This chapter describes the famine of 1896–7 in India, followed by the spread of the bubonic plague, which added to the rigours of the famine. The impact of the shooting of Mr W.C. Rand and Lt O.E. Ayerst on 22 June 1897 at midnight in Poona is also discussed. The news of the Poona murders was serious enough to earn headlines and editorial comment in the British press. However, a public enquiry into the Poona affairs was ruled out. Hostile critics seized upon that part of Gokhale’s indictment which was the most difficult to prove: the alleged violation of women by British soldiers. The major issues of the conduct of plague-operations in Poona and the justification for a public enquiry were relegated to the background, and Wedderburn and Gokhale became the chief targets of a scathing press campaign.
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