Memorandum by the Assistant Chief of the Division of Middle Eastern Affairs (Berry) to the Director of the Office of Near Eastern and African Affairs (Henderson)

You will recall that a mutiny in the Royal Indian Navy at Bombay and Karachi during February was accompanied and followed by civil disturbances in various places in India, more particularly in Bombay and Delhi. We cabled George Merrell and Howard Donovan22 for their estimates of possible Communist implications. They both replied that while the Communists undoubtedly took advantage of the situation to fan the flames, there was no evidence that they actually instigated the riots.

The civil disturbances which occurred in Karachi and Madras were on a somewhat smaller scale and involved fewer people. It is accordingly interesting to note that reports just received from the Consulates in Karachi and Madras indicate that both offices consider that the riots in those two cities were actually organized by the Communists. Macy,23 for example, says that “there was undoubted evidence of organization—probably of Communistic origin.” Bower24 of Madras reports that an official from the Communist Party Headquarters in Bombay was identified during the riots in Madras.

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The following excerpts from Bower’s report are of interest and are in substantial agreement with Macy’s estimate of what occurred in Karachi:

“Anti-White feelings were exploited, certainly, but the emphasis was on labor solidarity against employers of any race. It was all permeated with anti-British and anti-White feelings, but there was ample evidence that the prime movers were ready to attack fellow Indians.

In summary, one notes an intermingling of anti-British and anti-class impulses. While the former is more obvious, the evidence points to premeditated Communist exploitation of it for their special ends, that is, to promote class friction as a means of influencing the masses”

It is possible that these reports from Karachi and Madras are more accurate reflections of Communist implications than the one received from New Delhi and Bombay where the riots were on a much larger scale and where, accordingly, the underlying impulses were much more difficult to identify.

Lampton Berry
  1. Consul General at Bombay.
  2. Clarence E. Macy, Consul at Karachi.
  3. Roy Bower, Consul at Madras.