at the time, it was recognised as the largest volunteer force in the war. . . .
India’s material and financial contribution to the war was equally significant. India emerged as a major military-industrial and logistical base for Allied operations in south-east Asia and the Middle East. This led the United States to take considerable interest in the country’s future, and ensured that this was no longer the preserve of the British government.
Other wartime developments pointed in the direction of India’s independence. In a stunning reversal of its long-standing financial relationship with Britain, India finished the war as one of the largest creditors to the imperial power.
Such extraordinary mobilization for war was achieved at great human cost, with the Bengal famine the most extreme manifestation of widespread wartime deprivation. The costs on India’s home front must be counted in millions of lives.
Indians signed up to serve on the war and home fronts for a variety of reasons. . . . [M]any were convinced that their contribution would open the doors to India’s freedom. . . . The political and social churn triggered by the war was evident in the massive waves of popular protest and unrest that washed over rural and urban India in the aftermath of the conflict. This turmoil was crucial in persuading the Attlee government to rid itself of the incubus of ruling India. . . .
Seventy years on, it is time that India engaged with the complex legacies of the Second World War. Bringing the war into the ambit of the new national memorial would be a fitting – if not overdue – recognition that this was India’s War.
Question: The phrase “mood music” is used in the second paragraph to indicate that the Second World War is viewed as:
- setting the stage for the emergence of the India–Pakistan rivalry in the subcontinent.
- a tragic period in terms of loss of lives and national wealth.
- a backdrop to the subsequent independence and partition of the region.
- a part of the narrative on the ill-effects of colonial rule on India.
Passage Overview: In the passage the author seems to be stressing on “India’s contribution to the second world war, and its consequences, something which has been ignored both by academicians and the Indian government”
This question is a kind of interpretation question. If we don’t know the meaning of the phrase ‘mood music’, we must try to the see the context in which it has been used. By the way, ‘mood music’ is recorded music that is played in the background to make the audience relax. So if you know the meaning, you can straightaway mark 3 as the answer. A backdrop is a background just as mood music is played in the background. Even from the passage it is clear that to the Indian government and Indian academicians, India’s contribution to the second world war is just a little more than a mood music, in other words it is not a significant contribution, something that the author seems to be lamenting. Option 3 is the right choice.
Question: The author lists all of the following as outcomes of the Second World War EXCEPT:
- independence of the subcontinent and its partition into two countries.
- US recognition of India’s strategic location and role in the War.
- large-scale deaths in Bengal as a result of deprivation and famine.
- the large financial debt India owed to Britain after the War.
This is a factual question whose answer depends on how well you are able to find the information scattered in the passage. The first outcome is stated in the first sentence of the third paragraph where the author says that “India’s contribution played a significant role in India’s independence and partition”. So, since option 1 is given, it is not the right answer. Option 2 is given in the fourth paragraph. Option 3 is stated in the third last paragraph. Thus, option 4 is the right choice.
We could have marked option 4 directly, as it is stating exactly opposite of what is given in the passage. It was not India but Britain that owed large financial debt. India was one of the biggest creditors to Britain, the passage says. This means that it was India had lent resources to Britain.
Question: The author claims that omitting mention of Indians who served in the Second World War from the new National War Memorial is:
- a reflection of the academic and popular view of India’s role in the War.
- appropriate as their names can always be included in the India Gate memorial.
- a reflection of misplaced priorities of the post-independence Indian governments.
- is something which can be rectified in future by constructing a separate memorial.
This is a very easy question, as the clue to the right answer is directly visible in the passage. The first sentence of the second paragraph says that the ‘omission was not absent-minded, suggesting that it was deliberate. He further adds that the omission “accurately reflected the fact that both academic history and popular memory have
yet to come to terms with India’s Second World War”. The other choices are neither stated nor implied in the paragraph.
Question: The author suggests that a major reason why India has not so far acknowledged its role in the Second World War is that it:
- blames the War for leading to the momentous partition of the country.
- wants to forget the human and financial toll of the War on the country.
- has been focused on building an independent, non-colonial political identity.
- views the War as a predominantly Allied effort, with India playing only a supporting role.
This is a slightly difficult question, but can be solved by the process of elimination. Though the passage nowhere directly states the reason why India has not so far acknowledged its role in the Second World War, the hint is there in the second paragraph.
The last sentence of the second paragraph says: With partition and the onset of the India-Pakistan rivalry, both of the new nations needed fresh stories for self-legitimization rather than focusing on shared wartime experiences. “Self-legitimization” would mean self-assertion, or establishing oneself as a strong legal entity. This makes option 3 the right choice. Moreover, none of the other options have any hint in the paragraph. Option 1 and 4 go out because the author asserts that India did make a significant contribution to the war. Option might seem a tempting choice, but there is no hint for it.