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Monday, August 2, 1999 Published at 13:22 GMT 14:22 UK


World: South Asia

Death of 'an unknown Indian'

Nirad C Chaudhuri: His views on British rule were not popular in India

The Indian-born author and scholar Nirad C Chaudhuri, who has died at the age of 101, was never shy of controversy.

Chaudhuri, who suffered a stroke last month and died peacefully at his Oxford home on Sunday, was best known for his first work, The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian.

The book revealed Chaudhuri's sympathies for the heyday of the British raj - Britain's 200-year rule over India.

Its dedication contained the following:

"To the memory of the British Empire in India, which conferred subjecthood upon us but withheld citizenship; to which yet every one of us threw out the challenge "Civis Britannicus sum" [I am a British citizen] because all that was good and living within us was made, shaped, and quickened by the same British rule."

Critics in India called him the last British imperialist.

An eccentric reputation

Throughout his life, Chaudhuri gained a reputation for eccentricity.

When he lived in New Delhi's old city, he walked to work in a western suit and bowler hat.

After moving to England in the 1970s, he preferred the traditional dhoti of his native Bengal to receive guests at his home.

Immensely well-read, Chaudhuri wrote his last book of essays, Three Horsemen of the New Apocalypse, when he was 99.

It was an attack on what he called India's failed leadership and also a lament for the decline of England, which he said did not deserve itself.

Indians were offended by Chaudhuri's admiration for the British raj.

Chaudhuri insisted that Indians never fully understood his attitudes towards British rule.

In an interview with the Associated Press some 50 after Autobiography of an Unknown Indian, Chaudhuri still grew angry when he spoke of "these wretched, idiotic, uneducated Indians" who misread his famous lines.

His wife, Amiya, died in 1994.

He is survived by three sons.



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