A Historical Defense for Citizenship Amendment Bill- Hindu Bengal’s contribution to India

A Historical Defense for Citizenship Amendment Bill- Hindu Bengal’s contribution to India


We had argued the civilizational, demographic and moral necessity of the Citizenship Amendment Bill a few weeks back [36]. Subsequently, entire Indian polity colluded to kill the bill. Traditionally anti-Hindu parties like Congress, TMC, CPIM had always opposed the bill. The BJP’s tactics had however been more sophisticated. It had passed the bill in the Lok Sabha, where it had a majority. This created the ground for placing it in the Rajya Sabha, which it refused to do despite explicit promises by the BJP in its pre-LS 2014 manifesto, and implicit promises by the PM in various recent public rallies in Assam and Bengal. Not placing the bill in the Rajya Sabha let it lapse, which a defeat in the Rajya Sabha would not have. To make electoral hay from the bill, BJP President had now promised to add it to the 2019 LS manifesto [37]. The continued deceit aside, we resume our defense of the bill, now appealing to the history of the Indian nation.

Let us first recall what a nation constitutes: Abhas Chatterji has defined “a nation never means a land as such. A nation indicates a group or a community of people which has been traditionally living in a particular land, which has its own distinctive culture, and which has an identity separate from other peoples of the world by virtue of the distinctiveness of its culture. The cultural distinctiveness of a nation may be based on its race, or religion, or language, or a combination of some or all of these factors, but all-in-all there has to be a distinct culture which will mark the nation out from peoples belonging to other lands. Third, there may be internal differences in several respects among the people belonging to this culture, but in spite of these differences there is an overall sense of harmony born out of the fundamental elements of their culture, and a sense of pride which inspires in them a desire to maintain their separate identity from the rest of the world. Finally, as a result of these factors, this group of people has its own outlook towards the history of its traditional homeland; it has its own heroes and villains, its own view of glory and shame, success and failure, victory and defeat.’’ p. 3, [38].  BN Mukherjee has written “The term ‘nation’ may denote a people or groups of ethnic elements tied together by a type of common cultural consciousness or by a linkage of certain cultural features and/or political homogeneity and living (or having its or their major part living) in a given territory (permanently, or at least with a fixed periodicity in case of having the habit of seasonal migration). Thus, unlike a so-called “nation-state”, where political homogeneity (under a central government in a defined or augmenting territory) is a prerequisite, a people or groups of ethnic elements may be considered to have attained the nation-hood if they have cultural links amongst or between them and if their habitat is well-defined. Here political unity under a central government is not an essential factor.’’ p. 1, [52].  By these notions, a group that has contributed substantially to the growth and continuation of an ancient nation, is morally at least on an equal footing as any other group, with respect to the citizenship of the state that claims to be the political custodian of that nation.

A group need not reside within the current boundaries of the political state to have contributed to the sustainance of the nation in the past. Let us hear from Abid Hasan Safrani, who had accompanied Subhas Chandra Bose, in a submarine from Germany to Japan, and had fought the British as a part of his Indian National Army. He had recounted the contributions of the [Tamizh] overseas Indians in South East Asia to the I.N.A., many of whom had never been to India: “I remember a walk I had once, not far from Rangoon, with Capt. [Janaki] Thavar of the Rani Jhansi Regiment [of the I.N.A]. We went to a hillock and sat there looking at the ground around us. “Doesn’t the countryside remind you of home ?” I enquired, adding “it looks so typically Indian”. “I do not know” she replied simply, “I had never been to India.” I could not but marvel at all that was happening. Here was a girl in her early twenties, born and educated in Malaya, who had left the care of her parents, the shelter of her home the prospects of a career, straying a thousand miles away rifle in hand to fight, and prepared to die, for a motherland she had not seen. And she was not the only one. There were hundreds of other girls all from established families and men in their thousands from all walks of life. The allegiance to India of all these overseas Indians, a much maligned body today, when put to excruciating tests, was found to be of a fervor, perhaps greater but certainly not less than ours who owed every thing to our motherland.’’ pp. 12-13, [45].

Our historical defense would thereby comprise of an enumeration of the contributions of the potential beneficiaries of the Bill, residing within civilizational India though not within the precincts of the Indian state, to the growth and continuation of the Indian nation. The refugees that the Bill was seeking to confer citizenship on comprises of Indic Bengali and Punjabi victims of religious persecution in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Bill should also have included the Hindu Tamizh victims of religious persecution from Sri Lanka. We therefore enumerate the contributions of the Indic ethnicities from these regions towards the growth and continuation of the Indian nation, focusing primarily on the Hindu Bengalis as they are the largest residual demographic among Indics currently residing in the territories the Bill covered, and should have covered. But, we dwell on the contribution of the Punjabis and the Tamizh as well.

The intellectual contribution of Hindu Bengalis is perhaps well-known, and borne from the facts that 1) of the three Indian citizens (Rabindranath Tagore, C. V. Raman, Amartya Sen) who have received Nobel prize for contributions in academic fields like literature, science and economics, two have been Hindu Bengalis (not to mention several other scientists who have not received their dues, eg, Jagadish Chandra Bose, Meghnad Saha etc) 2) the most internationally acclaimed Indian film director, Satyajit Roy, the only Indian to have received an honorary Oscar is a Hindu (brahmo/Indic) Bengali.

What is less recognized, and therefore deserves greater highlight is that Hindu Bengalis constituted the sword arm of India during the freedom fight against the British. We elaborate on this aspect. In the words of Subhas Chandra Bose, “Bengal, of which Calcutta is both the heart and the brain, has for a very long time been one of the strongholds of the nationalist movement’’ pp. 98-99, [14], and “With the dawn of the present century there was a national awakening in India on a large scale, and Bengal, which had suffered longest from the British yoke, was the pioneer in the new movement’’ p. 13, [14]. He has squarely attributed the nationalist movement in Bengal to the Hindus therein, describing them as “the backbone of nationalism in this country’’ p. 90, [1]. He explicitly stated that “Nobody will deny that Bengal has been the cradle of Indian Nationalism since the dawn of British rule in this country. Hindu Bengal, in particular, has throughout these decades thought and striven in terms of nationalism’’ p. 169, [1].

We show that in the twentieth century, both in ideas and actions, the freedom movement against the British was driven by the Hindu Bengalis. It started from their losing the awe of the British in the last part of the nineteenth century, which precipitated intellectual and physical retaliation from them against British racism (Section A). Then under the inspired leadership of Arabindo Ghosh and Bepin Chandra Pal, the Hindu Bengalis ushered in the freedom movement against the British through the anti-partition movement in 1905 that spread from Bengal to the rest of India, and was the first nationwide mass movement against the British shorn of Jihadi motivation. Ideas and messaging that would drive the freedom movement from here onwards were formulated and coalesced in Hindu Bengal before and during this anti-partition agitation, starting from Bande Mataram in the late nineteenth century, to Swaraj and Swadeshi just before and during 1905. Arabindo Ghosh was the ideological fountainhead of the Swaraj and Swadeshi movements in the first decade of the twentieth century. These were later appropriated by Gandhi, without due attribution, and launched as Non-Cooperation and the civil disobedience movements in the 1920s and 1930s (Section B). The Hindu Bengalis comprised of the bulk of the revolutionary freedom fighters, and they organized, trained and contributed to revolutionary movements, not merely in their province, but throughout India and even abroad (Section C). We present an ethnic demographic decomposition of the revolutionaries based on the names that we could collect from various sources, including governmental ones, which for the first time quantifies the domination of the Hindu Bengalis in the revolutionary movement. This demographic analysis shows that the Hindus from East Bengal contributed the most to the revolutionary movement, not only within Bengal, but also considering all other ethnicities (Section D). Thus, although large segments of these Hindus no longer reside within the precincts of political India, they have natural claims on her protection and refuge. Also, though East Bengal provided the bulk of the revolutionaries, the pan India revolutionary leadership, in terms of inspiration, narrative, ideological formulations, and visions all came from West Bengal, considering Bankim Chandra Chatterjee, Swami Vivekananda, Arabindo Ghosh, Rashbehari Bose, Subhas Chandra Bose. Many of these Bhadraloks either spent their formative years or were based in the “heart and the brain of Bengal’’, Calcutta and its surroundings (except Rashbehari Bose) during their most active years. So, the Hindus of undivided Bengal collectively struck for India, and not merely the Hindu Bengalis of the British province of Bengal, but those residing outside Bengal, eg, in the United Provinces, contributed substantially to the revolutionary freedom movement. We subsequently describe the impact of the revolutionaries, up to 1932. They forced the British to annul the Bengal partition, offer various political reforms and struck terror in their hearts. They infiltrated the Congress machinery and forced it to declare independence as its goal in 1929 Lahore Congress (Section E). In the subsequent period, starting in 1938, Subhas Chandra Bose had envisioned the Quit India movement, which was eventually launched by Gandhi in 1942, owing in part due to relentless pressure from Bose. Finally, the Indian National Army that Subhas Chandra Bose led, forced the British to transfer power, even in its defeat, by inspiring mass protest movements against trial of the I.N.A. heroes and by inciting disloyalty in the British Indian military, which became evident through mutinies in their army, air force and navy. Thus, what Arabindo Ghosh started, Subhas Chandra Bose ended. We defer the last part starting from 1938 to the next article in the series.

Before we commence, it is important to acknowledge that different ethnicities have led the struggle against different invaders at different times. These may justifiably be called the sword arm of the Hindus for their periods. At first, it was the Shahiyas and the north west Indian kingdoms that fought the Islamist invaders and kept them at bay for nearly three centuries. Then it was the Rajput kingdoms that put up the resistance in North India for several centuries, and as the Islamic conquerors spread across India, it then came to Vijayanagar and the Gajapati dynasties in south and east India respectively also joining in the resistance in the fourteenth to the sixteenth centuries. After that, it fell to Koch, Ahoms, Marathas, Jats and Sikhs to lead the fight against the invaders. Later, the first major armed resistance against the British, the rebellion in 1857, was led by various Rajput, Maratha, central Indian and Awadhi groups, attempting to overthrow the British rule. Finally, in the late nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century, it was the revolutionaries who led the fight against the British. And it was the Hindu Bengalis who were the most prominent among them.

Section A: Locking horns with the British – Intellectually and Physically

The nationalism of Hindu Bengal had roots in the Bengal renaissance which removed the awe for Englishmen from the minds of the Bengali intelligentsia by the 1890s pp. 10-14, [16]. This militant Hindu nationalism was initiated by the compositions of the literary genius, Bankim Chandra Chatterjee, particularly the `Bande Mataram’ song that he composed in the 1870s, and the teachings of philosopher-monk Swami Vivekananda in the last two decades of the nineteenth century. In the last quarter of the nineteenth century the Bengali intelligentsia also oversaw a more back-to-the-roots movement that led them to work on a militant Hindu nationalism, rather than the more feudal nationalisms of the rest of the country. pp. 10-13, [16].

The militant Hindu nationalism is manifested in how Bengalis retaliated against racist humiliations hurled by the British. We refer to a confidential note by F. C. Daly drawn up when he was a deputy inspector-general of police, special department, that is head of the Intelligence Branch. He rose to be the Inspector General of Police, Bengal p. 448, [15]. In his confidential note, he described Bengal around 1905 as follows, “It became the fashion for boys to adopt an aggressive and almost violent attitude to Europeans they passed in the public streets – in fact, I have been informed that when any boy, by the physical training of the [revolutionary] Samities had acquired sufficient strength to be passed as fit to serve his country, part of his mission was to endeavor to provoke a quarrel with some European. The European-haters used to direct the boys to clear their throats and spit when passing an European in the streets, as a sign of contempt and in the hopes that it might provoke a blow, in which case support would have been at hand to join in a retaliatory attack on the European. These tactics were on the whole disappointingly unsuccessful’’ p. 454, [15].

Subhas Chandra Bose has explained how such aggression of the Hindu Bengalis was incited by the British, recalling the Calcutta a decade later: “ Every day while going to or returning from College [in Calcutta], I had to pass through the quarter inhabited by them [British]. Incidents in tram-cars occurred not infrequently. Britishers using these cars would be purposely rude and offensive to Indians in various ways. Sometimes they would put their feet up on the front-seats if they happened to be occupied by Indians, so that their shoes would touch the bodies of the latter. Many Indians – poor clerks going to office – would put up with the insult, but it was difficult for others to do so. I was not only sensitive by temperament but had been accustomed to a different treatment from my infancy. Often hot words would pass between Britishers and myself in the tram-cars. On rare occasions some Indian passengers would come to blows with them. On the streets the same thing happened. Britishers expected Indians to make way for them and if the latter did not do so, they were pushed aside by force or had their ears boxed. British Tommies were worse than civilians in this matter and among them the Gordon Highlanders had the worst reputation. In the railway trams it was sometimes difficult for an Indian to travel with self-respect, unless he was prepared to fight. The railway authorities or the police would not give the Indian passengers any legitimate protection, either because they were Britishers (or Anglo-Indians) themselves or because they were afraid of reporting against Britishers to the higher authorities. I remember an incident at Cuttack when I was a mere boy. One of my uncles had to return from the railway station because Britishers occupying the higher class compartments would not allow an Indian to come in. Occasionally we would hear stories of Indians in high position, including High Court Judges, coming into conflict with Britishers in railway stations. Such stories had a knack of traveling far and wide….. In conflicts of an inter-racial character the law was of no avail to Indians. The result was that after some time Indians, failing to secure any other remedy, began to hit back. On the streets, in the tram-cars, in the railway trains, Indians would no longer take things lying down (I knew a student in College [in Calcutta], a good boxer, who would go out for his constitutional to the British quarter of the city and invite quarrels with Tommies). The effect was instantaneous. Everywhere the Indian began to be treated with consideration. Then the word went round that Englishman understands and respects physical force and nothing else. This phenomenon was the psychological basis of the terrorist-revolutionary movement – at least in Bengal’’ pp. 73-74, [16].

Section B: Ushering the freedom fight – the Anti-Partition Movement of 1905 – innovative ideas, innovative messaging

On 8 July, 1905, Government of India published the scheme for partition of Bengal and had announced that it had already been sanctioned by the Secretary of State pp. 450-451, [15]. Hindus organized strident mass protests throughout Bengal and outside Bengal against this move to partition Bengal. Historian R. C. Majumdar hails this movement as the usherer of the freedom fight against the British, rather than the 1857 mutiny, given the Jihadi character of large parts of the latter.

A successful freedom fight would have to rely on both innovative ideas and persistent and daring actions. Hindu Bengal struck on both fronts for India, starting from before and during this movement.

A Hindu Bengali had provided the messaging that inspired freedom fighters, particularly the revolutionaries, all across India – the Bande Mataram song composed by Bankim Chandra Chatterjee. Emily Brown writes how Bande Mataram inspired revolutionaries across India: “Although a Maharashtrian, Savarkar was quick to use Bankim Chandra  Chatterji’s Bande Mataram (Hail Motherland) as the “national hymn,”  and this song was frequently heard to resound through the halls of India  House and invariably used to open every meeting or conference. The two  words, Bande Mataram, became the shibboleth of the extremists and  were used in greeting and salute in much the same way the Nazis used  Heil Hitler.” p. 62, [26]. The revolutionary freedom fight started in Hindu Bengal during the anti-partition agitation in 1905.

Hindu Bengal coalesced core ideas that existed in the Hindu civilizational ethos for a very long time, and transformed them to devastating narratives and tools that Hindu mass movements targeted the British with. The first historically documented invocation of the terminology of Swaraj to denote self-rule can be found in letters of Shivaji in the 17th century. The third clause the treaty signed by Chhatrapati Shivaji’s envoy Pitambar Shenvi with Khem Sawant of Kudal – South Konkan, says that he [Chhatrapati Shivaji] will deal with the Turks and conserve ‘Swarajya’. Letter 1, [47]. This idea moved to Bengal in the early twentieth century through Bangla writings of Marathi Brahmin, Sakharam Deuskar, who was then domiciled in Bengal and was a close associate of revolutionary-philosopher Aurobindo Ghose. Deuskar had first used the word Swaraj, in his popular biography of Shivaji in Bangla. Aurobindo Ghose was the first to endow it with its English equivalent, `Independence.’ The word ‘Swaraj’ was later popularized by the Bangla newspaper, Sandhya, edited by Brahmabandhab Upadhyaya. At the Calcutta Congress (1906), Dadabhai Naoroji described “self-government” as Swaraj [25].

In context of resistance against the British, the Hindu Bengalis were the first to use non-cooperation and civil disobedience, during the Indigo movement (1859) p. 50, [14]. Subhas Chandra Bose has written about the Indigo rebellion: “Before scientists in Europe learnt to produce synthetic indigo, Bengal was an important supplier of indigo. The indigo plantations in those days were owned by Britishers and these foreign landlords were oppressive and brutal in their behavior towards the tenants. When their brutality became unbearable, the tenants in Jessore and Nadia took the law into their own hands. They refused to pay rent, stopped cultivating indigo and made it impossible for the British landlords to live there and terrorize them. (A graphic description of these incidents can be found in the book Nil-Darpan of the well-known Bengali writer, Dinabandhu Mitra.) Thus, the people had already learnt to rid themselves of oppression through their own exertions, where they found that the Government neglected its duty’’ p. 50, [14]. In the 1870s the Punjabi Kukas, led by Ram Singh, had begun a movement that encompassed boycott of British goods, government schools, government service, law courts and postal service, and exhorted only wearing of home spun cloth [28]. Since these two movements were constituted independent of each other, and utilized similar tools, in all likelihood, the concepts had existed in Hindu ethos for a long time. It took the genius of Aurobindo Ghose to transform these tools to devastating weapons of a large scale mass movement. We are referring to the anti-partition agitation in Bengal (first decade of the twentieth century). F. C. Daly has noted that on the 17th July, 1905, the Amrita Bazar Patrika had published a letter over the initial “G”, which was the first to advocate the boycott of English made goods. Initially, Mr. Lal Mohan Ghose, was first believed to be this G, but now it seems that the letter was either written by Aurobindo or Barindra Ghose. On 7th August, 1905, the doctrine of boycott was adopted at a meeting in Calcutta, this date has subsequently been identified as the day of the initiation of the anti-partition movement, and hence the start of the freedom fight against the British. The boycott movement was referred to as Swadeshi. A correspondent wrote to Amrita Bazar Patrika that as far back as 1726 a Bengali ascetic, by the name of Gurupada Swami, had preached a crusade against the use of foreign goods. Foreign salt and sugar and Manchester piece goods were principally targeted for boycott p. 452, [15]. The influence of a Punjabi residing in Bengal on the adoption of the doctrine of boycott in the anti-partition agitation of 1905 may be seen from Daly’s note that “In 1905, a Punjabi named Tahal Ram Ganga Ram had advocated this doctrine, in February and March of 1905, he made inflammatory speeches in College Square.’’ p. 452, [15]. It is possible that Tahal Ram Ganga Ram had been inspired by the Kuka movement in Punjab. This is how Indic civilizational ethos from various parts of India, including rural Bengal, were coalesced in the urban heart of Bengal, Calcutta. The Kuka movement had died when the Kukas attacked the British treasury in Maler Kotla and the British ruthlessly crushed them. But, the mass movement organized all over India on the occasion of the partition of Bengal would continue, both through revolutionary freedom fight and subsequent mass movements.

Gandhi had extensively used and abused the word Swaraj, starting from 1909 when he wrote the book Hind Swaraj, and he had repackaged the “Swadeshi’’ ideas from Bengal, for the Non-cooperation and Civil Disobedience movements he launched in India 1920 onwards, without of course due attribution in either case. Quoting Subhas Chandra Bose, “Considered objectively, the plan [Non-Cooperation movement] which Mr. Gandhi placed before the Congress and the country was not something altogether new in the recent history of India. The fight which the people of Bengal had waged against the Government as a protest against the partition of their province in 1905 by the then Viceroy, Lord Curzon, had many features in common with the war of non-violent non-cooperation started in 1920 under the leadership of Mr. Gandhi. In 1905, Bengal had resorted to the boycott of British goods and of state-owned educational institutions and there had simultaneously been a revival of national industries and a growth of national schools and colleges free from state interference of every kind. Moreover, leaders like Mr. B. C. Pal had refused to give evidence before British law-courts on the ground that they refused to recognize their jurisdiction. Sri Aurobindo Ghosh, the leader of the Extremist section of the Nationalist Movement in Bengal in those days, had compared this policy with the policy of the Irish Sinn Fein Party. Several decades earlier the country had witnessed another movement which could also be regarded as a precursor of Mr. Gandhi’s non-cooperation. …They [the participants of the Indigo movement] refused to pay rent, stopped cultivating indigo and made it impossible for the British landlords to live there and terrorize them. ..Thus, the people had already learnt to rid themselves of oppression through their own exertions, where they found that the Government neglected its duty’’ p. 50, [14].

Bengal had contributed the most towards the Non-Cooperation Movement of 1920-21. Again quoting Subhas Chandra Bose, “Students responded to the appeal (for non-cooperation in 1921) in large numbers and the response was the greatest in Bengal where the imagination of the youths had been stirred by the colossal sacrifice made by Deshbandhu C. R. Das. It was these student-workers who carried the message of the Congress to all corners of the country, who collected funds, enlisted members, held meetings and demonstrations, preached temperance, established arbitration-boards, taught spinning and weaving and encouraged the revival of home industries. Without them, all the influence of Mahatma Gandhi would not have carried the country very far’’ p. 56, [14]. Her contributions towards the civil disobedience movements were comparable to those of other principal contributors.

Section C: How Hindu Bengal led, organized and contributed to the revolutionary freedom fight in India

Starting from the anti-partition agitation of 1905, Hindu Bengal led the revolutionary freedom fight by educated youth, all over India. In the words of Subhas Chandra Bose, “Bengal is the stronghold of this [revolutionary] movement’’ p. 334, [14]. That Hindu Bengalis organized the revolutionary effort in their province would therefore be expected. We focus on the leadership they provided to revolutionary efforts outside Bengal.

Section C.1: The First Decade of the Twentieth century

We first describe the genesis of the revolutionary movement in Bengal in the first decade of the twentieth century.

Aurobindo Ghose was the ideological driving force for the revolutionary movement in Bengal at its start. F. C. Daly’s confidential note makes it clear how much the British feared his ingenuity: “Arabindo Ghosh had by this time [1905] made his appearance with the doctrine of “India a Nation.” He was sufficiently far-seeing to understand that the only hope of success to the agitation of violence lay in spreading the doctrine of discontent throughout India, and uniting the people of all the different provinces in one feeling of hostility towards the foreign rulers. He also had the sagacity to see that the surest and safest ground to proceed on would be religion, and it was he, we believe, who first conceived the idea of training missionaries to be sent forth in Sanyasi garb to all the ends of India to preach the new religion, which was the worship of the motherland. He cleverly interpreted the Bhagwat Gita to fall in with his doctrine, and developed the minds of his young followers with the idea that any action is justifiable, if its object be the attainment of some benefit to humanity ; that death is of no more consequence to a man than changing suit of clothes ; and that every man has within him the power of a god’’ pp. 453-454, [15].

Daly also comments on the intellectual sophistication of the revolutionary movement in Bengal in the first decade of the twentieth century: “It is a feature of all these secret societies [revolutionary bodies], and one which indicates an extremely clever brain at the back of the whole movement, that they invariably assumed an outward form that was bound to appeal to the sympathies of the general public and to bring into odium the police or any other authorities, who attempted to interfere with and suppress them. Boys trained for murder were sent out to nurse the sick, in order that the public and even those who knew them intimately might refuse to believe in their guilt when they were arrested by the police and charged with their crimes. The Maniktola garden itself, with its vast quantity of arms and explosives, concealed in an iron tank in a remote part of the garden, was to all appearances an innocent religious association, where youngmen met together to be instructed in the religious of the Bhagwat Gita. In fact most of the early criminals of the anarchist movement did appear to have been acting under deep religious convictions skillfully developed in them by the ingenuity of Arabindo Ghosh and other men of learning mental ability.’’ pp. 456-457, [15].

During this time, Hindu Bengal produced several eminent revolutionaries who were either hanged by the British (eg, Khudiram Bose, Kanailal Dutta, Satyendranath Basu) or shot dead (eg, Prafulla Chaki) or deported to the Cellular (eg, Barindra Ghosh, Ullaskar Dutta, Indubhushan Ray). Hindu Bengal also contributed to the Indian revolutionary efforts based in England. “India House’’ led by Marathi revolutionary Vinayak Savarkar and funded by Gujarati Shyamji Krishna Varma was a major Indian revolutionary center based in London. One of the first to join Vinayak Savarkar in the “India House’’ was Birendranath Chattopadhyaya, the brother of Sarojini Naidu. He believed that the time had come to strike down the British lion p. 18, [34]. Others like Hemachandra Das of the Jugantar group joined in the Arms training in Paris p. 18, [34]. The next to join was Nitisen Dwarkadas p. 19, [34]. Nandakumar Sen of the India House went to Paris in late 1908 p. 21, [34]. The first attacks on the British officials in Britain were committed by Kunjulal Bhattacharya and Basudeb Bhattacharya, who attacked Lee Werner at the India Office, and attacked him p. 25, [34]. In these days, the two closest aides of Savarkar were Birendranath Chattopadhyaya and VVS Aiyar p. 27, [34].

Section C.2: The Second Decade of the Twentieth century

We now describe how Hindu Bengal led, organized and contributed to the revolutionary freedom fights in different parts of India in the second decade of the twentieth century. In the process we describe the revolutionary efforts in Punjab, United Provinces and Tamizh Nadu.

Section C.2.1: The Punjab and the United Provinces

Hindu Bengali Rashbehari Bose had organized the Delhi Conspiracy in 1912. This was an attempt made on the life of the Viceroy, Lord Hardinge, when he and a group of elite British officials were in a parade in Delhi. A bomb was thrown by a Hindu Bengali revolutionary, Basanta Kumar Biswas, on the parade, seriously wounding Lord Hardinge, and he was aided by several from Punjab (namely, Balmokand, Amir Chand and Dina Nath).

The role of the Hindu Bengalis in the Delhi Conspiracy becomes clear from the writings of British Judge Lord Rowlatt on the Delhi Conspiracy, “After returning to Lahore, Dina Nath kept up connection with Chatarji and before the latter went to England to become a barrister, he was introduced by him to the notorious Rash Behari, a Bengali, then head clerk of the Forest Research Institute of Dehradun. Rash Behari further educated Dina Nath as well as two other young Hindus, Abad Behari and Balmokand, and arranged for the dissemination of seditious literature and throwing of bombs, introducing to the society his servant, a young Bengali named Basanta Kumar Biswas. Abad Behari attended the Lahore Central Training College, but lived at Delhi and was an intimate friend of Amir Chand, mentioned above. Amir Chand joined the conspiracy. He was subsequently described by the Sessions Judge of Delhi as ‘one who spent his life in furthering murderous schemes which he was too timid to carry out himself.’ It is unnecessary to detail the doings of the conspirators. It was subsequently proved that they disseminated widely among students and others a leaflet extolling the attempt on Lord Hardinge’s life in such terms as these: ‘The Gita, the Vedas and the Koran all enjoin us to kill all the enemies’ of our Motherland, irrespective of caste, creed or colour…

Leaving other great and small things, the special manifestation of the divine force at Delhi in December last has proved beyond doubt that the destiny of India is being moulded by God himself.’ The evidence produced at their trial inspires a strong suspicion that they themselves contrived the Delhi outrage and proves that they distributed other violently inflammatory leaflets received from Calcutta and printed at the press used by the Raja Bazar conspirators. It was also established that, in pursuance of the plans of the conspirators, Basanta Kumar Biswas had placed a bomb on a road in the Lawrence Gardens at Lahore on the evening of May the 17th, 1913, with the intention of killing or injuring some Europeans. The bomb, however, killed no one but an unfortunate Indian orderly, who ran over it in the dark on his bicycle. Dina Nath turned approver. Amir Chand, Abad Behari. Balmokand and Basanta Kumar Biswas were convicted and hanged, but Rash Behari escaped, to contrive other murderous plots. So far his associates were few and his doings had received no measure of popular support.” pp. 144-145, [30]. It is perhaps worth mentioning that the brother of Balmokand, Bhai Paramanand, was also an ardent revolutionary who took part in the Ghadar revolt. They were from Jhelum district [in today’s Pakistan].

We now describe how Rashbehari Bose had converted Upper India to his play ground. Immediately after he had organized the flinging of a bomb on Viceroy Hardinge on December 21, 1912, he had fled to Dehradun “and organized a meeting of the employees of the Forest Research Institute in which he vehemently condemned the criminal attack on the Viceroy. He adopted this policy even in public meetings also, the obvious motive being to hoodwink and befool the police, in this he was very much successful’’ pp. 109-110 [40]. Viceroy Hardinge has written about this incident at Dehra Dun: “when driving in a car from the station to my bungalow, I passed an Indian standing in front of the gate of his house, with several others, all of whom were very demonstrative in their salaams. On my inquiring who these people might be I was told that the principal Indian there had presided two days before at a public meeting at Dehra Dun and had proposed and carried a vote of confidence with me on account of the attack on my life. It was proved later that it was this identical Indian who threw the bomb at me !!’’ p. 83 [41] As Uma Mukherjee has written, “On account of his pronounced pro-Government speeches and actions at Dehra Dun Rash Behari won very soon the favor of the police officers of the U.P. and the Punjab. One of them, Sushil Chandra Ghose, picked up intimacy with him, probably with the object of eliciting information from him about his relative Srish Chandra Ghose, the political suspect of Chandernagore ; but Rash Behari also in his turn utilised this contact with the police for his own purposes. He pursued his policy with such an ability as to mislead even the spying Bengali police officer of Dehra Dun to report about Rash Behari that “it is the general belief there, amongst the Bengali community, that Rash Behari was a police spy and used to supply information to the C.I.D. officers’’ (The Weekly Report of the Intelligence Branch, Bengal, dated July 29, 1914). In the battle of wits Rash Behari obviously proved the stronger. The trying Judge in the Delhi-Lahore Conspiracy Case observed that “Rash Behari was an even cleverer man than he is supposed to have been, and that he made use of his connection with the police to further the ends of this conspiracy.’’ Rash Behari, by his speeches and actions, produced at that time such a favourable impression on police, as he was even allowed to enter the Circuit House at Dehra Dun when Viceroy Hardinge had come there for treatment following the Delhi outrage.’’ pp. 110-111 [40].

Rashbehari has himself recalled an incident in his memoirs on how he had deceived the police in 1915 in Upper India: “Arrests had started in Lahore, thinking that there was no point in living in Lahore any more, I decided to return to Banaras or Bengal. Then an old friend told me, police is watching every train this time, we will not let you walk towards danger. In response I told that because of police surveillance it would be easy to get out of Lahore. Previously too twice police was watching Delhi station like this, then I could get out of Delhi very easily. The police are somewhat thick. If some one appears to look around to find out if some one was following, then it would be difficult to avoid the police. But if some one behaves as a gentry, arriving in a carriage, tipping the driver four annas, proceeding straight to the booking office, purchasing ticket and sitting on a bench until the arrival of the train, reading a newspaper or a book, not even police’s father can suspect. Besides, police would now watch most passengers, so their attention would be dispersed rather than focused. This is our great opportunity. Explaining this to my friend, accompanied by a Marathi youth (Binayak Rao), exactly at evening time I arrived at Lahore station. I wore a Punjabi dress, a large pugri on my head, and carried a loaded Mauser pistol. I had two tickets purchased already, within two minutes the train to Delhi arrived. We both boarded the train. I asked my companion to pretend as if he were asleep, and I started snoring as well. In a bit, the train started moving. When the train was leaving, I saw my old friend standing on the platform. He was very happy that I was leaving Lahore safely.’’ pp. 1-2, [39].

Lieutenant Governor of Punjab from 1912-1919, Michael O’Dwyer has written about the Delhi Conspiracy: “In the general movement were the notorious Har Dayal, a Punjabi, who subsequently worked up the movement in America, and an equally dangerous plotter – Rash Behari Bose – a Bengali head clerk in a government office at Dehradun. These had brought into the conspiracy several others, chiefly of the student type, but including some men of position and mature age.” p. 169, [29] Lala Hardayal was a Punjabi born and raised in Delhi, and would go on to become one of the most capable revolutionary thinkers.

After this, the next step was the Ghadar Revolt in Punjab and the Hindu German conspiracy in 1915 [the two are so closely associated in actual action that it is impossible to separate the two, even though they were both coming from different quarters and different causes]. Rashbehari Basu led the latter, with Sachindranath Sanyal, Girija Babu (Hindu Bengalis), Vishnu Ganesh Pingley (Marathi) and Kartar Singh Sarabha (Punjabi) as his able lieutenants.

Lord Rowlatt has written about the Hindu German conspiracy as follows, “Pingley’s offer to introduce [to the Punjabi revolutionaries] a Bengali bomb expert was accepted, and emissaries were despatched to collect materials for making bombs. The assistance of some Ludhiana students was enlisted in this collection work and Rash Behari Basu, of Delhi Conspiracy notoriety, arrived from Benares, where he had been living in retirement. A house was procured for him in Amritsar, where he lived with other Bengalis till the beginning of February 1915. There he worked in concert with the leading Sikh revolutionaries. Early in February he arranged for a general rising on the 21st of February of which Lahore was to be the headquarters. He went there and sent out emissaries to various cantonments in Upper India to procure military aid for the appointed day. He also tried to organise the collection of gangs of villagers to take part in the rebellion. Bombs were prepared, arms were got together, flags were made ready, a declaration of war was drawn up; instruments were collected for destroying railways and telegraph wires. In the meantime, however, in order to raise funds for the financing of the enterprise, some Punjab revolutionaries had committed various dacoities. Information of the projected rising had been received through a spy. Rash Behari’s headquarters were raided on the 19th of February, and seven returned emigrants were found there, in possession of a revolver, bombs and the component parts of other bombs, as well as four revolutionary flags. Two more conspirators were arrested on the following day. Thirteen in all were taken and four houses were searched. Twelve bombs were seized, five of which were loaded bombs of the Bengal pattern. The report by the chemical examiner showed that two of the latter were apparently old and the other two of recent make. Fragments of similar bombs had been found in connection with former revolutionary outrages in India. National flags too were discovered. It became manifest  that the plotters had designed simultaneous outbreaks at Lahore, Ferozepore and Rawalpindi; and later, it appeared that their operations were intended to cover a far wider area. Not only were these to extend to such places as Benares and Jabalpur but we are satisfied from evidence which we regard as conclusive that at least two or three revolutionaries in Eastern Bengal were on the 8th of February aware of what was in contemplation, and were arranging for a rising at Dacca if the Sikh revolt materialised.” pp. 152-153, [30].

The Ghadar revolutionaries, mostly based in US and Canada, had formed an organisation to secure the independence of India. The Ghadar revolution was seeded by Hindu Bengalis in the twentieth century. In the US, it was Taraknath Das, and Khagendra Chandra Das, among others, that formed the Indian Independence League, and their first task was to assist the poor Hindus and Sikhs on the West Coast of the US [in San Francisco] in 1907. This would be the first step in the future Ghadar Revolt. Moving to Canada, Taraknath Das, in association with Surendramohan Bose, who had arrived from Japan began the work of disseminating revolutionary literature among the Indians [most of whom were poor workers]. They also began the Indian American Association, to unite the Indians in the US and Canada. Taraknath also founded the publication, Free Hindustan in New York pp. 48-53, [34]. Pandurang Khankoje, Taraknath Das, Adhar Chandra Laskar, and Jnanendranath Chatterjee had secured some military training at Tamalpais and Vermont p. 55, [34].

The work of the Ghadarites is best encapsulated by their weekly paper, which carried the caption on the masthead Angrezi Raj Ka Dushman (an enemy of the British rule). In the inaugural issue of their newspaper, they published the following advertisement, “Wanted: Brave soldiers to stir up rebellion in India.




Field of battle:India’’ [31]

One of the leading lights of the Ghadar Revolt was Kartar Singh Sarabha, who was a close comrade of Rashbehari Basu and Sachindranath Sanyal. Kartar Singh Sarabha was born in Sarabha village in Ludhiana district. He matriculated in Orissa and was enrolled at the University of California, Berkeley for a degree in Chemistry. Under the influence of Lala Hardayal in University of California at Berkeley, in December 1912, he joined the Ghadar organisation. He set up his own litho press, and frequently edited the Ghadar newspaper (pp. 55-56, [5]). The bravery and devotion of the Ghadarites is best described in the words of the British themselves. One of the judges wrote about Kartar Singh: “Among the sixty one accused, he is the most important and most well known. The conspiracy may have been planned in the USA or on the ship or in India, there is not a single place where he has not demonstrated his skill” p. 64, [5]. The names of Harnam Singh, Nidhan Singh, Bishen Singh, Jagat Singh, Suran Singh, etc have also been immortalised in their brave attempts to fight for the country.

Finally, in 1915, in Balasore, Odissa, in a battle reminiscent of Haldi Ghati, leader of the Jugantar group of Bengal, Jatindra Nath Mukherjee, more commonly known as Bagha Jatin, took on a British contingent led by Charles Tegart, in a fight to death. He was accompanied by Chittapriya Ray Chaudhuri, Jatish, Manoranjan Sengupta, Niren. Bagha Jatin succumbed to his battle wounds the day after in balasore hospital. Chittapriya died in the battle. Manoranjan and Niren were captured after their ammunition ran out. Jatish was seriously wounded. Tegart had joined the Indian Police Service in 1901 and served almost continuously in Bengal for a period of thirty years until he was appointed a member of the Secretary of State’s India Council in December 1931. For the last eight years of his service in India he was Commissioner of Police, Calcutta. We are going to quote him extensively in this piece.

Section C.2.2: The Madras Presidency

We now move on to South India. While Rashbehari and others were plotting to kill Lord Hardinge, in the south, the Bharata Maatha Association was beginning to stir. According to one of its members, Vanchinathan, who would later go on to initiate the Collector, Ashe, three thousand members of the Bharata Maatha Association had taken an oath to kill King George V as soon as he landed in India p. 205, [13]. Two of the leading lights were VO Chidambaram Pillai and Subramaniya Siva, who had initiated strikes against the British owned Coral Mills. They were both convicted of sedition and imprisoned, which led to massive riots in Thoothkudi and Thirunelveli. These were suppressed brutally by the Collector Ashe, and Vanchinathan, a young revolutionary, took his vengeance on the collector.

Other leading lights of the Tamizh revolutionaries were VVS Aiyar, who joined Savarkar, the head of Abhinav Bharat, at India House in 1908. Along with VVS Aiyar were two others, TS Rajam and Tirumal Achari who joined Savarkar in London for revolutionary activities. VVS Aiyar would go on to become the vice president of Abhinav Bharat, the biggest revolutionary organisation in western India. VVS Aiyar was also the mentor of Vanchinathan, who shot Ashe. The untimely and suspicious death of VVS Aiyar after he had been released from prison was a serious blow to Savarkar, as acknowledged in p. 63, [33]. Writing in British India, Savarkar and his associates could not reveal the revolutionary connections, but what he really meant to Savarkar can be judged by this statement “With Aiyer the politician we cannot concern ourselves here. It is the loss of Aiyer, the scholar, the friend, the noblest type of a Hindu gentleman, the author of Kural, the saintly soul whose life has been one continuous sacrifice and worship, that we so bitterly bewail today and bitterly chafe at our inability to pay a public tribute to his memory in a fashion worthy of the noble dead. Oh, the times on which our generation has fallen!’’ p. 63, [33].

It is interesting to observe the Bengali influence on the revolutionaries in Madras Presidency. To quote [35], “The nationalist tone was very vigorous in the Madras Presidency. Bepin Chandra Pal came on a lecturing tour to South India in March 1907. [Subramanya] Bharathi arranged for his meetings in Madras. `The Bala Bharatha Sangam’ [a revolutionary south Indian group] chose Bharathi to receive Bepin Chandra Pal at Rajahmundry and to take him to Madras. He arranged Bepin Chandra Pal’s lecture for five days on Swadeshi and Boycott at Thilagar Kattam in Madras beach. On 1st May 1907 Bipin Chandra Pal, who addressed an audience ranging from 20,000 to 30,000 received the most enthusiastic welcome from the Madras people. It was a crowd of enthusiastic Tamil youths who had just then graduated from the colleges and the college students.

His speeches ignited the people against the British so much, that many people took off their English hats and burnt them.’’ pp. 215-216, [35]. The Bala Bharata Sangham would use these speeches later to recruit more revolutionaries. Further, Bipin Chandra Pal’s “emotional speeches made unexpected turning point in the life of Neelakanta Brahmachari.’’ p. 217, [35]. Neelakanta Brahmachari was a devoted south Indian revolutionary. To quote [35] further, Bipin Chandra Pal made arrangements through his secretary, Kunju Bhanerjee to select “suitable South Indian Youths for revolutionary activities. Neelakantan met Kunju Bhanerjee and told all the details about him very boldly. After observing him keenly, Kunju Bhanerjee arranged for his meeting with Bipin Chandra Pal.’’ p. 218, [35].

When VO Chidambaram Pillai [an important south Indian revolutionary] met Neelakanta Brahmachari, he was accompanied by Chandrakanta Chakraborti, who was the contact person with the revolutionaries of Bengal for coordinating a revolution in India pp. 218-219, [35]. Chandrakanta Chakraborti would help in building the south Indian revolutionary organisation. It is interesting to note the advice given by Chandrakanta Chakraborti to Neelakanta Brahmachari. To quote [35] again, “Chandrakanth Chakrabarthi described Neelakantan the principles of revolutionary organisation. The principle was “the leader should tour the country and organise public meetings. In those meetings he should discuss the current politics like an ordinary nationalist worker. Here he must carefully locate and pickup the bold and brave ones who were prepared to sacrifice everything for the cause of national liberation. He should make friendship with them and from among them should pickup persons for the revolutionary (Secret) inner circle. The membership in the inner circle should not be known to anyone including the inner circle members except the leader.

All correspondence and transactions between the leader and the members of the inner circle should be kept as close secret. To ensure utmost secrecy the members of the inner circle should take an Oath in front of the idol of ‘Goddess Kali’ and should sign with the blood taken by cutting the thumb. The essence of the Oath is that they are sacrificing themselves for the revolutionary movement, working for the success of the revolution executing the orders of the leader without hesitation, not to let out secrets even if they are tortured etc. The leader should keep close touch with the members of the inner circle. As far as possible correspondence should be through personal message and in case sending letters through messengers or by post becomes inevitable they should use proxies and codes. The major idea was to keep secrecy at all costs. Above all, the leader should have continuous connection with revolutionary leaders in Calcutta.’’ pp. 220-221, [35].

It would be worthwhile to note that the ethos of taking an oath in the name of Goddess Kali was pervasive in the revolutionary and even mass freedom movements in Bengal. In an address delivered before the Royal Empire Society on November 1, 1932, Charles Tegart (C.S.I., C.I.E., M.V.O), had described the ethos of the revolutionary freedom fight movement in Bengal as follows: “Having collected a few disciples, Barin, who was shortly followed to Calcutta by his brother Arabindo, started by publishing in 1905 a pamphlet entitled “Bhowani Mandir”, the Temple of Bhowani. Bhowani is one of the many names of the goddess Kali, the Goddess of destruction, the Mother of Strength, who according to Hindu mythology, was created by the gods to destroy the demons who had usurped their kingdom. The idea Barin taught was, roughly, that Kali, the avenger whose many hands dripped with blood, was not a symbol of savagery but of selflessness. As Kali drove out the demons so should they, strengthened by the worship of Kali, drive out the Feringhee, a contemptuous name for the European’’ p. 8, [2]. The lecture was delivered with the former British Governor of Bengal, Stanley Jackson G.C.S.I., G.C.I.E., in the chair (foreword [46]). In the same lecture, Tegart described the initiation ceremony for revolutionaries in the Anushilan Samity, which was at the forefront of the revolutionary movement in Bengal, as follows: “ Four vows of increasing import were administered before the Goddess Kali to all recruits, a remarkable system for the progressive enthralment of the initiates, who undertook to stake their lives and all they possessed, forsake all family ties, obey all orders from their leaders without question, and never divulge any secrets on pain of death, a penalty which was often inflicted on those who wavered’’ p. 9, [2].

Daly has described how the anti-partition movement was initiated in Bengal “According to the Bengalee, at a gathering at the Kalighat temple on the occasion of the Mahalaya on the 28th September [1905] 50,000 people vowed in the presence of Kali Mata to abstain from purchasing foreign goods or employing foreigners to do anything that could be done by Indians’’ pp. 458-459, [15]. Historian Abhas Chatterji has noted the same: “When Bengal was partitioned in 1905, in Calcutta, gatherings of 50,000 people took a collective oath before Goddess Kali in the holy Kalighat temple that they would throw the British out of our homeland. Numbers touching 50,000 marched through the streets after taking a dip in the holy Ganges, anointing their foreheads with tilak, and holding copies the Bhagvad Gita in their hands’’ pp. 9-10, [38].

Apart from Neelakanta Brahmachari, there was also Srirama Raju who was inspired by the Bengali revolutionaries.  Ananta Singha has left it on record that, “Sriram Raju was trained by Bengali revolutionaries in Nepal in 1920. His job was to recruit Kulis for Govt work. He organized and incited these labor and took refuge in hills. He acquired some rifles and went back to forests. He was surrounded by police in 1924 and died fighting. He is from Madras.” p. 234, [51].

Section C.3: The Third and Fourth Decades of the Twentieth century

There were multiple revolutionary attacks in Bengal in the third and fourth decades of the twentieth century, which would naturally be led by the Hindu Bengali revolutionaries. How the British dreaded those would become clear through the number of Hindu Bengali revolutionaries they hanged and packed off to Cellular during this period – we will present some numbers in the next section. We describe how the Hindu Bengalis organized the revolutionary movements in Upper India during this period.

A Hindu Bengali revolutionary from Benares, Sachindra Nath Sanyal had founded the Hindustan Revolutionary Army, which later became the Hindustan Socialist Revolutionary Army. He was the author of the HRA manifesto, titled The Revolutionary, which was distributed in large cities of North India on 31 December 1924. Along with Jogesh Chandra Chatterji from Anushilan Samiti in Bengal he had organized the revolutionaries in Upper India after the first world war. Jogesh Chandra Chatterji had written about their efforts: “In Bengal the revolutionary organization was very old and it had province-wide ramifications. It was not so in U.P. Here there was a complete break down after the activities during the First World War and [Sachindranath] Sanyal and myself had to start anew. ‘’ pp. 533-534, [11]. Indeed, the revolutionary organization in Bengal was so strong that the leader of the Chattogram revolutionaries, Surjo Sen, could successfully conduct a guerrilla warfare for about 3 years after leading the daring armory raid and after a bounty of several thousand rupees was announced on his head. One of his successors Benod Behari Dutta could successfully abscond for 11 years. This was after Dutta had raided the police armory at Chattogram, fought a british regiment at Jalalabad and was entrusted with the overall organization of Chattogram group after Surjo Sen and Tarakeshwar Dastidar were jailed. As leader of the Chattogram group, he had organized a successful attack on a cricket club in Chattogram pp. 387, 415, [15]. British Army intelligence officer, John Hunt, has written about the British efforts to capture Benod: “ One particular terrorist leader, named Benode Behari Datta, became a legendary figure among his own followers time and again from the cordons and searches….
Indeed, it became difficult to discern the truth about his exploits from the evergrowing fantasies woven about him. I have abiding memories of those operations. Beginning before dawn, the Gurkha soldiers would move silently towards a village, deploying in a wide circle as they approached, creeping closer until, in the growing light, a police officer would advance, to a chorus of a barking pie dogs, calling on the villagers to come out, or stay in their houses as the case might be. Sometimes there was reliable information about a wanted man ; all of us would be in a high state of tension as we were led by an informer to the suspected ‘shelter’. Occasionally the tension was dispelled when shots rang out and the barking reached a crescendo, to which was added the wailing of women. More frequently it ended in anticlimax, the nest deserted.
’’ pp. 21-22, [43].

In a speech delivered on November 1, 1932, Charles Tegart had described how the Bengali revolutionaries founded and organized the revolutionary movement in the United Provinces, including the celebrated Hindustan Socialist Republican Army: “The position in Bengal in view of its importance has taken up so much of my time that I must be very brief in referring to the spread of the movement in Upper India. Recent spectacular outrages, such as the hurling of bombs in the Assembly at Delhi and the murderous attack on the Governor of the Punjab, will suggest the existence of such conspiracies. They were founded by Bengali terrorists and still draw their inspiration from Bengal. An active center was established in Delhi in 1912 which led in December of that year to the bomb attack on Lord Hardinge in which he was severely wounded and one attendant was killed. Other bomb outrages followed. The plot, despite unremitting investigation, was not unraveled until 1914, when police inquiries in Bengal exposed the master-hand of the Bengali anarchist. Later a center, which was very active, was established in Benares. Groups now operating in the U.P. and Punjab style themselves the Hindustan Socialist Republican Army, a name which has so captivated a section of the Bengal groups that they are adopting it themselves. The groups in Northern India are loosely knit, they have not got the deadly and persistent organization behind them which exists in Bengal. This is not due to any lack of effort on the part of the Bengal terrorists, who have tried to build up the movement in U.P. and Punjab on exactly similar lines to those I have described in Bengal. During the second campaign they established organizers in at least twenty-three centers in these Provinces with orders to work over the whole area till more were sent. Local institutions were to be penetrated and Congress seats captured. The movement as it stands is a menace. For instance, in one week in Allahabad last February, four bombs, one of which failed to explode, were used against the police, and in the first week of that month ten police officers and seven members of the public were injured in bomb outrages in Azamgarh and Lucknow.’’ p. 19, [2].

Note that the Hindu Bengali revolutionaries devised the same modus operandi for those in Upper India as they had followed. Specifically, as they instructed their trainees in Upper India, they had captured the Congress machinery in Bengal. We revert to the speech given by Charles Tegart, on November 1, 1932: “A further and more important move was made, destined to help internally in the matter of recruiting and organization and externally in the matter of public sympathy, namely, the penetration of the Congress machine in Bengal by the capture of the seats on the Executive Committees and on the all-India Congress Committee. The penetration was so rapid that in 1924 the terrorists were in a position to compel the Bengal Congress to put through a resolution eulogizing one Gopi Nath Saha, a terrorist who had recently been executed for the murder of a European in Calcutta. In 1930, when the third terrorist campaign was launched, there were few districts in the Province where terrorists were not represented on local Congress committees. A letter recently drafted by a terrorist claims that 90 per cent of Congress workers in Bengal are revolutionaries.The Calcutta Corporation since it became an independent body has been dominated by Congress. Consequently here also terrorist influence is strong.’’ p. 16 [2].

It is therefore no coincidence that several revolutionaries of the Kakori conspiracy in 1925 were Hindu Bengalis: 1) One of the four hanged 2) two of the two deported to Andaman 3) the only one sentenced to 14 year jail term 4) two of the five sentenced to ten year imprisonment 5) one of two sentenced to seven year imprisonment 6) one of two sentenced to five year imprisonment 7) one of one sentenced to four year imprisonment. The most famous among the revolutionaries of upper India is Bhagat Singh. Both Indian and non-Indian commentators have showered praises on their bravery and self-sacrifice. For example, immediately, after assassination in December 1928 of Saunders who officiated over police assault that killed Lala Lajpat Rai, Jawaharlal Nehru wrote: “Bhagat Singh did not become popular because of his act of terrorism but because he seemed to vindicate, for the moment, the honour of Lala Lajpat Rai, and through him of the nation. He became a symbol, the act was forgotten, the symbol remained, and within a few months each town and village of the Punjab, and to a lesser extent in the rest of northern India, resounded with his name. Innumerable songs grew about him and the popularity that the man achieved was something amazing.” p. 24, [32]. On 8 April 1929, Bhagat Singh was arrested after he threw bombs in the Delhi Legislative assembly. Batukeshwar Dutt, a Hindu Bengali born in Bardhaman District of West Bengal, had thrown the bombs with Bhagat Singh. Batukeshwar was deported to Andaman. In the Second Lahore Conspiracy trial, out of the 15 tried, three were Hindu Bengalis pp. 182-185, [49]. In Lahore jail in protest against the injustice meted out to under-trial political prisoners, Jatin Das had joined a hunger strike by Bhagat Singh and Batukeshwar Dutt. Jatin had died as a result on September 13, 1929. Ajay Ghosh, a member of Bhagat Singh’s organization, Hindustan Socialist Republican Association, who was tried in the Second Lahore Conspiracy Trial, has narrated that Jatin Das “was brought from Calcutta to teach us how to make bombs.’’ p. 209, [3]. Many of the revolutionaries who were tried in the second Lahore conspiracy trial were accused of trying to rescue Jogesh Chandra Chatterji from jail p. 131, [49], which shows the latter’s import in their organization. Recall that Sanyal and Chatterji had organized the revolutionary effort in North India after the first world war.

It is interesting to note how the first anti-British revolts in the 1930s in Kerala also have a Bengali connection. In the early 1930s, when EMS Namboodiripad was still not a Communist, he came under the influence of Kiran Chandra Das, the brother of the martyr Jatin Das, one of the co-accused in the Lahore Conspiracy case [in which Bhagat Singh was inculpated], and Acharya Sengupta, that would let him first become a rebel against the British in the early 1930s. pp. 68-69, [48].

Hindu Bengali revolutionaries however had no hand in peasant and tribal revolts in rest of India other than Bengal (eg Kuka rebellion in Punjab in the 1870s, peasant rebellions in Andhra Pradesh and Awadh respectively led by Alluri Sitarama Raju and Baba Ram Chandra). These were local in scope. But Bengal had her own peasant rebellions eg Indigo rebellion of the 1850s, which was heavily supported by the Hindu Bengali middle class. Dinabandhu Mitra wrote a play, Nil Darpan, in 1859, which remains one of the most well-known Bengali literary works till date. The literary genius of the calibre of Michael Madhusudan Dutta translated it into English, which was published by Rev. James Long. Long was punished by the British Government with imprisonment and fine. A wealthy landlord and a literary genius himself, Kaliprasanna Sinha, paid the fine of Rs 1000 for him. It became the first play to be staged commercially in the National Theater in Kolkata.  Harish Chandra Mukherjee  described the plight of the poor farmer in his newspaper The Hindu Patriot.

Section D: Demographics of the Revolutionary Freedom Fight

We now present specific demographic data to illustrate the dominance of Hindu Bengalis in the revolutionary freedom movement. Srikrishnan Saral has compiled the names of the revolutionary freedom fighters in his five volume magnum opus [48-52]. 23 of the 132 names he provided between 1757-1910 are Hindu Bengalis [4], 44 out of 183 among the Ghadar Party and other revolutionaries in the USA and Canada during the First World War period are Hindu Bengalis [5], 5 out of 85 revolutionaries in 1920s and 1930s (excluding Kakori and Chattogram) are Hindu Bengalis [6], 236 out of 496 revolutionaries involved in Kakori, Chattogram and Quit India movements are Hindu Bengalis [7], 13 out of 287 members of the Indian National Army, resistance movements in Hyderabad and Goa are Hindu Bengalis [8]. Thus 27.1% of revolutionaries (321 of 1185) were Hindu Bengalis, who comprised 7.1-7.5% of the overall population of undivided India. This statistic of head-counts however does not fully capture the impact of the Hindu Bengali revolutionaries, because they organized and led the revolutionary movements all over India. Thus, for example, although Subhas Chandra Bose would comprise only 1 of the 287 names of the members of the Indian National Army, resistance movements in Hyderabad and Goa by Saral, he was the driving force of the I.N.A.

Next, Hindustan Socialist Republican Army had published a list of 121 Indians who were executed by the British, or had died in hunger strike against them in jails, between 1883-1943. Among them 35 are Indic Bengalis, 34 are Hindu Bengalis, 1 is a Buddhist Bengali [12]. Thus, Hindu Bengalis comprise 28.1% of this list, and Indic Bengalis 28.92%. If we consider those that died in direct conflict with the British during this period, we obtain 27 more names (Chattogram revolutionaries, Benoy Bose, Badal Gupta, Chandrasekhar Azad), 26 of which are Hindu Bengalis, enhancing the percentage of Hindu Bengalis in the overall list to 40.54 %.

We next study the demographics of the political prisoners at the Cellular, which is where the British deported those they dreaded the most. We provide the ethnicities of only the Indics. We rely on a governmental publication for the names of the political prisoners [9].



After the 1857 rebellion, out of the total of 310 who went to prison, the Marathis dominated the scene. A total of 156 were Marathis, followed by 38 people from the Hindi Belt, and 26 Kannadigas. It would be fair to conclude that the 1857 revolt against the British was mostly conducted by the Marathis, with significant participation from the Hindi Belt and Karnataka, mostly Kannadigas from the north western region that was under the Maratha influence. We have not shown the Muslims in the bar graph or the pie chart for this period, as most of the Muslim participation during this period was driven by Jihad. There were 53 Muslim names during this period.

In the early part of the 20th century, in the 1909-1921 period, the revolts against the British were led by Punjabis [via the Ghadar Revolt] and the Bengalis [via the revolts against the Partition of Bengal]. Between 1909 and 1921, a total of 149 people were sent to the Cellular prison. There were 86 Punjabis there and 46 Bengalis [out of whom, 24 were from East Bengal]. It was in the 1909-1921 period that most Muslims were active in the fight against the British, and even then, it can be seen that Muslims were only around 10 out of the total of 149.



In the 1932-1938 period, the number of political prisoners in the Cellular skyrocketed and the overwhelming majority were the Bengalis. The total number of prisoners sent to the cellular was 376 and Bengalis constituted 346 of them, or nearly 90%. This period saw total domination of the revolutionary freedom struggle by the Bengalis.



Further, it is necessary to mention that in the period between 1857 and 1909, there were a few deportations to the Cellular. Records show that there were 5 Manipuris [related to the Anglo-Manipur war of 1891] and 1 Odiya deportees. There were also a few Wahhabis, whose revolts were inspired by pan-Islamism. In the period between 1922 and 1931, there were 7 deportees from Andhra [related to Alluri Sitarama Raju’s revolt against the British] and 2 from the Hindi Belt.

In total, during the revolts against the British, we find the following numbers.

In total, there were 787 deportees during the entire period and nearly 50% of those were Bengalis, which is even when we consider the 1857 rebellion, which historians like Ramesh Chandra Majumdar have not considered to be freedom fight.



Even in 1945, even after serving 600 years in prison collectively, the British had refused to release 65 political prisoners. All of them were Hindu Bengalis pp. 326-354, [10].

The revolutionary freedom fighters were overwhelmingly from the Hindu upper castes, which is expected because this resistance primarily emerged from the educated segment of the society and the Hindu upper castes were the most educated segment of the society. They were spread across all classes of the upper castes, from elite to middle classes to extremely poor. For example, Rabindranath Banerjee, son of Rai Bahadur Jigendra Nath Banerjee, was deported to Andamans for attempting to assassinate at Lebong Sir John Anderson, Governor of Bengal at Lebong, p. 125, [9]. Kalpana Dutta, a renowned woman revolutionary of Chattogram, was the grand daughter of a Rai Bahadur. Subhas Chandra Bose, Aurobindo Ghosh and Barindra Ghosh were all born in elite families. Madanlal Dhingra from Punjab was the son of the Chief Medical Officer in Amritsar, Gita Mall, who had disowned Madanlal when he assassinated William Wyllie [50]. All the corresponding families had become elite because they had collaborated with the British, thus the progenies who turned revolutionaries had become so despite their family ethos. In some sense, therefore, the rebellion of the progeny of the elite British collaborators reflects the extent to which selfless patriotism had pervaded the respective societies. On the other end, Biren De, for example, was from a very poor family in Suchiya village, Potiya police station of Chattogram District. His father Chandranath De used to thatch roofs in Firingibazar of Chattogram. He was in charge of the revolutionary organization in Barma village. He was entrusted with training the new recruits in usage of arms after Jalalabad. While training an adolescent in Suchiya village on 4 June, 1931, he was accidentally shot in his knee because of the trainee’s lack of caution. He was seriously injured, he was taken to Chakrashala village of Potiya for treatment, the injury became Gangrin leading to his death in 1931. He was buried in a solitary place in the adjoining hills at the shore of Srimati river. He was only 16 years of age pp. 376, 395, [15]). This goes on to show that maligned as they were Hindu upper castes did their fair share in resisting the invaders. Yet, lower caste Hindus had joined the revolutionary freedom fight. For example, Mohan Kishore was a Namashudra and a son of a poor farmer of Kishoreganj tehsil of Maimansingh in Bengal. He joined Anushilan. In 1932  he was arrested for dacoity in the Soarikanda village of Netrokona. He was tortured in an inhuman manner and sentenced to Cellular for 7 years. He joined a hunger strike at Cellular in 1933. In an attempt to force feed him, the guards forcibly inserted a pipe in him, without any care. It damaged his lungs and developed pneumonia. He fought with death from 17 to 26 May, 1933. He did not voluntarily consume medicine or food. He became a martyr on 26 th May p. 162, [42]. Thus, the revolutionary movement was egalitarian and inclusive in every sense of the term.

The numbers presented above show that with some eminent exceptions the Muslims were conspicuous by their absence. They had however joined the pan Islamic and Jihadi movements like those of 1857, Wahabi, Khilafat, Moplah in large numbers. Thus, their lack of participation in the revolutionary freedom fight was not correlated with their education levels. Hindu revolutionary movements were largely not exclusionary. Muslims were involved whenever and wherever they volunteered, eg, Ashfakullah in the Kakori conspiracy. In Chattogram, Masterda Surjo Sen made a conscious effort to recruit Muslims, and succeeded with a few individuals, none of whom however became front ranking revolutionaries. This is remarkable given that a large number of Hindu Bengali revolutionaries came from East Bengal which was Muslim-heavy. Specifically, revolutionary hotbeds like Chattogram had about 74% Muslims. Retired Professor Shamshul Alam Sayeed from Bangladesh had written that revolutionary activities were looked down upon in Muslim environment which had limited education and was instigated by the British. As a result, the families would try to conceal the participation of the members involved in such activities p. 242, [15]. His articles documents involvements of individual Muslims in the support system of the revolutionaries of Chattogram pp. 242-245, [15].

In the twentieth century, the only women who resisted the British with arms had been Hindu Bengalis. Let us revert to Charles Tegart: “Another recent and sinister development is the advent of female terrorist. In the civil disobedience movement women took an active part in picketing and the step in India from non-violence to violence is a very short one. You will recollect that two girls [Santi Ghose, Suniti Choudhury] murdered Mr. Stevens, Magistrate of Comilla, when they had put him completely off his guard. Another woman graduate [Bina Das] made a treacherous attempt on Sir Stanley Jackson. Since then a woman terrorist has taken part in a dacoity, and another [Preetilata Waddedar] still more recently actually led the terrorists in the attack last September on the railway institute at Chittagong. A whist drive was in progress when at 10:30 p.m. the premises were suddenly attacked on three sides by terrorists armed with bombs, revolvers and guns. One Englishwoman was killed, and eleven other guests wounded, including four women. The female terrorist was found later dead outside the building, having poisoned herself’’ pp. 18-19, [2]. Tegart’s account omits the heroics of Kalpana Dutta who had penetrated police cordons along with other revolutionaries of Chattogram.

As it turns out, the majority of the Hindu Bengali revolutionaries were from East Bengal. As Charles Tegart has noted, the Bengali revolutionary freedom fight was first initiated in West Bengal, in the form of the Jugantar group, “but Eastern Bengal quickly followed suit. Here was founded about the same time the other main group, called the Anusilan or Culture Society. It was founded by Pulin Behari Das, ostensibly as a society for physical and religious culture. The creed once started spread like wildfire, and this latter group soon had 500 branches in Eastern Bengal.’’ p. 9, [2]. F. C. Daly’s confidential note states “The Anusilan Samiti which may be regarded as the most influential and thoroughly mischievous of all the Samities …..The Dacca branch which was organized by the ex-deportee, Pulin Das, under the guidance of P. Mitter and Bepin Chandra Pal eventually became an extremely well-organized body, and the discipline and audacity of its members made it more formidable than even the head Samiti in Calcutta’’ p. 456, [15].

We now present some numbers to illustrate the dominance of East Bengal in the revolutionary freedom fight:

  • The last bar graph shows that among all the political prisoners deported to Cellular, from 1857 onwards, the East Bengalis by themselves, constitute the single largest demographics. Nearly a third of the 787 deportees, 262 were Hindus from East Bengal. Hindu Bengalis from East Bengal constituted anywhere between 3 and 3.5 percent of the total population of India during the period under consideration [1901-1941].

  • Of the revolutionary prisoners, who the British had refused to release even in 1945, even after serving 600 years in prison collectively, 42 (ie, 64.61 %) were from East Bengal and 23 were Hindu Bengalis from West Bengal and Tripura pp. 326-354, [10].

  • 60%, that is, 21 of the 35 Indic Bengalis in the HSRA list of those executed by the British or perished in hunger-strike in jail between 1883-1943 [12] are from East Bengal. All 26 of the additional Hindu Bengali names who perished in direct conflict with the British in this period would be from East Bengal, thus 77.05% of the 61 Indic Bengalis hanged, or killed in direct conflict with the British, or died in hunger-strike in jails, between 1883-1943, would be from East Bengal.

  • Among the names we could find of the women revolutionaries, all but one (Bina Das), i.e., 80% were from East Bengal.

Last but not the least, Bepin Chandra Pal, the leader of the Extremist faction of Indian National Congress in the first decade of the twentieth century (along with Balgangadhar Tilak and Lala Lajpat Rai) was a Hindu Bengali from Sylhet, which although part of Assam, was culturally East Bengal.

Nonetheless, note that the spiritual, ideological and visionary pan-India leadership of the revolutionaries emerged from West Bengal starting from Bankim Chandra Chatterjee (with his immortal composition of Bande Mataram), Swami Vivekananda, Aurobindo Ghose, Rashbehari Bose, Subhas Chandra Bose. Other than Rashbehari and Bankim, all the above figures functioned from Calcutta, the heart and the brain of Bengal, during the peak period of their active lives. Bankim Chandra Chatterjee was educated in Calcutta. Bepin Chandra Pal also largely functioned from Calcutta. East Bengal did provide the bulk of the next rung of revolutionaries (the second rung of leaders was exceptionally strong and included revolutionaries of the calibre of Pulin Behari and Surjo Sen, but we consider even leaders of the calibre of Surjo Sen and Pulin behari Das as part of second rung given that their scopes were local). Several revolutionaries par excellence, eg, Sachindra Nath Sanyal, grew up and were based in Bengali centers outside Bengal, eg, in United Provinces, Tripura etc. (Sanyal grew up in Benares which had a large number of Bengalis). Thus, it was the Hindu Bengali collective, from within and outside Bengal, that relentlessly pursued the British everywhere and struck mortal blows at them on behalf of India.

It must also be stated that quite a few Indic ethnicities were absent from the armed freedom fight, by and large. Most notable among these would be the Sindhis, Marwaris and Gujaratis. Not a single member of these ethnicities were hanged or deported to Cellular. It is remarkable given a sizable number of Marwaris lived in the revolutionary hub of Bengal, and that Bengali revolutionaries could successfully organize revolutionary efforts in Punjab, United Provinces, Madras Presidency, that is, well beyond their home province. It is also worth noting that quite a few individuals with North Indian (eg Rajput) ancestry eg Ananta Singh, had integrated well with their host society in Bengal, had essentially become Bengalis in course of a few generations and had become front-ranking revolutionaries. In fact, not only Ananta Singh himself, but his siblings, older sister Indumati Singh and older brother were active participants in the Chattogram revolutionary group.

However, it must be pointed out that there were, peasant rebellions in Gujarat. Besides, some individuals from Gujarat like Shyamji Krishna Varma funded the India House revolutionaries, and Swami Dayanand Saraswati founded the Arya Samaj movement, which produced several revolutionaries in the Punjab and the United Provinces. The Assamese, Odiya and Biharis produced only a few revolutionaries, the ethnicities in the North East produced none (unless royals of Manipur who fought the British to protect their kingdom can be counted as revolutionaries). This may be correlated with the fact that education was much more widespread in the middle classes of Bengal, Punjab, Bombay and Madras Presidencies than among Marwaris, Biharis, Assamese, Odiyas; though Sindhis were quite well educated, and the Marwaris certainly did not lack the resource to pursue education. Finally, it turns out that sections of Assamese middle class and the North East ethnicities have been most vocal against providing refuge to the persecuted Hindus from Bangladesh (and from Pakistan and Afghanistan) into India. Thus, those who have contributed least to the freedom struggle are currently calling the shots in Indian polity, and blocking even refuge to those who fought the most for India when she was subjected to the latest invasion.

Section E: The Impact of the Revolutionaries [up to 1932]

The revolutionary movement forced the British to annul the partition of Bengal and transfer the capital of their Government in India from Calcutta to Delhi in 1911. In the words of Lord Hardinge [the Viceroy who would undo the Partition of Bengal], “During later months it was brought home to me that if there was to be peace in the two Bengals it was absolutely necessary to do something to remove what was regarded by all Bengalis as an act of flagrant injustice without justification. There was at the same time a feeling of expectancy abroad that something would be done at the time of the Durbar to remove this injustice, and I appreciated the fact that if nothing were done we would have to be prepared for even more serious trouble in the future than in the past in Bengal. Moreover, the presence of the Legislative Assembly in Calcutta created an undue and inevitable Bengali influence upon the Members, which was detrimental to their legislative impartiality and presented a field for intrigue in which the Bengalis excelled. All these aspects of the situation in Bengal were most unsatisfactory and were a constant source of anxiety to me, for which I did not then see the remedy. It was Sir John Jenkins, the Home Member of my Council, who in a letter to me, dated the 17th June, 1911, sent me a memorandum which caused my views to materialize into a definite policy. He, as the Member responsible for security in India, held very strong views upon the

urgency of the transfer of the capital from Calcutta to Delhi which. he thought ‘would be a bold stroke of statesmanship which would give universal satisfaction and mark a new era in the history of India.’ With this scheme the reversal of the partition of Bengal was to be associated as well as other changes in the delimitation of the provinces. He urged that these changes should be announced by the King in Durbar at Delhi.’’ pp. 161-162, [13]. In bureaucratic language, the Viceroy has spelt out that it was impossible to continue in Calcutta, that the law and order situation was horrible and that there would be no peace for the British until they had moved the capital out of Bengal.

A leading revolutionary, Sachindra Nath Sanyal, had claimed the same about the tangible outcomes of the revolutionary movement. In a letter to Gandhi, on 12/2/1925, titled, A Revolutionary’s Defence, he had attributed the annulment of the Bengal Partition and the Morely-Minto reforms to the revolutionary movement: “Further, I would like to point out that you have misjudged the revolutionaries in many respects when you blamed them in your recent presidential address in the 39th Congress. You said that the revolutionaries are retarding India’s progress. I do not know what you mean by this word “progress”. If you means political progress then can you deny that every political progress that India has already made, however little that might be, has been made chiefly by the sacrifices and the efforts of the revolutionary party? Can you deny that the Bengal partition was annulled through the efforts of the Bengal revolutionaries? Can you doubt that the Morely-Minto reform was the outcome of the Indian revolutionary movement? Can you be blind to the forces of this revolutionary movement which was mainly though not wholly instrumental in bringing about the Montford reforms?’’ pp. 244-245, [44].

There is a lesser known, but perhaps the most far-reaching impact that the revolutionaries had. We had noted before that they had penetrated the Congress machinery in Bengal and the United Provinces. The Bengal revolutionaries utilized the Congress platform to spread their ideology. Charles Tegart has said in the aforementioned speech: “ One of the earliest acts of Mr. C. R. Das, when elected mayor of the Calcutta Corporation, was to call for applications for appointments from those who had suffered in the country’s cause. The result has been that for years this civic body has provided terrorists and their relatives with jobs, largely in the capacity of teachers.
Throughout the [Bengal] Province schools and colleges are now far more deeply penetrated than during the first campaign. I do not think I am over-stating the case to-day when I say there is scarcely an educational institution of any standing in which there is not a terrorist group under the control of the main leaders, with the result that murders are now committed by youths unknown to the police. These leaders, many of whom are now evading arrest, are men whom the public would not dare to hand up. For years in some cases they have devoted their energies almost entirely to incitement to murder. Their dupes, the rank and file, of whom I know many hundreds, present a pitiful spectacle. Their immature minds are saturated with hatred of the Government and they are induced to commit crimes by the perversion of their good qualities as by playing on their weaknesses.’’
p. 17, [2].

But more importantly, the revolutionaries constituted the bulwark of the resistance within the Congress against the compromises of Gandhi with the British.

For starters, from within the Congress, they forced the stalwarts to eulogize the revolutionary martyrs and thereby promoted the movement and its heroes from within. We revert to the speech given by Charles Tegart, on November 1, 1932: “ The penetration was so rapid [in Bengal] that in 1924 the terrorists were in a position to compel the Bengal Congress to put through a resolution eulogizing one Gopi Nath Saha, a terrorist who had recently been executed for the murder of a European in Calcutta. …The Calcutta Corporation since it became an independent body has been dominated by Congress. Consequently here also terrorist influence is strong. The Corporation here likewise passed a public resolution eulogizing an assassin. Here are the facts ; in December, 1930, Dinesh Gupta, with two other armed terrorists, murdered in a most brutal and cowardly manner Colonel Simpson, I. G. Gaols, who was working unarmed in the Secretariat building in Calcutta, after which they fired indiscriminately into the offices of other Government officials, two of whom were wounded. Dinesh was captured and executed for this murder the following July. Five days later the Corporation of Calcutta recorded its sense of grief at the execution of this cowardly assassin who, in the words of the resolution which was adopted with the house standing, “sacrificed his life in the pursuit of his ideal”. Three days later in the next issue of Calcutta Municipal Gazette, there appeared on front page the photograph of the murderer and an account of the proceedings of this meeting of the Corporation, with the text of the resolution. Sixteen days later Mr. Garlick, President of the Tribunal which convicted Dinesh, was shot dead in his Court by a terrorist who had on his person a slip on which was written “cursed be your Court, the injustice of which condemned Dinesh Gupta to death” Is it any wonder, when public bodies like the Bengal Provincial Congress and the Calcutta Corporation have paid public tribute to persons convicted of such crimes, that emotional youths of the type I have described, who from their schooldays have had their minds poisoned, should set out in their turn to slay and destroy ?’’ pp. 16-17, [2].

Similarly, after the execution of Bhagat Singh, Gandhi, who was so desperately opposed to the revolutionaries was forced to accept the Karachi Congress passing a resolution in 1931 praising the valour and self-sacrifice of Bhagat Singh in Gandhi’s presence and under the presidency of his staunch loyalist, Vallabhbhai Patel.  Subhas Bose quipped: “The circumstances at Karachi were such that this resolution had to be swallowed by people, who under ordinary circumstances, would not come within miles of it. So far as the Mahatma was concerned, he had to make his conscience somewhat elastic.’’ p. 229, [14]. After the execution of Bhagat Singh, Gandhi was greeted with black flags everywhere in Karachi p. 229, [14].

The last but the most significant has been to force Congress to declare complete independence as its goal in 1929 Lahore Congress. The revolutionaries had long sought complete independence, while the Gandhian wing never even wanted freedom.   Gandhi gave multiple definitions of Swaraj, depending on the day of the week.  Throughout his career, except for a few months in 1942, Gandhi desperately tried to stall the political momentum of the freedom movement, calling off mass movements and seeking only minor concessions for his party [19], [20]. Yet, it were the revolutionaries who forced him and the Congress to declare complete freedom as the stated goal in the 1929 Lahore Congress.  After the Guwahati session of Congress in 1926, Gandhi wrote in Young India: “Year after year a resolution is moved in the Congress to amend the Congress creed so as to define Swaraj as complete independence and year after year happily the Congress throws out the resolution by an overwhelming majority….The moving of the resolution betrays the impatience….of some ardent Congressmen who have lost faith in the British intentions and who think that the British government will never render justice to India. The advocates of independence forget that they betray want of faith in human nature and, therefore, in themselves. Why do they think that there can never be change of heart in those who are guiding the British people? What, therefore, the creed [adopted in 1920] does retain is the possibility of evolution of swaraj within the British empire or call it the British Commonwealth?’ p. 52, [18], p. 200, [17].

In December 1928, Calcutta Congress session, due to repeated demands in the Congress, Gandhi had moved a resolution demanding dominion status within a year, failing which, Congress will launch non-violent non-cooperation, including non-payment of taxes. But, Bose moved an amendment to the effect that Congress would be content with nothing short of independence, which implied severance of the British connection. In his speech, Bose described why he moved the resolution: “I have been asked by some friends why, being a signatory to the Nehru Report, I have stood up to speak for independence….You are aware that in private conversations and elsewhere I have said that I do not desire to stand in the way of elder leaders. The reason why I did so was that at that time I did not feel prepared to accept the responsibility of the consequences of a division in this House in case our amendment was accepted. Today I feel prepared to accept the consequences and to face the issue till the end if my amendment is accepted. There are certain incidents which have made me somewhat alter my previous views. You are aware that the Bengal delegates, or at least the majority of them, assembled and resolved to have this amendment moved on their behalf and that they were prepared to accept the vote of the House, whatever the consequence might be. Even if I did not stand here today to move the amendment, I can assure you that some other members would have stood up to do so on their behalf.’’ p. 275, [21] He added in the above speech, “So far as Bengal is concerned, you are aware that since the dawn of the national movement in this country we have always interpreted freedom as complete and full independence. We have never interpreted it in terms of dominion status. After so many of our countrymen laid down their lives, after our poets preached the gospel, we have understood freedom as full and complete independence. The talk of dominion status does not make the slightest appeal to our countrymen, to the younger generation who are growing up, and we should remember that after all it is the younger generation who are the heirs of the future” p. 278, [21]. More specifically, his hand was forced by the Bengal delegates most of whom were revolutionaries by then, per Tegart’s statement.

Gandhi opposed Bose’s amendment saying that “young Bengal was making a serious blunder, for to call for complete independence was merely to chant a hollow phrase.’’ p. 478, [22] The “young Bengal’’ Gandhi was referring to were the Hindu Bengali revolutionaries. The amendment lost, 973 votes to 1350 – but was no pushover. About 2/3 of the delegates from Bengal, backed the Bose amendment in 1928 p. 192, [3]. Notwithstanding the demands of his corporate sponsors, sensing a groundswell of support for the demand for complete independence, as reflected in the 935 votes that Bose’s amendment in 1928 secured, Gandhi moved in December 1929, Lahore Congress, the resolution for complete independence which he opposed in 1928 (Bose amendment). Quoting Bose: “In 1920, Gandhism took possession of the Indian National Congress and for two decades it has maintained its hold. This has been possible, not merely because of Mahatma Gandhi’s personality but also because of his capacity to assimilate other ideas and policies. But for the latter factor, Gandhism would have ceased to dominate the Congress long ago. During its twenty years’ domination of the Congress, whenever revolts appeared, the Gandhi movement took the wind out of their sails by accepting many of their ideas and policies… in December, 1928, at the Calcutta Congress there was a revolt against Gandhism sponsored by the Independence League on the issue of independence. Mahatma Gandhi then advocated Dominion status and he fought and defeated our resolution on Independence. But, a year later, at the Lahore Congress, he himself moved the resolution declaring that henceforth Independence was to be the goal of the Indian National Congress’’ pp. 14-15, [23]. Gandhi’s choice of words, while moving this resolution is curious: “by the exigencies of circumstances, we are now compelled to declare that the Congress wants complete independence and fixes it as its “swaraj”’’ p. 142, [24], p. 201, [17].

In general the revolutionary movement struck terror in the hearts of the British forcing them to offer concessions to the Congress. In the words of revolutionary Jogesh Chandra Chatterji, “In 1930 with the Armory Raid in Chittagong [in April 1930] an organised revolutionary movement spread all over India and swept the country for nearly three years. The British Government did not attach much importance to the ten years of non-violence movement, but they trembled in their shoes at the revolutionary upsurge. This was conclusively demonstrated when the British Government feared to appoint a fourth European magistrate for the district of Midnapore after the successive murders of three district magistrates there. The fourth one appointed was a Bengali’’ p. LXXIi, [11].

In about 8 months after the Chattogram Armory Raid, and a year of the Civil Disobedience movement, the British were forced to invite Congress to the negotiation table, with the intent to marginalize the revolutionaries. In March 1931, Gandhi signed the Gandhi-Irwin Pact, with full consent of the Congress Working Committee, that included Jawaharlal Nehru and Vallabhbhai Patel, the then Congress president. The pact was essentially a surrender to the British, without gaining anything meaningful in return, and provided amnesty to the political prisoners except those who had taken up arms. Subhas Chandra Bose has written, “The amnesty provided under the [Gandhi-Irwin] Pact was inadequate because the following classes of political prisoners were excluded:

(a) The state prisoners and ‘detenus’ imprisoned without trial, of whom there were about one thousand in Bengal alone.

(b) Prisoners convicted of revolutionary offenses

(c) Prisoners under trial for alleged revolutionary offenses

(d) The under-trial prisoners in the Meerut Conspiracy Case

(e) Prisoners incarcerated in connection with labour strikes and other labour disputes

(f) The Gahrwali soldiers who had been court-martialled and given heavy sentences for refusing to fire on unarmed citizens

(g) Prisoners sentenced in connection with the civil-disobedience movement, the charges against whom referred to violence of some sort’’ p. 231, [14]. It is worthwhile to note that Gandhi’s confidante and emissary to the British, Marwari business magnate G. D. Birla had commended the pact for  striking “ at the roots of the method of securing political advance by means of disorder,’’  and substituting it by  “the method of mutual discussion and confidence.’’ p. 161,  [23]. Paraphrasing, the pact was meant to strike at the heart of the revolutionary movement, and substitute it with the mercantile politics of transactions and deals of the Gandhian brand.

It was also the revolutionary wing of Congress that [unsuccessfully] resisted this Gandhi-Irwin pact. Subhas Chandra Bose’s nephew Asoke Bose has written about the immediate aftermath of Gandhi signing this pact: “There had been a series of conferences between uncle and members of his party in 1, Woodburn Park each lasting for hours at a stretch prior to his meeting with the Mahatma. The majority of members, specially the ex-revolutionaries, were extremely hostile to the Pact and were in favor of putting up uncompromising opposition to its acceptance at the Congress session due to be held at Karachi at the end of the month’’ p. 52, [27]. Subsequently, veteran ex-revolutionary leader Hem Ghosh and Subhas Chandra Bose together went to meet Gandhi just after he signed the Gandhi-Irwin pact p. 53, [27]. The Congress establishment could get the pact approved in the Karachi Congress. Sensing that opposition to the pact would not be successful, Bose voted in favour.


The culmination of the revolutionary movement was in the Quit India in 1942, the strike of the INA, which led to unprecedented mass movements in India and mutinies in the British Indian army, navy and the air force. Subhas Chandra Bose left his indelible imprint in each of these. It were these that forced the British to transfer power to the Congress establishment. Thus, while Arabindo ghosh started the freedom fight at the dawn of the twentieth century, Subhas Chandra Bose finished it. In the next part of this series, we dwell with the role of Subhas Chandra Bose and Hindu Bengal in these landmark epochs of our history.


[1] `The Alternative Leadership, Speeches, Articles,  Statements and Letters’, June 1939-1941 Subhas Chandra Bose, Netaji Collected Works, Volume 10

[2] Sir Charles Tegart, “Terrorism in India’’

[3] Leonard Gordon, Brothers against the Raj

[4] Srikrishnan Saral, Indian Revolutionaries, 1757-1961, Vol 1

[5] Srikrishnan Saral, Indian Revolutionaries, 1757-1961, Vol 2

[6] Srikrishnan Saral, Indian Revolutionaries, 1757-1961, Vol 3

[7] Srikrishnan Saral, Indian Revolutionaries, 1757-1961, Vol 4

[8] Srikrishnan Saral, Indian Revolutionaries, 1757-1961, Vol 5

[9] Directorate of Education and Culture, Andaman and Nicober Administration, Port Blair, “Unsung Heroes of Freedom Struggle in Andamans Who’s Who’’

[10] Niranjan Sen, Banglar Bismrito Bandira, reproduced in Bharoter Swadhinota Sangram, Chattogram Bidroha o Biplabi Mahanayak Surjo Sen – Edited by Sharif Shamshir

[11] Jogesh Chandra Chatterji, “In Search of Freedom’’

[12] List of Indian Freedom Fighters who perished in struggle against British Colonialism Between 1883-1943

[13] RC Majumdar, “History and Culture of the Indian People’’, Vol. 11

[14] Subhas Chandra Bose, “Indian Struggle’’

[15] Bharoter Swadhinota Sangram, Chattogram Bidroha o Biplabi Mahanayak Surjo Sen – Edited by Sharif Shamshir

[16] Subhas Chandra Bose, “Indian Pilgrim’’, reproduced in Netaji Collected Works, Volume I

[17] Suniti Kumar Ghosh, “The Tragic Partition of Bengal’’

[18] Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Independence, Article in Young India, 13/01/1927 “”

[19] Saswati Sarkar, Shanmukh, Dikgaj, “ My Experiments with Swaraj – Dissecting Mohandas Gandhi’’

[20] Saswati Sarkar, Shanmukh, Dikgaj, “ Two Revolutionaries, Rashbehari and Subhas – A Meeting of Minds Part 1’’

[21] Netaji Collected Works, Volume V

[22] Collected works of Mahatma Gandhi, Speech on Resolution on Nehru Report, Calcutta Congress III, 31/12/1928, “”

[23] Subhas Chandra Bose, Azad Hind, Writings and Speeches, 1941-May 1943, Netaji Collected Works, Vol. 11



[26] Emily Brown,   “Har Dayal: Hindu revolutionary and Rationalist ‘’

[27] Asoke Bose, “ My Uncle, Netaji’’

[28] Ram Singh, Encyclopaedia Brittanica.

[29] Lord Hardinge, “India as I knew It’’

[30] Lord Rowlatt, “Seditions Report’’

[31] Harjot Oberoi, “Ghadar Movement and its Anarchist Genealogy’’, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 44, No. 50 (December 12-18, 2009), pp. 40-46

[32] S. K. Mittal and Irfan habib, The Congress and the Revolutionaries in the 1920s, Social Scientist, Vol. 10, No. 6 (June 1982), pp. 20-37

[33] Chitra Gupta, “The Life of Barrister Savarkar’’

[34] Arun Kumar Bose, “Indian Revolutionaries Abroad’’

[35] “Biography of Swadeshi Nationalists of Tamizh Nadu’’

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