By Dipak Kumar Das
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Naval routine was enforced by overzealous officers mindful only of their 'power of command'. Demobilization proceeded without any provision for resettlement-rehabilitation. The long delay in settling accounts or denial of much expected payments and compulsory return of kits aggravated the discontent among naval subalterns. The entire system seemed unjust and intolerable to the lower deck. This feeling conflicted with their sense of loyalty to the service and was well reflected in the poster that was found in HMIS Kak(lwl, a demobilization centre at Versova, which housed over 1400 ratings.
Jives from different camps to air their grievances and to bring home to their countrymen their anxiety to be repatriated. More importantly they insisted on the immediate release from the 142 US General Hospital and reinstatement in his former rank of Sergeant of Norman Owen who was confined for psychiatric examination and demoted to the status of a Private for duplicating and distributing handbills in connection with the protest meetings. An enquiry was demanded into the Owen case to fix the responsibility for this 'gross intimidation'.
Contrary to all evidence Dutt wrote 'the actors in that tragic drama known as the Indian Naval mutiny' 'wanted', after failure, 'to hide ... [their] humiliation and shame'. It is as if the ratings had done something immoral to be so much ashamed of. What the men embarked on, in theil own perception, was not a crime but political action intended to overthrow the authority of the naval elite, to put an end to foreign domination over the service and to establish their identity with those engaged in the same task outside.