As already seen in the earlier chapters, one of the ideas of Sri Aurobindo was to establish secretly, under various pretexts and covers, revolutionary propaganda and recruiting throughout Bengal. Societies of young men were to be established with various ostensible objects, cultural, intellectual or moral, and those already existing were to be won over for revolutionary use. Young men were to be trained in activities which might be helpful for ultimate military action, such as riding, physical training, athletic sports of various kinds, drill and organised movement. As soon as the idea was sown it attained a rapid prosperity.
One of the chief leaders of the revolutionary movement in Bengal was Sri Aurobindo’s younger brother, Barindra Kumar Ghose. In the middle of 1907, he formed his own revolutionary group of about 20 young men. Their training centre was located in Manicktola, in the outskirts of Calcutta. This centre was spiritual-political in its character, a kind of Ashram for the creation of a band of revolutionary Sanyasins. Its diverse curriculum ranged from meditation and scriptural study to martial arts and the manufacture of bombs.
From the year 1905, the British Government was ruthless in its suppression of the Swadeshi movement. In 1907 several Calcutta newspaper editors were imprisoned for sedition, protest meetings were banned or broken up, women and children were beaten for daring to shout Bande Mataram. After the Congress split at Surat, the British had adopted the dual policy of encouraging and patronizing the Moderates while severely repressing the Nationalists. This policy was openly welcomed by the Moderates. Thus, in his undelivered speech for the 1907 session at Surat, Rash Behari Ghose had remarked that “if the Government can only rally the Moderates to their side … they will extinguish the new party completely, and the ominous shadow which has projected itself over the future fortunes of the country will disappear”. A cry for retribution naturally arose.
Douglas Kingsford was at that time the magistrate of Calcutta and he was chiefly responsible for the arrest of editors of the National press and the caning of young men for singing “Bande Mataram”.
One such case was the prosecution of the Bande Mataram; the editor Bipin Chandra Pal refused to depose against Sri Aurobindo and this created a wild enthusiasm among the people. Young men would throng the court of Kingsford and shout “Bande Mataram”. In response to this, large number of helmeted police was set against the boys. Indiscriminate beating followed and caused a stampede and many young boys sustained serious injuries. The government became aware of threats of revenge against Kingsford and it decided to transfer him to the remote district of Muzaffarpur, Bihar, in March 1908. But by then Barin Ghose had resolved to assassinate him.
For this mission, two young men were deputed, 18–year-old Khudiram Bose and 19–year-old Prafulla Chaki. Armed with three revolvers and a small dynamite bomb, they went to Muzaffarpur towards the end of April and observed the judge’s activities for a few days. On the evening of the 30th, they stood by a tree near the road across from Kingsford’s house and waited for him to return from his club. At 8.30pm a horse-drawn carriage approached which they took it to be his; in it, in fact, were two Englishwomen, Mrs. Kennedy and her daughter Grace. Khudiram ran up and hurled the bomb into the carriage. A loud explosion shattered the vehicle and mortally wounded both its occupants. Kingsford travelling just behind them in a similar carriage had been saved. Unaware of the tragic mishap, the two boys fled from the spot and decided to split up. The police put out a widespread alert, with instructions to arrest any suspicious young Bengalis and offered a reward of Rs. 5000 for information.
Khudiram walked through the night without food or drink and arrived the next morning, tired and exhausted, at the small town of Waini. There he was arrested by an alert policeman and sent back to Muzaffarpur to stand trial. Khudiram did not contest the case. He told his lawyer that there was no questioning of pleading innocent; he had thrown the bomb that had killed two innocent women and he was responsible for this act. He regretted that the ladies had died, but he also regretted that Kingsford still lived, for he considered the judge to be the greatest tyrant in India. The lawyer asked Khudiram if he was afraid to die. No, he replied, he has no reason to fear, for he had read the Gita well. During the proceedings Khudiram looked on passively, betraying no emotion. When the death penalty was read out, he remained so expressionless that the judge asked him if he understood the verdict. The boy’s face brightened and he nodded his head yes.
Two years earlier, at the age of 16, Khudiram had been arrested for distributing an inflammatory pamphlet, but the Government dropped the court case for sedition because he was so young. This time there was no reprieve. At 6 in the morning of August 11, he walked firmly and cheerfully to the gallows erected at Muzaffarpur Jail. Before the cap was pulled over his head, he smiled. Having served his country faithfully, the young patriot was ready to die.
In a speech delivered in 1908, Sri Aurobindo spoke:
“When a young worker in India has to go to jail, when he is asked to suffer, he does not feel any pang in the suffering, he does not fear suffering. He goes forward with joy. He says, ‘The hour of my consecration has come, and I have to thank God now that the time for laying myself on his altar has arrived and that I have been chosen to suffer for the good of my countrymen. This is the hour of my greatest joy and the fulfilment of my life’”.
from a chapter of the book History of India – a new approach by Kittu Reddy