India (Naval Mutiny And Civil Disturbances)-UK Prliment Debate-26/02/1946

Tuesday 26 February 1946

House of Commons

Mr. R. A. Butler

(by Private Notice) asked the Prime Minister whether he has any further Statement to make on the mutiny in the Royal Indian Navy.

The Prime Minister

Since I made my Statement on Friday discipline has been restored in the Royal Indian Navy. There appear to be some ratings at Calcutta and Jamnagar who are not performing their duties, but violence has ended and the officers have resumed control. A full inquiry into the origin of the trouble, the grievances put forward by the men, their reasons for indiscipline and any allegations against their officers is to be held by a committee appointed by the Government of India, with which members of the Indian Central Legislative Assembly will, I understand, be associated. Courts of inquiry will also be held by the Royal Indian Navy at the various centres concerned, to make recommendations about the conduct of individual men.

I must naturally refrain from prejudging the issues which the committee and courts will have to examine, but I should like to quote to the House from the broadcast which the Commander-in-Chief made yesterday. He said:
” The word ‘strike ‘ has been freely used. The correct word is Mutiny. It matters not what form collective disobedience takes— whether negative, such as a refusal to work, or positive, such as a demonstration march. Such acts are all mutiny, though obviously they can, and do, vary in degree.

Appeals are sometimes made that there should be no victimisation of those guilty. In so far as this means that there should be no collective punishment of a body of men, it is true that there will be no vindictive actions or indiscriminate retribution. But I have never made, and will never make, any promise that ringleaders and others individually tried and found guilty will not be punished. On the contrary, they will be. To do otherwise would be quite unfair to well-behaved Service men, who form the vast majority. To refrain from awarding punishment where such is due would put a premium on insubordination.”

His Majesty’s Government fully agree and will support the attitude of Sir Claude Auchinleck who justly enjoys the confidence of all responsible sections of both British and Indian opinion.

I now turn to the civil disturbances which were consequential on the naval mutiny. They started in Bombay during Thursday night and continued with much Toggle showing location ofColumn 1752mob violence during most of Friday and Saturday. Both Congress and Muslim League leaders co-operated in condemning and attempting to stop the disturbances, but the Communist Party issued a manifesto at midnight on Thursday thanking the public for its support. Sunday was comparatively quiet and since then there has been a progressive improvement Similar disturbances, but on a smaller scale, occurred in Karachi on Thursday and Friday. Last night and this morning there has been some trouble in Madras originating in a strike of students and resulting in stone throwing and acts of hooliganism.

I regret to inform the House that grievous loss of life, injury and destruction of property have resulted from all these disturbances. In Bombay there have been 223 deaths and 1,037 persons have been injured The total damage includes the looting or destruction of nine banks, 32 Government grain and cloth shops which the public can ill afford to lose, 30 other shops, 10 post offices, 10 police stations and 1,200 street lamps. The number of vehicles destroyed is not yet estimated. In Karachi there have been seven deaths and 21 cases of injury. In Madras up to last night one person has been killed and another seriously injured.

The Viceroy’s general appreciation of the situation which I have received this morning indicates that the situation generally throughout India continues to improve.

Mr. Butler

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we on this side of the House desire to be associated with the Government’s decision to support the Commander-in-Chief s words, to support any steps taken to restore order, and to let this matter proceed in the manner suggested?

Mr. Henderson Stewart

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman, with regard to the second part of his statement, on the civil disturbances, whether it is the intention of the Government of India to hold an official inquiry into the causes of that particular trouble which has been associated, as he has said, with so many grievous casualties?

The Prime Minister

I have not any information on that. I should think it would Toggle showing location ofColumn 1753be better to await the first inquiry to see how far the civil disturbances were consequential on the first disturbances.

Mr. Lipson

Can the Prime Minister say on whom falls the cost of repairing the damage caused in Bombay and other places?

The Prime Minister

Not without notice,Sir.

Mr. Nicholson

Will the right hon. Gentleman feel able to express to the Bombay Government the appreciation of this House for the remarkable restraint of the Bombay police force?

The Prime Minister

I have not had any particular information upon that. As soon as I get it, I shall certainly do so, but I prefer to wait until I hear the full account. I have no reason to doubt that the Bombay police force behaved extremely well, but I have no information.


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