Salman rushdie

Prophet Muhammad movie in Indian homes is an edgy affair

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Nobody knows how the debut of movie “Muhammad, Messenger of God” in Indian homes next week would be reacted to by millions of Indian Muslims.

A new player in the Over The Top (OTT) streaming platforms, Don Cinema, run by an Indian Mehmood Ali, would release the movie on its App on July 21–a month which closes with Bakra Eid, or the Festival of the Sacrifice, considered holier than Eid al-Fitr, the two Islamic holidays celebrated world over.

The film’s score has been composed by that Mozart of Madras, A.R. Rahman, who had a fatwa issued against him on this movie itself six years ago, as it was on its Iranian film-maker Majid Majidi by a little-known Indian Islamic organisation, Raza Academy. Rahman was asked to read Kalima (The Word) again and re-solemnize his marriage.

The same organisation has issued a bugle again for this “intolerable” act by Don Cinema, wondering why Muslims are always the “target” even when it’s known that a “Muslim will die in honour than to see or hear even the slightest insult on his Holy Prophet.” The Academy has ended its appeal with the unveiled threat that it would cause “unrest” and “law and order” problem.

This movie on the Prophet of Islam was state-sponsored by Iran and released world over in 2015 but Saudi Arabia has banned it and so have a score of other Islamic countries who profess faith in Sunni Islam. As is known, Iran is the centre of Shia faith and Saudi Arabia of Sunni and the two have been violently divided over many a century over its purity.

The film took seven years in the making and has been hailed as a masterpiece by moviegoers yet the depiction of Prophet Muhammad, or anybody embodying him in art, cartoon or movies, is a taboo disapproved by Islamic theologians. Very few have crossed the redline and not paid the price.

In 2005, cartoons on the Islamic Prophet published by a Danish newspaper led to violent protests, attack on embassies and consumer boycotts and left scores of people dead.

In 2015, Islamic militants smoked out 12 lives at the offices of French magazine Charlie Hebdo for depicting the Prophet in cartoons which were termed blasphemous.

Salman Rushdie’s is an episode known world over as his 1988 book “The Satanic Verses” fell into crosshairs with Islam’s adherents and Iran’s late supreme leader Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa, calling on Muslims world over to kill the author.

Closer home, Kamlesh Tiwari, a Hindu nationalist politician, had his throat slit inside his home by two Islamic fundamentalists for calling the Prophet Muhammad as the first homosexual last year.

The movie which depicts the early life of Prophet Muhammad, claims to show Islam in good light and spread its message of peace and brotherhood which has been tarred by jihadis and terrorists in recent decades. It’s been mainly shot in Iran but when elephants were required for the movie, India refused permission to filmmakers who later opted for South Africa.

As it shaped up the storyline went thus:

An attack on Mecca is ordered to destroy the Kaaba by the order of Abraha, King of Habasha. One of his commanders lead a force of thousands of soldiers, horses and elephants. As the army reaches the gate of Mecca, the elephants halt and refuse to move on the divine order. Next, small birds in millions release a hail of stones onto the invaders and the army is wiped out. A month later, the Prophet Muhammad is born. This pre-Islamic Arabia is seen through the eyes of the Prophet Muhammad from birth to the age of 13.

The movie at no point shows the face of the Prophet. Only his hand and feet in the cradle as a baby, and a child from the back is shown. The identity of the boy who played the Prophet Muhammad has not been revealed so far.

The apprehension on reception of this movie in India is valid. The first attempt to depict the Prophet Muhammad in a movie called “The Message” happened 43 years ago. In 1976, Anthony Quinn played the Prophet’s uncle Hamza. The film didn’t depict the Prophet Muhammad’s face on screen but Muslims were offended nevertheless. The movie’s director, Syrian Moustapha Al-Akkad was killed in a 2005 suicide bombing in Amman. It’s not confirmed though whether the attack was related to the movie.

In 1977, gun-terrorists sieged the B’nai B’rith building in Washington DC and demanded the movie’s release in the United States to be cancelled or they would blow up the building. A policeman and a journalist died in the standoff.

Interestingly, this movie was released in 2018 in Saudi Arabia after a 42-year ban. It became the first Arabic title to get a theatrical release in Saudi Arabia. Since it was approved by the Middle East censors, many other Islamic countries such as Egypt, Morocco, Iraq, Lebanon, Ethiopia etc also released the movie. This is only one of the two movies ever made on The Prophet, the other being the present one by the Iranian director.

It’s not clear how the release of this Iranian movie would play out in India. It’s unlikely the radical Islamic elements in India would look the other way. Even though the Shias in India might keep their peace since the movie has the blessing of Islamic Republic of Iran, the Sunnis would take the leaf out of Saudi Arabia’s book and all hell could break loose. For all we know, Don Cinema could itself develop cold feet. One surely can’t take one’s eyes off the movie even before one has seen it.

 

 

Indian Muslims, next time you hold aloft anti-CAA banner, remember this for your own good

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

I guess there is little avoiding the anti-CAA protests once Corona pandemic goes as unannounced as it came in 2020.

A Shaheen Bagh here, a state assembly in ferment there, Jamia and JNU on boil, Cars and buses in leaping flames, narrowed eyes looking for that saffron or skullcap which could comfort or disorient in equal measure.

One morning, European Union is making front page in Muzaffarnagar. The other dawn would acquaint Ferozabad how human rights warriors in the august US Congress are brothers in spirit. Someday Turkey’s strongman Recep Tayyip Erdogan would talk of “massacres of Muslims in India.” The other would’ve Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) warning of “serious implications” if India doesn’t look after its Muslims.

And there would always be an Imran Khan, Asaduddin Owaisi, Sitaram Yechury or a Rahul Gandhi who would recall Godse in prime minister Narendra Modi, their bloodied hearts in front of camera an act worthy of Oscars.

Such solidarity aligns a Muslim from Kashmir to Kuwait, Moradabad to Morocco, Shahjahanpur to Saudi Arabia, Lucknow to Lebanon, Hyderabad to Hamedan. Islam binds them; a pact of faith and piety; a soldiering spirit which revisits the pages of history and underlines how Jihad never loses.

It stops them from recoiling when illustrators are gunned down in Paris on seeing a cartoon in Prophet Muhammad; a Salman Rushdie driven to the end of the world on Satanic Verses. Islam pervades the world, overrides governments, the rod of God which spares no one.

But what happens to this global brotherhood when a million Muslims are locked up, their women sterilized, their children snatched from parents and made strangers to Islam in their growing years. What explains the silence of 57 Islamic nations which make up OIC, or EUs and US Congress, the Erdogans and Mahatirs and Imran Khans; the Owaisis and Yechuris who are a Muslim-Left global pact in miniature. Why in this case MuslimLivesDon’tMatter?

I of course am referring to China and its repression of Uighur Muslims in its Xinjiang province which is one of history’s most evil, heinous, barbaric pogrom a State has carried on its citizens ever. For over a decade, the Uighurs are being kept in suffocating controls, their neighbourhood infested with the influx of Han Chinese and their religion and culture systematically wiped out.

Internal Chinese government documents leaked in late 2019 have revealed that such is the fate of a million Muslims detained without charges or legal access; and 11 million Muslims outside who are made to renounce Islam, learn Mandarin and sing the virtues of Communism. Satellite imagery show that these detention camps are roughly the size of 140 soccer fields.

It goes without saying that if even a millionth of this was to happen in India, the nation would go deaf by noise at home and abroad. It could even be kept hungry or wounded by economic and military actions. Yet not a word comes China’s way by way of criticism on its Uighar pogrom. Not those champions of Islam who sit in Riyadh and Tehran. Who are the Iraq and Egypt of our world. The Islamic State (IS) who are torching the European capitals. Muslim lives suddenly don’t matter to them. Moolah over Mullah zips their lips courtesy the riches which flow through the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) by the totalitarian China.

The hypocrisy of these champions would become stark to Indian Muslim in coming weeks. It so happens that on Monday, two Uighur exiles groups have gone to International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate Beijing’s genocide and crimes against humanity.

This is first-ever global attempt to hold China accountable for its merciless crackdown on Muslim minority of Xinjiang. A team of London-based lawyers are representing East Turkistan Government in Exile and the East Turkistan National Awakening Movement. Since China is not a signatory of ICC, these activists have opted for a roundabout way to bring China to heels.

In 2018, ICC had censored Myanmar, even though the latter wasn’t its member, by citing the instance of its member-state Bangladesh who was reeling due to Myanmar’s “deportation” and “crimes” against Rohingya Muslims.

Likewise, in the present case, Beijing is being drawn in ICC ambit through its unlawful actions in Cambodia and Tajikistan who are members of this international body. The petition states that thousands of Uighurs are being unlawfully arrested and deported from Cambodia and Tajikistan. The complaint against Beijing includes evidence of forced deportations and extraterritorial arrests by the Chinese agents.

It may take months before the ICC makes a formal move. But it would be interesting for Indian citizens, more so its Muslim minority, to watch how the developments are hidden from their views by India’s Leftist media. You won’t hear a word in solidarity from Owaisis and Yechurys. Their heart won’t bleed at the plight of Muslims. But once Corona pandemic passes, you would see them clearing their throats and exhorting the protestors on-their-bums. An Arundhati Roy would emerge from her closet.

So use your judgment, my Muslim brethren. Pay heed to what Supreme Court rules on the CAA matter. Modi’s Centre has time and again invited a meeting across the table to clear your doubts and anxieties. Your cause is a contortion by the voices which din in your ears ceaselessly. This is your country, it’s future is your concern. When you don’t come on the negotiating table, you are holding the country to ransom. Sooner or later, the Centre or majority, or both, would push back. You not only are burying the future of your children but are also alienating the majority who view this petulance as inimical to India’s wellbeing.

 

 

 

Abusing Hanuman: Where’s the leash to deter the barking Netflix

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

I once heard Salman Rushdie say: “I might be indifferent to religion but if it acts as a balm to billions, who am I to quarrel with.” This is a perfect position for both atheists and non-atheists; believers and non-believers. devotees and rational. If you can’t help or console humanity, a majority of whom are without power or hope, the last thing you ought to do is to hurt the faith which allows them to live by.

The only set who wouldn’t agree to this position are artistes. They are a different breed. They argue, they question, they debate and we all feel it’s for our advancement. There is no harm if dogmas are revisited. A faith reformed is a faith purified. It’s rationality. The problem occurs when your are not out to cleanse the faith. It’s to use your art to abuse the faith. Messenger, instead of message, becomes your target.

Unfortunately, it pays. More in the case against the Hindus than say Muslims or Christians.  If you take liberty against Muslims and their faith—dare even sketch a portrait of Prophet Muhammad—it’s unlikely you would see the next day. The retribution is swift. Charlie Hebdo isn’t the sole instance. But against the Hindus—you could slap at their Hanuman; call a “kutiya” (bitch) a Savitri; term “Chitrakoot” as “Paatal Lok”; show them genocidal—and its’ artistic license.  Worse, it ensures raving reviews and 10-serial contract with the new beasts in town: The Over The Top (OTT) platforms.

The OTT platforms are your Netflix and Amazon; Voot and Hotstar etc. The stream straight into your living rooms. There is no censorship. It doesn’t come under the CBFC (Central Board of Film Certiication) or the Cinematograph Act of 1952. Profanity passes off as gritty dialogues; sex scenes are watched together by both father and daughter, one skirting his eyes, the other holding her breath; a young kid bemused why the “uncle” on the screen finds a young boy in his mirror-image so tempting.

This is my third piece on the matter. One was on Leila, last year, a futuristic tale of Hindus in ethnic cleansing. The second was Paatal Lok which filled me with disgust. Now it’s on Chippa where an old man is narrating how his grandma once slapped “Hanuman” and the latter “sar jhukai. dum dabai, ae bhaaga (bowing his head, tail between his legs, he scampered for safety).  All three have been streamed on Netflix in rapid succession.

Twitteratis this morning were outraged at Chippa. Predictably, excuses came up: “Langaurs in Bengal are called Hanumans”; or “A specie of monkeys in India is called Hanuman.” Rebuttals came that “if so, why a man is seen kicking a kid while reading Hanuman Chalisa in Chippa;” or “If true in Bengal; why use this truism for rest of India?” Surely, two million Hindus of Bengal isn’t the same thing as 1000 million other Hindus in rest of India.

It’s easy to understand the motive. Such artistic liberties secure a platform, ensure good reviews and probably a 10-series contract from an OTT outlet. Guaranteed profits. Secured careers. Unlike Muslims, Hindus are unlikely to walk into the Mumbai office of Netflix and spray bullets. Their impotent outrage on the social media—for no mainstream media gives a hoot to Hindu sensibilities—actually drives up the viewership. India’s OTT market would be worth $5 billion in 2023, as per Boston Consulting Group. Netflix has reported a 30% hike in their viewership during these pandemic months.  Be pretty sure also they are not taxed either by the Indian government.

Not that Information and Broadcasting ( I & B) ministry hasn’t stirred. Just before lockdowns, a notice had gone to these OTT platforms in March to standardize their code of conduct and set up an adjudicatory body. China, France, Singapore all enforce it. However, in a meeting which the minister Prakash Javadekar summoned in his office, to abide by the rules of the Digital Content Complaint Council (DCCC), predictably, Amazon Prime refused. Netflix asked for extra weeks to firm up their mind. Others, such as Hotstar, Voot etc have come on board.

The OTTs hiding behind censorship is a joke. It can’t overrule what the courts in India find outrageous in light of the Constitution. You can’t be promoting religious violence or show barely-concealed pornography in the name of artistic licence. And if you could, dare and do it against Islam. You know as well as I do, you won’t.  Between money or a hole-in-the-chest, the choice is not too difficult.

 

 

Western Media: Modi’s new India has learnt to ignore the barking dogs

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Who’s afraid of Western media? Certainly not Modi’s India. The telltale signs of recent times convey a stunning departure from India of old when every censure from a New York Times or British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) sent a chill down the government corridors of New Delhi.

Now an extremely well-networked Western journalist Aatish Taseer, who writes for Time, Sunday Times, Sunday Telegraph, has his OCI (Overseas Citizenship of India) card revoked by New Delhi for concealing his parentage and despite a personal written appeal by 260 celebrated men of letters, including Salman Rushdie, to the Indian prime minister, it hasn’t elicited a word in response from Narendra Modi.

It’s nearing four months since the political heavyweights of Jammu and Kashmir were put under house arrest by the Modi government after it abrogated the “special status” of state of Jammu and Kashmir and broke it into three separate territories. Despite the din and orchestrated campaign in Western media, the Modi government hasn’t bothered to put a timeline on their release.

In the altered reality of our times, the gravity of the world has shifted to Asia where India along with China, and Russia, have popular leaders in control of the destiny of their countries. Nationalism is at the heart of their policy which by its very definition runs counter to the liberal narrative of the Western media.

Western media isn’t just about the United States or the United Kingdom—it by and large represents most West European countries and comes in a language-bouquet of English, French, German, Spanish, Italian etc. Western media is the foot soldiers of West in winning the public perception in latter’s favour. It has a veneer of independence but actually is an extension of the liberal establishment which acquired hegemony after World War II.  West detests any assertion of sovereignty and nationalism and so does its media. Brexit is a case in point.

The evidence too is hard to ignore. The Economist openly urged Indian voters to vote for Congress and not Modi’s BJP in both 2014 and 2019 elections. Yet voters overwhelmingly voted for BJP. The Guardian bemoaned Modi’s win as “India’s soul lost to a dark politics.” The New York Times found India to be suffering from Modi’s “raw wisdom.”  Washington Post believed Modi won because “India had no credible alternative.” All through, the Western media narrative has been the demonization of Modi, on the “divisive” politics of beef and “lynchings” of Muslims. Yet it made little dent to Modi’s popularity.

Modi’s India thus sees no benefit in trying to cultivate a network which is fundamentally in conflict with their sovereignty. It relies on its strong domestic base which won them a second successive term with full majority this summer. As an economy which could be third largest in coming years, it knows it’s attractive to the world’s largest corporations and business. It received its largest Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) ever this financial year. India now ranks very high in the Ease of Doing Business rankings too. It’s also aware that millions of Hindus, quite a few well-heeled and a force in Western capitals of New York and London, are quick to pick up the cudgels against orchestrated campaigns.

India appears to have hedged its bets well. The two strongest cards West and its’ media plays are “human rights” and “democracy.” West uses these two weapons to wreak havoc in countries as diverse as Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan are from Bolivia, Chile and Cuba. Sometimes there are direct military interventions overriding international laws; on other occasions, there are suffocating economic sanctions; at other times it’s stage-managed internal eruptions as have been witnessed in Ukraine, the Middle East and now Hong Kong.

India bets against such a scenario because it’s not only economically attractive to the West but also  Donald Trump’s United States hopes to ride on its shoulders for its’ Act Asia policy.  Internal eruptions are a powerful tool which the United States has perfected over the years. But India is assured it won’t happen to them in the near future, at least till the 2020 US presidential elections are over, a year from now. Without an active US intervention, New Delhi’s streets won’t be filled with demonstrators as it’s happening in Hong Kong or Bolivia. Modi knows well within he could ignore the barking dogs.

 

Modi calls out Indian Communists and here’s why

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that “Indian Communists do not respect India’s history, culture or spirituality,” while condemning the “most shameful” behavior of Pinaryi Vijayan’s Communist LDF government on the Sabrimala Temple issue.

Predictably, the CPI (M) has gone ballistic against the comment on its twitter handle but I ask what’s there to argue about really?

Let’s take India’s pre-independence history. Didn’t communists in Bengal assembly support The Partition? (It’s an irony though that communists, like Leftist Amartya Sen had to flee East Pakistan to India whose unity they had betrayed). Wasn’t CPI (Communist Party of India) officially against the Quit India movement?

Or the annals of India after Independence. Didn’t the CPI chief B.T. Randive termed India’s freedom as fake (“yeh azadi jhooti hai”) and called for an armed revolution in 1948? Who do you think a section of Communists supported in the 1962 Indo-China War? (E.M.S. Namboodiripad among others argued in favour of China and dubbed India as the aggressor). Isn’t the pro-Chinese faction of those days is the Communist Party of India (Marxist) today? Didn’t the CPI (M) parrot the line of its masters in China in opposing the historic Indo-US nuclear deal in 2007?

And what to say of the “Eminent Historians” from the stable of Communism who have butchered the Indian history in India’s text books and academia. For instance, are you told the story of Battle of Talikota of 1565 when Vijaynagar Empire which had two Muslims as its main generals who, at the last minute, betrayed the legendary Hindu kingdom and went to the other side? (It practically ended the golden era of Hindu renaissance).

And how do you think the story of destruction of Hindu temples by invading Muslims is told to you? Famous Indologist Dr. Koenraad Elst points out the instance that invading Muslims are blamed only for destroying 80 temples in India. Though one of these 80 entries read: Qutubuddin Aibak, the military general of Muhammad Ghouri, destroyed 1000 temples in Varanasi!!!

And how do you think dreaded Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb’s destruction of all the temples in Varanasi is explained away? That it was due to a Brahmiin conspiracy as one of Muslim princes had been abducted and hidden away in a temple? Any historical proof? My foot.

Can Indian communists deny that one of the main planks of their ideology is atheism? Isn’t it a fact that one of their leaders, Brinda Karat once led a savage attack against Baba Ramdev? What’s been their stance when the Kanchi Shankaracharya was sent to jail? Or on Sri Sri Ravi Shankar who gets targeted often? If these men don’t matter to you then isn’t Modi justified in claiming that Indian Communists do not respect India’s history, culture or spirituality?

Would these communists ever confess that Stalin killed more people than Hitler did before or during the Second World War? Would they acknowledge the genocides of a Mao Zedong or a Pol Pot? Or is that genocide of millions don’t matter in this case while a stray lynching sees them paint the town in red? What was their stance when Salman Rushdie’s book “Satanic Verses” was banned in India?

So thorough is Communists hold on our textbooks and academics that anyone who holds a contrary opinion is never allowed to rise up the academic ladder. But all those who fall in line are conferred with position and prestige.

There is a lot more which could be said about Communists and Naxalites, including the Urban Naxals, but this must wait—some other day, some other time.

 

Sharia Courts in all districts is recipe for another Pakistan

The All-India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) has plans to introduce Sharia Courts (Darul-Qaza) in all 640 districts of India.

Even though Sharia Courts have no locus standi in the precincts of India’s courts, and that individuals and not a religious group is an entity in the eyes of a “secular” state, the AIMPLB recommends itself to solve the personal conflicts of Muslims in this country, citing the inordinate time a case takes in legal courts and claiming the guardianship of interpreting “Quran” the holy book for its adherents.

It’s a dangerous, calculated ploy by the AIMPLB to present itself as the upholder of “Quran” and thus obtain a complete subservience from the Muslim population of India, preparing a ground of conflict with India’s legal system which has recently made a move on the “triple talaq” issue and which is at the cusp of making a “Ram Janmabhoomi” verdict.. It’s preparing a ground for “two-nation” theory and has seeds of another Partition, another Pakistan in it.

The threat is real due to the weak nature of Indian judiciary which, in the past, passed a Shah Bano judgement couched as its “interpretation” of Sharia laws. India’s rule of government is no better in cracking a whip on a body about whom 95.5% percent of Muslim women have not even heard of.

Prof. Mohammad Tahir, an international expert on Muslim law, and a former chairman of Minorities Commisson, has no doubt that the Muslim law board manipulates Quran to perpetuate regressive laws and that it needs to be abolished. A few of the instances he cites,are worth quoting: “There are two verses in Quran on talaq. One verse says, `Divorce is only twice.’ The other Quranic verse says a person can’t divorce his wife unless there is an arbitration or reconciliation process from both sides. The Maulvis prefer to choose the first verse as law and the second as a mere morality.

“Similarly there is no Quaranic sanction for a Muslim law which treats two female witnesses as equal to one male witness… Every sensible Hadith is declared false, every sensible verse of the Quran has been abrogated.”

“Frankly I want (Muslim law) board to be abolished. It’s members are paranoid and they speak rubbish. Everytime the Supreme Court delivers a judgement, the Board says it is interfering with the Shariat.”

We have the instances of Muslim women denied fair marriage, divorce, adoption and property rights.  No women-in -dargahs; polygamy etc is practiced. Prohibition on child marriage is opposed by AIMPLB. Free voices, like Salman Rushdie, would continue to be muzzled.

The fall-out and damage to India’s social fabric consequently has been massive.  It has led to Muslims retreating themselves into “ghettos” and “no-go zones.” There is no assimilation and thus regressive mindset kicks in which fuels similar destructive forces of other minorities. In the name of “secularism”, the majority in India allows such self-appointed bodies to hijack and set the agenda for the minorities to the detriment of the nation.

Thus a “nation-within-nation” takes shape. It’s funded by forces which wants jihad for Muslim sovereignty across the globe. From US to Philippines, every society today is facing this challenge. First, an exclusive area is forged; it then develops into a zone which police has problem in accessing. Lawlessness emerges. Politicians fish in troubled waters. It’s not long before government loses control of such areas. Terrorism and drugs thus come to hold sway. Soon there is a call to declare them “Islamic zones.” Several European cities today are victims of such phenomenon.  For example, a radical group in UK wants 12 British cities, including London, to turn into independent Islamic states.

Look at Bengal. It has hundreds and thousands of illegal infiltrators from Bangladesh, duly aided by ISI-modules. Consequently, there are 100s of villages in Bengal where police has no say, abetted of course by politicians. When fundamentalist Mullahs make a call for no-entry to the likes of Taslima Nasreen, neither police nor politicians are of any help.

Initially, the British judges in India were assisted by Muftis and Qazis. The Qazis Act of 1880 deprived the Qazis of their judicial powers. The British courts thereafter made judgment on Muslim Personal Law. There was a persistent demand in the first quarter of 20th century to have Sharia Courts. Muslims followed the Hindu Act till 1937 when the Muslim Personal Law Application Act was passed. The All India Muslim Personal Law Board came into being during Indira Gandhi’s rule in 1973.

The life around us could soon descend into chaos, anarchy, riots and who knows, civil war.  That’s what happens in completely communally polarized societies with weak judiciary and appeasement politics. Similar was the situation during the final years of Raj when bigoted forces managed to vivisect India, slicing off its Eastern and Western arms. Appeasement lay at the root of it. History seems set to repeat itself and it would, unless it’s dealt with firmly and decisively. As citizens, we would be no less responsible for our indifference.

Great Navy Mutiny and Congress betrayal

(This is a reprint from NewsBred)

While India celebrates its Navy Day (December 4), let’s do a remembrance to The Royal Indian Navy (RIN) Mutiny of 1946 which left colonial masters Britain with no choice but to leave India.

That there is little mention of this momentous event in Indian historiography is a striking indictment of establishment run by Congress who had betrayed this spectacular mass uprising in that heady week of February (18-23).

British Prime Minister Clement Attlee accepted three weeks later that “the tide of nationalism is running very fast in India.” Britain had always feared united mass movements in India and RIN Mutiny was one such where Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Parsees had come under one banner. Indian masses came out on streets in support and hundreds spilled their blood on the street.

Salman Rushdie’s 1995 novel The Moor’s Last Sigh describes these momentous events on the streets of Bombay, through one of its character, thus:

“In February 1946, when Bombay, that super epic motion picture of a city, was transformed overnight into a motionless tableau by the great naval and landlubber strikes, when ships did not sail, steel was not milled, textile mills neither warped nor woofed, and in the movie studios there was neither turnover nor cut—the 21-year-old Aurora began to zoom around the paralyzed towns in his curtained Buick, directing her driver Hanuman to the heart of the act, or rather of all that great inaction, being set down outside factory gates and dockyards, venturing alone into the slum city of Dharavi, the rum-dens of Dhobi Talao, and the neon flesh pots of Falkland Road, armed only with a folding wooden stool and a sketchbook.

“Opening them both up, she set about capturing history in charcoal.”

Remember your history books and historians, your glorified political leaders and their progenies, all your Independence and Republic Day celebrations and after you’ve read of this great betrayal, don’t muffle but air-rend your full-throated cry which sends shockwave through this land of ours and warn these enemies “Not now and never again.”

And tell your children: “you would read history as it happened and not as it was doctored to us.”

THE BACKGROUND

The World War II had caused RIN to expand massively. It was 10 times larger than in 1939. Young men were enlisted in tens of thousands. Moving around the world, they could see the fire of nationalism against colonialism sweeping around the world. As these young men were hailed as liberators in Greece, Burma, Indo-China, Indonesia, Italy. It was logical they asked themselves: Why not India be free now?

The myth of British supremacy was receding. These young men could see how European forces were wilting across Asia under the Japanese aggression. The Indian National Army (INA) of Subhas Chandra Bose had captured their imagination. The trials of those arrested brethrens and their humiliation had filled the natives in armed forces and on streets with revulsion and anger.

In January 1946, the airmen of Royal Air Force mutinied as a harbinger to the eventually bigger revolt. They seized the signaling equipment and spread their message to other servicemen. From Karachi, the agitation spread to places as far as Kanpur to Singapore. The navymen were demanding delisting from the services. They were unwilling for fresh battles in Indonesia on behalf of the Dutch government as well as war in Vietnam, then under the rule of the French colonial government. The hands of British government were forced.

Meanwhile, trials of INA officers were on at the Red Fort. A young naval Rating (enlisted officer), Balai Chandra Dutt, posted on HMIS Talwar in Bombay, began painting the ships and dockyard walls with messages in its support. HMIS Talwar had 1500 officers and ratings and was the second largest training center in the whole British Empire. In the recollections, titled “Mutiny of the Innocent”, the mutineers detailed the squalor on board, the poor quality of food and the racism of British officers.

The mutineers first took out peaceful processions in Bombay, holding an image of Subhas Bose aloft. Chief Commanding Officer (CO) King called the rebellious “you son of bitches” and “sons of bloody junglees.” Rebels responded by deflating his car. The events of dockyards in Mumbai spread like a wildfire across the country. Ratings set up a INA Relief Fund and posted letters against CO King. On February 17, when the ratings again pressed their demand for good food, British officers called them “beggars.” This was the last straw.

On February 18th morning, 1500 ratings staged a protest in the mess. They also declared: “This is not a mere food riot. We are about the create history…a heritage of pride for free India.” A Naval Central Strike Committee (NCSC) was formed which decided to take over the RIN and place it in the command of national leaders. (That’s right!, they wanted India’s political class to be their guide and guardians).

The formal list of demands called for release of INA’s POWs and naval detainees, withdrawal of troops from Indonesia and Egypt, equal status of pay and allowances and quality Indian food. It also formally asked the British to quit India.

The strike soon spread to other naval establishments around the country. At its peak, 78 ships, 20 shore establishments an 20,000 ratings were involved in the uprising. HMS Talwar was coordinating the mutiny through signal communication equipment on its board.

Indian Naval personnel now began offering left-handed salutes to British officers. The orders of British superiors were ignored or defied. In Madras and Poona, the British garrisons faced unrest by the Indian Army. Widespread rioting began from Karachi to Calcutta. The joint banners of INA, Indian National Congress, Muslim League and Communist Party of India were hoisted on board HMIS Talwar.

Sadly, instead of support, the Indian National Congress condemned their actions. Mahatma Gandhi criticized the mutineers for revolting without any guidance from a political party. The Muslim League too denounced the mutineers, arguing that protests should be through constitutional methods alone.

Sensing that the political leaders were not supporting the uprising, the British government moved in for the kill. Admiral Godfrey tricked NCSC into returning to their respective ships and barracks. Within an hour, Godfrey had the army surround these barracks. Realizing they had been betrayed, NCSC got ready for open battle The NCSC appealed: “You, our people and our respected political leaders come to our aid…you must support us.”

But the political leaders could sense the dilution of their political authority in this mutiny. Never one consisting of mass leaders and made up mostly of elites, these political leaders had always been uncomfortable in face of a mass uprising. The Congress asked the people “to go about their work as usual.”

But the masses were now ready to defy their political leaders. Thousands of civilians brought milk, fruits, bread, vegetables and cooked food for the starving ratings to the Gateway of India. The ratings came by motorboats to collect the offerings. Hindu, Muslim and Iranian shops opened their eateries and asked the masses to take whatever they could for the suffering ratings. The Indian soldiers on duty didn’t stop them.

The city of Bombay went on strike on February 22. The public transport system was shut down; trains were burnt; roads were blocked; shops were closed. Eleven military trucks were torced. The city came to a grinding halt.

With no assistance from either the Congress or the Muslim League, the mutineers were doomed. British army and air bombers began closing in. At this stage, Congress assured the mutineers their grievances would be looked into. That they won’t be victimized. Jinnah asked the Muslim ratings to surrender. That sealed the fate of the mutiny.

Meanwhile, Bombay continued to burn the next day, February 23. The army responded with indiscriminate firing. In just two days, 229 civilians and 3 policemen had died. Over 1000 people and 91 policemen/soldiers had been injured.

The ratings were court-martialled. More than 500 ratings were kept in Mulund (Bombay) and in Maliar (Karachi) in abominable conditions. They were dismissed and later sent home. Only in 1973 did the Indian government recognized a few as freedom fighters. Most claims for pensions were not responded to. Only in the 1990s, two of the navy’s tugboats were named after BC Dutt and Madan Singh.

In 2001, the uprising was commemorated with a statue in Colaba—a recognition which came more than half a century late!!!

Such is the story of great betrayal of Royal Naval Mutiny of 1946 by India’s political leaders. When 100s of ratings suffered in Mulund camp, nobody spoke up for them.

It’s time we pay our respect and homage to those braves who concluded their mutiny with the words: “Our strike has been a historic event in the life of our nation. For the first time the blood of men in the Services and in the streets flowed together in a common cause. We in the Services will never forget this. We know also that you, our brothers and sisters, will not forget. Long live our great people. Jai Hind.”

We would never forget it: And repeat this great event of bravery to our children.

Time to take a vow.