The Great Flap of 1942 is a narrative history of a neglected and scarcely known period—between December 1941 and mid-1942—when all of India was caught in a state of panic. This was largely a result of the British administration’s mistaken belief that Japan was on the verge of launching a full-fledged invasion. It was a time when the Raj became unduly alarmed, when the tongue of rumour wagged wildly about Japanese prowess and British weakness and when there was a huge and largely unmapped exodus (of Indians and Europeans) from both sides of the coastline to ‘safer’ inland regions. This book demonstrates, quite astonishingly, that the Raj cynically encouraged the exodus and contributed to the repeated cycles of rumour, panic and flight. It also reveals how the shadow of the Japanese threat influenced the course of nationalist politics, altered British attitudes towards India and charted the course towards Independence.

The title ‘The Great Flap of 1942’ refers to an expression used by British bureaucrats in India that traces a broad narrative arc, starting with the Japanese attacks in South-East Asia. The assault on Malaya, the conquest of Singapore, the bombing and eventual occupation of Burma, and the Japanese Navy’s foray into the Indian Ocean are examined in the light of the tremendous impact they had on India.

In this episode of BIC Talks, Author & Professor, Krea University – Mukund Padmanabhan is in conversation with Historian & Columnist – Sriram Venkatakrishnan. This is an excerpt from a conversation that took place in the BIC premises in June 2024.

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