THE UNKNOWN UPRISING THAT SHOOK THE MIGHTY BRITISH EMPIRE - The Daily Guardian
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THE UNKNOWN UPRISING THAT SHOOK THE MIGHTY BRITISH EMPIRE

The largely forgotten 1946 Royal Indian Navy mutiny was, arguably, the ‘single most important event’ in convincing the British government that it could ‘no longer hold on to India’.

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In its platinum jubilee year, the 1946 naval uprising is worth revisiting so as to place it in proper context and also inform many of our countrymen who may not be aware of this event.

Sub Lt Balwant Singh with other officers. He was among the few officers discharged from service, as Lieutenant, for suspicion of being involved in the uprising. Issue of uniform kit to new recruits in 1940.Royal Indian Navy recruitment camp 1941.

RIN Job Advertisement Booklet, published in 1940

B.C. Dutt

The week that went by, from 18 to 25 February, marked the 75th anniversary of a landmark event in Indian History—the uprising by sailors of Royal Indian Navy (RIN) in February 1946. Over the years while the uprising has been studied and documented at the academic level it has not acquired the same salience in popular lore as, for example, the 1857 war of independence or the exertions of the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose led Indian National Army (INA). The reasons for this are manifold and are a subject of separate analysis. However, recent history indicates that while the Congress spearheaded non-violent approach was the principal vector of our freedom struggle there were many other revolutionary struggles and active movements which contributed significantly to the final outcome. In this light, in its platinum jubilee year, the naval uprising is worth revisiting so as to place it in proper context and also inform many of our countrymen who may not be aware of this event.

Originally termed as the naval mutiny, the event has, over the years, been described in many ways—revolt, rebellion, insurrection, strike, depending upon the prism of the observer. Irrespective of the characterization, there is little doubt amongst many contemporary historians that the naval uprising along with similar such (smaller scale) revolts in the Indian Army and the Air Force and the INA trials spelt the death knell of the British Empire or, at the very least, hastened its departure. When the British finally realised that the coercive elements of state could no longer be under their control it was game up for the Raj. Before we explore the many dimensions of the uprising, let us look at what happened in those tumultuous days.

BACKGROUND

The end of World War 2 bequeathed a complicated situation in India. The euphoria of winning the war was soon replaced by political uncertainty amidst hopes of early independence and economic distress, caused in large measure due to the burdens imposed by the war. Unemployment, agrarian distress and increased costs of living had made life difficult for the common man. On the global stage, the cold war had begun and the US and the USSR emerged as the new powers. War worn Britain, while still the preeminent colonial entity, was losing its sheen and reaching a point of exhaustion. On the strategic plane, India had contributed hugely to World War 2 by men and material and expectations were rife that this would be recognised by moving quickly towards some form of transfer of power. At the tactical level, the personnel of Indian Army, Air Force and Navy who had fought in foreign territories alongside troops from Britain and other countries realised that they were not inferior in any way, in skills or courage, and hence started questioning the need for them to be servile to a foreign power.

The Royal Indian Navy (RIN) was formed, in Oct 1934, essentially as a Coastal Defence force for India, while the British Royal Navy (RN) continued to be in-charge of blue water operations in the Indian Ocean Region and in furtherance of India’s ‘interests’. As war clouds hovered in the late 1930s and Britain realized that RN could no longer afford to devote forces for protection of India, the RIN was rapidly expanded to 15 times its original size from nearly 2000 personnel to more than 30,000. [On Mahatma’s birthday, remembering Indian Navy’s pre-independence journey (

https://thedailyguardian.com/on-mahatmas-birthday-remembering-indian-navys-pre-independence-journey/

While the RIN acquitted itself very well in the war especially considering the makeshift nature of many arrangements and acquisitions, it could no longer sustain at that size after the war. Hence, the force was planned to be truncated to meagre levels and personnel demobilized. At the end of the war about 20,000 men of the RIN were located in the ships and establishments in Bombay. The British Government decision to demobilise the war time recruits in the post-war period resulted in much dissatisfaction and disquiet because Sailors who had joined the Service after being promised a rosy future of a permanent well-paying job in Navy or assured career transition to civilian jobs were now suddenly being rendered unemployed. There was loss of, both, pride and economic status.

HMIS Talwar the Navy’s wireless communication establishment and training school, in Bombay, accommodated the communication branch ratings and ‘draft reserves’, many of whom were awaiting demobilisation. It was woefully overcrowded with restive ratings. Communication sailors, at that time, were more qualified and were generally better educated; this also made them more questioning of authority and less amenable to discriminatory practices.

THE PRELUDE

As a subsequent RIN Commission of Enquiry (CoE) report on the Mutiny brought out, things had been heating up at Talwar for a while. Unsatisfactory working and living conditions, bad food, indifferent leadership, rude and racist behavior by British officers and Warrant Officers, recruitment promises gone awry, a bleak future that stared many who were being released from service and the volatile political situation were all adding up to a dangerous simmer. The situation is well described by naval historian Rear Admiral Satyindra Singh, in his book ‘Under Two Ensigns’ as “a young over expanded service rapidly disintegrating in the rush to demobilise, living in a supercharged political atmosphere with its own additional feelings of disappointment, apprehension, uncertainty and un-redressed grievances”.

Three events stand out in this regard. On 01 Dec 1945, Navy Day was sought to be celebrated with great fervour emphasising post-war jubilation. It was the first time that the event was open to the public and HMIS Talwar was gearing up for the occasion. While the officials were looking forward to a successful event, a group of dissatisfied ratings, on the preceding night, silently and secretly hoisted brooms and buckets on the mast and painted subversive slogans with political overtones—‘Quit India’ and ‘Inquilab Zindabad’—on the walls and on the parade ground. As author Lt Cdr G.D. Sharma in his book Untold Story: The Naval Mutiny says, “The first signal of mutiny flashed up on the night of 1 December 1945.”

Another instance brought out by Sharma took place a month later and is further described by history blogger Ratnakar Sadasyula, “The beginnings of the Naval Ratings Mutiny were in an event that occurred on 16 January 1946 when a contingent of more than 60 ratings arrived at the Castle Barracks in Mint Road of Mumbai’s Fort Area. They were from the training ship HMIS Akbar at Thane and it was evening 4 pm. On being informed of their arrival the galley cook, took out 20 loaves of bread, casually added some water to the mutton curry as well as the dal that was from the previous day and served it. The food was so tasteless and substandard that only 17 ratings took it, the rest of them went ashore.”

The authorities took punitive measures including appointing Commander Arthur King a ‘strict no-nonsense’ officer as the new Commanding Officer of Talwar. In retrospect, this was a short-sighted move because he adopted a typical high-handed approach. Similar anti-British slogans again appeared on 01/02 Feb in anticipation of the visit of Vice Admiral JH Godfrey the Flag Officer Commanding Royal Indian Navy (FOCRIN). An early ‘success’ in identifying Leading Telegraphist Balai Chandra (BC) Dutt as the ‘mastermind’ of the painting incident and placing him under close arrest induced false optimism and gung go attitude. However, even after that the slogan writing continued.

Further, there were more troubling signs. A sailor, RK Singh, due for release anyway chose to resign instead, as an act of civil disobedience as Sailors were not allowed to resign as per service rules. He was immediately sentenced and sent to Arthur Road prison. The car of Cdr King was painted with Quit India slogans and his tyres deflated. He also received anonymous threatening calls. Unfortunately, none of these were seem as warning signs.

The more proximate reason occurred on the morning of 06 February 1946, when King entered one of the barracks and abused the communication ratings not on duty as ‘sons ofbitches, Junglees and Coolies’ perceiving that they had not paid attention to his arrival. As a protest against his language, fourteen ratings made individual complaints to Lt Commander Shaw, the Executive Officer. Shaw forwarded the complaints to King and apprised him of the gravity of the situation. However, King deferred the matter until 16 February and then told the ratings that they were making false complaints against the Commanding Officer. He gave them twenty-four hours to rethink. As would be obvious, this was a bizarre situation where the accused was adjudicating on his case. Further, his stubborn attitude matched by the determination of the ratings to seek justice took the situation to a boiling point. On the same day Dutt was informed about the authorities’ decision to demote and discharge him from Service.

THE REVOLT

On 18 February 1946, the ratings found the breakfast served was not properly cooked and inadequate. BC Dutt who, many years later, authored a book ‘Mutiny of the Innocents’ says: “As a protest, the ratings walked out of the mess hall. Someone shouted the slogan: No Food, No Work.” Satyindra Singh brings out that “the mutiny originated on the then HMIS Talwar and then spread to various naval ships and establishments all over the country and even beyond Indian shores. Only a few remained unaffected”.

Author Pramod Kapoor who is writing a book on the Uprising describes it thus “Just before dawn on February 18th, 1946, ratings on HMIS Talwar struck work, refused to eat and shouted slogans of ‘Quit India’, ‘Down with the British White Rats’, ‘Jai Hind’ and relayed signals to all within radio range informing them of the strike. The ratings were all young men, barely 17 to 24 years old, but they had lit the spark for what could be termed the Mutiny of 1946. For most people, the Indian mutiny refers to the one that took place in 1857 against the British East India Company, and posed a threat to the British Crown’s rule over India. The Naval Mutiny of 1946 was a courageous and audacious revolt by patriotic young men that spread like wildfire among the ship and shore establishments controlled by the RIN, spreading as far as Aden and Indonesia, and posed a major threat to the British rule because of its timing and circumstance”.

While the political aspects can be debated there is no doubt that the revolt spread far and wide and at its height involved 78 ships, 20 shore establishments and 20,000 ratings. While Talwar was the nerve centre it spread across Mumbai, Karachi, Visakhapatnam, Madras, Kochi, Jamnagar, Kolkota and Bahrein where other units of the RIN were located. In spontaneous reaction, sailors at these places stopped work, went on hunger strike or resorted to other forms of agitation. In Mumbai, the naval dockyard, ships and Castle Barracks (today’s INS Angre) were enveloped in the revolt. Officers, mostly British, were sent out of the ships and the Union Jack and Naval Ensign were hauled down and replaced with flags of the political parties of the day. Ships were taken over by ratings and in some cases the main guns trained at the Gateway of India, Taj Mahal hotel and the Yacht Club adjacent to it. While this was more to deter any firing at them, the significance of pointing weapons on what were seen as colonial symbols was not lost on the establishment and the general populace. As Talwar was the Communications training school the ratings used wireless telegraphy and codes to communicate among themselves and to spread the message across all naval echelons. The ratings in an act of chutzpah also took over the Butcher Island which served as the ammunition depot for the British.

The immediate cause of the ‘mutiny’ in other ships and establishments were sympathy with Talwar, supportive (or inflammatory depending on the perspective) articles in the press and similar feelings of disenchantment with the authorities. On 19 February 1946, around 2000 ratings from various establishments and ships in Mumbai came down on the breakwater to carry out ‘a sit down strike’. Singh stresses through that “with rare exceptions, the behavior of the mutineers towards their officers was courteous with the usual marks of respect”.

The ‘mutiny’ was also accompanied by civil unrest in many places. The reports on radio and in newspapers spread like fire and considerable sympathy was shown towards the demands of the ratings. In Mumbai, a meeting was held in Azad Maidan by the ‘mutineers’ and they marched in processions shouting anti-British slogans. As the enquiry report states “The ratings paraded the streets… although their behaviour in general was rowdyish, the mutiny was still non-violent.” Mumbai also saw mass protests by citizens coming out in support of the ratings. Civilian port and dockyard workers, mill hands, railway workers, student unions joined in the protest. The public transport system came to a halt, trains were burnt, roadblocks were erected and commercial establishments were shut down. A general strike in support of the revolt took place in Bombay on 22 February and in Karachi on both 22 and 23 February. The revolt came to receive widespread support from public even for the short period that it lasted, not only in Bombay and Karachi, but also in Calcutta, Ahmadabad, Madras, Trichinopoly, Madurai, Kanpur and several places in Assam.

The ratings formed a Naval Central Strike Committee (NCSC); MS Khan, Leading Telegraphist and Madan Singh, Petty Officer Telegraphist, were elected as the President and Vice-President respectively. On 19 February, a meeting was held at Talwar between Flag Officer Bombay Rear Admiral AR Rattray, RIN officials and representatives of the NCSC. The Committee demands included aspects such as non-victimisation of strikers, release of R.K. Singh, speedy demobilisation and reasonable peace time employment, immediate disciplinary action against Commander King, improvement in standards of food, scales of pay and other aspects of work environment. Interestingly, the demands also included immediate release of political and INA leaders, immediate and impartial enquiry into the firing on the public all over India and immediate withdrawal of Indian troops from Indonesia and Middle East. The last part clearly indicated the political nature of the protests.

As may be expected the establishment having been taken by surprised reacted with full fury. The ratings were warned to surrender failing which threat of use of force was openly made. The Government summoned Royal Navy ships from the East Indies Fleet at Trincomalee, RN ships in harbour were asked to be at standby for actions against RIN ships commandeered by mutineers, British Army troops were called in after the Indians refused to fire, Tanks and Artillery were requisitioned for support if needed and the Air Force bombers made low passes over naval dockyards in a show of strength. Unfortunately, pitched battles took place between the revolting ratings and their antagonists in the Castle Barracks of Mumbai where the Army troops laid a siege of sorts, surrounding the Castle and cutting off water and electricity while the ratings responded by sniping at them from the parapets, and in Karachi where an exchange of gunfire took place between ratings on HMIS Hindustan and Army troops. Mumbai witnessed 2 deaths and 6 personnel injured while Karachi saw 8 deaths and 40 injured. 33 personnel could not be accounted for and while presumed deserted by the authorities then may also have figured on the casualty list. Also, many sailors in various parts of the country were arrested and put in custody during the crisis.

In Bombay, the mass civil unrest and certain acts of arson by extreme elements resulted in curfew being imposed and police/military firing on unruly mobs. A panicky establishment reacting in knee jerk manner caused considerable blood to be spilled as close to 400 people were killed and nearly 1,500 injured. As Sharma eloquently brings out, “It must be said to the credit of the striking ratings that it required the bravest of the Braveheart to face the British might in this unequal contest. The ratings were now facing military might similar to the 1857 mutiny against England.”

While generating popular support, the uprising did not, however, garner the backing of the main political parties. The movement was leaderless and rudderless unlike, for example, the INA where the charismatic leadership of Netaji provided the glue and organisational coherence. Further, the naval uprising was seen as a one-off episode and not continuation of a political movement. This deprived it of much legitimacy. Some experts also argue that the Congress and the Muslim League having moved into pole positions with regard to transfer of power did not wish to cede that space to anyone or detract from that trajectory.

The happenings in Bombay and elsewhere were seen as acts of indiscipline and defiance of the authority by most political leaders of significance such as Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Patel and Mohammed Ali Jinnah. While Pandit Nehru was more sympathetic, he too did not wish to upset the non-violent nature of the freedom struggle. As historian Srinath Raghavan says, “The leaders realised that any mass uprising would inevitably carry the risk of not being amenable to centralized direction and control. Besides, now that independence and power were in sight, they were eager not to encourage indiscipline in the armed forces”. On 22 February Sardar Patel sent a message saying, “The strikers should lay down all arms and should go through the formality of surrender, and the Congress would do its level best to see that there is no victimisation and the legitimate demands of naval ratings are met as soon as possible.” This advice was eventually accepted.

The revolt was called off following a meeting between M.S. Khan and Vallabhbhai Patel. Patel issued a statement calling on the strikers to end their action, which was later echoed by Mohammed Ali Jinnah on behalf of the Muslim League. However, the agitations, mass strikes, demonstrations and support for the revolt continued for several days even after it had been called off. The surrender statement was remarkable for its defiant tone. It stated: ‘Our strike has been a historic event in the life of the nation. For the first time, the blood of the men in the services and the people flowed together in a common cause. We in the services will never forget this. We also know that you, our brothers and sisters, will not forget. Jai Hind.’

B.C. Dutt and son Tanush with authorities of Western Naval Command in 2003. Photo Courtesy – Cdr Mohan Narayan (Retd)Felicitating RIN heroes in KannurNaval Uprising Memorial, Mumbai. PHOTO: CAPT NAVTEJ SINGHTug Madan SinghMadan Singh at the launch ceremony of the yardcraft named after him.

It is notable that the 1946 naval uprising more or less disappeared from the nationalist narratives soon thereafter. This is in contrast to the trials of the INA officers which were under way at the same time. While the INA trials have, often, been incorporated into the narrative of the final push for Independence, the RIN revolt, in comparison, vanished from memory. The reasons for this vary. While most experts are agreed that the ratings acted in good faith and conscience, the disputation, in general, relates to two factors regarding the nature of the uprising—firstly, was it merely an outcome of bad service conditions lacking pronounced political character and secondly, should their revolt be seen as a patriotic act or did it behove uniformed men to go against the oath of service to a ‘lawful’ entity.

While the initial spark may have been a reaction to the treatment meted out to ratings and the lack of service facilities it also encompassed several other issues. In particular, the discontent of ratings to the resettlement arrangements became one of the main causes of the revolt. The British Naval policy of expansion, consolidation and radical contraction followed by demobilisation was to have deleterious consequences on a fledgling service that had only just started its journey.The summary of the Commission of Enquiry reporttestifies that there were several faults in the administration.

It is noteworthy that there were nine ‘mutinies’ in the Royal Indian Navy between March 1942 and April 1945. The reasons related to “grievances regarding pay, rations, bad cooking, inadequate lodging, menial duties and such like.” Most of these mutinies were suppressed by the British officials and the details never revealed to the world. Incidentally, a revolt took place in the Indian Army, almost at the same time as RIN Revolt, in February 1946. Two of the Indian Pioneer units of the Eastern Army Command at Calcutta refused to obey orders; the ‘mutiny’ was suppressed and mutineers sentenced without leaking the news to the political parties and press. During this period, there were also ‘mutinies’ in the Royal Air Force and the Royal Indian Air Force. While it is open to speculation on whether all the previous and immediately preceding mutinies had an impact on the RIN Revolt of 1946, there is no doubt that together they offer a stinging indictment of the British military administration. In fact, just a few days later, on 27 February 1946, the Indian Army Corps of Signals troops revolted in Jubbelpore and that ‘mutiny’ resulted in three deaths and more than 60 injured.

It is in this light that experts, especially in recent times, argue that the Naval Revolt of 1946 played a significant role in the freedom struggle of India. They argue that it is when the Raj realised they could no longer rely on the loyalty of the armed forces, it signaled the end of the colonial regime. As Pandit Nehru said “The RIN strike has altogether opened a new chapter in the history of our armed forces.”

Vice Admiral R.D. Katari, the first Indian CNS, in his autobiography A Sailor Remembers, brings out the dual nature of the uprising when he says, “The senior officers of the Service, who were all British, were particularly culpable in not sparing some thought to what was required to maintain the discipline and morale in the Navy. Superimposed on this set of circumstances was the revulsion against the British rule which the Indian component of the Navy not unnaturally shared with the rest of the country”. As Arthur King himself admitted in his memoirs, “The political background in India was tense and the demand of home rule was understandably on the increase. The fact that demobilisation plans had not been fully developed made the situation even more severe.”

It is a matter of historical record that Clement Atlee, the British Prime Minister at the time of Indian Independence, visited Kolkata in 1956 and when queried about British departure in a hurry in 1947, attributed it to the Indian National Army, which weakened their army, and the Royal Indian Navy Mutiny. He was also categorical that the impact of the Quit India movement was minimal. While Atlee may have had his own reasons to disparage the non-violent freedom struggle, his admission of RIN mutiny as a precipitating factor is important.

In an article published in April 2017, Raghavan opined, “After all, the Royal Indian Navy (RIN) mutiny was, arguably, the single most important event in convincing the British government that it could no longer hold on to India.” Satyindra Singh quotes then Lt S.N. Kohli (later Admiral and CNS) who was posted on HMIS Talwar “It is my view that the Naval Mutiny coming as the culmination of a number of similar incidents in the Indian Defence Services was largely instrumental in convincing the British that holding India was no longer feasible without the use of large scale British force and was, inter alia, responsible for ushering in freedom”.

Admiral S.M. Nanda, another close witness to the uprising, also echoes the same thought when he says “It would not be an exaggeration to claim that the mutiny hastened the attainment of Independence. Though resentment had been simmering in the Indian Army and Air Force as well, it was the sailors of the Royal Indian Navy at HMIS Talwar who fired the first shot for freedom…in retrospect, I feel that the naval mutiny convinced the British Government, which feared attacks, and a situation like the 1857 mutiny, to hasten the grating of independence to India.” Singh also quotes Congress leader Minoo Masani who said: “I imagine that the ratings were motivated partly by their own grievances like food, partly by poor leadership and partly by nationalistic motives”.

With regard to the means of struggle occupied B.C. Dutt had a ready answer. In his book he says, “In India a new generation had grown by wearing the soldier’s uniform and exulting in the sound of gunfire.  Most of them wanted the total overthrow of the Raj.  The means did not much matter.  Nor were they, at that point in Indian history, the only ones to feel the way they did.  Other segments of society were also similarly inclined.  The leadership would not have it.  They nipped what the young thought was the revolution in the bud.”

Most Indian historians and analysts agree that the disproportionate British response while winning them a pyrrhic victory robbed them of any sheen or moral halo they may have postured about at that time. Minoo Masani in his speech in the Central Legislative Assembly on 22 February said, “I wonder whether this kind of victory is worth having. The ratings who surrendered in the interest of their country are the moral victors of the struggle.” Even Katari, no fan of those who rose in revolt, admits, “It was unfortunate that Vice-Admiral Godfrey called in the East Indies Fleet and mouthed vague threats of the destruction of the Indian Navy. As a Commander-in-Chief, his action might have had some justification, but in the political climate of the time, it was disaster.” Nanda echoed similar sentiments when he said, “The RIN strike should not have provoked the British commanders to behave as they did.  Godfrey’s name became notorious because he had the audacity to threaten the destruction of the entire Navy.” Further, the promises of non-victimisation were belied when all those suspected of being involved were discharged from the service and sent home with a one-way ticket and minimal belongings.

THE INDIAN NAVY’S HEALING TOUCH

While the revolt has been analysed through many angles such as national versus colonial, subaltern studies or class struggle, not enough though has been given to the Indian Naval perspective. Admittedly, that is difficult because there may not be a single perspective in this regard. It needs to be noted that the Indian officers at that time were extremely junior in service with senior-most in the rank of Lieutenant Commander. Most of them were not in a position to be hugely influential though S.G. Karmarkar, S.M. Nanda and S.N. Kohli played useful roles in mediation. Many of their contemporaries like Soman, Krishnan, Chatterji, Ghandhy were exposed to the different facets of the uprising.

All these officers who rose to Flag rank learnt valuable lessons which could be utilized in building up a post-independence Navy. As Katari puts it, “The mutiny profoundly disturbed the delicate officer-man relationship in the Service which needed years of patient labour to repair and rehabilitate. The deep emotions that brought them together to stage this massive demonstration had to be tempered and channeled into the more purposeful pursuit of reconstructing a disciplined Navy once again.”

This was achieved over a period of time gradually through good and compassionate leadership reflecting the ideals of a free country. Initially, and understandably, the mutiny came to be viewed as an aberration to normal naval way of life. As time passed and the Service became more assured in its growth and development the event was subject to reappraisals.  In 1971, the personnel involved in mutiny were recognized as freedom fighters and were sanctioned pensions similar to those involved in the independence struggle. In the late nineties the Navy took the significant decision of characterising it not as mutiny but as an uprising. A navy veteran Rear Admiral A.R. Radhakrishnan recollects, “For the 50th anniversary of the Mutiny, the Fleet had staged a much applauded enactment of the uprising—this was when the terminology was changed. My ship Ranvir had coordinated the play. The show was on again, on a tableau/trailer for PM Vajpayee a couple of years later.”

A little later the Navy honoured the two prominent leaders involved in the uprising B.C. Dutt and Madan Singh by naming two yardcraft in Mumbai’s dockyard after them. On Navy Day 2001, Vice Admiral Vinod Pasricha, the then FOCinC Western Naval Command, inaugurated an open to the public ‘Uprising Memorial’ at Cooperage, Mumbai, paying homage to those who had taken part in the movement and to preserve their tale of sacrifice. The wheels of time seemed to have turned as it was on Navy Day in December 1946, that the first flame of the uprising had been lit. In Kochi, where the Navy’s Signal school is now located, the memory of the uprising is kept alive in the form of its state of the art auditorium named as ‘Talwar Hall’. Five years ago, in Kannur in north Kerala, some of the surviving personnel who had taken part in the uprising were publicly felicitated and honoured with a cheque of Rs 1 lakh. Further, organisations like the Maritime History Society conduct academic studies as was done last week in a high quality seminar centred on the uprising. The Navy has, thus, harmonised the different strands of the uprising through its unique approach.

The authors are associated with the Naval History Project. Views expressed here are personal and do not reflect those of the Indian Navy or the Government of India.

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Tehreek-e-Labbaik, Pakistan (TLP) which draws its ideology from the Barelvi sect of Sunni Islam is a far-right Islamist political party in Pakistan, founded by Khadim Hussain Rizvi on 1 August 2015. TLP is known for its countrywide street power and massive protests in opposition to any perceived change to Pakistan’s blasphemy law or disrespect to Allah/Prophet Muhammad. Its first demonstration of street power came to light following the execution of Mumtaz Qadri the bodyguard of Salman Taser, the Governor of Punjab, who killed the Governor for publicly voicing his support for Asia Bibi (Aasiya Noreen). Qadri was hung on 29 February 2016, after which TLP supporters took to the streets across Pakistan, proclaimed him a martyr, chanted anti-government slogans and clashed with the police. A TLP patron, Pir Abdul Qadri, also called for the killing of the Supreme Court justices who ruled on the case and the Army Chief.

TLP, among other extremist religious outfits, was manoeuvred into mainstream politics by the country’s Army brass as one of its tools of political engineering. It was thought that carving out the far-right fringe from the conservative voter base of the PML-N, would damage it in the 2018 general elections, which proved correct & many PML-N candidates lost to PTI, as the voter base of PML-N gravitated towards PTI. Pak Army’s support for TLP was evident during their protest which took place from 8th November 2017, at Faizabad contesting changes in the Elections Bill 2017, demanding resignation of Minister for Law and Justice Zahid Hamid. DG of Punjab Rangers, Major General Azhar Navid Hayat was seen distributing envelopes containing Rs 1,000 notes to the protesters. The ISI then ‘brokered’ a deal between the TLP and the government. Wrapping up the suo-moto case of Faizabad protests, the two bench judge which included Justice Qazi Faez, directed DG ISPR & ISI amongst others to operate within their mandate. The said Judge is now facing various charges of corruption reportedly on the behest of Pak Army & the ISI.

In October 2020, a teacher, Samuel Paty was beheaded in Paris by an Islamist terrorist reportedly for displaying a cartoon of Muhammad. French President Emmanuel Macron defended freedom of expression and the rights to publish such cartoons, after which widespread protests took place in Pakistan, with calls to boycott French products and sever diplomatic ties with France. In November 2020, activists of TLP demanded the expulsion of French Ambassador from Pakistan. The protests were called off on 16 November 2020 after the Government of Pakistan reached an agreement with TLP by seeking more time to discuss the matter in Parliament.

On 11 April 2021, TLP leader Saad Hussain Rizvi (son of founder Khadim Rizvi) released a video message asking TLP activists to launch protests across Pakistan if the government did not expel the French Ambassador from the country by 20 April 2021. On 12th April 2021, after Saad Rizvi was arrested in Lahore, protests broke out across the country, with TLP activists blocking roads and cutting off Lahore, Islamabad, Peshawar and Gujranwala from each other. The protests turned violent with reports of stone pelting; at least two people were killed in the riots on 12 April 2021. In addition, TLP claimed that two protesters were shot dead in Faisalabad and Karachi. On 13th April 2021, one police officer was beaten to death by the rioting mob in Lahore, while 40 others were injured. TLP spokesperson Tayyab Rizvi claimed that the number of TLP workers “martyred” in the protests by the second day had increased to 12. A spokesperson of Punjab Police confirmed that two cops were killed by the protesters who used clubs, bricks and firearms to attack them. Paramilitary forces were brought in to assist the local police across various cities including Lahore, Gujranwala, Rawalpindi and Bahawalpur. On 15th April 2021, the French embassy in Pakistan advised French citizens and companies to temporarily leave Pakistan “due to serious threats”. Pak Government formally banned TLP under Anti-Terrorism Law. On 16 April 2021, Pak government blocked several social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp and YouTube for around four hours fearing call of protests by TLP. Situation turned extremely violent on 18th April 2021, at Yateem Khana Chowk, Lahore where three people were killed and hundreds of others, including 15 policemen injured in a clash between TLP protestors and police. It was reported that the TLP workers took five policemen, among them a DSP, hostage after an attack on a police station. It has also been reported that the protesters have taken a 50000 litre petrol tanker with them precluding any massive operation against them for fear of collateral damage.

Tanzimat Ahl-e-Sunnat leader Mufti Muneeb-ur-Rehman has called for a nationwide shutter down strike on 19th April 2021, against the Lahore incident. It has also been reported that that the protesters will march with the dead bodies of their colleagues to Islamabad, demanding expulsion of French Ambassador, release of all TLP members jailed in various parts of Pakistan and action against Pak’s Interior Minister Mr Sheikh Rashid. JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman also supported Mufti Muneeb’s call for the shutter down strike showing growing collusive support for the protests among other radical Islamic groups in Pak. The protest that started over a cartoon of Muhammad in France has brought the entire nation to a standstill. The Pak social media is replete with hashtags like #CivilWarInPakistan, #Stop_Gov_Terrorism, #Lahore, #LahoreBurning, #iStandWithTLP, etc.

There have been widespread reports of Pak Army and police personnel defecting from the forces and openly coming out in support of the protesters. The military-intelligence establishment’s pathological obsession with legitimising groups that provide their own warped-version of Islam, has made the foundation of Pakistani society unstable and unpredictable. While PakistaniEstablishment is trying to enforce writ of the Government& present a positive image to the international audience, given its precarious economic condition, the possibility of the ongoing protest looming into a major crisis for Pak cannot be ruled out.

There have been widespread reports of Pak Army and police personnel defecting from the forces and openly coming out in support of the protesters. The military-intelligence establishment’s pathological obsession with legitimising groups that provide their own warped-version of Islam, has made the foundation of Pakistani society unstable and unpredictable.

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Defence

INDIAN NAVY SEIZES NARCOTICS WORTH RS 3,000 CRORE

Ashish Singh

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New Delhi: Indian Naval Ship Suvarna, whilst on surveillance patrol in the Arabian Sea, encountered a fishing vessel with suspicious movements. To investigate the vessel, the ship’s team conducted boarding and search operation, which led to the seizure of more than 300 Kgs of narcotics substances. The boat with its crew have been escorted to the nearest Indian Port of Kochi, Kerala for further investigation. The approximate cost the catch in the international market is estimated to be Rs 3,000 crore. This is a major catch not only in terms of the quantity and cost but also from the perspective of disruption of the illegal narcotics smuggling routes, which emanate from the Makran coast and flow towards the Indian, Maldivian and Sri Lankan destinations. Apart from the human costs from drug addiction, the spoils of narcotics trade feed syndicates involved in terrorism, radicalisation and criminal activities.

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Defence

RAJNATH SINGH REVIEWS PREPAREDNESS OF MOD AND ARMED FORCES AMID SPIKE IN COVID-19 CASES

The Defence Minister asks them to aid civilian administration to tide over the current coronavirus situation; gives go ahead for emergency procurement of critical medical supplies.

Ashish Singh

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Defence Minister Rajnath Singh held a virtual meeting to review the preparedness of Ministry of Defence and the armed forces to deal with the recent spike in Covid-19 cases across the country, in New Delhi on Tuesday. Defence Secretary Dr Ajay Kumar, Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Karambir Singh, Chief of Army Staff General M.M. Naravane, Director General Armed Forces Medical Services (AFMS) Surgeon Vice Admiral Rajat Datta, Secretary (Defence Production) Raj Kumar, Secretary Department of Defence R&D and Chairman Defence Research and Development Organisation Dr G. Satheesh Reddy, Financial Adviser (Defence Services) Sanjiv Mittal and other senior civil & military officers attended the meeting via video conferencing.

Rajnath Singh was briefed about the measures taken by AFMS, DRDO, Defence Public Sector Undertakings (DPSUs), Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) and other organisations of Ministry of Defence such as National Cadet Corps (NCC) in providing aid to the civil administration in this hour of crisis. The Defence Minister was informed that a COVID care centre established by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is active in Bengaluru assisting the civil administration. He was informed that arrangements are being made by the DPSUs to buy oxygen plants that will help them in production of oxygen cylinders at a faster pace. The Defence Minister asked the DPSUs, OFB and DRDO to work on war footing to provide oxygen cylinders and extra beds to civil administration/state governments at the earliest. Rajnath Singh called upon the Armed Forces to be in close contact with the state governments and be ready to provide any required assistance. In a significant decision, the Defence Minister directed the Armed Forces and other stakeholders to go ahead with procurement of critical medical requirements under emergency powers of procurement.

DRDO Chairman briefed that a Covid-19 facility, developed by DRDO, has again been made functional in New Delhi and efforts are being made to soon increase the number of beds from 250 to 500. Dr Sathish Reddy informed the meeting that the ESIC Hospital, which was converted to Covid hospital in Patna, has started functioning with 500 beds and a Covid hospital will soon be made functional at Muzaffarpur in Bihar. He also informed that work is on at war footing to set up a 450-bed hospital in Lucknow, 750-bed hospital in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh and 900-bed hospital in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. Rajnath Singh was also informed that based on the On-Board Oxygen Generation Technology developed for LCA Tejas, a 1000 litre/minute capacity oxygen generation plants technology has been given to the industry and the Uttar Pradesh government has placed order of five such plants with the industry. Dr Reddy informed the Defence Minister that more plants can be supplied by the industry to cater to the hospital requirements. He further said SpO2 (Blood Oxygen Saturation) based supplemental oxygen delivery system developed for soldiers posted at extreme high-altitude areas can be used for Covid patients as their conditions become similar. The product will be available soon in the market from the industry as per technology provided by DRDO. The Defence Minister was informed that the AFMS has mobilised its man power and other resources in various military hospitals dealing with Covid patients. To augment the manpower if required, the minister suggested to utilise the services of vaccinated retired Armed Forces personnel to assist the civil administration/state governments to deal with the current situation. During the meeting, Rajnath Singh also discussed ways to contain the spread of Covid-19 among the Armed Forces personnel and the officers/staff working in Ministry of Defence. He focused on Covid-appropriate behaviour at the work place, stressing on the need to strictly follow all the Covid protocols such as wearing of masks at all times and maintaining physical distancing.

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Defence

HERITAGE AS LEGACY IN THE EVOLUTION OF INDIA: CASE STUDY OF NAVAL DOCKYARD IN MUMBAI

The Indian terrestrial approach lured us away from the seas which were left almost unprotected.

Janhavi Lokegaonkar

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India is a maritime nation with a rich heritage. History records our oceanic links with other nations of Indian Ocean and beyond from the Harappan civilisation and lasting through the centuries. Indian maritime influence can be seen in all walks of Indian history. Our development is owed to the maritime economy and a gradual advancement of maritime infrastructure along the coastal frontiers. If we are to learn from our history, the biggest lesson is that the Indian terrestrial approach lured us away from the seas which were left almost unprotected. The failure amongst the Indians to perceive the potential threat from the maritime frontiers and percolate a maritime vision and policies among the masses was one of the grave problems that led to the rise of Colonial rule in India. This article highlights one facet as an outcome of “Manthan” or churn of the sea saga of Indian journey.

Under the Company and the Crown, the city of Bombay was developed further taking into consideration of all the physical features it had which gave it an edge. Even with self-gain as the motive, the emerging vision aided colonial officials to analyse the importance of the geography of Bombay and developed it as ‘Urbs Prima in Indis’-the premier city of the Empire.

Today as we traverse the heritage precinct of Fort area in South Mumbai, we are reminded of the lasting legacy that is the built heritage across the city’s waterfront. The Naval Dockyard that stands tall as a custodian of Mumbai’s coastline is a heritage facility in itself. The Wadia Master builders were commissioned to develop this shipbuilding and docking facility (erstwhile Bombay Dockyard) in Bombay in 1735. Today, this is used by the Western Naval Command of the Indian Navy that upholds its heritage and continues to maintain its legacy.

With the Industrial revolution in Europe, change was inevitable. In the wake of Industrialisation in England, there was a paradigm shift in the realms of production. Technology took over and since then it has only developed. Ironically, this phase also marks the deindustrialisation in the Indian subcontinent in order to facilitate and furnish the English industries. The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 and the need for better docking and banking facilities at such a juncture is self-explanatory. The undertaking of construction for new dock building and related facilities was deemed necessary and beneficial for improving the efficiency of the maritime trade and commerce.

Bombay Dockyard and nearby facilities made ‘Ships-of-the-Line’ for the Royal Navy that were considered to be of superior quality and craftsmanship. The skills and nautical expertise of the Indian shipbuilders was a legacy in itself. But, the Indian shipbuilding industry that was once sought after met its downfall as the sail ships were replaced with the steam vessels. Despite such setback, this never deterred the Indian shipping industry. Bombay faced economic repercussions but the indomitable spirit of the city as we see today was blazing even then. After an initial slump in the shipbuilding industry, the Dockyard and other facilities gave rise to a number of other associated industries that aligned with the needs of the shipping sector thereby creating a market for economy with wider avenues. Soon, the docking facilities were equipped and gained momentum as a ship repair and refits industry which made a lot of progress.

Built heritage and maritime affairs intermingle with economic matters-thus creating a legacy and building a stronger future of our nation. A gradual progression in the maritime infrastructure and its resultant impact on the economy has played a vital role in the development of the Indian shipping sector. Promotion of our maritime heritage and traditions by a holistic development of the coastal communities by integrating them in the mainstream policies will ensure the promotion of our rich maritime legacy.

The evolution of the Mumbai city is owed to the maritime economy and due to harnessing of its maritime connect and development of the infrastructure. The role and contribution of the maritime sector in developing the city to what it is today must be acknowledged. The mushrooming of allied industries in the shipping industry is a subsequent factor. The economy of Bombay strengthened which led to the creation of an industrial infrastructure. This was the rise of a modern SEZ i.e. Special Economic Zone, a precursor to the modern metropolis that Mumbai has become today.

Shortly after the World Heritage Day commemorated on 18 April 2021 this week sees launch of a multi-stakeholder initiative to revive maritime consciousness in form of a unique workshop titled “Indian Maritime History : A Manthan”. In the two day workshop, 21 – 22 April 2021, Dr Malini Shankar, IAS (Retd), Vice Chancellor, Indian Maritime University will deliver the Keynote Address while Commodore Odakkal Johnson, Director, Maritime History Society will mentor the proceedings and provide the thematic setting. The contents will benefit students, faculty & maritime enthusiasts. The workshop will evolve elements of an approach towards a long-term facility for excellence in Maritime History as envisaged in Maritime India Vision 2030. Maritime History Society and Indian Maritime University invite an enthusiastic response toward the resurgence of Sea Mindedness through participation, promotion and resource infusion into the journey to enhance influence for greater maritime consciousness in India.

Janhavi Lokegaonkar is a Research Associate at Maritime History Society with a focus on modern aspects of Indian Maritime History

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