Indian Freedom Struggle 9



The Royal Indian Navy Mutiny (RIN Mutiny)

The Royal Indian Navy Mutiny or the Bombay Mutiny was the revolt of the Indian sailors. The sailors who belonged to the Royal Indian Navy on board ship and shore establishments at Bombay harbour went for a strike and organised a mutiny on 18th February 1946.The whole mutiny involved 78 ships, 20 shore establishments and 20,000 sailors. This revolt subsequently came to be known as the RIN revolt. It started as a protest against their general conditions. The immediate reason for the outbreak of the mutiny was their pay and food. In addition to that there were more elementary matters such as racist behaviour by Royal Navy personnel towards Indian sailors, and disciplinary measures taken against the sailors who demonstrated nationalist sympathy. The R.I.N revolt started electing a Naval Central Strike committee, Signalman M.S Khan and Telegraphist Madan Singh were elected as the President and Vice-President respectively.

The Royal Indian Navy Mutiny was widely supported by the Indian population. The one day strike spread to other cities from Bombay and the Royal Indian Air Force and local police forces also joined this mutiny. Furthermore, in Madras and Pune, the British garrisons had to face revolts within the ranks of the Indian Army. The mutinying ships hoisted three flags which were tied together those of the Congress, Muslim League, and the Red Flag of the Communist Party of India (CPI). The flags signified the unity and demarginalisation of communal issues among the mutineers. The Royal Indian Navy Mutiny was called off following a meeting between the President of the Naval Central Strike Committee (NCSC), M. S. Khan, and Vallab Bhai Patel of the Congress. Vallab Bhai Patel was sent to Bombay to settle the crisis. Thus; Patel put forth a statement calling on the strikers to end their action. Mohammed Ali Jinnah on behalf of the Muslim League also supported the statement of Patel. As a result, the strike ended and in spite of assurances of the good services there were widespread arrests of the Congress and the Muslim League. Furthermore, there were incidents of courts martial and large scale dismissals from the service. However, after independence none of the dismissed returned into either of the Indian or Pakistani navies.

INA Trials

The INA trials or the Red Fort Trials refer to the courts martial of a number of officers of the Indian National Army between November 1945 and May 1946 variously for treason, torture, murder and abetment to murder. The first, and most famous, of the approximately ten trials was held in the Red Fort in Delhi, hence deriving the name. In total, approximately ten courts-martial were held. The first of these, and the most celebrated one, was the joint court-martial of Colonel Prem Sahgal, Colonel Gurubaksh Singh Dhillon and Major General Shah Nawaz Khan. The three had been officers in the British Indian Army and taken POW in Malaya or Singapore. They had, like a large number of other troops and officers of the British Indian Army, joined the Indian National Army and later fought in Imphal and Burma alongside the Japanese forces in allegiance to Azad Hind. These three came to be the only defendants in the INA trials who were charged of “Waging War against the King Emperor” (The Indian Army act of 1911 did not have a separate charge for treason) as well as Murder and abetment of Murder. Those charged later only faced trial for torture and murder or abetment of murder. The trials covered arguments based on Military Law, Constitutional Law, International Law, and Politics. These trials attracted much publicity, and public sympathy for the defendants who were perceived as patriots in India, and outcry over the grounds of the trial, as well as general emerging unease and unrest within the troops of the Raj ultimately forced the then Army Chief Claude Auchinleck to commute the sentences of the three defendants in the first trial.

Cabinet Mission

Cabinet Mission which arrived on 24th March 1946 was mainly aimed at devolution of power from the British crown to India giving India independence under Dominion Status in the Commonwealth of Nations. On 28th January 1946, the Viceroy, announced in the legislative Assembly, his intention to establish a new executive council with political leaders and to create a constitution -making body in India. Plans were finalised and devised with the sole enterprise of Clement Attlee, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. On 19th February 1946, in Parliament, the British Government announced the forwarding of a team of three Cabinet Ministers to India to seek agreement on how to enact self-determination and Independence with the Indian political leaders. The Cabinet Mission included Lord Pethick Lawrence (1871-1961) the Secretary of State for India, Sir Stafford Cripps (1889- 1952), President of the Board of Trade and A.V.Alexander (1885-1965), First Lord of the Admiralty. Cabinet Mission also received the boost of Lord Wavell, the Viceroy of India during the time.

Meetings held by the Cabinet

On its arrival on 24th march 1946 the mission aimed at having talks with all the major parties of India who had marked themselves on the political canvas of Indian politics. This included parties like Indian National Congress, Muslim League, The Sikhs, scheduled Casts and liberal leader Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru. All the members surrounded around 472 members in total. The cabinet began its discussion on 16th to 18th April when it met Muslim League leader Muhammad Ali Jinnah to outline two plans, comprising a small Pakistan with sovereignty or a big Pakistan in an All India Union. Jinnah avoided making a choice. Further, in the days of 5th to 12th May 1946, in Shimla, the Cabinet Mission convened a conference, including four members each from the Congress Party and Muslim League. They included for the Congress: Nehru, Chandra Shekhar Azad, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and Abdul Ghaffar Khan and for the Muslim League: Jinnah, Liaqat Ali Khan, Ismail Khan and Abdur Rab Nishtar. The Government of India invited Mahatma Gandhi to come and stand by if needed for consultation. The agenda treated the grouping of provinces, nature of a union and the constitution making process. Cripps` Union of All-India Plan failed to win the acceptance of either the Congress or Muslim League. On May 12th, it became evident that no solution was possible and the Mission announced the failure of the conference.

Proposals made by Cabinet Mission

Cabinet Mission, on its arrival in India, aimed at fulfilling three wide spectrum issues. Firstly, it came to hold a preparatory discussion with the elected members of British India and the Indian states in ordered to secure maximum agreement over the issue of framing a new constitution; secondly, to set up a constitution -making body; and thirdly, to establish a full self-government in India. Along with this regarding the minorities it claimed that they had full knowledge of the minorities but could not allow the minorities to place veto on the advance of majority party. The cabinet then sought to answer some of the vital questions which were engulfing Indian politics for long. On the issue of accepting an independent Pakistan, the Cabinet Mission completely rejected the idea on communal grounds and claimed that it would not solve the problem. As the committee estimated that the Hindu and Muslim population on the western zone were at a ratio of 62:38 and on the eastern zone it was 51.7:48.3.On the basis of these calculations the Cabinet came to a conclusion that a separate state of Pakistan was not viable. Secondly, the mission also raised question regarding the level of communication to be established with the new state falling under Pakistan .Even in case of distribution of Army also it will turn out to be a trouble. On a positive side the mission suggested creation of a federal Union consisting of British India and Indian states. The union will deal with the foreign affairs, defense and communication and authority to raise finances for these subjects

Reaction of the All India Parties to Cabinet Mission

The Cabinet Mission was received with a multiple reaction. As the Mission announced on16th May its three tier scheme for forming a Union of All-India consisting of Hindu-majority provinces, Muslim majority Provinces and the Indian States. On 25th June, the Congress Working Committee passed a resolution to accept the Cabinet Mission`s plan and to enter the Constituency Assembly. The Sikhs on other side were in favour of a united India. The scheduled castes were against the partition and wanted to guarantees of their human rights. The Hindu Mahasabha insisted on the favour of immediate transfer of power and indivisible India. Thus, the Cabinet Mission can be regarded as the most effective step adopted by the British government to reach India towards Independence. The mission for the first time made a public declaration of its intension to grant India free from subjugation. Though this mission only talked of an interim government with a dominion status it was later on condemned for this. Nevertheless it paved the way for the Indian leaders to experience the running of a nation as a whole.

The interim government of India

 The interim government of India, formed on 2 September 1946 from the newly elected Constituent Assembly of India, had the task of assisting the transition of India and Pakistan from British rule to independence. It remained in place until 15 August 1947, the date of the independence of the two new nations of India and Pakistan.

Formation

After the end of the Second World War, the British authorities in India released all political prisoners who had participated in the Quit India movement. The Indian National Congress, the largest Indian political party, which had long fought for national independence, agreed to participate in elections for a constituent assembly, as did the Muslim League. The newly elected government of Clement Attlee dispatched the 1946 Cabinet Mission to India to India to formulate proposals for the formation of a government that would lead an independent India.

The elections for the Constituent Assembly were not direct elections, as the members were elected from each of the provincial legislative assemblies. In the event, the Indian National Congress won a majority of the seats, some 69 per cent, including almost every seat in areas with a majority Hindu electorate. The Congress had clear majorities in eight of the eleven provinces of British India. The Muslim League won the seats allocated to the Muslim electorate.

Viceroy’s Executive Council

The Viceroy’s Executive Council became the executive branch of the interim government. Originally headed by the Viceroy of India, it was transformed into a council of ministers, with the powers of a prime minister bestowed on the vice president of the Council, a position held by the Congress leader Jawaharlal Nehru. After independence all members would be Indians, apart from the Viceroy, in August to become the Governor-General, Lord Mountbatten, who would hold only a ceremonial position, and the Commander-in-Chief, India, Sir Claude Auchinleck, replaced after independence by General Sir Rob Lockhart. The senior Congress leader Vallabhbhai Patel held the second-most powerful position in the Council, heading the Department of Home Affairs, Department of Information and Broadcasting. The Sikh leader Baldev Singh was responsible for the Department of Defence and Chakravarthi Rajagopalachari was named to head the Department of Education and arts. Asaf Ali, a Muslim Congress leader, headed the Department of Railways and Transport. Scheduled Caste leader Jagjivan Ram headed the Department of Labour, while Rajendra Prasad headed the Department of Food and Agriculture and John Mathai headed the Department of Industries and Supplies.

Upon the Muslim League joining the interim government, the second highest-ranking League politician, Liaquat Ali Khan, became the head of the Department of Finance. Abdur Rab Nishtar headed the Departments of Posts and Air and Ibrahim Ismail Chundrigar headed the Department of Commerce. The League nominated a Scheduled Caste Hindu politician, Jogendra Nath Mandal, to lead the Department of Law.

Activities

Although until August 1947 British India remained under the sovereignty of the United Kingdom, the interim government proceeded to establish diplomatic relations with other countries, including the United States. Meanwhile, the Constituent Assembly, from which the Interim Government was drawn, struggled with the challenging task of drafting a constitution for independent India.

Wavell Plan, 1945

In October, 1943 Lord Wavell who had succeeded Lord Linlithgow as Governor General, made an attempt resolve the stalemate the deadlock in India. He went to England for consultations in March 1945.The result of Governor`s consultations was soon revealed. He broadcast to the people of Indian the proposals of the British Government to resolve the deadlock in India on 14th June.

Mr. Amery, he was the Secretary of State for India. On 14th June made a similar statement in the House of Commons: “The offer of March 1942 stands in it’s entirely without change and qualification.” He also proposed the renovation of the Governor General`s Executive Council pending the preparation of a new constitution. With the expectation of the Governor-General and the Commander-in-chief all other member of the Executive Council would be nominated from amongst leaders of Indian Political life. This Council would have “a balanced representation of the main communities, including equal proportions of Muslims and caste Hindus. It would work, if formed, under the existing constitution. Though the Governor-General`s veto would not be abolished, it would not be used unnecessarily. The portfolio of external Affairs was to be transferred from the Governor-General to an Indian member of Council. A Conference of representatives chosen by the Viceroy was to be convened with a view to obtaining from the leaders of the various parties a joint list or failing it, separate lists of worthy people to constitute the new Executive Council”. It was also expected “that provincial ministers in Section 93 Province would resume office and that there would be coalition.”

The Congress Working Committee members were let out of jail. Their high hopes prevailed on all sides as invitations for the planned Simla Conference went out to the leaders including Gandhiji. The conference was adjourned after three days of discussion and the meeting was held on June 25, 1945. Mr. Jinnah had a short interview with the Viceroy on 11th July. In this interview he seems to have made it clear to the latter that the league, wishing to be regarded as the sole representative of Indian Muslims. That was firmly opposed to the inclusion of any long league Muslims in the Viceroy`s list. But the Viceroy could not agree to this point of view. Lord Wavell wound up the Conference by declaring a failure of the talks. The responsibilities for the failure lie partly on Lord Wavell himself and partly on Mr.Jinnah. Mr. Maulana Azad, the Congress President put the blame for the break down directly on the shoulders of Mr. Jinnah. Lord Wavell should have taken the leaders into confidence as regards the composition of his own list of members of the Executive Council. Possibly the Congress leaders might have been persuaded to accept that list either as a whole, or with minor modifications mutually agreed upon. He should not have allowed the league practically to veto the whole plan and thus alone to block the path of progress.

It must be noted in this connections that the Viceroy had assured the Congress President that “no party to the conference could be allowed to obstruct settlement out of wilfulness”, but it seems that as in the parallel case of Cripps, Wavell`s hands were stayed at the last moment. The tangible result of the failure of the Simla Conference was to strengthen the position of Mr.Jinnah and the Muslim League Which was clearly manifested in the elections of 1945-46.

 


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