Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Khudiram Bose - The Youngest Freedom Fighter of India

Born: December 3, 1889
Martyrdom: 11 August 1908 (aged 18)
Khudiram Bose
Khudiram Bose, a young political activist from Bengal, was not only one of the most prominent figures in India's fight for freedom from British rule, but also the youngest revolutionary that the Indian independence movement had witnessed. Khudiram Bose led a life of risk and adventure, never for once flinching from his goal of acquiring freedom for his country. Apart from possessing the spirit of a fighter, Khudiram Bose was also known for his leadership qualities and his services to the society. However, the revolutionary died an unfortunate early death, leaving India bereft of one of the greatest freedom strugglers that the country had ever seen. Khudiram Bose will always be remembered in the history of Indian independence as the proponent of the 'Agni Yuga' or the fiery age, an era which was characterized by young people getting involved in the fight against the British without thinking twice about their own lives. Khudiram Bose was the first martyr of the early twentieth century.

Childhood:

Khudiram Bose was born on December 3, 1889 in the small village of Habibpur situated close to the town of Tamluk in Midnapore district of Bengal. Khudiram Bose was the fourth child in a family of three daughters. His parents, Trailokyanath Bose and Lakshmipriya Devi had two sons before the birth of Khudiram but both of them died prematurely. Following the tradition of the yesteryear superstitious society, his mother decided to give up possession of a male child to avoid further deaths in the family. According to reports, her baby boy was sold to her eldest daughter Aparupa in exchange of a measure of foodgrain, also known as 'khud' in Midnapore. After selling her son to her daughter, the mother abandoned all rights to take care of her son. He was thus named Khudiram as he was bought in exchange of 'khud' and henceforth was taken care of only by his sister. Thus, it was right after his birth that Khudiram Bose lost all contact with his mother and father.

Inspiration on the Path to Revolution:

Khudiram Bose showed a revolutionary spirit even when he was a mere child. As a child Khudiram Bose loved adventure and was widely known for his courage and bravery on the face of danger. Quite naturally, he also made a very good leader in political groups. It was in the years 1902 - 1903 that Khudiram Bose was inspired to plunge into active freedom struggle. During this time Sri Aurobindo and Sister Nivedita were in Medinipur to deliver a lecture inspiring people to join the freedom struggle against the British. Khudiram Bose was a teenager at that point of time and was bubbling with energy. He was part of student revolutionary groups in Tamluk.

Inspired by the speeches of Sri Aurobindo, Khudiram Bose took part in the secret planning sessions that were held by Sri Aurobindo and Sister Nivedita. Shortly after, in the year 1904, Khudiram Bose shifted from Tamluk to the main town of Medinipur, not only to enroll at the Medinipur Collegiate School but also to take part in the martyr activities that were then a common occurrence in principal towns across India. Khudiram Bose became an active member of a martyrs' club in Medinipur and soon won the attention of even his seniors at the club through his adventurous and leadership qualities, his dedication and his services to the society.

Apart from Sri Aurobindo and Sister Nivedita, Khudiram Bose also derived inspiration from verses in the Bhagavad Gita and the words of his teacher Satyendranath Bose. In the year 1905, Khudiram Bose became involved with the political party Jugantar to show his disobedience to the British government following the Partition of Bengal the same year. A few months later Khudiram Bose planted bombs close to a police outpost in Medinipur. Though he was not arrested in 1905, police arrested him three years later and announced a death sentence for a similar incident involving killing by bombing.

The Muzaffarpur Incident:

Khudiram Bose and Prafulla Chaki from Jugantar were sent to the town of Muzaffarpur in Bihar to carry out the killing of Kingsford, the magistrate of Calcutta Presidency. The two revolutionaries went to Muzaffarpur, adopted the code names of Haren Sarkar and Dinesh Roy respectively, and took shelter in the 'dharmashala' of Kishorimohan Bandopadhyay. Though they wanted Kingsford dead, Khudiram Bose and Prafulla Chaki did not want the bloodshed of innocent people accumulated around a court during the daytime. Therefore they decided to shoot him when he was on his way from the European Club to his home or vice versa. On April 30, 1908, Khudiram Bose and Prafulla Chaki took position outside the European Club and targeted the carriage of Kingsford as it moved out of the club at around 8:30 in the evening. The bombs and the pistol shots hit the carriage. Khudiram Bose and Prafulla Chaki immediately fled the place of crime thinking that their task were complete, only to be informed later that it was the wife and daughter of barrister Pringle Kennedy who were traveling inside Kingsford's carriage. Both Khudiram and Prafulla were filled with remorse for their act of killing two innocent women. The duo were then constantly on the move to escape the eyes of the police. However, the police caught them soon after the incident took place.

Death of Prafulla Chaki:

After the failed attempt to kill magistrate Kingsford in Muzaffarpur, Prafulla Chaki and Khudiram Bose had taken two separate routes to flee the police. On May 1 when his companion Khudiram Bose was arrested, Prafulla Chaki was received in the house of a local in Muzaffarpur who did his best to save his life by providing food, rest and also a train ticket to destination Kolkata. Prafulla Chaki had to change trains on his way from Muzaffarpur to Howrah and it was in the train that misfortune met him in the form of Nandalal Bannerjee, the sub inspector in the British police. Immediately suspecting the young Prafulla Chaki, Nandalal Bannerjee was successful in tracing information which led him to believe that it was Prafulla Chaki who was involved in the Muzaffarpur incident. As soon as Prafulla Chaki left his first train to board the next which would drop him to Howrah, Nandalal Bannerjee was prepared with other police personnel to arrest him. While Prafulla Chaki tried to kill Nandalal Bannerjee by shooting at him, his attempt was unsuccessful, after which he fired the gunshot at himself. Prafulla Chaki took away his own life unable to bear the humiliation of submitting himself to the British authorities.

Incidents leading to Arrest of Khudiram Bose:

The Muzaffarpur incident took place at 8:30 in the evening. People were made aware of the killing on the same night and security consisting of armed police constables was stationed at all crucial positions around the country, especially the railway stations. In addition, the British government had also announced Rs 1000 cash prize for the person who could trace the attackers or assist the police in doing so. Knowing that the police would be behind him, Khudiram Bose decided to walk his way to Medinipur rather than board a train. However, ill fate was waiting for him in Oyaini, where he stopped for a glass of water. Constables were immediately on his side when Khudiram Bose stopped by at a tea stall to ask for a glass of water and were curious to know the reason which made him walk such a long way as to make him so tired and dusty. A search which ensued revealed that Khudiram Bose was armed with two revolvers and 37 rounds of ammunition. It is to be remembered that Khudiram Bose was a mere 18 year old kid at the time of the incident and was no match to the strength of the much older constables.

On May 1, 1908, Khudiram Bose was taken under arrest for his involvement in the Muzaffarpur killings, but the arrest failed to undermine his nationalistic spirit, the young boy crying the slogan 'Vandemataram' even after the entire town of Muzaffarpur accumulated in front of the railway station to take a look at the boy who could commit such a heinous crime. After being taken to the magistrate's office in Muzaffarpur, Khudiram Bose took the blame for the incident which led to the killings and deaths in Muzaffarpur just a day ago wholly upon himself. No attempts would make him reveal the name of either his partner Prafulla Chaki or his revolutionary group in Medinipur. However, police produced before him the body of Prafulla Chaki who had taken away his life by then. The shock was elaborately written upon his face and Khudiram Bose came to know that there was no point in hiding the identity of his group from the police, who would soon trace the revolutionary group under Barindra Kumar Ghosh, which Khudiram Bose and Prafulla Chaki had been working for. The police authorities working under the instructions of the British proved how inhuman they could be when they chopped off the head of the dead Prafulla Chaki and sent it to Kolkata for further confirmation on his and Khudiram Bose's revolutionary links.

Court Trial and Martyrdom:

Khudiram Bose was put behind bars on May 2, 1908 and the court trial began on the 21st of May. Binodbihari Majumdar and Mr. Mannuk were the prosecutors for the British government, while Upendranath Sen, Kalidas Basu and Kshetranath Bandopadhyay fought in Khudiram Bose's defense. Narendranath Lahiri, Satishchandra Chakraborty and Kulkamal Sen also joined the team of defense lawyers for Khudiram Bose as the trial progressed, the entire team fighting the case for free. On May 23, 1908, Khudiram Bose had to give his first statement in court. Following the advice of his lawyers, Khudiram Bose denied any involvement in the gunshots and bombings that led to the death of the two British women in Muzaffarpur. The trial progressed slowly with the judge announcing that the final verdict would be delivered on June 13.

It was on the date of the verdict that the prosecutors in the Khudiram Bose case received an anonymous letter warning that bombings would soon take place in Kolkata and this time it would be the Biharis rather than the Bengalis who would be behind the attack. The defense board was now sure that the letter would convince the judge that people other than Khudiram Bose can be involved in the killings in Muzaffarpur. The chief intention of the defense board in the case was to prevent the pronouncement of a death sentence for Khudiram Bose. However, the British Raj was not prepared to let go off an Indian who had already been declared as a revolutionary. The death sentence was awarded to Khudiram Bose. Khudiram Bose embraced the sentence with dignity. In fact he also refused to appeal to the High Court, a practice which existed during those times, saying that he was destined to be hanged to death.

It was his defense lawyers who convinced Khudiram Bose to make the appeal to the High Court arguing with him that a life sentence instead of a death sentence would mean that Khudiram Bose could live on to serve his motherland. The hearing at High Court took place on July 8, 1908. It was Narendrakumar Basu who fought on behalf of Khudiram Bose in the July High Court trial presenting several arguments which would avert the possibility of a death sentence for a revolutionary who had become an overnight hero for young nationalists in India after the Muzaffarpur incident. The judge at the High Court said that July 13 would be the date for the ultimate verdict on the matter.
Khudiram Bose in Jail
 A rare Picture Of Khudiram Bose
The arguments put forward to the High Court by Narendrakumar Basu would have put the case in favor of Khudiram Bose and could have saved his life, but the British government had already decided that they would award the death sentence to Khudiram Bose. An attempt of appeal made to the Governor General was also turned down and the death sentence for Khudiram Bose was made public on August 11, 1908. The sentence led to a huge uproar among people, young and old, who accumulated in front of the courthouse to shout slogans of protest against the sentence. The local press was vociferous in making the sentiments of the Indians heard. But it was Khudiram Bose who surprised many by embracing his death gracefully by going to the gallows on August 11, 1908 with a smile on his face.
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