WHICH phase of our freedom struggle won for us Independence? Mahatma Gandhiâ€™s 1942 Quit India movement or The INA army launched by Netaji Bose to free India or the Royal Indian Navy Mutiny of 1946? According to the British Prime Minister Clement Attlee, during whose regime India became free, it was the INA and the RIN Mutiny of February 18-23 1946 that made the British realise that their time was up in India.
An extract from a letter written by P.V. Chuckraborty, former Chief Justice of Calcutta High Court, on March 30 1976, reads thus: "When I was acting as Governor of West Bengal in 1956, Lord Clement Attlee, who as the British Prime Minister in post war years was responsible for Indiaâ€™s freedom, visited India and stayed in Raj Bhavan Calcutta for two days`85 I put it straight to him like this: â€˜The Quit India Movement of Gandhi practically died out long before 1947 and there was nothing in the Indian situation at that time, which made it necessary for the British to leave India in a hurry. Why then did they do so?â€™ In reply Attlee cited several reasons, the most important of which were the INA activities of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, which weakened the very foundation of the British Empire in India, and the RIN Mutiny which made the British realise that the Indian armed forces could no longer be trusted to prop up the British. When asked about the extent to which the British decision to quit India was influenced by Mahatma Gandhiâ€™s 1942 movement, Attleeâ€™s lips widened in smile of disdain and he uttered, slowly, â€˜Minimalâ€™."
Strangely enough, like the chapattis which went all around India during the 1857 First War of Independence asking the nation drive away the British, it was 20 loaves of bread that started this so-called RIN Mutiny. It was a reaction against the high-handed behaviour by British officers of the RIN. On January 16, 1946, a contingent of 67 ratings of various branches arrived at Castle Barracks, Mint Road, in Fort Mumbai. This contingent had arrived from the basic training establishment, HMIS Akbar, located at Thane a suburb of Mumbai at four in the evening. The officer on duty informed the galley (kitchen) staff of this arrival. Quite casually, the duty cook, without winking an eyelid, took out 20 loaves of bread from the large cupboard and added three litres of tap water to the mutton curry as well as the gram dal which was lying already cooked before as per the morning strength of the ratings. On that day, only 17 ratings ate the watery, tasteless meals, while the rest went ashore and ate. When reported to senior officers present, this grievances practically evoked no response and the discontentment continued to build up.