Indian soldier and sailers of the Royal Indian Navy (RIN) nicnamed as the Ratings’, rose in rebellion on February 18, 1948, when Ratings in the Signal School training establishment ‘Talwar’ went on hunger strike to protest ‘against the untold hardships regarding pay and food, racial discrimination and against their commander’s derogatory reference to their national character’. The arrest of B. C. Dutt, a rating, for writing ‘Quit India’ on the HMIS Talwar was resented by their fellow workers. Next day, their strike spread to Castle and Fort Barracks on shore and 22 ships in Bombay harbour. The Union Jack was removed and the Tricolour, the Cresent, and the Hammer and Sickle were raised jointly on the mast heads of the rebel fleet. The ratings also elected a Naval Central Strike Committee and formulated demands such as better food, equal pay for white and Indian sailors, release of INA and other political prisoners, and withdrawal of Indian troops from Indonesia.
On 20 February, when the rating were ordered back to the barracks, they found themselves surrounded by armed guards. Next day, fighting started at Castle Barracks when the ratings tried to break out of their encirclement, with the ships providing artillery support, while Admiral Godlery flew in bombers and threatened to destroy the navy. Soon the people in the city joined the ratings. There were meeting and processions, and also strike and hartals in Bombay and Culcutta to express public sympathy. Post offices, police stations, shops and tram depots were set on fire as also railway stations, banks, grain shops etc. The CPI call for a general strike brought lakhs of workers out of their factories on the streets. In other parts of the Country, student boycotted classes, hartals and processions were organized to expresses sympathy with rating and to condemn official repression.
After Bombay, Karachi became the major centre of RIN revolt where HMIS ‘Hindustan’ alongwith one more ship and three shore establishments went on a lightening strike. Sympathetic token strikes took place in military establishments in Madras, Culcutta, Delhi, Cochin, Jamnagar and some other places. In all, 78 ships and 20 shore establishments involving 20, 000 ratings were affected. Two army battalions were needed to restore order in Bombay city and the official causality figures were 228 civilians killed and 1046 injured.
Deferred sharply on this issue. Though the revolt had great impact on the minds of the people, it was neither initiated nor supported by the Congress. The strike call in Bombay was given by CPI and was supported by the Congress Socialists like Arun Asaf Ali and Achut Patwardhan. On the other hand, both the Congress and the Muslim League condemned the revolt. Sardar patel with the help of Jinnah managed to persuade the ratings to surrender on 23 February giving assurance that the national parties would prevent any victimization-a promise which was never kept. Since the Congress during this period was engaged in negotiations for the transfer of power, it did not like that discipline in the Army be tempered with.
The Congress was anxious to defuse the situation because of the realization that disciplined armed force were vital for the free India which was to become a reality soon. While the INA men were supported and given help by the Congress, the RIN ratings were never given the status of national heroes-though their action involved much greater risk in some ways. It is held that the British Government got so unnerved with the RIN mutiny, that on the second day (February 19) of the Ratings mutiny that the British Prime Minister Clement Attlee announced the despatch of Cabinet Mission to propose the final solution to the Indian problem.