Sunday, 31 July 2016

Views of Calcutta, Part 2

Image 6

View of Clive Street, old Fort William and Hollwell's Monument, Calcutta, 1786

Date: 1786

This view looks along Clive Street. The eastern wall of old Fort William can be seen on the left. Hollwell's Monument is on the right. It was erected to the memory of the survivors of the 'Black Hole' in 1756, but removed from this site later. The Theatre was built by public subscription in 1775. (BH/TD/1)

Note: A part of the Writers Building is visible on the right side behind the Hollwell's Monument.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Indu Bhusan Roy

Indu Bhushan Roy
Indu Bhushan Roy

The story of the inhuman torture that Indian freedom fighters had suffered in the jails on the mainland of India and the far off Andamans is not fully known because this has not been properly narrated, not even by those who had undergone the sufferings themselves. There is one case which gives a meagre detail of just a fraction of the limitless methods of diabolical treatment that had been meted out to those whose names ought to go down in history in letters of gold.

Eighteen year old Indu Bhusan Roy, was arrested on 02 May 1908, from 32 Muraripukur Road, Manicktala, together with Barindra Kumar Ghose and others, as an accused in the Alipore Conspiracy Case. The yearning for independence had infected the young heart of Indu and he wanted to serve his motherland by making her free from the 'feringhi' yoke and establish a better Government. He was a student of a High School in Khulna and appeared at the Entrance Examination in 1907 in which he failed. In those days parents used to get their children married at an early age. Indu's father pressed him hard for marriage but he chose to leave behind his parents to lead the life of an ascetic. He had been roaming around when he met Barindra at College Square and was told of the preparations that were secretly going on. He took his residence at Manicktala and began studying the Gita seriously. He gradually developed the idea of sacrificing his life for the country and thus to set an example to his countrymen. He was a keen student of history and books like 'Ananda Math' and other such literature helped him to form this idea.

Friday, 6 May 2016

Views of Calcutta, Part 1

Image 1

Map of Calcutta, 1690

Date: 1690

The city of Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) was formed with the merger of 3 villages - Sutanuti, Kalikata and Gobindapur. Job Charnock, the Englishman, landed at Sutanuti in 1690 with the objective of establishing the East India Company’s Bengal headquarters. As Kalikata did not have any settled native population, the British occupied the site and started the construction of old Fort William in 1696 and acquired the zemindari (land-holding) rights from the Sabarna Roy Choudhury family, the zemindars (landlords) of the area in 1698. (WA/1)

Friday, 29 April 2016

Asoke Nandi

Asoke Nandi
Asoke Nandi

The Muzaffarpore outrage made the British Government lose its head and it carried on with its spirit of vindictiveness to the death's door of its prey. It was apparent to the authorities that teenage boys had got infected with the spirit of patriotism and they had joined the struggle with a high degree of enthusiasm and courage. There were cases where young boys were found to be in charge of duty. Asoke Nandi was a lad of nineteen or just twenty when he earned the distinction of being involved simultaneously in two cases of serious nature against the state.

Asoke was arrested on 02 May 1908 from 134 Harrison Road, a house which formed one of the branches of a grand conspiracy having its centre at Muraripukur Garden, Manicktala. Firstly he was charged under the Explosive Substances Act as bombs, allegedly manufactured in Manicktala, were found in his custody. Secondly he was charged for conspiracy to wage war against the King along with Barindra Kumar Ghosh and others in the Alipore Conspiracy Case.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Free Indian Legionnaires ordered to surrender to the Russians

Telegram sent by Bose to Nambiar
Telegram sent by Bose to Nambiar

According to the 'Extract from Camp 020 Interim Report on the case of Harald Willibald KIRFEL, minuted to I.P.I. via the War Room on 7.11.45', Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose sent an important telegram to A. C. N. Nambiar in April 1945 and the latter ordered the Free Indian Legionnaires to surrender to the Russians on its basis.

Harald Kirfel was a German who served as Japanese expert and wartime instructor and interpreter. Kirfel was taken over by the Reich Main Security Office (German: Reichssicherheitshauptamt or RSHA) in 1944 to head a section whose purpose was to acquire information on the political situation in Japan. Arrested by the Allies at the end of the war in Milan, he was brought to UK and interrogated at Camp 020.

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Kanailal Datta and Satyendra Nath Bose

Kanailal Datta
Kanailal Datta

After the failed attempt by Prafulla Kumar Chaki and Khudiram Bose to murder Kingsford at Muzaffarpore on 30 April 1908 that unfortunately resulted in the death of two innocent ladies, the police swung into action and rounded up as many as 41 suspects whom they had kept under watch so long for preparing to wage a war against the British Government. In course of the search the police seized seditious books and literature, explosives at different stages of manufacture, arms and ammunition, instruction manuals for manufacture of high-explosives etc. The search and arrests of May 1908 resulted in the Alipore Conspiracy Case with 38 persons as accused. These men had adopted the risky path to freedom, their ultimate goal was unfettered independence, but the immediate objective was punishment of those who had made themselves a nuisance by their conduct that had been detrimental to the interests of the nation. The evidence collected went to show that the accused who had entered into conspiracy to wage war against the King Emperor were for the most part men of education and strong religious convictions. They showed considerable enterprise, daring and determination in pursuit of their ideal. The accused were placed before the Magistrate in two batches for trial. The trial of the first batch started on 04 May 1908 and lasted up to 18 August 1908, and of the second from 14 October 1908 to 04 March 1909.  

In the first batch was Kanailal Datta arrested from 15 Gopi Mohan Dutta Lane and Narendra Nath Gossain arrested from Serampore. In the second batch was Satyendra Nath Bose, a prisoner convicted in an Arms Act Case, Midnapore. Without the knowledge but under unremitting suspicion of the co-accused, Narendra was taken out of the prisoners' dock and placed in the witness box for the Crown on the strength of a King's pardon that was tendered and accepted on 23 June 1908. Subsequently upon examination he told the court what the police had taught him. Several political leaders were named who had nothing to do with the conspiracy. Stories were told about the accused which had never occurred. There was a regular consternation amongst the accused more for those that had sympathised with the cause or helped it in their own way than for their own selves. In the court and in Alipore Central Jail, where the accused were quartered, Naren was allowed certain amount of liberty. In the court room he mixed with the police officers and the hangers-on freely. In the jail he was separated from the other accused and put in the European Ward. The situation was tense as Naren's evidence admissible under the law would spell disaster, not only to the persons concerned but to the cause itself. 

Satyendra Nath Bose
Satyendra Nath Bose

In the meantime, Satyen a sickly fellow was absent from the court for a few days, he got admitted in the hospital on 27 July 1908. On 30 August 1908 he had two interviews with outsiders. Kanai complained of severe colic on 30 August 1908 and was admitted in the hospital on the same date. On 29 August 1908, Naren went to the Superintendant of Jail and told him that he had received a message from one of the undertrial prisoners in the hospital stating that he wanted to make a confession. With the Superintendant's approval, Naren met Satyen in the same evening and also on the next day. A further interview was arranged on the succeeding day, 31 August 1908, in the morning. On 31 August 1908 Naren set out to meet Satyen accompanied by Higgins, the convict overseer.  When they had been nearing the hospital, Satyen was seen witing on the first floor. He went towards Ward No. 1 as Naren and Higgins climbed up the stairs. They entered the dispensary room and then Naren asked Higgins to call Satyen for a discussion. At that time Kanai was unexpectedly seen coming from the direction of Ward No. 1. Both entered the dispensary and then went out to the verandah along with Naren as Higgins waited in the dispensary. Soon the sound of pistol shots were heard. Naren was hurt in one hand and came running towards the dispensary shouting for help. He was closely followed by Kanai and Satyen. Higgins pushed Naren inside the dispensary and obstructed the pursuers. As he grappled with Kanai and tried to knock the revolver upwards, he got shot in his hand. Higgins fell on the floor but almost immediately got up. Naren was standing at the corner of the dispensary and when Satyen pointed his revolver at him, he gathered his wits to run out of the dispensary and get down the steps. Kanai and Satyen followed Naren, both firing while running down. One of the bullets hit Naren on the back of the hip. Naren and Higgins managed to get out of the hospital and ran towards the jail gate and the offices. They were determinedly followed by Kanai and Satyen who fired a few more shots. Another convict overseer, Linton came hurriedly to their aid and caught Satyen unawares who fell on the ground. Then Linton caught hold of Kanai who desparately tried to free himself but failed. In spite of such a handicap Kanai with supreme effort got loose his hand and fired the final shot at Naren from a close range. Naren fell as if spinning round with half of his body in the drain and other half on the pathway. Both Kanai and Satyen made no further efforts to injure anybody or secure their freedom. Kanai threw away his gun. He had used a R.I.C. .450 bore revolver and Satyen a .380 bore revolver by Osborne. 

There was the usual judicial enquiry into the incident and the accused were committed to the Sessions. Kanai refused the aid of lawyers and admitted his guilt. Kanai was unanimously declared 'guilty' and sentenced to death. Satyen was declared 'not guilty' by majority of the jury and his case was referred to the High Court. On 21 October 1908, the High Court pronounced his judgement awarding capital punishment to both the accused. 

The death sentence fell flat on Kanai and he was absolutely unperturbed. His countenance disclosed a blissful composure of his mind, there was no tinge of sorrow, nor of distress. He did not meet any relative or friend in the prison except his brother and declined to have the last rites done by the priest. He slept soundly during the night previous to his execution. In the morning after being roused by the jail officials, he attended to his morning duties and got prepared for the exit. He was pinioned at five minutes past six. He walked up to the scaffold escorted by four European warders. He ascended the steps of the scaffold unaided; the black cap was pulled over his face; the noose was adjusted round his neck. At a given signal, the lever was pulled and Kanai dropped a few feet to hang by the rope around his neck. The execution was carried out on 10 November 1908, in Alipore Central Jail at about seven in the morning. It was decided to consecrate his mortal remains on the funeral pyre at Keoratala, Kalighat. A spontaneous procession of several thousand men and women moved from the jail gate to the burning ghat. A very large number of people had already gathered at the cremation ground to show their respect to Kanai. They were found weeping when Kanai's dead body came within view. A gentleman procured several maunds of sandal wood by raising subscription on the spot. Local flower vendors vied with each other to offer their wares free of cost to do honour to the dead. In the afternoon, a procession was taken out from College Square with people singing patriotic songs and women sounding conch shells. 

Satyendra Nath Bose was executed on 21 November 1908, and his body was cremated inside the jail compound. Profited by the experience of wild public demonstration after Kanai's execution, the Government revised Rule 840 of the Jail Code which empowered the jail authorities to burn or bury the dead body of an executed criminal unless claimed by their relations and friends. The Government was determined to stop any kind of demonstration. Some people wanted to carry an effigy of Satyen from the jail and perform the last obsequies on the bank of the Ganges. The Government forthwith promulgated an order under Sec 144 Cr.P.C. prohibiting all procession in this connection on the grounds that it was likely to cause obstruction and annoyance to the public and would disturb public peace and tranquility. It also passed an order as a corollary that forbade people from taking part in any such procession. 

The unprecedented and most unexpected manifestation of public grief and resentment at a time when British administration was held more in awe than respect, showed the direction in which the wind had started blowing. It went to prove that the suppressed urge for political emancipation had discovered an avenue through which it erupted in an unwonted manner. The British Government tried further to send it underground resulting in more bloodshed till independence was wrested away from the clutches of a stubborn enemy.  

Saturday, 27 February 2016

A Russian Tribute to Netaji Subhas

Patriot, January (No.3) 1997
Patriot, January (No. 3) 1997

I am sharing an article titled 'Destiny and Death of Chandra Bose' from the January (No. 3) 1997 issue of the Russian newspaper Patriot, written by Alexander Kolesnikov, a Professor of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, which hints at Subhas Chandra Bose's possible stay in the USSR after World War II and strengthens the demand to make official Soviet archives accessible to the public to solve the mystery of Netaji's disappearance.

A translated version of the article in English from the original Russian was published under the title 'A Russian Tribute to Netaji Subhas' in Mainstream, Vol. XXXV No. 32 dated 19 July 1997. The editor describes the article as an outstanding tribute to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose published in the Russian media on the occasion of his birth centenary. The editor states that a few factual inaccuracies of minor importance in the article do not distort the main theme and devalue the essence of the write-up. The editor opines that the author has not concealed his communist convictions while indicating the possibility of Netaji having reached the Soviet Union at the end of World War II and has underlined the inconsistencies of all attempts to "establish" Netaji's "death". According to the editor, the article concludes with the reaffirmation of the durability of Indo-Russian relations which Netaji tried to promote and strengthens the demand to make the various archives of the erstwhile Soviet Union accessible to the public so that they throw considerable light on Netaji's disappearance and possible stay in the USSR after World War II. However the editor expresses concern over certain vested interests connected with Indian and Russian officialdom striving their utmost to withhold information in that regard.

Friday, 12 February 2016

Prafulla Kumar Chaki and Khudiram Bose

Prafulla Kumar Chaki
Prafulla Kumar Chaki

In the early 20th century, the terrible repression of the people of Bengal at the hands of the police and ruthless suppression of outlets of public resentment to Government measures forced the nationalistic movement to go underground. The secret political organisations that had hitherto come into existence but was in a moribund condition decided upon meeting force with force irrespective of consequences. Removal of brutally oppressive Government officials, was given a high priority in the programme of revolutionary action in Bengal.

Indications were very clear that Indian nationalism had been entering into a new phase. It literally started with, (The Statesman dated 04 May 1908) "the partition of Bengal, the crowning folly of Lord Curzon's regime" and "a different spirit had manifested itself whose weapons are apparently to be bombs and dynamite."  Fuel was added to this spirit by the judgements of Kingsford, Chief Presidency Magistrate of Calcutta, from 26 August 1904 to 26 March 1908, inflicting merciless punishments to all who showed signs of patriotism in their action or in their writings. The Government had been feeling nervous about Kingsford's safety and he was transferred from Calcutta as the District and Sessions Judge of Muzaffarpore on 27 March, 1908.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

I do not believe Gumnami Baba was Netaji in disguise

I do not believe Gumnami Baba was Netaji in disguise
Left: Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose
Right: Artist's impression of Gumnami Baba aka Bhagwanji

Seventy years and many inquiry commissions later, the disappearance of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose still remains a mystery to the public. To the Government of India, and to the Governments of the UK, US, Russia and Japan, information necessary to close the case may be available. So far such information has been kept secret. In recent times faced with the growing demand for declassification of documents related to Bose, the West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee took the lead by releasing the secret files on Netaji held by the state, though the mystery has not yet been solved. Subsequently PM Narendra Modi also announced that the secret files on Netaji held by the Centre would be declassified. He further said that he would request foreign Governments to declassify files on Netaji available with them beginning with Russia during his visit in December 2015. Although till now there is no word from the PM or his office about the outcome of his recent trip to Russia regarding this issue, the nation eagerly waits for 23rd January 2016 when the process of declassification of files relating to Netaji by the Central Government is supposed to begin. Will the mystery be solved or the will the truth continue to remain elusive? As of now the dominant hypotheses about what may have happened to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose are as follows -