Worst Leaders in History? Winston Churchill as 'Evil' as Hitler, Mao and Stalin, Indian Lawmaker Says

Winston Churchill statue
The statue of Winston Churchill and Big Ben are seen at dawn on a cloudy morning in London, Britain, March 8, 2017. Neil Hall/Reuters

Winston Churchill, an icon of British endurance for his leadership during the Blitz, deserves to go down in history alongside the 20th century's deadliest dictators, an Indian lawmaker and former United Nations Under-Secretary General has said. Dr. Shashi Tharoor, a member of parliament for the Congress Party, was speaking last week in London at the launch of his new book, Inglorious Empire, which delivers a sharp critique of British rule over India.

In his book, Tharoor lays the blame for the Bengal famine in 1943, in which as many as four million people died, squarely on then-British Prime Minister Churchill.

"Churchill has as much blood on his hands as Hitler does," Tharoor told UKAsian. "Particularly the decisions that he personally signed off on during The Bengal Famine when 4.3 million people died because of the decisions he took or endorsed."

He added: "This is the man who the British insist on hailing as some sort of apostle of freedom and democracy," the author said. "When to my mind he is really one of the more evil rulers of the 20th century only fit to stand in company of the likes of Hitler, Mao and Stalin."

Churchill has often been blamed for his role in the famine and particularly for diverting food from the region to support British troops and British interests around the world.

"Ships laden with wheat were coming in from Australia, docking in Calcutta and were instructed by Churchill not to disembark but to sail on to Europe," Tharoor added. "And when conscience-stricken British officials wrote to the Prime Minister in London, pointing out that his policies were causing needless loss of life, all he could do was write peevishly in the margin of the file, 'Why hasn't Gandhi died yet?"

At the time, Churchill blamed Indians for causing the famine by "breeding like rabbits." Churchill also made clear his view that there were hierarchies of race, once referring to the treatment of the indigenous populations in the United States and Australia as "a stronger race, a higher-grade race, a more worldly wise race to put it that way, has come in and taken their place."

Despite such controversies, Churchill, who is credited for leading the British resistance to Nazi Germany, is widely revered in the United Kingdom. In 2002, he was named the greatest Briton of all time in a nationwide poll in which he attracted almost half-a-million votes.