In the previous post here we went through the inception, spread and daring revolutionary activities of Anushilan Samiti and the Jugantar as well as the tall revolutionaries involved. In this part, l will deal with Samiti's link with Foreign Movements, failures, the British clamp down, failed unification and later resurgence.
Links with Foreign Movements:
Anushilan, notably from early on, established links with foreign movements and Indian nationalism abroad. In 1907, Barindra Ghosh arranged to send to Paris one of his associates by the name of Hem Chandra Das. He learned the art of bomb making from Nicholas Safranski, a Russian revolutionary in exile in the French Capital. Paris was also home at that time of Madam Bhikaji Cama, who was a leading figure of the Paris Indian Society and the India House in London. The 'bomb manual' later found its way through Veer Savarkar to the press at India House for mass printing.
Rash Behari Bose
Nixon's Report corroborates that during the World War I, the Jugantar Party arranged importation of German arms and ammunitions (notably the 32 bore German automatic pistols) via Virendranath Chattopadhyay alias Chatto and other revolutionaries residing in Germany. They had contacted Indian revolutionaries active in the United States, as well as Jugantar leaders in Kolkata. On receiving instructions from Berlin, Bagha Jatin informed Rash Behari Bose to take charge of Upper India, aiming at an All-Indian Insurrection to start an uprising in the country, backed by a mutiny among the Indian Armed Force.
World War I began with an unprecedented outpouring of loyalty and goodwill towards the United Kingdom from within the mainstream political leadership, contrary to initial British fears of an Indian revolt. India contributed massively to the British war effort by providing men and resources. About 1.3 million Indian soldiers and laborers served in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, while both the Indian government and the princes sent large supplies of food, money, and ammunition. However, Bengal and Punjab remained hotbeds of anti-colonial activities. The revolution in Bengal, increasingly closely linked with the unrests in Punjab, was significant enough to nearly paralyze the regional administration.
Also from the beginning of the war, expatriate Indian population, notably from United States, Canada, and Germany, headed by the Berlin Committee and the Ghadar Party, attempted to trigger insurrections in India on the lines of the 1857 uprising with Irish Republican, German, and Turkish help in a massive conspiracy that has since come to be called the Hindu–German Conspiracy. This conspiracy also attempted to rally Afghanistan against British India. A number of failed attempts were made at mutiny, of which the February mutiny plan and the 1915 Singapore Mutiny remains the most notable. This movement was suppressed by means of a massive international counter-intelligence operation and draconian political acts (including the Defense of India Act, 1915) that lasted nearly ten years. History refers to it as the German Plot.
Unfortunately, the whole plot leaked out locally owing to a native traitor and, internationally, through the Czech revolutionaries who were in touch with their counterparts in the U.S.A., and as soon as the information reached the British authorities, they alerted the police, particularly in the delta region of the Ganges, and sealed all the sea approaches on the eastern coast from Noakhali-Chittagong side to Orissa. Sramajibi Samabaya and Harry & Sons of Calcutta, the two business concerns run respectively by Amarendra Chatterjee and Harikumar Chakrabarti which were taking an active part in the Indo-German Conspiracy were searched. Police came to know that Bagha Jatin was in Balasore waiting for a German arms delivery. Police went on to find out the hiding places and after a gunfight, the revolutionaries were either killed or arrested. The German plot thus failed.
British clamp down:
Getting alarmed of the fast expansion of Anushilan Samiti, the British Government formed a commission to look into causes, mode of expansions of rebellious activities in Bengal and ways to stamp it down. Report of this commission came to the fore in 1918 and it is known as Sedition Committee Report. The Indo-German conspiracy to overthrow British during World War I, and its failure made the government more furious and vindictive. Owing to rising governmental repressions and dearth of potent activists, several branches of Anushilan Samiti closed down for the moment while many others even ceased to exist.
After Rash Behari Bose left for Japan, and the death of Bagha Jatin in 1915, the revolutionary movement of Bengal had stopped for nearly a decade.The dynamic influence of Samiti on the Bengali Hindu society, as a result, started to decline and the gap was filled by mass organizations of Indian National Congress and Communist Party, new and enigmatic torch bearer of revolution. The damage was done and from Anushilan Samiti, following rigorous imprisonments for years, lots of its erstwhile members got involved with other political factions. The majority of these were socialists and communists, still under the hypnotic spell of socialism and success of Soviet Union.
During the 'Non-cooperation movement' also the Jugantar rendered support to Gandhi, but the Dhaka Anushilan Samiti continued its revolutionary activities. Following these major setbacks, there was an attempt to unify the revolutionary factions in Bengal. In 1924, a unity was established between the members of these two groups who were jailed in Midnapur Central Jail. However, this merger failed to revive the revolutionary activities up to the expected level. The younger leaders of both groups were frustrated by the failure of the attempted merger. This led to the formation of a new confederation in 1929, called the Neo-Violence party or the Revolt group.
In 1930, as an antidote promised to Gandhi's policy, Jugantar group prepared programs for further violent revolutionary acts of opposing British occupation. The plans included the murder of Europeans; burning of the DumDum aerodrome; destroying the electricity, gas and petrol supplies of Kolkata; disorganization of tram services in Kolkata by cutting overhead wires; damaging the communication system by destroying telegraph lines, railway tracks etc. The outcome of such programs culminated in several violent attacks.
Masterda Surya Sen
Chittagong was one of the first towns in Bengal, that was ceded to the British in 1760, as a buffer against the Burmese. On his return to Chittagong in 1918, Masterda Surya Sen organized Jugantar Party there. He continued to organize the hard-line patriotic organizations. He inspired and motivated students by narrating the stories of famous revolutionaries and convinced them that revolutionary action is only the way to resist the British force. By 1923, Surya Sen had spread Jugantar & Anushilan Samiti in different parts of Chittagong district. Aware of the limited equipment and other resources to the freedom fighters, he was convinced of the need for secret guerrilla warfare against the colonial Government. One of his early successful undertakings was a broad day robbery at the treasury office of the Assam-Bengal Railway at Chittagong on December 23, 1923. Arrested and imprisoned for two years, from 1926 to 1928, for revolutionary activities, he continued to work in the Congress.
In 1929, Surya Sen made ‘Indian Republican Army. With the help of a bunch of teenagers, Masterda devised a strategy to raid the British armory, cantonment, telegraph office, railway line and European club on the same day – 18 April 1930.
The Chittagong Armory Raid:
A group of six revolutionaries led by Ganesh Ghosh captured the Police Armory. Another group of ten, led by Lokenath Baul, took over the Auxiliary Force Armory along with its Lewis guns and 303 army rifles. Unfortunately, they could not locate the ammunition which proved a setback to the revolutionaries plans. They also succeeded in dislocating telephone and telegraph communications and disrupting movement by train. In all, sixty-five were involved in the raid and they liberated Chittagong on 18th April 1930. Then they left Chittagong town before dawn and marched towards the Jalalabad Hill, looking for a safe place.
While hiding in the Jalalabad Hills near Chittagong a great gun battle took place between the armed revolutionaries & British army. This was such a war that possibly the world had never seen before. Only a handful of men armed with Musketry rifles repulsed a major attack by British army armed with the machine gun & .303 rifles. This is the glorious story of those indomitable revolutionaries who dared to challenge their destiny.
22nd APRIL, 1930, 5:00 PM
The tired members (for lack of food and water in last 3 days) of this army were taking rest sitting in small groups over the small Jalalabad Hill. Everyone was thinking when they will go back again, capturing the jail, Imperial bank, District court…, everything. To get the information about the town, some people members were sent to the town who hadn’t returned yet. Near the hill, there was a rail line. Suddenly a train was seen coming through that line. It stopped beside the Jalalabad Hills. The eyes of Probhash Pal (assigned as the guard) suddenly sparked, as it was very unnatural to stop a train without a station. From the train, numerous Infantrymen came out.
Be ready, the battle is imminent. Surya Sen decided to give the honor of being the “Sarbadhinayaka” (Chief to Staff) to Gen Lokhnath Bol. From now even Masterda had to carry on Gen Bol’s orders in the battlefield.
Gen Bol roared: “Get ready and remember- winning is our destiny. We are revolutionaries. We never gave in to imperialist power & we will not today. By any means, we must win.” All took lying position with loaded musketry rifles ready to carry out any order given by their general.
The British army was approaching towards the Hill. At that time, they were in the middle of the paddy-field, without any cover. All Musketry rifles roared at once, most of the infantrymen were hit, rest managed to run away. British army leaders Captain Tait, Colonel Dallas Smith, DIG Farmer, all were anxious. They then decided to charge the revolutionaries with bayonets. But the result was same as before. The infantrymen managed to run away with their lives in front of Musketry rifle fire.
VICKER MACHINE GUN
British officers changed their tactics. Suddenly, Vicker machinegun fire started from a hill southeast of Jalalabad. Gen Bol Immediately ordered the members on that side of the hill, to aim and return 10 rounds of rapid fire.
In the meantime darkness of evening was slowly falling over the place but machine gun showed no sign of taking rest. No side was ready to withdraw. The battle was fierce. Soon some revolutionaries succumbed to bullets fired by Vicker machinegun and embraced martyrdom.
Things were becoming difficult for the revolutionaries. Rifle chambers were getting jammed. There were not enough lubricating oil. They started using the blood of their friends as lubricating oil to clear the muzzle & chamber. Now Gen Bol shouted like a wounded tiger- “Fire until the enemy machine guns were completely silenced.” All started to fire with double enthusiasm. At day’s end, the British Machine guns had to ultimately lose against the might of old Musketry rifles in the hand of those indomitable youths. Darkness fell. British couldn’t dare to stay there. They were afraid of surprise attacks and fled away without any hesitation. At night after the enemies fled, the revolutionaries came down from the hill. They were winners in the battle. But their hearts were heavy, their eyes were wet. Total 12 revolutionaries died in the battle.
Pic 1: TEGRA & MOTI KANUNGO Pic 2: NARESH ROY, TRIPURA SEN & BIDHU BHATTACHARJEE Pic 3: PROBHAS BOL, SASHANKA DUTTA & NIRMAL LALA Pic 4: JITENDRA DASGUPTA, MADHUSUDAN DUTTA & PULIN BIKASH GHOSH
Police & military returned to Jalalabad in next morning with much larger force & arms. They discovered the body of revolutionaries & wasting no time burnt them with petrol. After the Sepoy Mutiny, this was possibly the most glorious event when a handful of men defeated a much larger & well armed British army in an open battle.
There were two women Pritilata and her classmates Kalpana Dutta, who also played a pivotal role in many raids, and played a key role in the Jalalabad attack, where their responsibility was to supply the explosives. the Chittagong Armory Raid. Pritilata along with Masterda narrowly managed to escape a police attack his Dhalaghat hideout, which however left Nirmal Sen dead. By now she was on the most wanted list.
Among the many exclusively for European clubs that dotted Chittagong, one of them was Pahartali, which had a signboard saying “Dogs and Indians not allowed”. Masterda's group decided to carry out an attack on this club, and choose Pritilata to lead the men for the mission, as Kalpana Dutta was arrested a week earlier. At the time of the attack, around 40 people were in the club. Some of the officers in the club, who had revolvers began to shoot back. It was a major attack, 4 men and 7 women were injured while a lady Ms. Sullivan was killed. Hit by a bullet, injured Pritilata found herself surrounded by British police, and she chose to commit suicide by consuming cyanide, rather than surrendering. She was just 21 when she died.
Surya Sen, being constantly followed up by the police, had to hide at the house of Sabitri Devi, a widow, near Patiya. A police and military force under Captain Cameron surrounded the house on 13 June 1932. Cameron was shot dead while ascending the staircase and Surya Sen along with Pritilata Waddedar and Kalpana Dutta escaped to safety.But unfortunately, either because of money, or out of jealousy, or because of both,
But unfortunately, either because of money, or out of jealousy, or because of both, Netra Sen told the British Government that Surya Sen was at his house. As a result, the police came and captured him on February 16, 1933. This is how India’s supreme hero was arrested. Netra Sen’s wife respected Masterda so much that she was horrified by her husband’s deed. One evening she was serving her husband food when a great admirer of Surya Sen came into the house and chopped off the head of Netra Sen in the presence of his wife and went away. When the police arrived to investigate, Netra Sen’s wife said, “I saw with my own eyes, but my heart will not permit me to tell you his name. I am sorry. I feel miserable that I was the wife of such a treacherous man, as Netra Sen. My husband betrayed the greatest hero of Chittagong, a great son of Mother India. You can do anything with me, punish me, kill me, but I shall never tell the name of the person who killed my husband.
Tarakeswar Dastidar, the new president of the Chittagong Branch Jugantar Party, made a preparation to rescue Masterda from the Chittagong Jail. But the plot was unearthed and consequently Tarakeswar and Kalpana along with others were arrested. On January 12, 1934, the British officials entered the cell of their captured revolutionary and brutally tortured him by breaking all his teeth, limbs, and joints with a hammer. The torture was so cruel and painful that the revolutionary couldn’t even scream. Then he was hanged unconsciously and later his dead body was put in a metallic cage and was thrown into the sea. That was the nothing but
On January 12, 1934, the British officials entered the cell of their captured revolutionary and brutally tortured him by breaking all his teeth, limbs, and joints with a hammer. The torture was so cruel and painful that the revolutionary couldn’t even scream. Then he was hanged unconsciously and later his dead body was put in a metallic cage and was thrown into the sea. That was the nothing but sheer fear of Masterda in the minds of British. Along with Surya Sen, his comrade Tarekeshwar Dastidar was also hanged by the British.
However, MasterdaSurya Sen left a spark with this radical movement, in such a point of time when the organization had started changing their ideology. Thus, it can be said that after Surya Sen's precarious move, Revolutionary Movement came to an end by 1936.
The scenario changed with the years. The British were planning to quit India while communal and religious politics came into play. The basic political background on which revolutionary ideas were founded seemed to evolve towards a new direction. The Jugantar members brought out a statement on 9th September 1938 not to reorganize a separate party. They had also stated that they would acknowledge full allegiance to the Congress. However, the trend led by Subhas Bose; a few joined the Communists, some followed M. N. Roy but most joined a band of revolutionaries led by the illustrious Supraja Sharma. The Anushilan Samiti evolved into the Revolutionary Socialist Party. The wing in East Pakistan developed into the Shramik Krishak Samajbadi Dal in contemporary Bangladesh.
What is most striking is the denial of Government of India to accept these revolutionaries, who sacrificed everything for the country, as freedom fighters. After independence in 1947, a committee containing highly revered historians was formed, under instructions of Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister, to write a comprehensive and truthful history of India’s independence struggle. Dr. Tarachand was its president and two of its members were from Bengal – Dr. Ramesh Chandra Majumdar and Dr. Suren Sen.
In consequence of covert instruction of Jawaharlal Nehru and Congress, it is already proved, revolutionary struggle of Bengal was completely expunged. Dr. R. C. Majumdar, resigned from the committee in protest, stating: "As a historian, how can I ignore an established fact?" To confirm the nasty design of the then leaders of India, he wrote “The History of Freedom Movement in India” that contains detailed facts of revolutionary struggle in Bengal to overthrow British Raj and contribution of Anushilan Samiti in particular.
- History of Freedom Movement in India, Vol - II, By R. C. Mazumdar
- Report of Sedition Committee by Mr. Justice Rowlatt, 1918.
- The History and Culture of the Indian People, Vol - XI - Struggle for Freedom, R. C. Mazumdar, Chapter VIII.
- Indian Revolutionaries - By Sri Krishna Saral