20 October 2011 marks the seventy-fifth birth anniversary of our most adored and revered Dr. Prithwindranath Mukherjee. An extraordinary scholar, a researcher par excellence and above all, a most wonderful human being, he has been a pillar of support and inspiration for us ever since the inception of Overman Foundation.
Today, on the occasion of his birthday, we are publishing a gem of an article penned by Dr. Mukherjee titled ‘Mahapralaya’ based on the early years of freedom struggle. We can vouch for the fact that seldom do we come across such extraordinarily researched articles. And it is our privilege that Dr. Mukherjee has permitted us to publish it in the forum of Overman Foundation.
With warm regards,
“There will be an upheaval.[i] There are signs to indicate its coming.
The year 1906 completes 5000 years of Kaliyuga,
and a new age has begun with the year 1907.
The upheaval will have developed well enough to be visible to all.
It will be complete in a further period of four to five years.
“The upheaval will be one of a revolutionary change, a great step;
the low will be raised and the high brought down.
There will be change, change, everywhere—
change in Government, change in our people;
new resolves, new thoughts, new ways for all actions.”
(Interview from India, Tamil weekly, 18 September 1909)[ii]
I- THE QUESTION
The earliest known intimation about the oncoming World War seems to have been proclaimed only in 1911, by Friedrich Bernhardi (1849-1930) in his bellicose book[i] : this Prussian general and historian looked upon war as “the law of the struggle for existence” or “a divine business”. An interview in September 1909 reveals that Sri Aurobindo spoke of “upheaval”, foreseeing happenings pretty close to a mahâpralaya. Does not this bring to the mind – of people familiar with strides of history around Sri Aurobindo – flashes of events preceding and succeeding this visionary uttering ? We must right now look into a number of events preceding this interview, before examining the succession of developments in connection with this prophecy.
II- PRECEDING EVENTS
In the context of events preceding Sri Aurobindo’s interview in 1909, we turn at random to Pandit Mokshada Charan Samadhyayi (1867-1924): this restless Brahman represented a leading figure of the Jugantar movement. Specialist of the Samaveda, he had spent long years in Benares to have a genuine schooling in Sanskrit classics and Vedic texts. G.C. Denham of the central Criminal Intelligence Department promptly observed : “The position of Benares as a centre of revolutionary activity is very similar to the position which it holds in the religious life of the Hindu inhabitants of India.”[ii] He mentioned it to have been a retreat for political refugees and, since the visit of B.G. Tilak in 1900, followed by the issuing of the Kalidas newspaper, Benares was becoming a congenial spot for seditious activities.
Jatindra Mukherjee’s revolutionary associate Preonath Karar of Serampore – friend of Hrishikesh Kanjilal of Calcutta Anushilan and Mokshada – had founded an Ashram at Puri in 1900; in contact with Lokamanya Tilak, it had been helping his initiative to turn Benares and other Hindu shrines into seats of Extremist politics. Shortly before the launching of the daily Jugantar at a ceremony at Benares, Puri had instituted a religious procession in celebration of the advent of the New Era (yuga+antar). Sealy in his Report admitted : “It would be extremely rash to argue that the place has not been freely used by the anarchist for sealing the compact of many a vow against the Government or that it has not been a recognised place of refuge for the fugitive from justice or surveillance by the police.”[iii] Amarendra’s cousin, Natabihari Chatterjee (son-in-law of the great Surendranath Banerjee), was munsif at Cuttack; another cousin, Dhiren Mukherjee, taught at the Ravenshaw Collegeate School. Amarendra had a free access not only to the local patriots but, also, to the headmaster of this School (later Principal of the Ravenshaw College), Khirodchandra Ray Chaudhuri, who edited and published the “scurrilous” (to quote Sealy) daily, Star of Utkal. Khirodchandra’s son, Sukumar, practised as a barrister atCuttack and had married a daughter of Dr Aghore Nath Chatterjee “who was deported by the Nizam of Hyderabad for intriguing against the British Government.”
Several amongst Bengalis living in Benares were connected with the revolutionary movement in Calcutta, principally through a certain Suranath Bhaduri : this curious character was ultimately concerned in the conspiracy in Calcutta and afterwards he was suspected of selling information to the authorities. “One of the pioneers of nationalism in Benares,” in about 1902, Somnath published a book called Gangajal[iv]. It conveyed seditious catechism under the guise of religion. The writer, addressing Sri Krishna prays, “The mlechhas[v] are carrying away to their own country the riches and intelligence of India, and the Vedas (sacred books) and the religion of India are being trampled under the feet of foreign nations. Wilt thou come and uproot the mlechas and make India free ?” To this Sri Krishna replies, “I have come, descending upon India. The auspicious hour is here; in my name advance boldly like heroes.” Denham reminded that the reference here was to Sri Krishna’s promise in the Bhagavad Gita, the very verse which Suranath was to get adopted as the motto of the revolutionary Jugantar newspaper of Calcutta, early March 1906. Mokshada was Suranath’s associate.[vi]
As we have seen, before this paper – Jugantar [yuga= epoch+ antara=ending, shifting] – appeared, Mokshada sent Preonath Karar to Benares and, with the help of Suranath and Hrishikesh Kanjilal of the Calcutta Anushilan Samiti convened a public meeting as well as a meeting of pundits : on quoting from Hindu Astrology and Astronomy, they announced that the sinful Iron Age (kali) was over and it was henceforth the dawn of Yugantar or the dvapar-yuga. Hrishikesh further undertook a tour of pilgrimage to proclaim the advent of the New Age, inciting sannyasis to join an imminent rebellion against the English.[vii]
By September 1905, inspired by Sri Aurobindo, several ministers of Hindu religion had been spreading anti-Partition agitation. A.C. Banerji, Barrister-at-Law from Santipur in Nadia and a friend of Jatindra Mukherjee, obtained collaboration of the Nabadwip Pundits and Goswamis : their influence, throughout India, had been rousing the religious scruples of both Hindus and Muslims against the impurity in the manufacture of salt and sugar, as much as their boycott of foreign goods. As we shall presently see, Mokshada was a close collaborator of Kartik Datta hailing also from Santipur. Led by Mokshada, the Bhatpara Pundits in the 24 Parganas also sent out missionaries to indoctrinate their colleagues in Upper India. At Puri in Orissa, one hundred itinerant monks took the oath of preaching Swadeshi. On 28 September 1905, fifty thousand people before the Calcutta Kali temple took the vow of abstaining from purchasing foreign goods. The Ramakrishna Mission and the Arya Samaj considerably helped spreading this doctrine.[viii]
Denham watched intently Mokshada’s shuttling between Benares and Uttarpara College where he was appointed Pundit. In company of Professor Charu Chandra Ray, Preonath Karar and Satish Sen, Mokshada was busy animating clubs and associations in the region covering Chinsura, Serampore, Chandernagore with the teachings of Bankimchandra Chatterjee (who had lived in the region), Yogendra Vidyabhushan and other contemporary thought leaders. He frequented the well-known revolutionary monk Tarakshepa who, sermoning on the Bhagavad Gita, preached sedition overtly, whose disciple Nanigopal Sengupta was one of Sri Aurobindo’s close associates. At Serampore, Brahmabandhav Upadhyay was attracted by Mokshada’s ideas on politics, and accepted him as disciple to run the local Brahmacharya Ashram. Simultaneously, informed about a dynamic batch of students in the neighbouring 24 Parganas, Mokshada visited Chingripota, Harinabhi, Kodalia, where Harikumar Chakravarti, Naren Bhattacharya (future M.N. Roy), Saileshwar Bose, Satkari Banerji ran a powerful association. Harikumar was in touch with his cousins, Naren and Phani Chakravarti, who had been to school with Barin Ghose at Deoghar and worked in the bomb factory there, run by Barin and Jatindra Mukherjee. One of Barin’s cousins, Hemendraprasad Ghosh, wrote that Mokshada occupied a room at the Field and Academy founded by Upadhyay, by the side of the Calcutta Anushilan Samiti, at 49 Cornwallis Street : here he knew eminent inmates like Benoykumar Sarkar and Radhakumud Mukherjee. At times, Mokshada shared his room with Naren Bhattacharya and Harikumar, till they found shelter at the main Anushilan building itself, while Naren’s cousin Abi Bhattacharya with adventurous Barin and some other like-minded friends were moving to a centre of their own choice, fed up with the Anushilan disciplines, enhanced by the proximity of Jatindra Banerjee (who was soon to leave Bengal, garbed as Niralamba Swami).[ix]
Mokshada was naturally in close touch with all that was advanced in Indian politics and at the ‘Academy and Art Club’, which was financed by Subodh Mullick, meeting all the leaders of the new movement. In December 1906, Subodh Mullick convened in his house the first conference of district leaders of the secret association, presided over by P. Mitter and attended by Sri Aurobindo, Bhupendranath Datta, Jatindra Mukherjee, Lalitkumar Chatterjee, among others. “The participants were asked if they had already taken (…) the oath of the party. The form and language of this oath had a denominational touch, based essentially on Hindu belief… In this conference Aurobindo addressed the members and explained the necessity of money – which could, then, be secured only through dacoity. He of course said that whatever money might thus be obtained should be regarded as loan from the victims of the dacoities to be repaid after independence. The suggestion was accepted unanimously. A similar conference was held in 1907 in the same house.”[x] Taking a post of Sanskrit at the National College, Mokshada became Sri Aurobindo’s colleague. Denham believed that it was Mokshada who incited the strike on the East Indian railway between Howrah and Ondal.
Prosecuted for sedition, when Brahmabandhav Upadhyay died in jail in October 1907, Mokshada looked after Upadhyay’s sarcastically anti-British journal Sandhya. At this juncture, a few months before the Surat Congress, Suranath formed a central committee at the Sandhya office with the help of his disciple Jatindra Banerjee (who succeeded Upadhyay as editor) and Kartik Datta; Sri Aurobindo, Mokshada, Shamsundar Chakravarti, Tarakshepa, Annada Kaviraj, Jatindra Mukherjee and some others were among the members; they all seemed to share Upadhyay’s political views.[xi] While on 6 December 1907, Barin’s men attempted to wreck with explosives the Lieutenant-Governor’s special train at Naraingarh, on the same evening, arranged by Mokshada, Naren Bhattacharya, Bhushan Mitra (Gulay) and Sailen Basu committed a hold-up at Chingripota Railway Station, and were arrested. Jatindra Mukherjee appointed his friend, Barrister J.N. Roy, to defend them. They got discharged.
Earlier, in 1907, Indra Nandi – in close connection with Sri Aurobindo – sent members of Atmonnati Samiti, including Pabitra Datta and Chuni Mitra, to found at Benares the Matri Sebak Samiti. “This is distinctly suspicious,” mentions the Police report. A few days before Khudiram and Prafulla Chaki set out for Muzaffarpur, associating with the Jugantar and the Sandhya gangs, in May 1908, Suranath returned from Calcutta to establish a local branch of the Anushilan in Benares, with the help of his “Tantrik disciples” : Debnarayan Mukherjee, Sudhangshu Mitra and Sachin Sanyal, a student in the entrance class of the Bengalitola High School. Sachin kept “himself all along in the back ground and printed and circulated widely at Benares a seditious pamphlet on the occasion of the anniversary of Pratapaditya at the instance of the Bengali anarchists, in order to instigate the youths of Benares,” noted Denham. “Suranath induced Jatindra Banerjee and Mokshada to come over to Benares during the Puja holidays.” Mokshada advised the members of the party as to their future course of conduct. “Mokshada and a few other unknown men are trying to unite the extremists and the nationalists into one common bond of partisanship,” wrote Denham. “A plan is also under consideration to get the Mussalmans of Turkey and Persia to prejudice the illiterate Muhammadan mass of this country against the English and to send two or three clever English-educated Bengalis to Kabul in the guise of Mussalman fakirs after making them versed in the Koran, and also to bring up after some time Arabindo Ghose either to Benares or to some other place for a secret consultation between him and Suranath.”[xii]
Raja Sasisekhareswar of Tahirpur, the principal man in the Bharat Dharma Mahamandal, had been fully converted to Suranath’s and Mokshada’s creed. Suranath was trying to influence the Maharaja of Durbhanga through his father, Somanath Bhaduri, Private Secretary to the Prince (who was the General president of the Mahamandal). Also through Amarendra Chatterjee, whose father-in-law, Preonath Banerjee, was the Maharaja’s General manager.[xiii] Shortly before the Maniktala arrests in May 1908, there was a split in the Jugantar, following Barin’s concentration on applied terrorism, leaving the theoretical preparation to others, such as : (a) under Sri Aurobindo’s guidance, Abi Bhattacharya took over the defunct Navashakti; (b) under Munsiff Abi Chakravarti’s influence, Nikhileshwar Ray Maulik controlled the Jugantar, shifting its office to 68 Maniktala Street, where Nikhileswar and Kartik Datta lived. Jatindra Mukherjee served as a link between these different trends. After the Maniktala arrests, the Jugantar articles under his direct influence became even more violent, causing several prosecutions, before collapsing in June 1908. Police Records show Acharya Prafulla Chandra Ray’s eagerness to distribute the Jugantar, informing the editor that Jatindra Mukherjee knew him personally.
In June 1908, less than two months after the arrest of the Maniktala conspirators, a “new gang” commenced operations on the Eastern Bengal State Railway. The series of outrages began with a bomb thrown into a train. The Police experts held that the bombs used in these occasions were inferior to those prepared by Barin Ghose’s party; instead of dynamite or picric acid, these were coconut shell bombs with a mixture of sulphide of arsenic and chlorate of potash stuffed with bits of broken glass, nails, pins of jute combs, causing great injury on explosion. These outrages continued sporadically till April 1909. The Special Department of the Police traced them to a gang of Brahmans in Bhatpara, led by Kartik Datta and Naren Bhattacharya alias M.N. Roy, advised by Mokshada. On 4 March 1907, Kartik had distinguished himself by leading the attempt to murder a notorious missionary in Nadia. He and Mokshada took part in the dacoities, reported F.C. Daly “to raise funds for political purposes (…), defence of persons under trial in political cases.” Six persons were put on trial before the Special Tribunal of the High Court. Mokshada was one of them. The jury found him “not guilty”: he was acquitted for the second time. “A most dangerous character. He is still keeping up his connection with the most desperate ruffians of the revolutionary party (…) Sub-Editor of the Nayak, at present the most frankly seditious newspaper in Calcutta.”[xiv]
When Nikhileswar was arrested on 23 June 1908, it was Kartik’s turn to assume control of the party in charge of the Jugantar, with the printing press at 28 Shampukur Street. There was a house in Chetla for their secret meetings. Kartik was joined by Keshab De, who was just released after two years of Rigorous Imprisonment for having thrown vitriol during East India Railway strike in 1906. As a direct descendant of the old Jugantar group, Mokshada became their advisor. Several outrages were committed from Chetla, including the Bajitpur robbery (15 August 1908). Important among the participants were Noren Basu, Noren Chatterji, Bepin Ganguli, Annada Kaviraj, Suresh Mitra, Indra Nandi, Jatindra Ray. One of the older organisers of revolutionary work, Bhupati Charan Bose (1864-), son of Uma Charan Bose of Calcutta , was another associate of Kartik Datta and Mokshada. He was a “well-to-do broker for the German firm of Norlinger & Co” in Calcutta. Kartik moved his headquarters to Telinipara, near Chandernagore, before proceeding to the Bighati dacoity on 16 September 1908. At Bighati in Hooghly, noted Denham, a rich man opposed to swadeshi was robbed. Immediate arrest of Kartik, Suresh Majumdar, Basanta, Pannalal Chakrabarti and Dhiren Ghosh, followed by the arrest of Mokshada, Suresh Mitra and Pannalal Chatterji (turned approver). Keshab absconded with the booty. Mokshada had in his possession some part of the ornaments stolen at Bajitpur in Mymensingh; certain jewellery he gave to sell to a goldsmith tallied in weight and description with a portion of the property stolen. Other participants were : Biren Mallik, Manmohan Barman, and Beharilal Ray. The Police recognised Mokshada, once more, as “the guru of the band, a recruiting agent, active participant in the dacoity.”
Let us now analyse developments succeeding Sri Aurobindo’s interview in 1909. Let us take for its apex the international chain work that was devised in favour ofIndia’s freedom by Jatindra Mukherjee, Sri Aurobindo’s “right-hand man”, known in history as the Indi-German Conspiracy : it was to receive apparently a great blow (Jatindra died fighting against a detachment of armed police, at Balasore, in September 1915). Some historians were to consider this battle to be, however, the turning-point (“change, change” according to Sri Aurobindo ?) of the revolutionary Jugantar programme. Clinging to the Master’s vision, Jatindra believed that after phases of individual martyrs and guerilla risings, time would be ripe for the Mass Movement. Almost inadvertently carried all before one by the surging tide of revolution, Gandhi was to find himself holding the helm.
On rectifying our perspective, we recall that since May 1908 – after the individual martyrdom of Khudiram Basu and Prafulla Chaki leading to a number of increasingly repressive measures to terrorise the country, Jatindra had organised single-handed a spectacular fire-work of counter-repression consisting of various forms of hold-up and assassination of select anti-patriotic targets to rouse popular conviction in the revolutionaries’ action and to prove the extent of the Government’s helplessness. Directly related to the Alipore case, Jatindra’s men promoted or committed four daring murders: (1) August 1908 : approver Naren Gosain, inside the prison, leading to the hanging of Kanailal Datta and Satyen Basu ; (2) November 1908 : Sub-Inspector of police Nandalal Banerjee, in the streets of Calcutta, for having arrested Prafulla Chaki; (3) February 1909 : Public Prosecutor Ashutosh Biswas, inside the High Court, leading to the hanging of Charu Basu; (4) 24 January 1910 : Deputy Superintendent of police Shamsul Alam, dizzily active, with Biswas, to prove the guilt of the accused in the Alipore Case; he was shot dead in the corridor of the Calcutta High Court.[xv]
Without hesitation, James Campbell Kerr singled out Shamsul Alam for having “got up political cases and manufactured evidence, and that he was therefore justly removed. This view was evidently strongly impressed on the Chief Justice in the Howrah-Sibpur case.”[xvi] Nivedita wrote to Ratcliffe – reitering her comment on Asutosh Biswas – that Shamsul had deployed his inventive genius in supplying witnesses and training them so well that he became an asset for the Chief Justice. Sri Aurobindo in his Bengali reminiscences of the prison days has left a telling portrait of Shamsul. Shortly before this incident, one day, after his Tamil lesson, Sri Aurobindo had asked : “Do you know what is pirentir nat tatta kopta ?” And, quite amused, had comforted his flabbergasted listeners by supplying the answer : “This is how Birendranath Datta-Gupta is pronounced in Tamil.”[xvii] This proves that Sri Aurobindo had full knowledge of the mission Biren was to undertake. Gokhale was to inform Nivedita that Biren had been a favourite pupil of Father Brown of the Oxford Mission.[xviii] The District Magistrate of Khulna observed that henceforth, “The demeanour of the witnesses was a striking testimony to the terror which the gang has inspired.”[xix]
On 25 January 1910, “With the gloom of this assassination hanging over everyone”, Viceroy Minto made a statement concerning the successive waves of [counter-] terrorism that pushed his government towards more and more pitiless repressions and, in his speech, Minto paid – unknowingly – a tribute to the ‘new spirit’, incarnated by Jatindra Mukherjee, the supreme leader of the Extremist Movement, striving for the absolute political independence of India : “A spirit hitherto unknown to India has come into existence (…), a spirit of anarchy and lawlessness which seeks to subvert not only British rule but the Governments of Indian Chiefs…”[xx] Jatindra Mukherjee was arrested on 27 January 1910.
The Howrah Case involved charges against Jatindra and about fifty of his associates of waging war against the Crown and tampering with the loyalty of Indian soldiers. The Howrah-Shibpur unit was described as “the most active of all branches of the Revolutionary conspiracy”. Surjan Singh and Ramgopal of the 10th Jat Regiment stationed at Fort William of Calcutta were sworn members of this unit. When the soldiers under their command preferred not to cross the Ganges to attend meetings there. Jatindra arranged with Dr Sarat Mitra to receive them in Kidderpore. Since 1908, Surjan with Naren Chatterjee had been visiting barracks in Benares, Nainital, Lahore and Peshawar with credentials from the Party and the 10th Jat officers. Jatindra had developed this alternative contact as a complementary reinforcement to the efforts of Swami Niralamba, which was to be taken up by disciples of Swami Dayanand and Rash Behari Bose : Har Dayal had been proud of his schooling from these mentors. A number of officers of the 10th Jats regiment were court-martialed for complicity in sedition, before it was disbanded and the corrupt soldiers were court-martialled in secret. Singling out Jatindra as the “one criminal”, Hardinge wrote to Chirol : “The 10th Jats case was part and parcel of the Howrah Gang case and, with the failure in the latter, the Government of Bengal realised the futility of proceeding with the former… Nothing could be worse (…) than the condition of Bengal and Eastern Bengal. There is practically no Government in either province.“[xxi] “(…) It is likely that Jatindra’s release put fresh heart into the people who had been contemplating further outrages but hesitating to act.”[xxii] Did not Sri Aurobindo warn : “The upheaval will have developed well enough to be visible to all” ?
On the break up of the Jugantar, Mokshada had joined Kartik, as advisor, sheltering party members, obtaining arms and disposing of stolen property. In spite of several charges, they were unanimously acquitted. Resulting from the Bighati case, there was a fusion between Jogen Tagore’s Bhatpara group and Naren Bhattacharya, “a notable personage”, intimate with Mokshada. Nixon mentioned seven major outrages between 22 June 1908 and 15 April 1909, committed by this group.[xxiii] At this stage, the Police found the Province divided up as follows:
1)Calcutta: led by Indra Nandi
2) 24 Parganas,Howrah,Hooghly: Nanigopal Sengupta
3) Rajshahi, Nadia, Jessore,Hooghly: Jatindra Mukherjee
4) Natore, Dighapatiya, Amalpur: Satish Sarkar
5) Mymensingh, Dinajpur, Rangpur,Jamalpur,Cooch Behar: Amaresh Kanjilal
6) Berhampur, Murshidabad : Suren Chakravarti
Nanigopal and Jatindra had originally been members of the Calcutta Anushilan Samiti and acted consistently under Sri Aurobindo’s direct guidance, maintaining a constant collaboration. After quarrelling with Satish Basu, Nanigopal absorbed most of the members of Mokshada-cum-Kartik’s dispersed group, since the latter’s arrest. Amaresh and Satish Sarkar worked under Jatindra Mukherjee. Belonging to Indra’s group (Atmonnati), Bepin Ganguli, Noren Bose and Noren Chatterji, too remained available to Jatindra’s policy. These revolutionaries committed sixteen outrages between March 1908 and October 1909. Denham noted in 1909 on the Sarathi Jubak Mandali : “perhaps second only in importance to the Anushilan Samiti for the number of persons included in its ranks who actually took part in crimes of violence” : their spiritual guide was Tarakhepa alias Tarapado Banerji, the “mysterious Sadhu, who wandered about Bengal, being most frequently heard of in the districts of Birbhum, Nadia or in Calcutta.” He was disciple of Bamakhepa of Tarapur in Birbhum, “having possessed hypnotic power”. They collaborated with Jogendranath Tagore, “an undesirable member of the Tagore family”: his “influence with the revolutionary party is still considerable”; he served as a link “between the parties who work inBengal proper and theEastern Bengal, and theAssam dacoity gangs.” Denham knew that Kartik’s arrest was rather a shock to the members of this group.
Acquitted, Kartik was to be charged again with harbouring four of the revolutionary ‘bandits’, but again discharged by a Howrah jury. He was released on 27 December 1909, after having served a term of Rigorous Imprisonment in connection with the assault committed on Higginbothams as well as with the dacoities at Bajitpur and Bighati : leaders of the Nadia units – Jatindra Mukherjee and his uncle, the pleader Lalitkumar Chatterjee of Krishnagar – received him with a hero’s ovation, as recorded by the approver Lalit Chakravarti nicknamed Benga.[xxiv] On 30 March 1910, Benga confessed that even before the Netra outrage, he had spent one day at Nanigopal’s, before Suresh Majumdar alias Paran took him to a pleader of the Calcutta High Court. He spent there two or three days. The “Nimai chogra” took him by night train to Krishnagar. Nimai or Nirmalkumar was the son of the Government pleader Basantakumar Chatterjee, Jatindra Mukherjee’s uncle. He left Benga with the pleader Lalit Chatterjee’s mohurrir (clerk), Nibaran Chakravarti alias Keruda : the latter had bedding and food ready for Benga. Bholadanga zamindar’s son Manmatha Biswas “of our society”. After a few days, he returned toCalcutta.
In the meantime, Mokshada had gone back to Dhakain February 1910. In March 1910 an attempt was made to assassinate G.C. Denham of the Criminal Investigation Department and a very prominent figure of the Alipore conspiracy case. At the same time, a “Strictly Confidential” note[xxv] added to Denham’s report, mentioned that connection was established between Suranath and Amarendra Chatterjee, editor of the Bengali Karmayogin and esteemed associate of Sri Aurobindo and Jatindra Mukherjee; the mess at 133 Lower Circular Road of Calcutta, served Amarendra and Makhanlal Sen for “seeing and conferring with the notorious (sic!] Jatindra Mukherjee”.[xxvi] Amarendra sent Basanta Biswas to Benares. “In or about this same year (1910) Gyanananda Swami (Jogeshwar Mukherjee), a great friend of Mokshada, who was for sometime secretary of the Benares-based Bharat Dharma Mahamandal, was in correspondence with Amarendra Nath Chatterjee in Bengal.”[xxvii] Finding Bengal too hot to hold him, Jatindra’s associate Kiran Mukherjee visited Mokshada at Benares in 1911, and stayed with Sarada Maitra of Rangpur. Mokshada returned to Calcutta, in 1911: in February, the revolutionaries shot dead Srish Chakravarti, the head constable of Calcutta Police, who was a former member of the Jugantar gang, turned informer. According to F.C. Daly: “It is a singular coincidence, if it is only a coincidence, that this murder took place on the evening of the day on which Jatindra Nath Mukherjee (…) was set free from the dock at the High Court was strongly suspected in this connection. Descendant of Mokshada’s Bhatpara group, the Baranagar group reunited a series of small samitis (e.g. the Jubak Samiti with its clubs and poor fund) in the north of Calcutta and in Howrah on the other side of the river Hooghly and operated since 1907; they had contacts with Jogen Tagore, Mokshada and the Ramakrishna Mission.
Again, in December 1911, Mokshada was seen in Benares and, in the same month, an Inspector of Police was shot dead : the man was “in possession of information regarding a dangerous organiser of political dacoities named Pandit Mokshada Charan Samadhyaya.” E.H. Corbet, Superintendent of Police, noted that Mokshada “was a bosom friend of the Bengali police informer. The matter was referred to Government and I was sent to Benares to interview the Commissioner and Magistrate, with the result that he was arrested (…) A strong and elaborate case under Section 110(f), Criminal Procedure Code.” Mokshada was to have a conviction for three years; but it was decided after the Durbar – Coronation ceremony – to drop the proceeding. Mokshada was warned not to come back to Benares again.
Jatindra Mukherjee and Rasbehari Bose, however, visited Benares in May 1912 and associated with Sachin Sanyal, Mokshada and Suranath. Soon, Sachin became the sole regional leader. Vinayak Rao Kaple was one of its members. Sarada Maitra of Rangpur and Satish Mukherjee of Barisal frequently visited Benares; the latter associated with Mokshada the members of the Sebak Samiti. During 1913, Jogen Tagore led a series of dacoities; in 1915 he got contact with Bipin Ganguli’s followers including Probhas De and Harish Sikdar, and came to know members of other groups including Atulkrishna Ghosh and Ananta Haldar (all of them acting under Jatindra Mukherjee). Bipin was sentenced to five years Rigorous Imprisonment on2 August 1915 in the Agarpara Dacoity Case.
IV- FURTHER SIGNIFICANT DEVELOPMENTS
As an under-trial prisoner at Alipore Central Jail (1910-1911), Jatindra had knowledge of Bernhardi’s expectation that the Pan-Islamic current in the Middle Eastwould get a momentum by joining hands with the Nationalists in India. Inside the prison, Jatindra had an “opportunity of infusing more cohesion and a sense of oneness among the different groups from which the accused were drawn.”[xxviii] According to Sailendra Nath Ghosh – who, in the company of Meghnad Saha and other brilliant science students – received Jatindra’s guidance, “He inspired all who were associated with him in the revolutionary movement with sentiments of absolute personal devotion.”[xxix] An appreciative Nixon further enhanced these sentiments about Jatindra : “He seems to have had a most extraordinary influence over his followers, who looked upon him with something approaching reverence and awe.“[xxx] Home-interned, Jatindra managed, however, to meet the German crown Prince on visit toCalcutta and obtain from him a promise that in case of a general rising in India against the British empire, Germany could voluntarily help with arms and ammunition.
And Nixon noticed – with a touch of admiration – the rigorous command Jatindra had over the violence he had unleashed since 1908, before going to prison. For the Police, the year 1911 commenced a period of lull till Jatindra resumed activities three weeks after the declaration of the World War in 1914 : on 26 August, his men bagged fifty Mauser pistols with ample rounds of ammunition from the Calcutta store-house of the English gunmaker, Roda & Co. At once, Jatindra distributed them to various regional leaders.[xxxi] At this juncture, “Chatto” or Virendranath Chattopadhyay – on behalf of the Berlin Committee federating patriotic students from India – signed a contract with the Kaiser’s ministers confirming supply of arms : Count Bernstorff, German ambassador at Washington, received orders from Berlin to appoint Von Papen, the military Attaché, to charter and load steamers from the Californian coast for arms delivery on the coast of the Bay of Bengal via Far East. The Gadhar members joined the Berlin scheme and organised a massive return to India for participating in the rising. In a pincer’s movement, an expedition from Berlin led by Mahendra Pratap, on its way to Kabul, was to raise an army of liberation with Indian soldiers from various British regiments imprisoned by Germany, before storming the gates of Delhi; a more significant military base conceived by Taraknath Das and managed by the Gadhar from San Francisco had been waiting at the Thai-Burmese border to head for Calcutta, to occupy Fort William and proceed to Delhi.
At every step, Chatto’s men reached Calcuttato keep Jatindra abreast of the developments. In November 1914, Satyen Sen returned with Vishnu Ganesh Pingley, Kartar Singh Sarabha and an important batch of Gadhar members. Tegart recorded a further attempt to tamper with some Sikh troops at the Dakshineswar gunpowder magazine. The troops in question were the 93rd Burmans (a regiment which was to be sent to Mesopotamia). In addition to the efforts made by the Baranagore party in this direction, this had a certain amount of success : Jatindra Mukherjee with Satyen Sen visited the garden at Baranagore and interviewed these Sikhs.[xxxii]
Pingley had several talks with Jatindra Mukherjee who sent a note through him and Kartar Singh to Rash Behari Bose, towards the third week of December. Pingley informed Bose that four thousand men had already come from Americaand many more would arrive when the rebellion broke out.[xxxiii] From Benares, Bose sent Pingley with Sachin Sanyal to Amritasar to meet Mula Singh (who had received Satyen and Pingley at Shanghai). Invited by Bose to appraise the situation in the North and expedite preparations for the proposed rising, Jatindra with his family, Atul Ghose and Naren Bhattacharya set out “for pilgrimage” to Benares.[xxxiv]
On 17 June 1915, Naren Bhattacharya, Jatindra’s emissary, returned from his two months’ trip to Batavia, met the Leader at his hide-out at Kaptipada, near Balasore. Following instructions from Chatto, he made a satisfactory deal with the German authorities concerning financial aid and the supply of arms. Through the German Consul-General, Naren was put in touch with Theodor and Emil, busy running a plantation in Batavia. They assured Naren that a cargo of arms and ammunition was already on its way, “to assist the Indians in a revolution.” The Helfferich brothers gave Naren some money and, following Naren’s advice, arranged to send more to three addresses in Calcutta.
The Czech journalist Ross Hedviček admits that Jatindra expected to receive arms and other helps from Germany to free India. Had E.V. Voska not interfered in this history, today nobody would have heard about Mahatma Gandhi and the father of the Indian nation would have been Bagha Jatin. Voska learnt it through his network and, as pro-American, pro-British and anti-German, he spoke of it to T.G. Masaryk[xxxv]. Masaryk informed the Americans, the Americans informed the British. Bagha Jatin died in 1915. And India had to wait for another thirty years to have her democracy. T.G. Masaryk mentions all these facts in the English version of The Making of a State.[xxxvi]
When the Mass Movement attained its final form in August 1942, having considerably drifted away from the hard and fast non-violent (ahimsa) principles of the Chauri Chaura days, much of its details reminded of Jatindra’s own method of uprising : first of all, the very slogan – Quit India! – resembled more of a lion’s roaring than lending one’s cheek for a second slap. Point by point the Rowlatt Report can very well confirm the similarity between this programme and the insurrection planned by Jatindra in February 1915. Several guerilla risings following the model of Jatindra’s “first trench battle” had kept on inspiring the patriots’ will to victory :
(1) the encounter of revolutionaries with the armed Police at Telijana in Pabna, in 1917;
(2) the skirmish between absconding revolutionaries in Gauhati, on 7 and 9 January 1918;
(3) three militants fighting against the police till their last bullets at Kaltabazar in Dacca, on 15 June 1918;
(4) the successful guerilla fight seizingChittagongunder the leadership of Surya Sen in April 1930;
(5) the heroic encounter of Chandrasekhar Azad with the armed police on 21 February1931, in Alfred Park at Allahabad. Crowning all, the Indian National Army under Subhas Chandra Bose was fast proceeding with the blue-print left behind by Jatindra Mukherjee, commemorating the spirit of the rising in 1857.[xxxvii]
Political trouble in India: A Confidential Report, by James Campbell Ker, 1917, repr. 1973
“Notes on the Growth of the Revolutionary Movement in Bengal (1905-1911)” by F.C. Daly, D.I.G. Special Branch, Bengal, in Terrorism in Bengal [abbreviation TIB], Ed. Amiya K. Samanta, Director, Intelligence Branch, Government of West Bengal, Calcutta, 1995, Vol. I
“An Account of the Revolutionary Organisations in Bengal, other than the Dacca Anushilan Samiti” by J.C. Nixon, Home Department, in TIB, Vol. II
“Notes on Revolutionary Activity in Benares” by G.C. Denham, followed by a “Strictly Confidential” note by E.H. Corbet and “a few details added” by C.W.E. Sands in TIB, Vol. V
“Connections with the Revolutionary Organization in Bihar and Orissa, 1906-1916” by W. Sealy in TIB, Vol. V
First Spark of Revolution, by Arun Chandra Guha, Orient Longman’s, 1971
Sadhak biplabi Jatindranath [abbr. Jatindra], by Prithwindra Mukherjee, West Bengal State Book Board,Calcutta, 1990
Bagha Jatin : Life and Times of Jatindranath Mukherjee, by Prithwindra Mukherjee, National Book Trust, New Delhi, 2010
Les racines intellectuelles du mouvement d’indépendance de l’Inde (1893-1918), by Prithwindra Mukherjee, Editions Codex-France, 2010
Several Wikipedia articles signed by Prithwindra Mukherjee under the pen-name Bob Clive.
[i] Deutschland und der Nächste Krieg (“Germany and the Next War”), Verlag Cotta, Stuttgart
[ii] Terrorism in Bengal, [TIB], Vol.V, p137
[iii] “Connections with Bihar and Orissa”, in TIB, vol. V, p104
[iv] “Water from the Ganges”
[v] Untouchables, an abusive term for non-Hindus, here used for foreigners
[vi] Ker, p25
[vii] Denham in TIB, Vol.V, p155
[viii] F.C. Daly, in TIB, Vol. I, p18
[ix] Sâdhak-biplabî jatîndranâth [Jatindranath] p479
[x] First Spark of Revolution [First], pp116-117
[xi] TIB, vol. V, p150
[xii] TIB, vol. V, p152
[xiii] TIB, vol. V, Sealy, pp117-119
[xiv] TIB, Vol. I, p34
[xv] ICPP 8430/83, July 1910, Statements of B. Dattagupta, 19-20 February 1910 ; cf ; op. cit., p.173
[xvi] KJC, p320
[xvii] Smritikatha (‘reminiscences’) by Suresh Chandra Chakravarti, who was the younger brother of the first martyr Prafulla Chakravarti, killed in Deoghar during an experiment. Published by Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, March 1962 p.32
[xviii] Nivedita’s letter dated 3 March 1910 (cf: Nivedita Lokamata, Vol. III, pp48-49
[xix] J & P/1050/175, 10 December 1910 ; cf : loc. cit.
[xx] MTP, M ;1092, Viceroy’s speech ; cf : India under Morley and Minto, by M.N. Das, pp121-122
[xxi] Hardinge Papers, Book 81, Volume II, No. 231
[xxii] Daly’s Report, TIB, vol.I, p43
[xxiii] TIB, vol.II, p531
[xxiv] Jatindranath, p196, p222
[xxv] TIB, vol. V, p184
[xxvi] op. cit. p193
[xxvii] TIB, vol. V, p184
[xxviii] First Spark of Revolution, p.176
[xxix] Asia, Vol. XXVII (1927), Nos 7, 8, 9
[xxx] TIB, Vol. II, p.592
[xxxi] Op. cit. Vol. II, p.544
[xxxii] TIB, Vol. III, p.505
[xxxiii] Rowlatt, §121
[xxxiv] Militant Nationalism in India, by Bimanbihari Majumdar, 1966, p167.; also A.C. Bose, pp.161-162
[xxxv] Tomáš Masaryk (1850-1937), the first President of the Czech Republic that he founded in 1918. Also Zletopisu třetího odboje [Extract from the Records of the Third Resistance] by Zora Dvořáková, Nakladatelství Hribal,Prague, ISBN 80-900-892-3-2.
[xxxvi] The Making of a State: Memoirs and Observations, 1914-1918, London, 1927, pp. 50, 221, 242.
[xxxvii] biplabi jîban’er smriti, Jadugopal Mukhopadhyaya, Indian Associated Publishers, Calcutta 1956 (1st edition), p.604.