P.R.S. Mani Collection

Conflicted Dispatches: the writings of P.R.S. Mani, Indian journalist, nationalist and British army officer in Indonesia, 1945-1949

Biographical note, scope and content:

P.R.S. Mani was an Indian journalist commissioned as Captain in the British Army in 1944. Assigned to a Public Relations unit, he reported on experiences of Indian soldiers in Burma and Malaya until the Japanese surrendered. After the war ended, the British led the South East Asian Command and deployed Indian troops – including Mani – against nationalist forces in Vietnam and Indonesia. Indian spokespeople protested bitterly but the British persisted in deploying Indian troops.

Mani was, therefore, still trapped in the British Army with Indian troops at Surabaya, Java, during the worst of the battles in which many thousands of Indonesian civilians were killed. Indian troops suffered many casualties but also terrible dilemmas at being forced into this fighting – many deserted and joined the Indonesian revolution. Mani was writing dispatches for the British but also keeping a diary of his observations and feelings in this key period.

This is the only known Indian-authored account in existence of these events.

Mani resigned his Army commission in January 1946 in protest and took up the position of foreign correspondent in Indonesia for the Free Press Journal of Bombay, a strong advocate of Indian Independence. He then returned to Indonesia and wrote as a foreign correspondent (for the Free Press Journal and some other papers) on and from Indonesia from early 1946 into 1947.

From 1944 to 1948 we have four types of Mani’s writing: dispatches for the British Army 1944-45; diary entries recording his actual observations and feelings in Indonesia in 1945 and 1946; Mani’s scripts for radio broadcasts on Indian troops Oct-Dec 1944; Mani’s articles as a foreign correspondent on Indonesia for the Free Press Journal, 1946 and some other papers from that time. We also have his published book, based on these papers but written in the early 1980s.

In late 1947, after India gained its freedom, Mani entered the Indian Foreign Service. On retirement, he gathered papers from his time in Indonesia, 1945 to 1947, and wrote an account of the Indonesian nationalist revolution.

The significance of the collection is that it tells the Indian and Indonesian sides of the story.

The collection was given to Professor Goodall by the sons of P.R.S. Mani, Inderjeet and Ranjit Mani and includes approximately one-thousand items, all of which have been digitised by UTS Library.

Items include: British Army dispatches; Mani's personal diary; pieces Mani wrote for the Free Press of India; correspondence including with Sukarno and Nehru.

Data types include: images (e.g. scanned hand-written documents); text-searchable PDFs; and transcripts.Date range: 1939-2011


The P.R.S. Mani Collection has been arranged in thematic and chronological order into thirty-four series by Professor Heather Goodall, with the advice and support of Professor Mushirul Hasan, Director and the staff of the National Archives of India.

To browse the content of each series, follow the links below. Access to the high quality scans is provided via the ftp link found in the full metadata record of each page, under dc.relation.isformatof.