Revolutionary Movement First Half - 1905 to 1920
The Prelude - Revolutionary Activities take root in Bengal, Maharastra and Punjab
Revolutionary movement in Bengal gained momentum in the wake of the Partition of Bengal and the brutal repression of the British police. Lord Curzon therefore left a huge baggage of troubles for his predecessor Lord Minto. A large number of secret societies had formed in Bengal. These were responsible for several political murders and robberies mostly for collecting funds for the revolutionary activities. Bamfylde Fuller, the Lieutenant Governor of the newly created Province of East Bengal and Assam, had unleashed a reign of terror. Morley and Minto were seriously disturbed by the activities of Fuller but failed to take any steps against him, except for reversing some of his directives. Fuller had recommended to the Calcutta University to de recognize two schools, being angry at their pupil. Lord Minto did not accede to the demand and Fuller had to resign. However the grievances of the youth did not go away and they took shape in the form of the attack on the Government machinery and bureaucracy.
The troubles were not confined to Bengal alone. Seeds of discontent were present in Punjab. There was a vigorous Nationalist propaganda and the editors and printers were arrested. There were discontent against the Government decisions against the residents of the Canal colonies, in particular increasing the land revenue. Riots broke out against Government decisions in Lahore, Rawalpindi, Amritsar and other places. The key leaders of the movement were Lala Lajpat Rai and Ajit Singh. Government came down heavily on the Nationalist press in both Bengal and Punjab as they were the organs of spreading the anti Government propaganda among the masses. Laws were amended for giving almost unlimited power to the Government to conduct prosecution against individuals and organizations. Public life was stifled by the imposition of restraints on meetings. The Press Act made it possible to stop and penalize any publication that would criticize the Government activities. Books, newspapers and or other documents considered containing prohibitory materials by the Government were prohibited. Hefty amounts to the tune of 5 lakhs were asked as security for starting a press. Many leading journals edited by Indians, felt the burden and had to be stopped. Mere suspicion by police led to arrest and prosecution. A reign of terror was unleashed by Minto to stop revolutionary activities, particularly in Bengal and Morley did nothing to stop this reign.
In Mahrastra Tilak was fined and was sentenced to six year's deportation. Government had deported Lala Lajpat Rai and Ajit Singh under Regulation III Act of 1818. Many eminent people like Ashwini Kumar Datta, Raja Subodh Mallik, Manoranjan Guha Thakurta, Pulin Bihari Das, Bhupesh chandra Nag, etc. were deported. The repressive acts to curtail the freedom of speech and action went on unabated. As part of their so called reforms, Morley and Minto also created separate electorate on the basis of religion that earned strong disapproval even from the Moderate section of the Congress. Moderates including Gokhale however had supported the draconian Press Act of 1910, for reasons best known to themselves. Under Lord Hardinge there was an annulment of the Partition of Bengal but the provinces of Bihar, Orissa and Assam were curved out separately and capital of India was shifted to Delhi. Hardinge was wrong in his assessment that he had brought peace. On 23rd December, 1912 a bomb was hurled at him during his state procession in Delhi on the occasion of the new capital entry, that severely wounded him. Indian revolutionaries with the burning desire of freedom had dared to act on a very large scale as later events would show.
Bengal - The Hotbed
Anusilon Samity was the first secret society found in Bengal. While the outer circle trained the youth in the physical exercises, the inner one was responsible for planning and executing revolutionary activities. Barrister P. Mitra was the founder of the Anushilon samity. Pulin Bihari Das of Dhaka joined in 1905 and established a branch in Dhaka. The revolutionaries had adopted two schools of thoughts. One school hoped to trigger an armed revolution with the help of British Indian soldiers whenever the condition became favourable. The other school decided to carry out random attacks against Government thereby rendering the bureaucracy ineffective through fear. Both however aimed to generate the revolutionary spirit esp. among the youth, through daring activities. Money was essential for large scale training and for procuring arms and ammunition, for making bombs and for providing means to the families of the youth who would be sacrificing their lives. Initially the funds came voluntarily as subscription but later their sources dried up and it became imperative to extort money forcefully from the rich or affluent or to conduct Swadeshi dacoities. Although political dacoities were repugnant to a section of the revolutionaries and also to the leaders of Swadeshi Movement like Sister Nivedita. Such activities soon resulted in the loss of sympathy among the masses and also eroded the moral and ethical base of the Nationalistic movements. Personal greed and selfish interests took the centerstage in several cases and several youth of weak character fell prey to the lure of easy money.
At an early stage Sarala Ghoshal, a niece of Rabindranath Tagore, played a key role in propagating the idea of making youth of Bengal more active and full of vigour. Shyamakanta Bannerjee (later Soham Swami), himself a giant of a man who could fight with tigers, was also instrumental in developing the physical strength of Bengali youth. Bankimchandra Chattopadhay's Ananda Math had inspired a large section of the Bengali youth and Swami Vivekananda had instilled the sense of manliness and courage among youth whose message his worthy disciple, Sister Nivedita had carried forward to rouse youth across Bengal. Hemchandra Ghosh, the founder of Mukti Sangha and Bengal Volunteers, was greatly inspired by Swami Vivekananda, whom he met in person in 1901. Jatindranath Mukherjee or Bagha Jatin also met Vivekananda. Aurobindo Ghosh had come back to Bengal from Baroda and his younger brotehr Barindra Kumar Ghosh was one of the leaders of the revolutionary movement in its early stages. A group of young men had gathered around Barindra that included among others Abanisha Bhattachary, Ullaskar Datta and Bhupendra Nath Datta. The group had focused on propaganda and publications as means of rousing the youth to rebellion and their first attempt was a book named Bhavani Mandir that had as its central theme a group dedicated to the Mother Goddess or Shakti, Kali, Bhavani, who would lead the freedom movement through great personal sacrifices. The group also published a periodical named Jugantar that preached the message of rebellion against an alien rule enforced upon them.Abinsha Bhattacharya and Bhupendra were the chief proponents along with Barindra. Financial help came from Maharaja Suryakanta and abinash Chandra Chakrabarty (Dr. R. C Majumdar, History of Freedom Movement, Vol 2). It is to be noted that Satish Chandra Mukherjee's Dawn and Brahmabandhab Upadhyay's Sandhya were the other publications that had consistently inspired the youth to rise and had trained them in Nationalistic and spiritual ideals, but Jugantar was more radical. Jugantar had attained a circulation of 7000 by 1907 before its demise in 1908 in consequence of the official Act.
Assassination attempt on Kingsford - martyrdom of Khudiram Bose and Prafulla Chaki
Ullaskar Datta had learned the manufacture of explosives and with his help bombs were prepared in Deoghar and Muraripukur in Calcutta. Hem Chandra Das went to Paris to learn bomb making and came back to join Ullaskar in making explosives. The bombs were planned to be used to assassinate Government officials instrumental in formulating and executing repressive policies. The first attempt was aimed at Bamfylde Fuller, the notorious Lt. Governor of East Bengal. This attempt was instigated by Surendranath Bannerjee, the leader of the Moderates. Prafulla Chaki, a 17 year old, was entrusted with the task but he did not succeed. The next attempt to blow up the train in which the Lt. Governor of Bengal was travelling also did not succeed. The attention of the revolutionaries turned to magistrate Kingsford, who was also notorious for tyranny and oppression. He had flogged a sixteen year old for a minor transgression. Khudiram Bose, a young boy of sixteen years, and Prafulla Chaki, were entrusted with the task. Khudiram and Prafulla went to Mujaffarpur but by mistake they blew up a carriage belonging to one Mr. Kennedy. Kennedy's wife and daughter were killed. Prafulla Chaki was apprehended in a train station and shot himself dead. Khudiram was caught, tried and hanged. This incident of assassination took place on April 30, 1908. Two days later Police got to know about the bomb factory in Muraripukur and almost all the revolutionaries including Arabindo and Barindra were caught and sent to Alipore jail.
Killing of Naren Gosai, Martyrdom of Kanailal Datta and Satyen Bose
One Narndranath Goswami or Naren Gosai, had turned approver and had become a major threat to divulge all secrets pertaining to the revolutionary activities, which would have endangered even Aurobindo's case. Kanailal Datta and Satyen Bose, two young revolutionaries, took up the responsibility of silencing Naren. They managed to get a revolver in jail and shot dead Naren Gosai in the jail hospital in a daring attack. Both Kanailal and Satyen were hanged. But this sent a straight message to the traitors. In the Alipore case, fifteen of the accused were found guilty, including Barnidra, Ullaskar, Bhupendra, and were deported to the notorious Cellular jail in Andamans. Aurobindo was acquitted mainly owing to the spirited defense by a young barrister, Chittaranjan Das, who shot to fame through this case. Aurobindo stayed briefly in Bengal but he had turned spiritual and mystic. Ultimately his inner callings led him to Pondicherry where he became a realized soul, a Yogi, Sri Aurobindo. The revolutionary martyrs were hailed all over the country for their patriotism, for their fearlessness and courage in the face of death. Ballads written by minstrels on the martyrdom of Khudiram had become very popular across Bengal - "Ami hasi hasi porbi phansi dekhbe Bharatbasi, Ekbar biday dao Ma ghure asi." Kanailal's dead body was carried in a huge procession an people thronged the streets and balconies to have a last glimpse of the great son.
However Aurobindo's departure did not put a lid on the revolutionary activities. Leadership had passed. Public prosecutor of the Alipore Case, Ashutosh Biswas, was shot dead by Charu Chandra Bose in March 1909. In 1910 Shamsul Alam, the deputy Superintendant of Police in the Alipore case, who had much harassed the revolutionaries, was killed in broad daylight by a young boy Birendranath Datta Gupta. Biren was caught owing to inexperience and was put to death, but police could extract a confession and the name that prominently came out was that of Jatindranath Mukherjee, or the Bagha Jatin, who had hitherto remained in the background, working as a Government clerk and earning fame for his fearless combat with a tiger that almost left him dead and that earned him the title "Bagha". Bagha Jatin was arrested in what was called Howrah Conspiracy case and was put in prison for a year which cost him his job but the police could not convict him.
Khudiram Bose (left) and Prafulla Chaki - the two daredevil young boys who decided to teach a lesson to the devilish magistrate Kingsford. Its rather unfortunate that they ended up killing two innocent ladies, but they had sent a message to the Government through this act. Parfulla was apprehended by inspector Nandalal Bannerjee and shot himself dead. Nandalal did not escape the fury of the revolutionaries as he was killed later. Khudiram was caught and hanged in Aug, 1908. He was undaunted till the end and took the verdict cheerfully.
Kanailal Datta and Satyen Bose after theri assassination of traitor Narendranath Goswami. kanaillal was originally from Chandannagore. Kanai was hanged on 10th November 1908. Kanai through his cheerful disposition even earned the admiration of the Irish warder. He read Jnana Yoga of Swami Vivekananda and gained weight before his execution. Even on execution day he smiled cheerfully and adjusted the rope around his neck. After Kanai died, thousands had gathered outside the jail to get his body. They made a procession to the crematorium and the spontaneous response from people was unprecedented. Satyendranath Bose, the other intrepid martyr was executed on 21st Nov 1908.
Revolutionary Activities in different areas of Bengal
Anusilon Samity continued to recruit young revolutionaries to contribute to the cause. Although several leading revolutionaries like Debabrata Bose and Sachindranath Sen embraced sannyas and joined Ramakrishna Order as Swami Prajnananda and Swami Chinmayananda. Ramakrishna Mission was closely monitored by police as several revolutionaries maintained a close contact with the organization and participated in the Relief work undertaken. Several splinter groups were formed from the Anushilon samity, but the leaders of the groups maintained close coordination and helped other group members by sheltering them from police atrocities and protected them from the spies who were ubiquitous. The members who were initiated into the inner circle were required to go through an elaborate sacred ritual and take a vow with a Gita and a sword. The members also had to promise to keep all the secrets of the society to themselves. Anushilon Samity also had branches outside Bengal.
Revolutionary societies were formed in Chandannagore which was controlled by the French at that time. Professor Charu Chandra Roy of Dupleix College was one of the leaders who had trained his students in pistol shooting and had inspired them. Kanailal and Satyen belonged to the Chandannagore group of revolutionaries. Motilal Roy was one of the key members who had supplied Kanai and Satyen with pistol in jail. He founded the Prabartak Sangha. Aurobindo was also given shlter by Motilal Roy. Motilal also set up a bomb manufacturing unit in the guise of a factory. Srish Chandra Ghosh was another noted revolutionary belonging to Chandannagore. The Chandannagore revolutionaries were connected with many other daring acts. Rashbehari Bose also stayed in Chandannagore for sometime and Motilal was actively associated with him. It is claimed that the conspiracy to throw bomb on Lord Hardinge was hatched n Chandannagore among Rashbehari, Srish Chandra Ghosh and Motilal Roy. The bomb was made by Manindra Naik and was brought to Delhi by Jyotish Chandra Sinha, a member of teh Chandannagore group ( Reference: PRABARTAK SANGHA AND MATILAL ROY: IN THE LIGHT OF POLITICAL ACTIVITIES, by Sachin Chakraborty, published by Indian History Congress, Motilal also knew about the plan of the February 1914 revolution planned meticulously by Rashbehari. Motilal also went to meet Aurobindo in Pondicherry and collected arms and ammunition through Srinivasa Ayengar of Pondicherry which were used in several political murders. At the time of conducting the relief efforts during the Damodar flood, Motilal met Jatindranath Mukherjee, Amarendranath Chatterjee, Makhanlal Sen and other reputed revolutionaries and discussed ideas. A part of the Rodda arms heist found its way to Chandannagore. Other well known revolutionaries from Chandannagore included Sagarkali Ghosh, Khetromohan Bannerjee, Manindranath Naik and Arun Chandra Som. Manmatha Nath Biswas, brother of Basanta Biswas who threw the bomb at Hardinge, Manik Rakshit, Arun Datta, were other well known members of the Prabartak Sangha.
In Barisal, which was one of the main centers of the anti Partition movement, spearheaded by the great Ashwini Kumar Datta, a revolutionary society came to be established in Barisal in the year 1908 under the astute leadership of Satish Chandra Mukherjee who was a teacher of the Braja Mohan School belonging to Mahtman Ashwini Kumar Datta. He was aided by Narendra Mohan Ghosh Choudhury, a student of that school. Satish Chandra was the assistant secretary of the Swadesh Bandhab Samity of Ashwini Kumar. Satish's other associates included Arun Chandra Guha and Manoranjan Gupta.
V.O Chidambaram Pillai of Tutirkorin, the great patriot and Swadeshi who competed with the British to run a Swadeshi steamship. He was inspired by Swami Vivekananda and Swami Ramakrishnanda to work for the National interest. VOC was an attorney who was jailed by the British and his business was ruined by them, but he remained undaunted.
Mahtaman Ashwini Kumar Datta of Barisal who led the anti Partition and the Swadeshi movement from the front. Owner of Brajamohan Institution, he inspired entire Barisal to rise as one against British rule, forgetting communal difference. Was deported and jailed for 2 years. Was revered by Gandhi who came to Barisal during non cooperation.
Political Murders and Armed Robberies - Twofold strategy of Bengal Revolutionaries
The revolutionary activities in the early stages mainly consisted in Political murders of spies and informants as well as police and Government officials, and dacoities or armed robberies for collecting murders. An attempt was made on the life of Andrew Fraser, Lt. Governor of Bengal in 1908, Inspector Nandalal Bannerjee was killed in Serpentine Lane of Calcutta, Public Prosecutor Ashutosh Biswas was killed in Alipore in 1909, Deputy Superintendent of police Shamsul Alam was killed by Birendra Dattagupta in 1910, Manmohan Ghosh, a police officer, was murdered in Dhaka in 1911, Nripendra Ghosh, inspector of CID police was murdered in Chitpore in 1914, police inspector Suresh Mukherjee was killed in Calcutta in 1915, and Deputy Superintendent of Police Jitendramohan Ghosh was killed in Mymansingh. Killings continued unabated throughout 1916, despite the arrest of most of the leading revolutionaries.
One of the most daring political robberies took place in the village of Barha near Dhaka in the house of a rich man. The revolutionaries when opposed by the villagers who had informed the police, escaped through the river though pursued by a police launch. In 1915, in a daring raid, the revolutionaries looted eighteen thousand rupees belonging to South India Jute Mills, in an incident called Taxi cab heist as the revolutionaries decamped with the booty in a taxi.
Mutiny of the Jat Regiment
During the Christmas holidays of 1909, a ball was to be arranged at the residence of the Bengal Governor to which the Viceroy and other high ranking officers were invited. The 10th Jat regiment was supposed to do sentry duty. The revolutionaries had acted upon the scheme of taking help of the Jat regiment to blow up the hall and thus deal a severe blow to the Government. But one of the soldiers betrayed this plan to the authorities and about 25 soldiers were arrested and tried for treason.
Revolutionary Activities outside Bengal
Prabhudayal Himmatsingka was one of the key revolutionary activists in Dumka, Bihar. Sachindranath Sanyal had established the Anushilon Samity branches in Varanasi and Varanasi was an important center for the revolutionaries. Sachindranath was intimately involved with Rashbehari Bose in bringing to fruition the mutiny in the barracks as part of the revolution in 1914. The revolutionary activities in Punjab had been started by Lala Hardayal, Ajit Singh and Sufi Ambaprasad. They had kept a close contact with the Bengal revolutionaries through Srish Chandra Ghosh. Lala Lajpat Rai helped them a great deal. Ajit Singh and Ambaprasad distributed a large no. of revolutionary publications. Many members of the Arya Samaj were also involved in the early revolutionary movement. Revolutionary activities in Punjab flared up in 1909. Bhai Paramanand, another famous revolutionary, possessed a copy of the bomb manual prepared by Barindra Kumar Ghosh. After Lala Hardayal left India, his work in Punjab was carried out by J.M Chaterjee, and Dinanath, who was later joined by Amir Chand of Delhi. Chaterjee, before leaving for England, introduced Dinanath to Rashbehari Bose, a clerk in the forest research Institute of Dehra Dun. Rashbehari gathered around him Avodh Bihari and Bal Mukund.
In Maharastra the revolutionary activities began with the active participation of Vausdev Balwant Phadke and the Chapekar brothers who embraced martyrdom by killing Plague Commissioner Rand. Vinayak Damodar Savarkar was another towering personality who led to the foundation of the society named Abhinava Bharat in 1904. Savarkar himself proceeded to London in 1906, but his organization flourished and spread its branches across Maharastra. Life of Mazzini, which was a popular book among all revolutionaries, was translated by Savarkar in Marathi. The members of Abhinava Bharat were trained in martial exercises and had its branches even in schools and colleges. The society members inculcated patriotic ideas by various means like literature, Shivaji and Ganpati festivals and publications. They held secret meetings. Many society members would later lead their branches in small towns and cities and many of them held important Government posts. They also collected arms and were trained in bomb making. Arms were also sent by Savarkar from London. A member Mr. Pandurang Bapat, also popularly called Senapati Bapat went to Paris to learn bomb making from Russian revolutionaries together with Hem Chandra Das and Mirza Abbas (Dr. R.C majumdar, History of Freedom Movement of India vol. 2). Many other secret societies had come up in Bombay, Pune, Nasik, Kolhapur, Satara, gwalior, Nagpur etc. In Nasik, Krishnaji Gopal Karve was one of the prominent members of Abhinava Bharat. When Tilak was sentenced to six year's imprisonment in 1908 whole of Maharastra was aflame. Bomb factories were set up in several places. Damodar Joshi and others started a factory at Kolhapur. An accident led to the detection of the factory and the Kolhapur bomb case resulted in the detention and imprisonment of a large no. of revolutionaries.
In 1909, Karve and a school teacher named Deshpande had plotted the murder of magistrate of Nasik, Jackson, who had let off an European accused of killing a farmer but had unjustly sentenced Ganesh Savarkar to deportation for life. Anant Lakshman Kanhare of Aurangabad was chosen for killing Jackson. On 21st December, when Jackson was being felicitated by a group of citizens in Vijayanand Theater on the eve of his transfer to Pune, Anant Kanhare killed Jackson but failed to commit suicide when caught as planned. Kanhare only gave his own name but by interrogating others police zeroed down on Karve and Deshpande. All of them were hanged 19th April 1910. The bomb factories were closed down and bombs were destroyed by the revolutionaries. Like the Bengal revolutionaries, Maharastra revolutionaries were also short of funds. Maharastra revolutionaries, as per the memoirs of Dr. V.M Bhat, did not approve of the ways and means like robberies by which Bengal revolutionaries raised funds.
A number of revolutionary societies also sprang up in Rajasthan after the Bengal Partition. Three persons who took the lead were Arjun Rao Sethi, Barhat Keshari singh and Rao Gopal Singh. They were influenced by Shyamjee Krishna Varma, Aurobindo and Tilak. Arjun Sethi was connected with the well known revolutionaries like Bal Mukund, Avadh Biri and Amir Chand of Delhi, all associates of Rashbehari Bose. Bishnu Dutt of U.P played an important role in linking them. They maintained links with Sachindranath Sanyal's organization in Benaras. By 1911 a number of young men had joined the organizations to be trained under Avadh Bihari, Bal Mukund and Amir Dhand in Delhi, the most famous among them being Pratap Singh, son of Barhat Keshari Singh, who played an important part in implementing the daring plans of Rashbehari Bose. He eventually showed exemplary courage and endurance and died a martyr's death (Dr. R.C Majumdar, History of Freedom Movement of India Vol 2). Unfortunately this group also indulged in petty murders and robberies for securing funds.
In Madras the revolutionary activities were not very organized. Bipin Chandra Pal in a meeting in 1907 in Madras had preached the ideal of complete freedom from British. V.O Chidambaram Pillai was a great freedom fighter who had established a Swadeshi shipping company. He had displayed extra ordinary courage in competing against the British shipping companies. He openly advocated Swadeshi and Boycott as the means to subjugate the British. He was inspired by Swami Ramakrishnananda, a direct disciple of Sri Ramakrishna, who was asked by none other than swami Vivekananda to open a Ramakrishna math in Madras. V.O.C was also a great friend of Bharathiyaar or Subramaniya Bharati and both of them devoted themselves for the national work. He and Subramanya Siva were arrested in 1908 on charges of sedition and a public riot broke out in Tinevelly. Vanchi Aiyar, a clerk in the Travancore Forest Department, joined V.V.S Aiyar, an associate of V.D Savarkar, who had come from London to Pondicherry and who had asked the youth to take up arms to free their motherland. Mr. Ashe, the district magistrate of the Tinnevelly, who took a leading part in VOC's arrest, was shot dead by Vanchi Aiyar in a railway carriage, who left a letter in Tamil in his pocket. This led to the Tinnevelly conspiracy case in which nine persons were held as guilty.
Shyamji Krishna Varma, the founder of Indian Home Rule League and organized Indian students abroad
Madam Bhikhaji Cama, who designed the Indian flag and took to storm the Socialist Conference in Stuttgart
Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, one of the most dangerous man for British, who was deported and imprisoned in Cellular Jail for 13 long years
Revolutionary Movement Outside India
Towards the end of the nineteenth century the Nationalist Congress leaders wanted to reach out to the Europeans and tried to influence a section about the true nature of the British rule in India. Dadabhai Naoroji placed the case of India before the Congress of the Socialists held in Amsterdam in 1904. Lala Lajpat Rai visited America and delivered lectures. Indian revolutionaries too felt the need of setting up centers abroad. One of the earliest Indians to organize such activities was Shyamji Krishna Varma. Shyamji was born in 1857. He went to study in Cambridge and returned to India. He was influenced by Dayananda Saraswati and Tilak. He settled in London after Rand's assassination. In 1905 he organized the Indian Home Rule Society and started a journal called Indian Sociologist. He arranged for scholarships for Indian students and had around him a group of patriotic Indians. The most prominent among them were Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, Madanlal Dhingra and Lala Hardayal. The center of their activities was the India House founded by Shyamji in London (Dr. R.C Majumdar, History of Freedom Movement, Vol 2). Indian Sociologict carried out propaganda among Europeans on the problems faced by the Indians under British rule. It stated that absolute freedo,m from British rule was the political goal of India. It emphasized on passive resistance to its extreme form, viz. dissociating from the English rule in every form. Shyamji however did not rule out violence. He justified violence on the English ruling class on the ground that they were the most organized gang of robbers of the Indian people. British politicians responded in the vilest manner possible and one of them, William Lee Warner, called an Indian student as a dirty nigger, and got an instant blow on his face by another Indian student.
Madam Bhikhaji Cama was one of the associates of Shyamji. She had left India for Europe in 1902 and dedicated her life in carrying out propaganda for the freedom of India. She issued a stirring appeal against the deportation of Lala Lajpat Rai and Ajit Singh, that was published in the Indian Sociologist. On 21st Aug 1907 an International Conference of Socialists was held in Stuttgart, Germany. About thousand participants from across the world had come to visit the conference. Madam Cama had unfurled the first flag of India and had asked the participants to salute the first flag of free India. She declared in the conference that the "Continuance of the British rule in India is positively disastrous and extremely injurious to the best interests of India and lovers of freedom all over the world ought to cooperate in freeing from slavery the fifth of the human race inhabiting that oppressed country." With Sardar Singh Rana she formed the India House in Paris. Shyamji also relocated to Paris in response to the growing hostility of the British Government towards India House in London. Madam Cama also continued her battle by her speeches and writings. In 1914, during first World War she visited the camps of Indian soldiers in France to make them aware that they were fighting for a brutal alien rule.
In absence of Shyamji and Madam Cama, V.D Savarkar took the lead in India House of London. In 1907 he held a private celebration of the 50th anniversary of the revolution of the Sipahis in 1857. He celebrated the same occasion in 1908 and distributed a fiery leaflet O! Martyrs, that upheld the spirit of revolution against an alien rule for the sake of liberty. The group of revolutionaries under Savarkar planned the murder of Curzon Wyllie by Madan Lal Dhingra at a gathering at the Imperial Institute of London on July 1, 1909. Madan Lal proclaimed that he shed English blood intentionally as a protest against the inhuman treatment meted out to the Indian youths who were deported and hanged in India. Madan Lal was caught and hanged and Savarkar was also arrested. Savarkar was deported to India to stand for his trial in the Nasik Conspiracy Case. He was sentenced to two terms of transportation for life. He attempted to escape at Marseilles through the port hole and swam to reach the land. Savarkar was caught by the French gendarme and was handed over to the British police. He was later deported to the Andamans.
Revolutionary Movement Outside India, post 1910 - Ghadar Movement
The Indian revolutionaries abroad maintained close relationship with their fellow revolutionaries in other countries, notably the Egyptian revolutionaries and the Irish revolutionaries. Bholanath Chatterjee had visited Malaya and Thailand and propagated revolutionary ideas among Indians there. Indian revolutionaries also developed understanding and pact with Germany at the beginning of the First World War. Sikh Gurudwaras played a leading role in propagating revolutionary ideas in many areas of Asia including China. Bhagwan Singh, a priest of a Gurudwara, helped in spreading revolutionary ideas in Hong Kong and Shanghai. Indians were also in contact with Irish Americans who supported the Sinn Fein and were bitterly anti British. Barkatullah helped in establishing revolutionary activities in Japan and America. In America considerable sympathy had been established in favour of India's fight against the British and this helped in organizing the Ghadar movement.
The Punjabi labourers and peasants had moved to the other parts of the world including Asia and America, towards the end of nineteenth century and beginning of twentieth century. In the economic crisis of 1907, while American workforce could organize into labour movements against capitalist exploitation, their Punjabi counterparts were discriminated against and were treated very badly. There was also an American backlash against Indian workers as they came cheaper. When the British refused to help Indian immigrants, the immigrants realized that their true stature was that of slaves under the British rule. Even though their were prosperous Sikhs, they did not get respect from American people. They were insulted and were bracketed in the same category as the Black Americans who were also treated equally shabbily. America regarded Indians as not free people with self respect, but slaves who did not deserve a fair treatment as given to the free people. For the first time it dawned upon the Indians and the Punjabi Sikhs in particular that they were nothing but slaves. Despite all their loyalty to the British they got a raw deal. The Indian students preached them the revolutionary ideas that were promoted by Shyamji Krishna Varma and Madam Cama. Vernacular newspapers were founded and the well to do immigrants started sponsoring Indian students. Ghadar Party was formally founded in 1913 in San Francisco.
Indian Independence League was established in 1907 by Taraknath Das and others to carry out propaganda work among the Sikh settlers. In 1913 Lala Hardayal joined the organization and changed the name to Ghadar. The earliest names associated with Ghadar revolutionaries were Jitendra Nath Lahiri, Baba Sohan Singh Bhakhna and Hardayal. Ghadar Party aimed at the overthrow of the British rule in India and building of a national republic based on equality of all participating races. Sohan Singh Bhakhna and Hardayal were the first President and Secretaries resp. Lala Hardayal was born in Delhi in 1884 and was educated from the St. Stephen's College. He graduated from Punjab University and was awarded a scholarship in the Government College, Lahore. He stood first in M.A in English Literature and was given a state scholarship of pound 200 a year by the Government of India. He entered St. John's college in Oxford in 1905. In 1907 he quit his studies and was associated with Shyamji Krishna Varma. Hardayal had differences of opinion with Shyamji and he arrived in America in 1911. He was appointed as a lecturer in Indian philosophy in the Stanford University. He was dismissed from Stanford University on grounds of his involvement in revolutionary activities. He then toured extensively and addressed public meetings with Indians. Wherever Hardayal went he attracted large crowds. In a short time a considerable amount of fund was collected. Pacific Coast Hindusthani Association was formed. The main activities of the Ghadar party were the publication of various propaganda materials including a weekly journal called Ghadar. Ghadar pointed out to every Indian that they were not respected because they were not free. Also it published a list of atrocities committed by the British Government. Ghadar was very popular. A new immigration policy was formulated by the Government of America that made it impossible for the Indians to live in America. British Government did not help the Indians in distress. American Government colluded with the British Government to declare Hardayal as a dangerous criminal and served him with an arrest warrant. Hardayal received bail and left United States to Geneva in Switzerland. He edited a paper there called Bande Mataram. Ghadar Party continued and Bhagwan Singh was its President and Barkatullah was its Vice President. Barkatullah was more inclined towards Islamic Fraternity and was extremely anti British. Because of his rabid anti British stance he was dismissed by Tokyo University and he came to San Francisco to join the Ghadar Party.
Ghadar Party also established contact with Eamon de Valera, of Irish Republican Army and Irish Government. Some of the Irish Americans who supported Irish independence from Britain, had considerable sympathy for Ghadar party and India's cause. Ghadar party sent condolences on the martyrdom of Terence MacSwiney.
Revolutionary Movement Outside India- Germany
The Indian revolutionaries had been engaged in preparing a base in Germany. Germany was perceived to be friendly to the Indian Independence Movement in view of its hostility to the British Empire. When the war broke out Indian revolutionaries tried to enlist the support and the sympathy of the Germans. Germans on their part were also interested in utilizing Indian revolutionary activities to their advantage. Germany wanted to created mutiny among the Indian soldiers by antagonizing the Muslims on the issue of Britain's hostility with Turkey and the Hindus on the issue of the Nationalism. An organization was set up in Berlin and close contact was maintained with the counterparts in USA using the help of German Embassy. Bhupendra Nath Datta was one of the revolutionaries who initiated close contact with Germany through the German Embassy in US. Birendranath Chattopadhyay, called Chatto among his friends, who was a brother of Sarojini Naidu, was in Germany. A Bengali student named Abinash Chandra Bhattacharya, through his German friends arranged an interview between Birendra and Baron Von Bertheim of German Foreign Office. A committee was formed with German help called Deutscher Verein der Freunde Indien (German Union of Friendly India). There were both Germans and Indians in the committee. Biren became the Vice President. The Indian members were trained in bomb making and in the use of modern weapons. Some members were sent to USA. Jitendra Nath Lahiri, Lala Hardayal, Taraknath Das, Bhupendra Nath Datta etc. came to Berlin. Few members were also sent to India. By 1915 the committee was reconstituted and contained only Indian members. This was also known as the Berlin Committee. The committee invited all the revolutionaries across India and abroad to formulate a common plan of action. Funds were supplied to a number of persons in India and they were instructed to secure fire arms. Indian revolutionaries also went to various countries in the East Asia such as Japan, China, Philippines, Siam, Java, Batavia etc. for importing arms from Germany. The plan was to ensure simultaneous attacks in different countries, e.g in Burma with the help of the exiled Burmese king. Three ships full of arms were planned to be despatched to India, one through the Andamans after releasing all the political prisoners, to Calcutta, one to a coast in Bengal and the third one to the Western coast. There were also plans to attacks India through Afghanistan and Baluchistan. In Batavia the German emissary Kraft met some men sent by Jatindranath Mukherjee. However he was captured by the British in Singapore. Few revolutionaries were caught by the British and turned approvers. Attempts were made to spread the idea of revolution among Indian soldiers but that did not prove successful. The Turkish Government made an attempt to set up a rebel army using the prisoners of wars caught among Indian soldiers. But according to Bhupendra Nath Datta this plan did not succeed because of the communal attitude of the Muslim soldiers. Also he observed that the Turkish Government had blatantly discriminated in their treatment of the Hindu soldiers vis a vis the Muslims.
The Berlin Committee also carried out propaganda work. An International Socialist Conference was held in Stockholm in 1917. Committee requested Trotsky to make a proposal for the self determination of India. Committee also appealed to the neutral countries to help in putting pressure on the Imperial powers for granting independence to India. Bhupendra Nath Datta also did not support the views of Hardayal that he (Hardayal) was kept a prisoner by German Government. Bhupendra alleged that Hardayal wanted to be the only face of revolution and more power and therefore was expelled by the Berlin Committee. However Hardayal is credited with the early coordination across various various countries among the revolutionaries. Later he had a change of mind w.r.t British rule as he wrote that the "Consolidation of British Empire in the East is necessary in the best interest of the people of India.....British and French Imperialism in their worst forms is thousand times preferable than German or Japanese Imperialism." He became a pacifist in his later life and died in USA.
Champakraman Pillai was also a member of the Berlin Committee. He belonged to an aristocrat family in Travancore. Because of his seditious speeches he had to leave India early in 1908, studied in Italy and Switzerland and finally came to Germany. He made Germany his home for more than twenty years and carried out extensive revolutionary propaganda on behalf of India. He played a critical role in the establishing the Berlin Committee. This marked the beginning of the Indian Independence Committee, which after the end of the Indo German Conspiracy, was officially attached to teh Foreign Office in Berlin. The Independence Committee had branches in different countries across the world. Champakraman also tried to incite the Indian prisoners of wars and tried forming a volunteer corps with soldiers, esp. from the Mesopotemia. Champakram worked in tandem with the German Government and even joined the German Navy as an officer as he had an engineering degree. According to Dr. R.C Majumdar, Champakraman was a great favourite with the German high ranking officials including the Kaiser. Even the British Government feared his activities and had set the great spy Mata Hari against him (Dr. R.C Majumdar, History of Freedom Movement Vol 2).
Dr. Jadugopal Mukherjee, a close associate of Bagha Jatin, belonging to Jugantar group, helped in organizing and maintaining the links of Bengal revolutionaries with the Indo German Conspiracy. After the failure of the Indo German plan and death of Jatin he lived for a long time in the Tibetan and Burma borders and came back in 1921 to join C.R Das. He also helped develop the Hindustan Republican Army and later shaped the Quit India Movement.
Taraknath Das , as Tarak Brahmachari, had inspired young revolutionaries like Chidambaram Pillai & Subramaniya Shiva. He settled in Seattle and later in Vancouver. He provided free legal service to the immigrants from India. He was one of the founders of Ghadar movement and was closely associated with Berlin Committee. He was sentenced to 22 months prison by a US court in the Indo German conspiracy. He married Mary Keatinge and settled in Munich and helped Indian students through scholarships.
Revolutionary Movement Outside India- USA
Ram Chandra became the leader of the Ghadar party after the departure of Lala Hardayal. He was entrusted with sending men and arms to India for an armed revolution. Revolutionaries passed through Shanghai and then transported across Siam to the Indian borders. In August, 1914, a ship S.S Korea sailed from San Francisco under the leadership of Jwala Singh, for India. They boarded a Japanese vessel and landed in Calcutta with about one hundred and fifty men. But they were captured on arrival by the British. Heramba Lal Gupta assumed leadership of the plot in USA and went to procure arms in China and Japan. In Japan he was planned to be handed over to British along with the Indian revolutionary Rashbehari Bose who had taken refuge there. German diplomatic missions had planned to send arms to India. About 8000 rifles and 4 million cartridges were purchased and placed aboard the ship Annie Larsen near San Diego. This was arranged by the German Vice Consul in San Francisco. Another ship Maverick was supposed to meet Annie Larsen near Mexico and the cargo would be placed in Maverick which was to set sail for India. But Maverick could not meet Annie Larsen and in Batavia the ship was caught by the Dutch. The five Indian revolutionaries onboard were later captured in Singapore by the British. Annie Larsen was seized in Washington by the customs authorities when the nature of its cargo was discovered. Heramba Lal Gupta also had planned to send the American schooner Harry S with a cargo of five thousand revolvers from Manilla to Bengal, along with a number of Indian revolutionaries and a German American military officer to train the Bengal revolutionaries in the art of warfare. This ship was also seized by the customs. Germany provided enough material support in the form of money and arms to the Indian revolutionaries. In 1916 Chandra Chakravarty replaced Heramba. He had sent an agent to Japan to secure support. Taraknath Das had requested Japanese to form an alliance with Germany. An attempt of enlisting support of China fell flat as Sun Yat-Sen refused an alliance with Germany. Indians working in USA were also hopelessly divided. Some of the Sikhs working in the Pacific Coast refused to cooperate and many had been bought by the British to break up Ghadar Party. Interpersonal and power struggles among the leaders of the revolution also led to the collapse. Chakravarty was arrested and a large volume of evidence was seized by the American authorities. He turned an approver and named his associates. Ram Chandra and sixteen others were arrested from San Francisco in 1917. The great San Francisco trial began in November and this came to be known as the Hindu German conspiracy. Around hundred and five Indians were indicted. Ram Chandra was shot dead by a fellow revolutionary who had charged him of misappropriating money for personal use. The trial concluded in April 1918 and twenty nine were convicted and others had either pled guilty or turned approvers. The prisoners were sent to imprisonment for several months and years. The German Consul and Vice Consuls, Frank Bopp and Von Schack, were also held guilty and were sent to prison and fined on charges of conspiracy to foment a revolution against the British rule in India. It is to be noted the Chandra Chakravarty even had accused Rabindranath Tagore of meeting the Japanese premier Count Terauchi to enlist his support to help the Indian revolutionary activities. However Tagore had denied the allegations.
Other prominent revolutionaries who were indicted included Shailendra Nath Ghosh, Pulin Behari Bose, Taraknath Das, and Jadugopal Mukherjee.
It is to be noted that the failure of the Indian revolutionaries in USA and elsewhere did not mean that there was a dearth of desire for freedom. The revolutionaries could not bear the burden of being enslaved, esp. when they were in the countries outside India that were free. They could see for themselves what freedom meant for the citizens of those countries. They were looked down upon and often discriminated against for belonging to an enslaved race. They therefore carried a terrible pain gnawing in their heart that led them to think of directly attacking the British Empire, even with the help of the arch enemy of the British, the Germans, knowing very well that such help did not come free. However the external help and also the lack of a strong collective will, as well as their own ambitions and power struggles caused their schemes to fall apart. Despite the best intentions the efforts went in vain because the time was not ripe and the people were not prepared for such a milestone, the collapse of the British Empire. But their activities prepared the ground, their propaganda worked slowly and steadily in generating sympathy, which ultimately helped the cause of the freedom movement. Their efforts helped directly the later efforts, primarily of Subhas Chandra Bose, to raise an army from the prisoners of war by enlisting support from the Axis powers.
Raja Mahendrapratap, the President of Provisional Government of India in Kabul, who was a lifelong champion of India's right for freedom in the international arena
Champakraman Pillai, one of the key architects of Berlin Committee in 1914
Lala Hardayal, one of the key leaders of the Ghadar movement
Revolutionary Movement Outside India- Other countries
After Savarkar's arrest and deportation revolutionary activities practically stopped in London. Bipin Chandra Pal started an organization called Hindusthan Society and in 1911 he started a journal called the Indian Student, with financial assistance from the Gaekwar of Baroda. However both the society and the journal were short lived. Britain and France entered into an alliance post 1914. Indian revolutionaries in France were no longer safe to carry out their activities from Paris. Virendranath Chattopadhyay went to Germany and Shyamji went to Geneva. Madam Bhikhaji Cama and Sardar Singh Rana who did not leave Paris were interned. Their attempts to instigate a rebellion among the Indian soldiers deputed in France during the First World War were in vain as British Government became aware of the plan and alerted the French.
Von Papen and other German consuls continued to provide money and material support to the Indian revolutionaries. Barkatulla was entrusted with the trust of winning over the Indian prisoners of war in German camp. In Burma, Malaya and Indo China several revolutionary activities were carried out and specially noteworthy was the mutiny in Singapore. The Indian battalion in Singapore, the Fifth Light Battalion, was composed entirely of the Muslims. On 15th of February 1915, the Fifth Light Infantry mutinied. The mutineers released the German prisoners of war, overpowered the British commanding officer and also tried to prevent any assistance from reaching Singapore. A number of officers, N.C.O and prisoners were killed. The German soldiers however refused to help the mutineers. The mutineers had also killed quite a large no. of British military and civilians. The mutiny continued till 16th and 17th, anticipating a similar uprising in India, that in the meanwhile had been foiled through treachery. On 18th February however the French and Japanese ships nearby attacked the mutineers and overpowered them. Sultan of Johor and volunteer corps from HMS Cadmus were also sent to suppress the mutiny. Few mutineers surrendered and rest of them, including two of their leaders, were shot publicly. Around 8 British officers were killed.
Of all the attempts made against the British rule in the middle East Asia the most important one was the Indo German Mission sent out to Kabul by Raja Mahendra Pratap. During World War 1 he went to Europe, met Hardayal in Geneva, and proceeded to Germany. There he met the Kaiser. With the help of German officials he managed to get the German Government to take an active interest in India's freedom. A Mission was sent to Afghanistan with explicit support from Germany. The Indo German Mission in Afghanistan consisted of Barkatullah, Raja Mahendra Pratap, and Dr. Von Henting of German diplomatic services. Sultan of Turkey gave the Raja an introductory letter for the Amir of Afghanistan. Barkatulla got a Fatwa from the Islamic scholars asking the Muslims of India to fight the British. The Mission went through Persia where they suffered a number hardships including attack by the brigands. In Afghanistan they received a royal reception. A meeting was held with king Habibullah and a provisional Government of Free India was established on 1st December, 1915. Mahendra Pratap was its President and Barkatullah was its Prime Minister. Obeidullah was the Home Minister. The Provisional Government dealt directly with the Afghan Government and a treaty was drawn up between the two. Mahendra Pratap also reached out to Russian Tsar for help. He also reached out to the Indian princes and the king of Nepal. But no concrete outcome could be achieved. Raja also asked Kaiser to send an international troop of soldiers comprised of German, Austrian, Bulgarian, Turkish and Russian socialists to free India. He traveled extensively to Japan, China, Russia and other countries to promote a rebellion in India, without success. Mahendra Pratap had a vision to raise an Asiatic Army and hence his efforts, though they did not achieve much, helped in raising the stature of India and its revolutionaries. His selfless lifelong work in promoting the interest of India's freedom is worth paying homage to this great revolutionary leader.
Bengal Revolutionaries and their link to the Ghadar Revolution and Indo German Conspiracy
Bengal revolutionaries together with Rashbehari Bose, Jadugopal Mukherjee, Sachindranath Sanyal and Ghadar party functionaries in India like Vishnu Ganesh Pingle, conspired to raise a rebellion in India in the barracks as well as outside, with the help of German arms. Bengal revolutionaries conducted some daring robberies in Garden Reach and Beliaghata. Bholanath Chatterjee was sent to Bangkok to get in touch with the revolutionaries. Jitendra Nath Lahiri had reached Bombay from Europe and brought to the revolutionaries the news of German help. Narendranath Bhattacharya, who later took the name of Manabendra Nath Roy (M.N Roy) was sent to Batavia by Jatindranath Mukherjee or Bagha Jatin, who was key leader behind the master plan. Abani Mukherjee was sent to Japan. Jatin and few of his associates like Chittapriya, Niren and Manoranjan went to Bengal Orissa border waiting for the arms consignment. S.S Maverick had started its fateful journey from San Pedro. In Batavia, Narendranath met German Consul Helfferich, who stated that a cargo of arms and ammunitions was on the way to Karachi. The ship was urged to be diverted to Bengal. The information that the cargo of S.S Maverick was supposed to arrive near Rai Mangal in Sudarbans as per arrangement was cabled to Harry & Sons, a pseudo firm set up by Jatin in Calcutta. A series of funds transfer also took place between Batavia and Harry & Sons before the authorities were alerted. Jatin, Jadugopal, Narendranath, Bholanath & Atul Ghosh laid out a plan for receiving of the arms and how they were to be divided to fuel the revolutionary activities across centers in East Bengal, Calcutta and Balasore in Orissa coast. The detail plan included blowing up the railway bridges so that reinforcements from outside could not reach. An elaborate plan was laid out as to how the revolutionaries would take arms from the SS Maverick and would start their activities. For instance Bholanath Chakrabarty, Jatin and Satish would blow up the railway bridges, Narendranath Bhattacharya and Bipin Bihari Ganguli would take possession of all arms and ammunitions around Calcutta and take over Fort Williams, while Jadugopal would coordinate on the delivery of arms from Maverick near Raimangal in the Sundarbans. But Maverick did not arrive in July and no communication was reached. Government meanwhile learnt about the possible landing of the arms and took precautions.
Writes R.C Majumdar, Jatindra or Jyotindra Mukherjee, popularly called as Bagha Jatin as he killed a Royal Bengal Tiger with a dagger, "was a remarkable personality and may be regarded as the bravest of the brave among the large number of brave Bengalis who joined the revolutionary movement. Jadugopal Mukherjee observes, "Jyotindranath and danger were brothers, former was always present wherever the latter was or his presence was expected." "Jyotindranath belonged to a much higher category of men and towered high above the revolutionaries who had gathered around him." Born in 1880 Jyotindra was senior in age to most of the revolutionaries who came into prominence during the second decade of the present century. He was not averse to violence like the Anushilon group represented by Jadugopal Mukherjee and was the brain behind many of the dacoities and murders. But he laid great stress on guerilla warfare and not unoften suggested adventures like storming the Fort William in Calcutta, which astounded his followers, quite large in number. He may be regarded as the leader of the section that revived the cult of violence in Bengal after the group of Barin Ghosh was removed from the scene after the Alipore Conspiracy Case."
Jatin had told his followers - "Amra Morbo, Jagat Jagbe" - We shall die but world shall be awakened (to the purpose). He meant that the sacrifice of the lives of revolutionaries was necessary to awaken the masses towards the oppressive and evil foreign rule so that they struggle to overthrow it.
Bagha Jatin had opened the firm Harry & Sons with Hari Kumar Chakrabarty, with a branch called Universal Emporium in Balasore. In August 1915, the funds transferred to Harry & Sons was traced and the Balasore and the Jatin link was identified by police. After having arrested the men associated with Universal Emporium, documents revealed their link to Kaptipada in Mayurbhanj, where Jatin had been hiding. The police team arriving in Kaptipada found that Jatin and his associates had escaped in the nick of time but they unearthed many evidences. They blocked all the routes and alerted the local villagers who had in the meanwhile waylaid the five in the village of Durpal. Villagers also alerted the police and officials had reached the spot with a large contingent of police and army from Chandbali. Jatin and his four associates, Chittapriya Roy Choudhuri, Niren Dasgupta, Manoranjan Sengupta and Jyotish Pal had to swim across Buri Balam river, being chased by the villagers greedy for reward. Tired and devoid of food, the five took refuge in a trench in the Chashakhand near Balasore. The five were armed with mauser pistols and a fierce battle followed on 9th of September. The battle raged for about 2 hours and there were a large number of casualties on the British side. Chittapriya fell and Jatin was mortally wounded. Then the revolutionaries finding that their ammunition had run out, surrendered. Jatin, in a statement to magistrate Kirby took the whole blame on the operation on himself. He passed away in hospital on 10th of September. Charles Tegart, the police commissioner who led the police forces had paid a glowing tribute saying that had Jyotindra been born in England, his statue would have been beside Nelson in Trafalgar Square. He also said that Bagha Jatin was the most selfless of the revolutionaries. Niren and Manoranjan were hanged in a farce of a trial and Jyotish was sent to Andaman where he turned insane owing to the torture inflicted on him. Thus ended one of the most glorious chapters of Indian revolutionary movement and the life of a precious jewel of mother Bengal was lost for ever.
Rashbehari Bose and the February Uprising
Rashbehari Bose belonged to the Chandannagore group of revoplutionaries. He was a Government official in Dehradun. He took up the responsibility of organizing the revolutionary activities in North India where he also went by the name of Mota Babu. Bose was the mastermind behind throwing of the bomb on the procession by Lord Hardinge in December 1912 in Delhi. Basanta Biswas, disguised as a woman, threw the bomb that severely injured Hardinge. Rashbehari was a fine actor and he, after returning to Dehradun arranged for a meeting where he condemned in the strongest term the dastardly attack on the Viceroy. But his complicity came to be known after his accomplishes like Amir Chand, Bal Mukund, Avadh Behari, and Basanta Biswas were captured and hanged. Rashbehari was a master of disguises and legend has it that he escaped by whiskers every time police traced him to his hideout - once as a Oriya servant, another time as a scavenger, a third time as an Anglo Indian violinist and so on. Rashbehari chose Benaras as the center of activity and the brain behind the revolutionary organization set up there was Sachindranath Sanyal. Sachindra had met Rashbehari in 1913. They were joined by a host of other revolutionaries having similar ideas and visions like Damodar Swarup, Vishnu Ganesh Pingle, Vinayak Rao Kaple, Pratap Sinha, Bachha Singh, Kartar Singh, many of whom had returned from the America in 1914 in company with the Sikhs of the Ghadar party. Rashbehari started propaganda among the Indian soldiers inducing them to join a rebellion against the British which was planned to take place across North India. Rashbehari and his team worked very hard to convince the soldiers and although they generally agreed, very few of them actually took part. Rashbehari sent his most trusted lieutenants to work among the soldiers of different cantonments - Damodar Swarup in Allahabad, Priyanath and Vibhuti in Benaras, Mangal Pandey in Sikrole, Nalini Mukherjee in Jabalpur, Pingle, Kartar Singh and a few others in LAhore, Ambala, Ferozepur, Rawalpindi and Meerat. There was a very small no. of English troops in India at that time and the revolutionaries wanted to seize this opportunity through a simultaneous uprising, by attacking the British soldiers, cutting telegraph wires, imprisoning the English, taking up administrative charges and assembling at Lahore. It was hoped that because of the war in Europe, India would be in an advantageous position as no European power would be able to help British in India. Bengal revolutionaries were asked to supply bombs in large quantities. All over Bengal among the revolutionaries this plan caused a great excitement. Revolutionaries also contacted the Sikh soldiers in Dhaka and won over them through a letter of introduction of the Sikh soldiers in Lahore. The date of the rebellion was fixed at February 21, 1915. However a police informer Kripal Singh secretly passed the information to the police. The date was changed to 19th February but this was also revealed by the traitors. Government immediately transferred the suspected regiments and made a number of arrests. Pingle and Rashbehari evaded arrest. Pingle went to work among the Indian soldiers in Meerat. But he was caught in March 1915 with a box containing ten bombs sufficient to annihilate half a regiment. The plan came to be known as the Lahore Conspiracy Case.
Pingle and sixty others were tried in the Lahore Conspiracy Case. 28 persons including Pingle and Kartar Singh were hanged, 29 were acquitted and the rest were deported or imprisoned.
However Rashbehari, the mastermind, could not be caught. He, sensing that police was widening its net to capture him, boarded a ship to Japan in the name of P.N Tagore, Rabindranath Tagore's relative. Earlier, in a daring move he had gone to the passport office to get a passport in that name. In Japan he could escape deportation by the timely help of Mitusyo Toyama, leader of the Black Dragon Society and one of the most influential Samurais living in Japan at that time. Rashbehari still tried to smuggle arms through China to India but failed . Rashbehari continued to promote the cause of India within Japan by building his influence and became one of the best known and most famous and popular Indian in Japan who was well respected. Rashbehari would play a very critical role at the beginning of the World War 2 when he would again assemble the Indian Prisoners of War to rise against the British, as the Indian National Army. He would also preach the doctrine of Asia for Asians and would form the Indian Independence League branches across Asia. Sachindranath Sanyal would also play a key role in India by forming the Hindusathan Republican Army that would have among its members a youth named Bhagat Singh.
Komagata Maru incident - 1914
SS Komagata Maru incident is a memorable incident closely linked to the Ghadar party. The ship brought back a large number of Sikh passengers from Canada to India. Baba Gurdit Singh had chartered the Komagata Maru from carrying a large no. of Sikhs to Canada. The Government thought that the ship was connected with the Ghadar movement. On April 14th, 1914, the ship had sailed from Hong Kong. Few Ghadar literatures were distributed onboard and in US two Ghadar party revolutionaries had boarded the ship. The ship arrived in Vancouver on 23rd May. The local authorities had refused landing. The passengers were disallowed from disembarking and the vessel was forced to return. It arrived in the Budge Budge port of Calcutta in September. The passengers were supposed to be carried by a special train to Punjab. The Sikhs refused to enter the train. The police opened fire and many Sikh passengers were killed. Gurdit Singh in his memoirs had alleged that he had chartered the ship to comply with the regulations of the Canada Government for immigration of the Sikhs in masses as it was impossible for individuals to comply with the regulations. Gurdit Singh said that the passengers were not allowed to land in Canada owing to the explicit instruction of the Government of India, and that the Ghadar literature was planted in the ship by the British immigration officers. Gurdit also alleged that the treatment received in Calcutta was very harsh. The passengers were not allowed any time to settle their affairs, their luggage were forcibly taken away by the police and they were forced to return to Punjab. When they protested they were fired upon. It was a cruel pre planned massacre by the British police. Since the police had searched the passengers several times, they could not have possessed by fire arms as that would have been confiscated by the police. So it appears that the British Indian Government version of the Komagata Maru incident was entirely false. They had deliberately killed innocent, unarmed Sikhs. The Government did this on account of its own Ghadar phobia whereby it viewed every Sikh as linked to Ghadar Party.
A justification of the Revolutionary Activities
Much has been said against the methods adopted by the revolutionaries like the political murders, dacoities and the violence in general. It has also been speculated that the violence was generally unfavourable to the Indian populace and therefore the attempts of the revolutionaries had largely failed. However it would be naïve to write off the contribution of the revolutionaries and also to dismiss their modus operandi. The one sided narrative that had been developed since independence by the Government and the political classes and a category of historians that India had won independence largely by non violent means, needs a serious scrutiny.
It is true that the revolutionaries had adopted two distinct courses which were often unpalatable to ordinary peace loving folks. One was political murders and the second was dacoity. However the objective behind the political murders was not terrorism, but to raise the consciousness of a morbid Nation through self sacrifice, by showing to the Government and people what Indian youth were capable of doing. The revolutionaries knew that by murdering few Government officials the British would not be forced to move out of India. However their primary purpose was to convey a message, that Indian youth was prepared for the extreme sacrifice, that they were fearless and that they were ready to fight a battle of attrition. This fact got on the nerve of the British police and Government officials and that was why their responses were brutal and oppressive beyond imagination. They had already lost the psychological war. They knew that they were up against a determined will power and they had tried every means to crush it. But they simply couldn't. That was the success of the revolutionaries. Also the ordinary folks were with them as far as political murders went. While it is true that some ignorant folks, esp. outside Bengal (like that of Khudiram or Bagha Jatin's tryst with the local folks) had tried to get the revolutionaries for petty monetary rewards, by far most of the ordinary folks including villagers often looked the other way when murders were committed in front of them. They simply dispersed and often could not even be coerced to become witnesses. The tacit sympathy was very evident in the funeral procession of Kanailal Datta who had assassinated Naren Gosai and was hanged for it. Thousands had joined, defying any Government dictum. Women showered flowers from the balconies and there was spontaneous display of anger and emotion everywhere. Public sympathy was one of the reasons that despite the wide espionage network of the Britosh police, the revolutionaries were often able to hide for months and years safely. Iconic status were accorded to the revolutionaries like Bagha Jatin, Rashbehari Bose, Bipin Behari Ganguly, Jadugopal Mukherjee and others. Political murders found sympathy among the leaders like Tilak, Bipin Chandra Pal, and others who had advocated Indian youth to become vigorous, amke bombs and wield weapons. It is said that Acharya Prafulla Chandra Roy pledged one of his laboratories for bomb making. Even Surendranath Bannerjee, the moderate leader had announced a reward for killing of Bamfylde Fuller, the notorious Lt Governor of Assam & East Bengal.
However the political dacoities were another story. The revolutionary activities needed source of funds and after the revelations by Naren Gosai, the rich who were supporting the revolutionary activities had withdrawn for fear of reprisal from Government. The revolutionary activities needed a lot of fund for the execution of the schemes and for the upkeeping of the revolutionaries and their family members. The dacoities were the only source of funds. The revolutionaries had a strict code of ethics. They would not use the funds obtained by dacoities for their personal gains. They considered such dacoities as selfless acts done for the sake of the Nation when the rich would not pay them voluntarily. Often they would pledge that the funds obtained by dacoity would be returned once the Nation got her freedom. Such dacoities would need cunning and resourcefulness and would be done in a military way. The code of ethics prevented them from harming women or children or leaving behind the injured colleagues. Villagers would often chase them and they had to try not to harm them. These were certainly unpopular activities as people would call them as "Swadeshi Dakats" meaning Swadeshi bandits, and would not support such actions. Rabindranath Tagore, with his general aversion to violence, was against such activities as his novels like Ghare Baire show. Polical dacoities had been in vogue for a long time as stories of Robin Hood proves. Supporters of such actions would cite examples of Shivaji who had resorted to looting the wealth of the Bijapuri Sultan and the Mughals for building his own army. While it is true that there were some moral degradation resulting in even personal gains and greed among the revolutionaries, in general the code of conduct was very strict and there were always thorough searches to ensure that nobody was gaining anything personally. Miscreants would often get strict punishments
The political murders, esp. that of Indian officials, had removed many obstacles and had emboldened the youth to carry out such activities on a larger scale. Even the failure of grand schemes like the revolution of 1915 and the Indo German conspiracy, and a large number of arrests and executions, did not deter the revolutionaries. Untimely demise of Bagha Jatin had a dampening spirit but soon others like Atul Krishna Ghosh took over in Bengal. Often the British officer targets were saved and the casualty was high among the Indian collaborators of the British Government. The revolutionaries explained it to be the result of a divine dispensation. While the British officials were doing duty to their own Nation and national interest, the Indian collaborators were traitors and hence karma caught up rapidly with them.
On the whole the revolutionary movement between 1905 and 1920 seems to be a failure in terms of getting rid of the British Government. But viewed with a larger perspective, the activities were a foundation for the destruction of the British Imperialism. Through the selfless sacrifices of countless revolutionary youth, the Government's moral and ethical foundation had been considerably weakened and it would only need a few hard blows in the days to come, to ensure its complete collapse. All the activities had helped shaped the journey of the ultimate goal - mutiny in the Army ranks and an armed attack on the British Government leading to its ultimate collapse, as was achieved by Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and the Indian National Army. Strangely, that Army had a link back to the revolutionary days of 1914. Its architect was none other than Rashbehari Bose.
Repressive Measures undertaken by the British Indian Government
The Government passed the Indian Criminal Amendment Act in 1913, which demonized "Conspiracy" and sought to repress all legitimate protests against its unjustified acts. In 1913 the Delhi Conspiracy Case was one infamous case after the Act was passed, in which a large no. of people were put on trial for planning to murder Lord Hardinge. Charges were also passed on grounds of planting a bomb in Lawrence Garden in Lahore. Amir Chand, Avadh Behri, Bal Mukund and Basanta Biswas were sentenced to death.
In 1915 the Defence of India Act was passed in a single sitting of the Imperial Legislative Council. The Moderate Party acted as a cohort of British Government, which proved the depth to which these British stooges had sunk. Gopal Krishna Gokhale, the face of the Moderates, was responsible for such a groveling attitude of the Moderate Congress members. The net effect of this Act was that Government could authorize any official to do anything with regard to any person and his property in India, on mere suspicion that such a person could act in a way that was perceived by the Government to be inimical to the public safety. Lahore Conspiracy Trial was one of the most notorious trials to be held under the Defence of India Act of 1915. A total of 175 persons were put on trial of whom about 136 were convicted and 38 were sentenced to death, while 58 transported for life. In Banaras Conspiracy Case Sachindranath Sanyal was transported for life. The cruel treatment of the detainees bordered on inhumanity (Dr. R.C Majumdar - History of Freedom Movement, Vol 2). Two most shocking incidents of such unhuman torture meted out on flimsiest grounds were towards Prof Manindranath Seth, vice principal of Daulatpur College who was arrested in 1917 and placed in solitary confinement. He showed symptoms of insanity owing to the torture, developed pthisis in absence of proper treatment and died. Prof. Jyotish Ghosh of Hooghly was arrested in 1917, kept in a solitary cell and was tortured severely, developed symptoms of insanity and sank into a state of coma. He was artificially fed to nose. His poor old mother had requested for his release but without any avail.
Writes Dr. Majumdar, "inhuman cruelties barbarous methods of torture, applied to men kept on mere suspicion within four walls of a dungeon at the absolute mercy of the so called guardians of law and order recall the barbarities perpetrated in the German Concentration Camps in the Second World War. Had there been any trial of those guilty of similar crimes in India, as there was in Germany after the War, another chapter of horror and infamy would have been added to the history of man's inhumanity. The treatment meted out to the so called terrorists in India constitutes one of the blackest chapters in the history of British rule in India."