In 1946, ratings (non-commissioned officers or sailors) of the Royal Indian Navy (RIN) staged a mutiny, posing arguably the greatest challenge to the British Raj since the 1857 uprising.

A saga of indomitable courage, dashed hopes and, perhaps, betrayal, it shook the British empire to the point of hastening its departure from India, and rubbed almost everyone else that mattered in the Subcontinent's political hierarchy the wrong way. No wonder, then, that a veil of silence subsequently descended over the episode.

Despite being featured in many prominent works of fiction - theatre and cinema personality Utpal Dutt's record-breaking play Kallol [Large Waves], Hollywood film Bhowani Junction, and novels such as Salman Rushdie's The Moor's Last Sigh and Amitav Ghosh's The Glass Palace - the incident has been deliberately banished from public consciousness.

But this is a tale that needs to be told to a new, receptive audience, and doing so befittingly is award-winning Indian author and publisher Pramod Kapoor, with 1946 The Last War of Independence: The Royal Indian Navy Mutiny.

A book on the Royal Indian Navy mutiny of 1946 is a compellingly good read for connoisseurs of South Asian history in general, and of the freedom struggle in particular

Kapoor had just a passing awareness of the issue when he commenced his research and, to his everlasting regret, couldn't take oral testimonies of the active participants, who are no more. He did, however, have unhindered access to all the sites associated with the incident. He also - albeit unsuccessfully - travelled to Pakistan in search of Shoaib Khan, president of the Central Strike Committee, which was a key element of the revolt.

The author meticulously went through countless reports made by British naval admirals, commanding officers of ships and shore establishments, cables and letters exchanged between London and Delhi, proceedings in the British parliament and hundreds of reports by both British-owned and nationalist newspapers. Balai Chandra Dutt's autobiography Mutiny of the Innocents - though mostly focused on Dutt's own accomplishments - also proved useful.

Kapoor's book chronicles the ingress of the European navies into the Indian Ocean domain and the resistance offered by the hereditary Kunjali Marakar family of Muslim marine merchants, who struck terror into Portuguese hearts for over 90 years, followed by the legendary warrior-administrator Marathi Angrez family.

How Britain's Royal Navy...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT