Reading history becomes more interesting when we realise the silences in the narratives we study or listen to. One such less talked about, but important, event is the Police Mutiny of Patna during the last week of March in 1947.
When the transfer of power between the British and a National Indian Government was being decided, and Bihar was facing a crisis in the form of communal violence the Police in Bihar rose up in revolt against the government.
Interestingly, the post Independence government sentenced the leaders of the mutiny Ramanand Tewari, Mir Hassan Khan, Balak Singh, Ganga Singh, Mohammad Sabir and Leyakat Hussain for six months imprisonment each.
In Gaya, on 20th March 1947, Sub Divisional Magistrate (SDM), Bishwambhar Chaudhuri sentenced Havaldar Kamta Singh to pay a fine of Rs. 100. Singh believed this fine to be unjust and most of the policemen agreed with him.
When the magistrate asked the constables to take Singh to jail they declined to carry out his orders. Magistrate himself took Singh to lockup. This treatment of a fellow policeman angered the police. In a meeting afterwards the policemen decided to go on a strike from the 23rd of March.
Ramanand Tewari, who was the head of the Police Union at the time, arrived from Patna to Gaya and took the lead. On the night of the 23rd March, constables did not turn up at the roll calls in Gaya.
On 24th March the mutineer policemen of Gaya took possession of the keys of the armoury from Sergeant J.G Lacey. It was now an open rebellion. Ramanad Tewari was leading the police against the government in an open revolt.
On 25th March, policemen in Patna organised a rally in support of Ramanand Tewari. Superintendent of Police, S.P Varma went and tried to stop the rally and got attacked by the furious policemen.
The District Magistrate of Patna took no time in calling in the army from Danapur cantonment. Gurkhas came in to disarm the police in Patna. Soon, after a brief gunbattle, the police surrendered to the British army.
Meanwhile, a constable, Brahmdeo Singh, fled in a truck from Patna Police Lines to Gaya in order to inform Ramanand Tewari. On the way, he kept telling each police station, Fatwa, Bakhtiyarpur & Bihar, about the atrocities on the police.
As a result, Patna, Gaya, Munger and Purulia joined the revolt in no time. Ramanand Tewari, in the truck, came to Patna to rejuvenate the police morale. From there he went to Chapra, in order to broaden the revolt.
On the same day, 26th March, Tewari’s another comrade Indradeo Singh travelled to Jamalpur from Patna. Under his leadership policemen looted the armoury and arms were distributed.
At the same time, through telephone, Singh led Munger policemen to loot their armoury as well. By the night of the 26th, armouries of at least four districts were under the control of mutinous policemen and the army had already been called in Patna.
On 27th March, troops of Bihar Regiment were called in at Gaya armoury. The army surrounded the mutinous policemen and soon a gunbattle started. Before the army could take control, five policemen had died.
Meanwhile, the army was also called in to suppress the police at Jamalpur and Munger. In order to fight the army the police from Jamalpur moved in a train to Munger. While Tewari was now in Chapra leading the police.
At Chapra and Arrah the army had to be called in to control the situation.
By 30 March 1947, the government regained control of all the armouries with the help of the army and the police had surrendered.
This serious threat to the British Government during its last days remains at the margins, or maybe even beyond the margins, of the historical narrative.
(Sources: Police Records, Court Records, Reuters, Associated Press)