British military scientists tested mustard gas on hundreds of Indian soldiers during more than a decade of experiments. Indians were sent into the gas chambers wearing no more than "drill shorts and open-necked khaki cotton shirts" to gauge the effect of mustard gas on the eyes.
The experiments to determine whether mustard gas damaged Indians' skin more than British soldiers' began in the early 1930s and lasted more than 10 years at a military site in Rawalpindi, now in Pakistan, The Guardian reported, citing newly discovered National Archive documents.
The tests caused large numbers of burns, some of which were so damaging the subjects had to be hospitalized, a 1942 report cited by the newspaper said.
"Severely burned patients are often very miserable and depressed and in considerable discomfort, which must be experienced to be properly realized," the report said.
The Ministry of Defense said it could not comment until Monday.
During World War II, nearly 2,000 American military personnel participated in experiments conducted by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory. They were often promised weekend passes and were not told the nature of the experiments, which included prolonged exposure to mustard gas and Lewisite, a chemical that contains arsenic and can damage the skin, eyes, respiratory and digestive tract.
The experiments in Rawalpindi were part of a much larger program intended to test the effects of chemical weapons on humans, The Guardian reported. It said more than 20,000 British servicemen and women were subjected to chemical warfare trials between 1916 and 1989 at the Defense Ministry's Porton Down research center in southwest England.
Some of those involved in the experiments later said they had been tricked into participating, and claimed they had been exposed to mustard gas and hallucinogens such as LSD.
An inquiry into the deaths of some of those involved in the testing concluded in 2003 that there was not enough evidence for a criminal prosecution, the AP reports.
Mustard gas is now a recognised carcinogencic substance and the Indians suffered severe burns. Some British servicemen, recruited over time to take part in similar experiments, recently won compensation for being duped into being treated as guinea pigs.
The tests on the Indians, before and during World War II, are seen to be part of a deadly programme of identifying the exact amount of poison gas that could prove deadly on the battlefield. The British scientists, who recorded in the documents that several Indians suffered so severely they had to be hospitalised, reported a "large number" of burns.
Many of the Indians, who were sent into the gas chambers wearing no more than "drill shorts and open-necked khaki cotton shirts" to gauge the effect of mustard gas on the eyes, also had to be hospitalised after the experiment.
The revelation is seen to be a shocking afterword to the lengthy accounts of British colonial behaviour in India, indiatimes.com reports.
Prepared by Alexander Timoshik