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Bose-- “the boy who went to the gallows with a smile”

Saturday,03 December 2022 10:26 PM IST


Anupama Nair

Our great Prime Minister Modi inaugurated the Amrit Mahotsav or celebration of  India’s 75th year of Independence. We will be celebrating this event till 2022. I am going to write a feature on all those great men and women who fought against foreign invasion not just against the British. Today I am going to write about the great, but unknown Khudiram Bose, who gave up his life for his motherland, when he was only 18 years old.

Eighteen years in a person’s life is a magical year. It is the transformation from a teenager to an adult. It is said “when the flower of youth begins to blossom, opening up a whole new world for a bewildered individual”. Can you imagine someone giving up his life at that age, for the sake of his Bharat Mata’s freedom, and to free her from the clutches of the British Empire? He is one of the youngest leaders of the Independence Movement, and is famous in Bengal for his ‘fearless spirit’. He became famous for his attempt to assassinate the British Magistrate Douglas Kingsford, and he was ultimately sentenced to death at the young age of 18. Unlike other leaders like Subhash Chandra Bose, however, Khudiram’s legacy has been only limited to Bengal.

Khudiram Bose was born on December 3, 1889 in Midnapore district of West Bengal to, Trailokyanath Bose and Lakshmipriya Devi. He was the youngest among four siblings, and unfortunately, became an orphan when he was very young, and he was brought up by his eldest sister. His desire to join the Freedom Movement was strengthened when Sri Aurobindo Ghosh and Sister Nivedita visited Midnapore in 1902, and 1903. They had held a series of public and private sessions with the existing revolutionary groups to encourage them to fight for freedom. Khudiram, who was a teenager, was an active participant in the discussions about the revolution.

In the year 1905, when Lord Curzon partitioned Bengal, he actively participated in protests against the British. At the age of 15, he joined the Anushilan Samiti, which was an organization that advocated revolutionary activities in Bengal. Within a year, he had even learnt how to make bombs and would plant them in front of police stations.

The turning point of Bose’s life came in 1908, when he along with another revolutionary, Prafulla Chaki were assigned the task of assassinating the district magistrate of Muzaffarpur, Douglas Kingsford. Before being transferred to Muzaffarpur, Kingsford was a magistrate in Bengal. He had a reputation of torturing revolutionaries, and had “earned him the ire of this young group of nationalists who decided to hurl a bomb on him”.

His effort to ‘cripple’ the Bengali newspaper Jugantar drew severe criticism from many erudite Bengalis. The group's first attempt to kill Kingsford by delivering book bomb failed. They made another attempt on 29 April 1908. The plan was executed by Khudiram Bose and Prafulla Chaki, who was then 19-years-old. Khudiram and Prafulla adopted the name of Haren Sarkar and Dinesh Chandra Roy, respectively and went to Muzzafarpur, where Kingsford was transferred as the District Magistrate.

It is said “on the fateful day, Kingsford and his wife were playing bridge with the daughter and wife of Pringle Kennedy, a British author, and barrister. While heading home, Kingsford and his wife were in a carriage identical to the one carrying Kennedy and his family. As their carriage reached the eastern gate of the compound of the European Club, Khudiram and Prafulla ran towards the carriage and threw the bombs into the carriage. A loud explosion ensued and the carriage was taken to Kingsford's house. It was shattered and the Kennedys sustained terrible injuries. Miss Kennedy died within an hour and Mrs. Kennedy died on 2 May”.

Khudiram Bose was arrested on the morning of 30th April, in Wani station, where he went by walking 25 miles. “He was suspected by two police constables when he asked for a glass of water at a tea stall. His disheveled look led the constables to suspect that something was amiss, and later they found in his possession 37 rounds of ammunition, Rs. 30, a railway map and a page of the rail time table, sealing his fate”. Prafulla Chaki committed suicide while trying to escape from the police. The Wani station is now known as Khudiram Bose Station.

“As Bose was brought handcuffed to the police station at Muzaffarpur, the entire town crowded around to take a look at the teenaged boy”. The following morning’s Statesman carried a vivid account of the scene as it reported, “The Railway station was crowded to see the boy. A mere boy of 18 or 19 years old, who looked quite determined. He came out of a first-class compartment and walked all the way to the station, like a cheerful boy who knows no anxiety, on taking his seat the boy cheerfully cried ‘Vandemataram’. Bose took full responsibility for the incident”.

On July 13, 1908, Bose was finally sentenced to death. When the English judge asked him if he understood the meaning of the sentence, Bose is known to have smiled and calmly said, “Yes, I do and my lawyer said that I was too young to make bombs. If you allow me some time before I’m taken away from here, I can teach you the skills of making bombs too.” Soon after, the streets of Calcutta swelled up in large protests for several days. He was executed on August 11, 1908.

“Khudiram Bose sacrificed his life with a smile when he was just at the cusp of adulthood. Stories about the love he had for his motherland have been shared over generations, through popular folktales in Bengal. But outside the state, his name remains largely in the shadows. This could be because Bose never received the limelight that other freedom fighters got. Even after his death, his story never made it to popular culture, be it in films, biopics, TV shows, or well-known books based on India’s freedom movement”. This is really unfortunate. We need to recognize the efforts of such selfless people.

Our Union Home Minister Mr. Amit Shah visited his village Midnapore and met his family. He said “Khudiram Bose belongs to all of India and not just West Bengal”. I fully agree to his statement and I thought to write about him today – “the boy who went to the gallows with a smile”. Vandemataram.

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