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.  


  1. The history/struggle of freedom fighter should be spread to the new generation.Our education system is not sufficient to know roll of freedom fighter behind Independence.

    1. You can spread the article through email, twitter, facebook etc. so that it reaches other people.