We are all well aware that the British rule over India lasted for a long time and India got freedom from its unjust rule on 15 August 1947. But did we get the freedom by the efforts of just a few people or few leaders? No, the freedom was achieved by the efforts of every Indian whether a farmer, a labourer, students, a woman or an Indian soldiers. Sepoy Mutiny like Civilians rebellions has also played a very important role in throwing the British Government out of India.
The Rebellion of 1857 was started as a Sepoy Mutiny which later took a very macabre form. Another similar mutiny took place in India in 1946 as well which was called The Royal Indian Navy Revolt. The Royal Indian Navy Mutiny also famous as Bombay Mutiny and Rebellion of 1946 is an important event of British India.
The Royal Indian Navy Mutiny/Revolt in India was started on 18th February 1946 just one and a half year before the Independence of India. It was a nationwide revolt which started as a mutiny of Royal Indian Navy Soldiers working under the sovereignty of the British Government.
Soon the people of India belonging to different communities and professions like Labourers, farmers and others came in the support of the Mutiny. The mutiny which had started as a hunger-strike of Navy soldiers soon changed to a massive revolt of Indian people against the British Government.
There were few causes that were making the path for revolt. These causes were:
The India naval staffs were already subjected to racial discrimination. Also, they were paid a very low salary as compared to British Soldiers. The salary of Anglo Indian Soldiers was Rs.60 while the Indian soldiers were paid only Rs.16.
Another reason for the mutiny was that the Indian soldiers were agitated to know that there was a conspiracy to hang the prisoners of Azad Hind Fauj by prosecuting them in the Red Fort.
The revolt began with an interesting incident. It was 17th February of the same year and the India soldiers on the Ship ‘Talwar’ were served spoiled food. The angry soldiers complained to their seniors about the spoiled food but he drove them away saying that they all deserved that.
The Ground Preparation for the Mutiny
Preparation for the revolt was going on in secret among the Marines and the people of India. A Revolutionary atmosphere was being created throughout the country. The decisive leadership of the Soviet Union in the defeat of fascism in the Second World War had encouraged the workers, peasants and youth of India to believe that revolution is possible and we can establish the rule of workers and peasants by ending the British rule. The revolutionary conditions were being created.
History of the Mutiny
The Mutiny started on 18th February 1946 from the naval ship ‘Talwar’ which was a Signal Training Ship. It was started as a protest and a hunger strike by the naval staff or we may say by Indian naval staff. When the Officers called them in Parade Ground, they started shouting “We are on strike!”, “We are on hunger strike!”, “We won’t tolerate the discrimination of British Government!”, “Release the heroes of Azad Hind Fauj!” etc.
The fire of rebellion spread very rapidly as the British flags were taken off the mast of Castle and Fort Barracks along with Royal Navy’s Hindustan, Sutlej, Narmada, Yamuna, Assam, Bengal, Punjab, Kathiawar and Rajput and also from all 22 fighters and naval training ships whether big or small like Dalhousie, Kalavati, Deepawali, Neelam and Heera. At their places, tricolour, moon and hanky-hammer flags were waved.
When the British invited their representatives to negotiate over the matter, the soldiers opposed saying that we need a leader of any political party for mediation because we would not send our representatives because he will be arrested by you.
Who supported the Mutiny?
In few moments the rebellion took such a widespread form that it reached to all training centres, ships and military residences and their soldiers took off the flag of the British, in place of it, the red flag of the Communist Party and the other two parties; Indian National Congress and All India Muslim League were hoisted.
The small mutiny got the support of soldiers from 20,000 ships, including 11 coastal bases and ports of Bombay, 78 ships, 4 fleet and 20 coastal bases. Police, Air Force pilots and employees of the airport also went on strike and expressed their support. They got the support of the Communist Party as well. On 22 February 1946, the Communist Party of India called for a general strike in Mumbai to support the Mutiny in which thousands of workers took part. Workers, shopkeepers and working people from all over Mumbai joined them. Soon it converted to a huge March.
Role of Political Parties of India
In a very short time, the mutiny got the support of the mass population of India and was changed to a mass revolt. Communist Party which was a nationalist party at that time and was very famous came in the support of the Revolt. The Communist Party of India called for a strike in Mumbai to support the revolt, which was joined by workers labourers, professionals and other Indian people.
The mutineers thought that the Congress Party and the Muslim League would also support their revolt, but they were disappointed. Both the parties opposed the protest and gave their statements against it. Mahatma Gandhi who was then a member of Indian National Congress called it “Origin of some goons” whereas Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru and Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel gave it the name of “Mass violence in Bombay”.
Such statements of Indian leaders had proved that they were against the mutiny and all that mutineers got from them was a strong disappointment which they had not expected.
Result of the Mutiny
The revolt was massive and the British Government was failing to suppress it on its own. They asked some chief leaders of Indian National Congress and All India Muslim League as they were the only who stood with the British Government and against the revolt. Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel and Mohammad Ali Jinnah came forward to take the responsibility of ending the revolt.
Both the leaders assured the mutineers with their false statements that their conditions were accepted by the British Government and also their jobs would be restored so they might stop the rebellion. The mutineers trusted the leaders and stopped the revolt happily. Then the mutineers issued a statement thanking their supporters like Students, Labourers, sailors, police and the citizens of Bombay.
But the Mutineers were created by both the leaders and after independence; those marines were neither enlisted nor given the status of freedom fighters. Very cleverly, these parties of the bourgeoisie betrayed the struggle of the people and made the sacrifices of the people waste.
So here I tried to share every fact regarding the Royal Indian Navy Revolt of 1946. Although the revolt was suppressed by the Indian leaders yet successfully created a sense of fear among the British Government. This Mutiny was a very important event of Indian history that cleared the path of freedom for India and its citizens. But it is very unfortunate that this important incident was not given any place in Indian history and is kept suppressed.