By Sheshu Babu*
Once again, the preparations for celebrating independence have begun and many martyrs are being remembered. Among those who have laid down their lives for freedom, many have been forgotten or not remembered very frequently. One such young person who fought the tyranny of colonialism was from Bengal — Khudiram Bose.
According to historians, as many as 200 or more were executed in their early years of life (“List of Freedom Fighters who Died for Independence”, updated April 5, 2018, knowledgeofindia.com). Khudiram Bose was 18 years, 8 months and 8 days when he was executed by the British.
Khudiram Bose was born on December 3, 1889 in a small village of Habibpur close to Tamluk in Midnapur district of Bengal. He was fourth child in his family (iloveindia.com, Khudiram Bose). Trailokyanath Bose and Lakshmipriya Bose were his parents. But, the loss of two premature sons before him made his mother follow the age old superstition of giving the new born child in adoption.
Hence, according to reports, the baby boy was sold to his sister, Aparupa, to avoid further deaths in the family in exchange of foodgrains called ‘khud’ in Midnapore. Hence he was named ‘Khudiram’.
He was interested in adventure since he was a child showing revolutionary traits. In 1902 – 1903, when Aurobindo and sister Nivedita came to deliver lectures on freedom struggle he was inspired and plunged into active politics. He was part of student revolutionary groups in Tamluk.
When his sister Aparupa’s husband Amrita was transferred from Tamluk to Medninipur, Khudiram followed him in 1904 to enroll in the Medinipur Collegiate School. He joined the ‘akhra’ or club newly formed and patronized by people in socio-political sphere. He was influenced by Satyendernath Bose and became an active leader with lot of enthusiasm.
The 1905 partition of Bengal ignited his struggle against British Raj and he joined ‘ Jugantar ‘ party of revolutionary activists. He planted bombs at police stations and targeted government officials when he was only sixteen. He was arrested three years later for bomb attacks.
He, along with a friend Prafulla Chaki, was sent to Motihil in Muzaffarpur, Bihar to attack Kingsford. ( towardsfreedom.in). They took shelter at Kishorimohan Bandhopadhay residence’s (a dharmashala) with pseudonyms of Haren Sarkar (Khudiram) and Dinesh Roy ( Prafulla). They took time to watch the daily routine of Kingsford so as to avoid killing of innocents during the attack.
On the night of April 30, 1908, they attacked a carriage that they thought Kingsford was traveling but, instead, two women, wife and daughter of barrister Pringle Kennedy, were killed. Both parted ways in the railway station.
Prafulla Chaki committed suicide when cornered by the police. Khudiram was arrested 20 km from Samastipur and 12 Kms from Pusa Bazar ( recently named Khudiram Bose Pusa – KRB Pusa).
Khudiram, to escape police arresting him, decided to walk to Medinipur instead of boarding a train. At a place ‘ Oyaini’ , he stopped near a tea stall to drink water as he was exhausted. Constables saw him and their suspicion grew. They found 2 revolvers and 37 rounds of ammunition. On May 1, 1908 , he was arrested for the attack.
Earlier in 1906, he was arrested on charges of distributing a revolutionary magazine ‘Sonar Bangla’ but he escaped injuring police and later acquitted due to his tender age. But this time, he could not escape.
He was put behind bars on May 2 and trial began on May 21, 1908. Eminent lawyers like Upendranath Sen, Kalidas Basu, etc defended Khudiram. On the advice of his lawyers, Khudiram denied any involvement in the bombings in his first statement on May 23. The trial progressed slowly and the final verdict was slated on June 13. The court announced death sentence.
Though Khudiram did not like to appeal in high court, on the persistence of his defence lawyers, the hearing at high court took place on July 8, 1908. The final verdict was pronounced on July 13, 1908 despite full attempts by his defence lawyers to convert it to life sentence. On August 11, 1908, he went to gallows with a smile.
The incident became known to everyone in the city and Khuduram was applauded for his courage. Despite appeals to Governor general for mercy, the death sentence stayed reflecting tyranny and cruelty of British rule in the country. The Muzaffarpur jail, where he was incarcerated and hanged is named as Khudiram Bose Memorial Central Jail , a tribute tothe young freedom fighter.
Thus, Independence did not come by leaders alone, other ordinary people, big and small, contributed their might to achieve freedom from British. While remembering the famous leaders, young martyrs like Khudiram Bose must not be forgotten.
*Writer, from anywhere and everywhere, believes that freedom is birthright and the people of Kashmir, adivasis of central India or tribes of Manipur and Nagaland and other marginalised sections are struggling to have their rights on ‘ jal, jangal and jameen’ that are being ruthlessly snatched away by the corporates and state