Monday, October 29, 2018

India Cried That Night - Supratim Sarkar

Supratim Sarkar is an IPS Officer and ACP, Kolkata. A writer and a cricket enthusiast, he has published a novel too. This book, of lesser-known stories of young freedom heroes from the archives of Lalbazaar Kolkata, the HQ of the Police, is translated by Yagnasen Chakraborty. Lovely stories. Amazing men.

Sushil Sen - Kingsford Case
Magistrate D.H. Kingsford, Chief Presidency Magistrate, also known as Kasai Quazi, was a prime target for the revolutionaries in Bengal. Publications like 'Jugantar' and 'Bande Mataram' (published by Aurobindo Ghosh) were inspiring people to revolt against the British. When one such protest was being quelled by the British police, a young boy of 15, stands up and lands blows on the police. He is taken into custody and is sentenced to 15 canes publicly. With every stroke he shouts out loud 'Bande Mataram'. The crowd is outraged at the punishment for such a young boy and a plan is hatched to eliminate Kingsford.

An IED is prepared and kept in a book - as a book bomb. Barin Ghosh, the militant brother of Aurobindo Ghosh, picks Sushil Sen and Prafulla Chaki to follow Kingsford to Muzaffarpur to kill him. Sushil drops off because his father takes ill and his place is taken by Khudiram Bose who with Prafulla Chacki attacks a car with a bomb, but misses, as it is the wrong car. Sushil Sen continues his revolutionary activities and in 1915, while on a mission is shot in both legs. He prefers that his colleagues kill him rather than be captured. He in fact asks them to chop up his body so the British never find his body.

Satyen Basu - Kanailal Dutta - Kill Betrayer Naren Gowami and Save Leaders
In the Maniktala Bomb case or the Alipore Conspiracy Case, 40 revolutionaries including Aurobindo Ghosh, his brother Barin Ghosh and others are arrested, when police finds arms and incriminating material in Barin's villa. One of the revolutionaries, Narendranath Goswami, names everyone including Aurobindo and turns approver for the police. While the revolutionaries are uncertain about what to do, Satyen and Kanailal, who are already in jail decide to eliminate the traitor. They procure a revolver, send information to the well-protected Naren that they too would like to turn approvers, and in the meeting, shoot him point blank and kill him. They injure other officers in their escape attempt and are captured. Kanai does not seek any appeal (what appeal, he says) and goes to the gallows with a smile on his face Huge crowds gather after his hanging and at his funeral. Satyen is hanged 10 days later. By eliminating Naren, the case is shot because there is no evidence anymore. Aurobindo and Barin and several other leaders get a fresh lease of life.

Birendranath Duttagupta - Kills Police Officer Shansul Alam in Courthouse
The plot was to kill police officer Shansul Alam in 1910. The task is planned and given to Biren, who is following Bagha Jatin's orders. He takes the revolver, goes to the court house and shoots the tormentor of revolutionaries, Shansul Alam. Biren is captured as he is fleeing and just before he tried to commit suicide and is tortured endlessly. When his death sentence is pronounced he casually asks if he could eat a kachori, a singada and rasagolla. Biren consistently says he acted alone until he is tricked by a fake news item that his leader Jatin has betrayed them all. He confesses that he acted under Jatin's leadership. Before he is hanged he is told by a kind jail oficer that he had been tricked. The young man seeks forgiveness from Jatin and writes a letter before being hanged to death. Jatin however escapes conviction because Biren's date of hanging comes much before Jatin's case. Bagha Jatin gets a new lease of life, thanks to Biren who died early in a quirky twist of fate, and rights his error.

Habu Mitra - Successful Heist of 46000 rounds of Ammo for the Revolutionaries
The Atonmati Samiti led by Bipin Behari and Anukul are keen to continue the resistance. They need arms. That's when they are informed of an arms consignment reaching Calcutta to be warehoused in the company R.B. Rodda. It's employee Habu Mitra plans a heist. Out of 7 bullock carts carrying pistols and shells, Habu Mitra masterminds and diverts one cart away with about 46000 rounds.  The bullock cart is driven by their colleague Haridas and is covered by other revolutionaries. The loot is quickly distributed by Bepin Bihari and results in massive casualties - 27 deaths and 44 attacks on the British by the revolutionaries. Though the police recover about half the loot, they never capture Habu Mitra who just goes missing. He is never heard of again. Srish Pal directs the planning of the heist.  It was a big blow to the British police.

Radha Charan Pramanik - Robberies to Raise Funds, Hanged for Murder and Robbery 
With weapons, the revolutionaries also needed funds and they started looting funds of businesssmen who were sympathetic to the British. In the first robbery they make away with 18400 rupees and in the second which happens after ten days they loot Rs. 22000. Four revolutionaries are arrested - Hiralal Biswas, Niranjan Das, Patit Paban Ghosh and Radha Charan. Patit and Ram Charan are booked for Arms possession and both robberies. Ram Charan is asked to confess that he acted on his own in all cases thereby allowing Patit, an important member, to go free and continue his revolutionary activities. Ram Charan does as told, becomes the fall guy, and is sent to jail. In jail he contacts an eye infection for which the jail authorities refuse treatment. Radha Charan's condition worsens and he picks up a serious stomach ailment but he refuses treatment as a policy - saying he does not want charity. Radha Charan becomes takes the blame for a crime he did not commit and pretty much dies for the cause.

Gopi Mohan Saha - Attempt to Kill Polce Chief Tegart, Hanged
The tyrannical police commissioner Charles Tegart is the target. A plan is hatched to kill him on his morning walk. Four revolutionaries are in the plan. Gopi to approach and shoot first. If he fails Khokha, and if he fails Julu da and the Anantalal. Before they could set the plan going, Khokha's crude bomb equipment goes awry and causes a fire. The plan is aborted. On January 12, 1924 Gopi Mohan, acts on his own to kill Tegart. He shoots and kills - the wrong person. A civilian named Ernest Day. Gopi is captured and expresses his remorse at the death of an innocent. He is hanged. However, Gopi's sacrifice finds mention in the Congress resolution proposed by Chittaranjan Das. Gandhi who opposes the move as Gopi's act was violent, is outvoted.

Benoy - Badal - Dinesh - Battle of the Corridors - Kill IG Prisons Norman Simpson
Benoy Krishna Basu, a medico, gives up his studies and joins the Bengal Volunteers in the strugle. He launches a daring attack and kills IG Lowman and SP Hodson in the Dhaka Medical College and makes good his escape to Calcutta. There he teams up with Sudhir Badal Gupta and Dinesh Chandra Gupta, an ardent lover of literature and poetry, and plans to kill IG, Prisons, Norman Simpson who is seen as a sadistic cop. The daring idea is to kill him in Writer's Building, the heart of British administration. Armed with revolvers and cyanide, the three youngsters Benoy (22), Sudhir (18) and Dinesh (19), walk into Writer's Building, force their way into Simpson's office and kill him. Then they attempt to escape shouting 'Bande Mataram' in the corridors until they are challenged and hide in the passport office. When overpowered they attempt to kill themselves. Badal consumes cyanide and dies immediately. Benoy and Dinesh, shoot themselves. Benoy survives for a few days and succumbs. Dinesh recovers but is sentenced to death and hanged - shouting out Bande Mataram as the noose is tightened. The papers headlines -'Dauntless Dinesh dies at Dawn'. Known as the 'Battle of Corridors', the three young men daringly took upon the British Administraion in its heart - a symbolic victory for the revolutionaries who struck in the heart of the enemy.

Kanailal Bhattacharya - Kills Tribunal President Garlick and then Kills Himself
Young rookie 19 year old revolutionary Kanailal is recruited by Sunil Chatterjee to take revenge for the judge who sentences Dinesh Gupta to death - Ralph Reynold Garlick. Kanailal has no known history and is trained with use of firearms. He is enthusiastic, knowing full well that he may not be able to escape. On July 31, he walks into the court with a letter in his pocket identifying him as Bimal Gupta who is avenging Dinesh Gupta's hanging - a ploy to throw the police of Bimal's trail. He has cyanide and a revolver. Kanailal executes the plan perfectly and kills Garlick in the courtroom, shooting him at point blank range. When shot at by the plainclothes men, he consumes the cyanide and dies. For 1 year and 3 months Kanailal is unidentified until someone sees a picture of his body in the paper and identifies him. By then Kanailal had done his part and has paid the highest price.

Bina Das - Solo Attempt to Kill Governor Stanley Jackson
The second daughter of Beni MadhavDas, who taught at the Cuttack Ravenshaw College, and inspired Subhash Chandra Bose, is enthusiastic to do her bit as a college student to help India's cause. With help from Kamala Dasgupta, a revolutionary, she gets training and a revolver. Her plan, a solo mission to kill the Governor of Bengal, Stanley Jackson (an ex-England Test cricketer) at the Calcutta University Convocation. As Jackson comes to speak on the stage, Bina rushes forward and shoots. He ducks. She is captured. She is sentenced to nine years. Kamala Dasgupta is sentenced to six years. Bina Das joins the Congress after her release and joins the Quit India Movement and goes to jail once again. She spent her last years in Rishikesh

There is another story - a case of a thief who stole Rabindranath Tagore's favorite pen. Upon recovery the police send summons to the Nobel laureate to come and identify his property. Luckily better sense prevails and he is saved the trouble of going to the court house.

The stories are a grim reminder of the passion and the selflessness of the youth of those days, who were enthusiastic at laying down their lives to protest the British Raj. Their ages - from fiffteen onwards and generally around 18-19 years - in hopeless, suicidal attacks. And another feature was that none of them bowed down to the sadistic torture and told on their leaders and colleagues. All went to the gallows with a smile on their lips and the cry of Bande Mataram. So committed and fearless were they that the Police Chief Tegart is known to have said he wished he had men like Bagha Jatin and others on his side. Fabulous reading. Thank you Supratim Sarkar. Thank you Sagar.

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