21 February 1946
During this day in 1946 and the next, colonial police and British troops shot dead at least two hundred demonstrators in Bombay, who were demanding independence and a withdrawal of the British Army. The protests started with a general strike, called on 21 February, in solidarity with a widespread mutiny among Indian sailors which had broken out three days earlier. Throughout the city, some 300,000 workers in textile mills and other factories walked out and erected barricades across the streets of working class neighbourhoods.1
Naturally, the British press placed the blame for the killings on the protesters, describing them as ‘civilian rioters’ who ‘snatched away hats and ties’ from ‘people in European costume’ and attacked ‘British military personnel… with bamboo sticks.’ More than 250 of these rioters were injured on the first day alone, 165 by live ammunition.2 On the 22nd February, the British authorities declared a fifteen day curfew, but the demonstrations and riots continued until the 23rd, when the Congress and Muslim League, who were shocked by the threatening scale of the working class unrest, intervened to persuade the mutineers in the Indian navy to surrender, which helped the British to quell the unrest in the city.
- John Newsinger (2013), op. cit., p. 171.
- ‘British Troops Fire on Bombay Mob,’ The Dundee Evening Telegraph, 22 February 1946, p. 1.
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