Jatindranath Mukherjee (Bagha Jatin)
This section has been rewritten with active support and help and input from Sri Prithwindra Mukherjee, Padmashree, grandson of Bagha Jatin, a great and worthy scholar in French and English, who has written several works, including Life and Times of Bagha Jatin, and has contributed immensely toward Info-French cultural bonding. We are deeply indebted to him for his valuable input and insights
Jatindranath Mukherjee (Bagha Jatin)
According to veteran journalist Hemendra Prasad Ghosh, who was related to Sri Aurobindo and was his colleague on Bande Mataram desk, Bagha Jatin was the uncrowned king of the revolutionary activities in Bengal between 1903 to 1915 till his heroic death in a trench battle with British police and army. He was one of the masterminds behind the series of daring attacks on the British administration between 1908 to 1915, which culminated in the historic heist of the arms from the Rodda Company. He was a pivotal contributor to the great international master plan against British Empire, known as Indo-German Conspiracy. Jatin had influenced many young revolutionaries of Jugantar, like Narendra Bhattacharyan, Fani Chakraborty, Atulkrishna Ghose, Charu Chandra Bose, Chittapriya Raychaudhury, Biren Dattagupta. He wanted to foment a rebellion in the Jat regiment of Fort William, but his plan was foiled, and he was arrested in the Howrah Conspiracy Case. He worked secretly to get an arms consignment for a planned uprising in 1915. However, it failed as the ship Maverick was caught. Bagha Jatin and his associates Chittapriya, Jyotish, Niren, and Manoranjan fought with a full British army led by colonial authorities in the Baleswar district of Orissa on 9th September 1915. Bagha Jatin was wounded in the battle and died the next day, on 10th September. Bagha Jatin had given the clarion call, "we shall die, but India shall rise," to his revolutionary associates.
Many sung and unsung heroes have enriched the freedom movement, but there were few exceptional leaders among them. Much of their efforts probably have not been recognized to that extent as they should have been. Jatindranath Mukherjee was perhaps the foremost of them. Raymond Aron, a noted French philosopher, found that “Jatindra embodies the ‘thinker in action’ who furnishes the ‘missing link’ in modern history.” American publicist Ross Hedvicek put it, “had E.V. Voska (the Czech spy who betrayed the Indo-German plot) not interfered in this history, today nobody would have heard about Mahatma Gandhi and the father of the Indian nation would have been Bagha Jatin.” Such was the grandiose plan of Jatindra that had it succeeded, it would possibly have established a new world order and changed the course of World War 1, and with it, would have sealed the fate of the British Empire some thirty years earlier. Jatindra’s audacious design earned him laurels from none other than his main hunter Charles Tegart, the notorious commissioner of police of Calcutta, who said that had this person (Jatindra) been born in England, his statue would have been put up beside Nelson in Trafalgar Square. Mahatma Gandhi, in 1925, called him a “Divine Man.” Many others had showered laurels on him, yet he stands neglected in his twin countries of India and Bangladesh.
It was Jatindra who coined the famous and oft-repeated phrase during the revolutionary period – “Amra Morbo, Jagat Jagbe” – “We shall die, but the world will awake [by our sacrifice].” The original phrase was āmrā morbo, jāt jāgbe: by jāt, Jatindra meant “Nation.” It maybe that, influenced since his childhood by the Baul songs, he also had in mind the famous line by Lalan: jāter nāme bajjāti sab (“mischief in the name of caste”). According to Jatindra’s biographers, he was a champion fighting against caste and creed.
Neglected by history and political leadership
It’s a pity that Jatindra was born in India where very few historians valued his contribution, least the so called National historians belonging to a particular political ideology by whom he was disdainfully neglected. Political leadership of the country also did not find it necessary to look beyond certain leaders for ascribing the success of freedom movement and Jatindra was relegated to the status of the leaders who tried a violent path but failed. He along with many other pre Gandhi and contemporary to Gandhi Nationalist leaders, does not even find a passing remark in the text books.
Neglected by history and political leadership
It’s a pity that Jatindra was born in India, where very few historians valued his contribution, least the so-called National historians belonging to a particular political ideology by whom he was disdainfully neglected. The country's political leadership also did not find it necessary to look beyond certain leaders to ascribe the success of the freedom movement. Jatindra was relegated to the status of the leader who tried a violent path but failed. He, along with many other pre-Gandhi and contemporary Gandhist Nationalist leaders, does not even find a passing remark in the text books.
An evaluation of his contribution
The time has come to evaluate his contribution. Perhaps it would not be unwise to state that he was one of the chosen few who did the groundwork that saw the sprouts of mass movement later on, thanks to which Gandhi and other leaders could build their edifice. It was no mean achievement to establish an international conspiracy, to remain incognito for seven years, to carry out the massive covert operation against the British, and to hatch a brilliant plan of a huge uprising almost in line with the 1857 mutiny. The plan, unfortunately, got exposed owing to betrayal by several agents, mainly by Czech revolutionaries in faraway America: it showed that the time was not ripe for India to enjoy freedom. Not yet prepared for independence, people in India had just started to shake off their chronic slumber.
Treachery – Bane of India
It must be remembered that the British could enjoy their rule owing to the servitude and loyalty of a section of the Indian administrative elite and officials who could beat their English bosses in the game of inflicting terror upon their countrymen for the sake of their narrow selfish gains – a few crumbs from the British masters to these pet dogs. And these were primarily responsible for bringing down the first phase of the freedom movement to a close by ruthlessly exterminating their brothers and sisters. And then there were spies everywhere. The British Government destroyed industries but provided alternative employment to a considerable espionage network of local sleuths. It is this network that helped in sustaining its edifice.
CHAPTER 1 - The Childhood and Early Years
Early Years – Childhood days
Jatindranath Mukherjee or Bagha Jatin was born on 7 Dec 1879 to Sharatshashi and Umesh Chandra Mukherjee in Kayagram, a village in Kushtia sub division of Nadia district which lies in present-day Bangladesh. His ancestral home was in Sadhuhati-Rishkhali in Harinakunda, belonging to the Jhenaidah subdivision of the district Jessore in present-day Bangladesh. He had an elder sister Vinodbala and a younger sibling Surendranath who died very young. His father, Umesh Chandra, had been a truthful and pious Brahmin, fond of rearing horses: he, in protest against the atrocities of the indigo planters on farmers, refused to work for them. Being an honest person, he could not amass any wealth. Umesh Chandra died when Jatindra was only five years old, and he was brought up in Koyagram under the tutelage of his maternal uncle Basanta Kumar Chatterjee.
Influence of Mother
From his mother, in his childhood, Jatindra could listen to many stories of bravery and selflessness as illustrated in the epics – the Ramayana and the Mahabharata – and the mythology known as the Puranas: he learnt from her the science of bearing physical hardships and leading a selfless life. It is said that great children are born to outstanding parents, especially the mother, who has a significant role to play as she builds moral character and sets an example herself. Sharatshashi was generous enough despite her hardships and struggles. She helped everybody in the village in their distress and nursed them during illness. Large-hearted Sharatshashi thus instilled the spirit of self-sacrifice and renunciation at a very early age. Despite her losses and grief expressed in her spontaneous poems, she was steadfast in her devotion. She had a library full of publications of the contemporary masters of Bengali literature. Her children inherited some of her qualities. Her daughter Vinodbala was a culturally accomplished wise lady and an outstanding poet. Her younger son Surendra was named after Surendranath Tagore, a close family friend. Sharatshashi passed away while serving a cholera patient caught by the germ. She left a legacy. Vinodbala and Jatindra were brought up with love by their maternal uncles, who were no less noble than their sister.
Early Childhood Exploits
A river named Gorui – daughter of the Padma - flowed through the Kaya village. Jatindra would swim across this river many times. He learnt how to shoot a rifle from one of his maternal uncles, Anathbandhu Chatterjee, who also taught him to ride horses and row boats.
Jatindra gained a reputation for his bravery and charitable disposition as he grew. He was also spiritually inclined, writing and staging Puranic plays and acting in principal roles of devotees like Prahlad, Dhruva, and Hanuman. His innate spirituality also found expression in his exemplary courage. He assisted people irrespective of caste and religion and helped spread nationalistic fervor in the countryside, inviting the participation of village bards. He was admitted to the Anglo Vernacular School in Krishnanagar. Although he was interested in physical fitness, his school or village did not have a gymnasium. He, therefore, tried to enroll in the Gymnasium at Krishnanagar College, but there was one problem. Only students of the college were allowed in that gymnasium. Jatindra, however, was indomitable. He went to the European principal of the said college, Prof. W. Billy, and requested his permission to join the gymnasium. Prof. Billy was amazed by the courage and earnestness of the boy and therefore admitted him. Jatindra thus developed a strong and muscular physique under the training program of one Jadu Malla. Feraz Khan, a retired soldier from the North-West Frontier Province, was appointed as keeper of the vast property by Uncle Basanta. In addition to physical training, he taught the children the value of freedom.
The Heroic & Softer sides
About this time, Jatindra did a heroic feat that was much appreciated in the town. An untrained and tough horse of a local lawyer escaped its stable and ran amok in the town, scaring people. Jatindra was buying some stationery when he witnessed the danger it posed to a helpless child standing in the middle of the road. He waited till the horse approached him, jumped on its back, and cleverly restrained its movement. Thus, many people were saved from the imminent danger of being run over.
On another occasion, he displayed his compassionate and selfless nature. While taking a ferry to cross the Gorui, he saw an aged woman standing by the side of a huge bundle of grass. Despite her repeated requests to everybody to help her by putting the load on her head, nobody was paying any heed. Jatindra not only stepped forward to help her, but also, finding the burden too heavy for an old person, took it on his head and accompanied the woman to her hut, thus saving her much pain and fatigue. Knowing she was a Muslim, he, rising above the divisions of religion, pretending to be hungry – shared her platter of leftover rice, calling himself her deceased son. He returned every month to give her some money.
Every year Jatindra’s uncles celebrated Durga Puja with much fanfare. Many guests – rich and poor - were fed on the occasion. Jatindra and his friends cooked almost all the rice relentlessly. He also organised a voluntary force for the treatment of the poor.