Meanings of Failed Action: A Reassessment of the 1946 Royal Indian Navy Uprising

Article


Vitali, V. 2019. Meanings of Failed Action: A Reassessment of the 1946 Royal Indian Navy Uprising. South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies. 41 (4), pp. 763-788.
AuthorsVitali, V.
Abstract

The exhibition Meanings of Failed Action: Insurrection 1946 opened in Mumbai on 17 March 2017 and in New Delhi on 8 February 2018. The second part of Vivan Sundaram’s The History Project,1 this new installation was intended to mark seventy years of Indian independence and partition by exploring an often forgotten moment of Indian history: the uprising of the Royal Indian Navy’s ratings in February 1946, when 10,000 naval ratings took charge of 66 ships across the Indian subcontinent in the name of the ‘Quit India’ movement. R.I.A.F. men, Sepoys, Bombay’s industrial workers and the city’s population joined in, marching in solidarity with the ratings irrespective of caste and religious affiliation. But the Congress and the Muslim League condemned the action and consented to British military intervention, which resulted in the deaths of over two hundred people and the ratings’ imprisonment. The event has since been erased from Indian national history, perhaps because, had the insurrection succeeded, India’s struggle for freedom might have taken a different turn. I worked on the exhibition as a researcher for the artist, with Ashish Rajadhyaksha and David Chapman, for over a year. The question we sought to answer during those months was: what is the significance of that uprising for India today? With this question in mind, in what follows I focus on the documents we unearthed in the process – pamphlets, slogans, the ratings’ statements to the police and Inquiry, their memories and prison letters – and examine the motivations and hopes that defined the strikers’ action. What kind of freedom did the ratings stand for?

JournalSouth Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies
Journal citation41 (4), pp. 763-788
ISSN0085-6401
Year2019
PublisherTaylor & Francis for South Asian Studies Association of Australia
Accepted author manuscript
License
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)doi:10.1080/00856401.2018.1523106
Web address (URL)https://doi.org/10.1080/00856401.2018.1523106
Publication dates
Online01 Jan 2019
Publication process dates
Deposited01 Feb 2018
Accepted01 Feb 2018
Accepted01 Feb 2018
Copyright informationThis is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies on 01/01/2019, available online: http://www.tandfonline.com/10.1080/00856401.2018.1523106.
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Accepted author manuscript

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