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Ceremonial lowering of Union Jack never took place?

india Updated: Aug 14, 2009 23:40 IST
Satyen Mohapatra

India gains Independence. The stock shot of Union Jack being lowered and the Tri colour being raised has been seen by everyone. But actually the Union Jack was never lowered on the Independence Day, August 15, 1947.

This little known fact is mentioned in a Top Secret and Personal Report (No.17) dated August 16, 1947 of the Rear Admiral Viscount Mountbatten of Burma, ViceRoy Governor General and Crown Representative of India.

The report is available in the India Office London vide reference L/PO/6/123: ff 245-63..Writing about events on August 15, Mountbatten says, "At six pm the great event was to take place - the salutation of the new Dominion flag. This programme had originally included a ceremonial lowering of the Union Jack, but when I discussed this with Nehru, he entirely agreed that this was day they wanted everybody to be happy, and if the lowering of the Union Jack in any way offended British susceptibilities, he would certainly see that it did not take place, the more so as the Union Jack would still be flown on a dozen days a year in the Dominion."

Mountbatten wrote "The 15th August has certainly turned out to be the most remarkable and inspiring day of my life. We started at 8.30 am with swearing in ceremony in the Durbar hall in front of an official audience of some 500, including a number of ruling Princes. The official guests including Ambassadors, Princes and then Cabinet, then drove in procession from Governor House (ex-Viceroy's House) to the Council Chamber."

"Never have such crowds been seen within the memory of anyone I have spoken to. Not only did they line every roof top and vantage point, but they pressed around so thick as to become finally quite unmanageable."

"The ceremony in the Council Chamber was extremely dignified and my speech was well received."

"As we were about to depart they said it was doubtful whether the 400 men of the Guards of Honour could keep the way clear of the coach, so Nehru went onto the roof and waved to the crowd to go back, the door was then opened and surrounded by our staff we fought our way through to the coach," he wrote.

Apart from the usual cries of 'Jai Hind' and 'Mahatma Gandhi Ki Jai' and 'Lady Mountbatten Ki Ja' and more than one 'Pandit Mountbatten Ki Jai."

Mountbatten says in his report about the evening function of unfurling the tricolour, "A parade had been arranged of the units of the three services, pages of orders had been issued, rehearsals had been going on for days, and seats on raised platforms had been provided."

"The crowds however were far beyond the control of the police.Some Indian officials estimate that there were 600,000 people there .But personally I doubt if there were more than a quarter of a million. At all events they thronged the processional route and if possible gave my wife and myself a greater reception then in the morning."

But for the admirable Bodyguards with their wonderfully trained and patient horses, we should never have been able to get onto the ground.

There was nothing to be seen of the Grand Stand and although a row of bright coloured pugrees in the crowd indicated where the troops had been engulfed there was no indication of a military parade.

"Nehru fought his way to the coach and climbed in to tell us that our daughter Pameal was safe. George Abell (my late Private Secretary) described how Nehru came to their rescue when they were overwhelmed by the crowd fighting like a maniac striking people right and left and eventually taking the topee off a man who had annoyed him particularly and smashing it over his head" writes Mountbatten.

"Major General Rajender Singh, the Delhi Area Commnder, Nehru and I had a hurried consultation and we decided that the only thing to do was to hoist the flag and fire the salute and give up all other idea of the programme.

"This was done amidst scenes of most fantastic rejoicing, and as the flag broke a brilliant rainbow appeared in the sky which was taken by the whole crowd as a good omen. (I had never noticed how closely a rainbow could resemble the new Dominion flag of saffron,white and green.)

"Meanwhile danger of a large scale accident was becoming so great that we decided that the only thing to do was to try and move the coach on through the crowd and draw the crowd with us. For this reason I invited Nehru to stay in the coach which he did, sitting like a school boy on the front hood above the seats.

Meanwhile, refugees who had fainted, or had been almost crushed under the wheels were pulled on board and we ended with four Indian ladies with their children, a Polish wife of a British officer and an Indian press man who crawled up behind," Mountbatten writes.