--classstrugggle-flipmag CS Dec-2018 MKP - Page 8

From the Pages of History : The National Liberation Struggle and the Indian Armed Forces - Subrata Banerjee (Read in the Seminar on the occasion of the Golden Jubilee of Chittagong uprising in Delhi) The Indian liberation struggle can in no way be compared to the Great October Socialist Revolution in Russia. Nevertheless, the transfer of power from the British to Indians amounted to a change of regimes. The old imperialist regime yielded place to the new national regime. In that limited sense it was a revolution. In this situation too it required the “disorganization” of the armed forces to give the final push towards victory. As we celebrate today the golden Jubilee of Chittagong Armoury Raid, we should also recall the RIN revolt. Exactly 33 years ago today those brave young men were still fighting a losing battle. It was probably no coincidence that the naval ratings at IMS Talwar went on strike on 18 February 1946 and the British Prime Minister, Mr. Clement Attlee, announced on the following day, the decision to send liquidation of the British Empire in India. The year 1857 marked the beginning of the organized participation of Indian soldiers in the fight for liberation. The year 1946 was its culmination. Much happened during the nine intervening decades. One was the series of dramatic, spectacular, violent actions by individuals of small groups of revolutionaries. The second was what is known as the constitutional movement. From small beginnings the genius of Gandhi converted it into a mass movement. The origins of the Indian armed forces go back to the early days of the East India Company. That was in the 17 th century. The company enrolled Indian guards to protect 8 the several factories set up in different parts of the country. By the end of the century three fortified positions grew up in Madras, Calcutta and Bombay. Around them developed administrative units with their own armies. Europeans, recruited locally or from abroad, and Indian sepoys served in these armies. This emerged the sepoy army, commanded by its own Indian officers, serving the needs of the British rulers. At this stage even the British soldiers served under Indian officers. In the middle of 1734, the first contingent of British troops arrived in India. The Company reorganised its armed forces in three categories-the King’s troops, the Company’s European troops and the Company’s Indian sepoys. It took some years for these three categories to be gradually incorporated into one monolithic structure. In the process the Indian officers lost their prestige and powers of command. This was one of the factors that contributed to the first organized revolt of Indian soldiers, the revolt of 1857. The sepoy army was an army of mercenaries. Between 1757 and 1857 it fought 20 wars. It enabled the British conquer the whole of the Indian subcontinent from Burma in the east to Kabul in the west. With the total military occupation of the country, the character and role of the sepoy army changed. This transformation was very well explained by Karl Marx: “With the conquest of Scinde and the Punjab, the Anglo-Indian Empire had not only reached its natural limits, but it had trampled out the last vestiges of independent Indian states… Hence a great change in the position of the East India Company. It no longer attacked one part of India by the help of another part, but found itself placed at the head, and the whole of India at its feet. No longer conquering, it had become the conqueror. The armies at its disposition no longer had to extend its dominion but only to maintain it. From soldiers they were converted into policemen; 200,000,000 natives curbed by a native army of 200,000 men officered by Englishmen and that native, in its turn, being kept in check by an English Army numbering 40,000 only. On first view it is evident that the fidelity of the allegiance of the Indian people rests on the fidelity of the native army, in creating which the British rule simultaneously organized the first general centre of resistance which the Indian people was over possessed of”. (The First Indian War of Independence, 1857-1859, K. Marx and F. Engels, Foreign Language Publishing House. Moscow, PP. 39-40). It would be wrong to think that the Indian soldiers of the Company’s army, raised the banner of revolt for the first time in 1857. It is very significant that there were reputed “mutinies”, for various reasons. The Indian soldiers never ceased to be civilians. In the cantonments, on the line of march they mixed with the people. They corresponded with friends and picked up news in the bazars. They could not but be affected by the sufferings and moods of the general population. The Cambridge history of India records one incident after another. Every time the leaders of these revolts were blown up from guns in the presence of their compatriots. The first recorded incident took Class Struggle