It is certainly difficult to comprehend the colossal impact Bengal had in India’s freedom movement looking at the current state of the aforementioned state. The idea of independence and the will to execute, both were present and partly originated from British India’s ‘Bengal Presidency’. Today is the birth anniversary of one of the younger David’s who stood up to the British Goliath. The luminary who is being referred to here is Khudiram Bose.
Early life & family lineage
Bose, a son to the Nerajol’s ‘Tahsildar’ Trailokyanath Bose and his religious wife Lakshmipriya Devi, was born on 3rd December 1889 in Midnapore District’s Habibpur village, West Bengal. It is believed that it was his mother who instilled a great sense of ‘karma’ in him by reciting religious scriptures to the young boy every day.
Khudiram was only six years old when he lost his mother, his father died a year later. He was raised by his elder sister, Apurba Roy. Apurba’s husband, Amritlal Roy got Khudiram admitted to Tamluk’s Hamilton High school. It was during those days Khudiram got inspired by public lectures given by Sri Aurobindo the founder of ‘Anushilon Samiti’. Anushilon Samiti was an organization which believed armed struggle is the only way to uproot the British from Bengal.
Khudiram joined the nationalist organization and became a volunteer at the tender age of 15. This statement alone cannot do justice to the magnanimity of this act, a contemporary analysis might help, at the same age when people are most concerned with the new look of an actor or a new toy, Khudiram volunteered to sacrifice his innocence and his future for the idea of an independent India.
He was arrested for distributing anti-British pamphlets at the age of sixteen. During this time period, Khudiram got involved with planting bombs near British police stations and targeting government officials of the colonial government. He joined up with the network of renowned revolutionary Barindra Kumar Ghosh, who was based out of Calcutta.
Douglas Kingsford and Jugantor
Jugantar was the mouthpiece of Anushilan Samiti. This newspaper talked about nationalism and spread ideas of resistance against the colonial exploitation. Expectedly, Jugantar came under a lot of scrutinies and many charges were brought against the paper and its editors. Douglas Kingsford was at that point in time was serving as the Chief Magistrate of the presidency court of Alipore. He oversaw the trails of notable editor Bhupendranath Dutta and other key contributors to the Jugantar publication.
Jugantar despite facing the wrath of the colonial government did not tone down its defiant editorials and as a result, it faced five more prosecutions which left it in financial ruin in 1908. Kingsford had earned notoriety during his tenure as the magistrate by handing out cruel and unjust sentences to young political workers. He even ordered ‘public whipping’ of people participating in peaceful protests.
Such a heavy-handed approach was indicative of the colonial perception of Indian masses and the underline idea of treating Indians not as humans but ‘subjects’. Anushilan Samiti took note of this atrocious ruling precedence set by Kingsford and designated him as the next target.
Muzaffarpur- the plot that shook the colonial foundations
After the initial failed assassination attempt by Hem Chandra Das, Anushilon Samiti persisted in their efforts to neutralize Kingsford. What followed would become one of the greatest tales of bravery and Indian freedom struggle ever told.
In April 1908, Samiti sent a two-man reconnaissance team to Muzaffarpur. The two men were Prafulla Chaki along with Khudiram Bose. The police got suspicious of the activities of Barin Ghosh. Calcutta Police also got the alert that Kingsford life is in danger and the same was forwarded to the Superintendent of Muzaffarpur.
The two men adopted pseudo names to hide their true identities. Prafulla Chaki became “Dinesh Chandra Roy” and Khudiram became “Haren Sarkar”. The duo stayed at a Dharmashala and for the next few days they shadowed Kingsford’s every move and took note of his court timings, his arrival, and departure from his favourite club situated right on the opposite of Muzaffarpur park as well as his home.
These men were so successful at hiding their identities and movement that The CID officer sent from Kolkata to follow them had returned with a letter from Armstrong, the superintendent of Muzaffarpur Police claiming that the duo had not arrived in Muzaffarpur at all, six hours before the freedom fighters struck.
On 30th April 1908, Prafulla Chaki and Khudiram Bose were hiding in the trees waiting patiently for Kingsford’s carriage to pass them by. At that eventful night, Kingsford’s carriage was immediately behind a very similar looking carriage boarded by the wife and daughter of Pringle Kennedy, a leading pleader of Muzaffarpur Bar.
On their way back home at around 8.30 p.m the ladies took a turn to the right to leave the club grounds and pass in front of the compound of Kingsford. It was a dark night, visibility was poor. As the single-horse drawn carriage made its way to the eastern gate of Kingsford’s compound two men ran towards the carriage and threw bombs at it, mistaking it as the Magistrate’s carriage. There was a tremendous explosion and later the shattered cabin of the carriage was discovered along with the ladies who had sustained serious injuries.
Miss Kennedy, the daughter died of her injuries within hours and Mrs Kennedy survived until the morning of 2nd May, she also succumbed to her injuries that morning.
Foiled escape plan
The incident occurred before 9 PM and by midnight the entire town knew what had happened. The police were keeping a close eye on everyone coming in or going out from the adjacent roads and rail stations. Khudiram decided not to board a train and continued walking along the countryside. He walked all night covering nearly 25 miles. Exhausted, Khudiram reached a station called “Waini” on the morning of 1st May 1908. As he was asking for a glass of water, two constables confronted him as his lack of footwear and perspiring appearance raised suspicion. After a couple of questions, they found inconsistencies in the young teenager’s answers. They decided to arrest Khudiram but he resisted, during this time one of his revolvers fall out and his fate was sealed. Police recovered 37 rounds of ammunition, Rs. 30 in cash, a railway map and a page of the rail timetable. He was brought to Muzaffarpur station on the following day, May 2nd, 1908. The English daily Statesman described the scene as such –
“The Railway station was crowded to see the boy. A mere boy of 18 or 19 years old, who looked quite determined. He came out of a first-class compartment and walked all the way to the phaeton, kept for him outside, like a cheerful boy who knows no anxiety…..on taking his seat the boy lustily cried ‘Vandemataram’.”
Court trail and hanging
The trail started on 21st May 1908. Mr Mannuk and Binod Bihari Majumder became the prosecutors for the British governments. Kshetranath Bandopadhyay, Kalidas Basu, Upendranath Sen defended Khudiram in the court of law they were later joined by Satish Chandra Chakraborty and Nagendra Lal Lahiri. It is worth mentioning that all of Khudiram’s defence lawyers were providing their services for free.
On 13th June, the scheduled date for verdict and sentencing, the judge and the prosecutors got an anonymous letter threatening that there is a bomb coming their way and this time it will be from Biharis and not Bengalees. This excited the defence as they thought this was indicative of the possibility of there being other masterminds and executors of Muzaffarpur but the judge pronounced the death sentence to Khudiram.
Khudiram had seven days to appeal against the verdict and he was reluctant to do so but eventually, he did after his lawyers pleaded him to do so. The appeal was dismissed and the previous verdict was upheld by two British judges in the High court on 13th July 1908.
As a last-ditch effort, an appeal was made to the Governor General to overrule the death sentence of Khudiram but the appeal was turned down. An order came out to execute the death sentence on 11th August 1908. On the date of his hanging his age was 18 years and 8 months.
The streets of Kolkata erupted in student protest but to no avail. Mahatma Gandhi never stood by Khudiram Bose and stated –
“That the Indian people will not win their freedom through these methods.”
As we look back to the good deeds and great valour of this young martyr and a worthy son of Mother India, the youth of India can learn much from him. Let his idea of self-emancipation and discipline guide our lives which are otherwise riddled with lack of conviction and purpose.