It was this hero who threw the first bomb on the British who were crushing India. Even while at school, he was attracted towards the sacred words ‘Vande Mataram’ (I bow to Mother India!) and plunged into the war of independence.
The boy of sixteen defied the police. At the age of nineteen, he became a martyr, with the holy book the Bhagavadgita (the Divine Song) in his hand and with the slogan ‘Vande Mataram’ (read about the creator of Vande Mataram here) on his lips.
It was February 1906. A grand exhibition had been arranged at Medinipur in Bengal. The intention was to hide the injustice of British then-ruling India. On exhibition were articles like pictures and puppets which could create the impression that the British rulers, though foreigners, were doing much to help the people of India. There were big crowds to see the exhibition.
‘Take Care, Don’t Touch My Body!’
Then appeared a boy of sixteen with a bundle of handbills; he was distributing them to the people. The handbill bore the title ‘Sonar Bangla’.
It carried the slogan Vande Mataram. In addition, the true purpose of the British in putting up the exhibition was also exposed. The various forms of British injustice and tyranny were also explained.
Among the visitors to the exhibition, there were a few loyal to the King of England. They were opposed to the persons who exposed the injustice of the British. Words like ‘Vande Mataram’, ‘Swatantrya’ (freedom) and ‘Swarajya’ (self-rule) were like pins and needles to them. They tried to prevent the boy from distributing the handbills. Their eyes red with anger, they glared at the boy, rebuked him and frightened him. But ignoring them the boy calmly went on distributing the handbills. When some people tried to capture him, he smartly escaped.
At last, a policeman caught hold of the boy’s hand. He pulled at the bundle of handbills. But to catch the boy was not so easy. He jerked free his hand. Then he swung the arm and powerfully struck the nose of the policeman. Again he took possession of the handbills, and said, “Take care, don’t touch my body! I will see how you can arrest me without a warrant.” The policeman who had received the blow rushed forward again, but the boy was not there.
He had disappeared in the midst of the crowd.
As the people burst into cries of ‘Vande Mataram’ the police and those loyal to the King were filled with wonder and also felt humiliated.
Later a case was filed against the boy, but the court set him on the ground of his tender age.
Who Was This Boy?
The heroic boy who distributed handbills so bravely at the Medinipur exhibition and thereby defeated the evil plans of the British was Khudiram Bose.
Khudiram Bose was born on 3rd December 1889 in the village Bahuvaini in Medinipur district. His father Trailokyanath Basu was the Tahsildar of the town of the Nadazol prince. His mother Lakshmipriya Devi was a pious lady, who was well known for her virtuous life and generosity. Though a few children were born to the couple all died soon after birth. Only a daughter survived. The last child, Khudiram Bose, was the only surviving son.
The Bose couple had yearned for a male child.
But they did not live long enough to enjoy their happiness. They unexpectedly died when Khudiram was just six. The boy’s elder sister Anurupadevi and his brother-in-law Amritalal had to shoulder the responsibility of bringing him up.
A Born Patriot
Anurupadevi looked after Khudiram with the affection of a mother. She wanted her younger brother to be highly educated, get a high post and make a name. She, therefore, admitted him to a nearby school.
It was not that Khudiram could not learn. He was smart and could grasp things easily. But he could not be attentive to the lessons in his class.
Though his teachers shouted at the top of their voice, he did not hear the lessons. Thoughts entirely unrelated to the lessons were revolving in his head.
A born patriot, even at the age of seven or eight years, Khudiram Bose thought, ‘India is our country. It is a great country. Elders say that this has been the home of knowledge for thousands of years. Why, then, are the red-faced British here?
Under them, our people cannot even live as they wish. When I grow up, I must somehow drive them out.’
All-day, the boy was engaged in these thoughts. Thus even when he opened a book to read, he would see a red-faced, green-eyed, glaring English man. Even when he was eating, the same recollection haunted him. And the memory brought a strange pain in the heart.
Both his sister and his brother-in-law wondered what troubled the boy. They thought that the memory of his mother troubled him, and treated him with a greater affection. But Khudiram was unhappy about Mother India. His anguish grew day by day.
No Disease Worse Than Slavery
Once Khudiram went to a temple. A few persons were lying on the bare ground in front of the temple. “Why are these people lying like this?”, Khudiram asked some people nearby.
One of them explained: “They are suffering from some disease or the other. They have made a vow and are lying here without food and water.
They will get up and go after God appears in their dream and promises to cure their diseases.” Khudiram thought for a moment and said,
“One day I too will have to give up all ‘thought of hunger and thirst and lie on the ground like these people.”
“What disease has struck you?” A man asked the boy.
Khudiram laughed, and said, “Can there be a disease worse than slavery? I will have to drive it out.”
Even at that young age, Khudiram had thought so deeply about the country’s freedom. But how was he to achieve it? This was the problem that always clouded his mind. How could he successfully do his duty?
While he was thus worried, Khudiram one day heard the cry ‘Vande Mataram’, ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ (Victory to Mother India). He was thrilled by these words, his eyes glowed and he felt happy.
The Sacred Phrase
This ‘Mantra’ or sacred phrase, ‘Vande Mataram’, which inspired Khudiram, had a great history. And greater still was what it accomplished.
In 1838, a great man was born in the village of Kantalapada. His name was Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyaya. His father had once been a government official in Khudiram’s native place Medinipur.
In 1857 there was an armed fight for the first time to free our country from the British. Lakshmi Bai, the Queen of Jhansi, Kuwarasimha of Bihar and Bahadur Shah, the Emperor of Delhi were among the leaders of this First War of Independence. At that time Bankim Chandra was a young man of seventeen. The Indians were defeated in their fight for freedom, though they were heroic and intelligent. Bankim’s blood boiled at this defeat. Our people did not have discipline, organization, and obedience to rules, nor did they have enough arms and ammunition. There were a number of Indians who were traitors, self-seekers and opportunists. Because these people helped the British, the Indians had to suffer defeat.
If a man is to give up selfishness, he must have a shining ideal before him. What ideal could inspire the people of India? Bankim pondered on this question. Then came to him the vision of Bharat Mata (Mother India) – a vision of the Mother in her glory seated on a throne studded with gems. Bankim thought ‘We, her children, bow to the sublime Mother.’ Then flashed to his mind the sacred phrase: ‘Vande Mataram’ (I salute the Mother).
Bankim Chandra composed a lengthy song, which opened with this phrase. All through the song are described the form and the splendor of Bharat Mata. Bankim Chandra wrote a novel by name ‘Anandamata’, narrating the very story of a struggle for independence. He put the song ‘Vande Mataram’ into the novel.
The Stirring ‘Mantra’
‘Anandamata’ is the novel describing the fight of the patriotic ascetics (sanyasis) against foreign rule. Bankim Chandra’s intention was to awaken the Vande Mataram patriotism in people and inspire them to fight for freedom. The freedom-fighting sanyasis in the novel sing ‘Vande Mataram’ as a song of inspiration. In the song, Mother India is described as Goddess Durga. Bankim used many Sanskrit words in the song so that all Indians could use it.
Within a few days of the publication of the novel ‘Anandamata’, the song ‘Vande Mataram’ became the favorite ‘Mantra’ (incantation) of patriots. Whenever they gathered together, they would shout the magic words ‘Vande Mataram’.
Bankim’s novel inspired more and more people.
Great men like Aravinda Ghosh, Brahmabandhava Upadhyaya, and Bipin Chandra Pal plunged into the fight for freedom. They sprang up many organizations to train young men in the use of the pistol, lathi, dagger and the like. Some important ones were Anusheelana Samiti, Jugantar, Bhrato Samiti, Vande Mataram Sampradaya and Circular Virodhi Samiti. The determination to free the Mother even at the cost of life, happiness, family, money and all grew stronger. Sister Nivedita, the disciple of Swami Vivekananda, supported and encouraged these attempts.
The Division of Bengal
Thus inspired by the song Vande Mataram’, thousands of Indians rebelled against the British. The situation created a fear among the rulers that their empire in India would not last long. So they tried to split the Hindus and the Muslims.
In the western part of Bengal, the Hindus were in a majority and in the eastern part, the Muslims.
Realizing this, the British devised a new plan. In 1905, when Lord Curzon was the Governor-General of India, orders were issued dividing Bengal into East Bengal and West Bengal. But the people of India knew the purpose of the British. Patriots from different parts of the country opposed the partition of Bengal with one voice. In many places, meetings, processions and non-violent strikes (satyagraha) were held, with the words Vande Mataram’ on everyone’s lips.
Love for his country had come to Khudiram with his mother’s milk. It was at this time he was initiated into revolution. The cry of ‘Vande Mataram’ which was then heard everywhere caught his imagination. He watched with interest the different forms of protest against the partition of Bengal.
Watching them he could not be silent. He wanted to know their background. When he read ‘Anandamata’, he got a clear vision of his life’s task. He decided to dedicate his life to the service of the Mother. He admired the way of revolutionaries who were determined to organize patriotic men, and fight bravely against the foreign rulers to free the country from slavery. The revolutionaries had sacrificed their family, relations, wealth and everything. They had dedicated themselves to the service of the Motherland. Men of a noble character and a pure life, they were not afraid of any hardship. Khudiram too desired to become one of such revolutionaries. He made friends with them. They tested him in several ways and he proved his worth. At last, he was initiated into the service of the country. So his formal education ended.
Spreading the Gospel of ‘Vande Mataram’
In the days following his initiation, Khudiram learned the use of weapons like the pistol, the dagger, and the lathi, and became an expert.
Though lean, he was very active. At the same time, he took up the task of spreading the gospel of ‘Vande Mataram’. In order to build an army of freedom fighters, was it not necessary to install the auspicious image of Bharat Mata in their hearts? How could one fight for the mother if one did ‘not know’ her? And could there be a better means of educating people than by teaching the gospel of Vande Mataram’?
Khudiram started teaching the song to his friends. He fully explained its meaning. He encouraged his friend to read the novel ‘Anandamata’.
The leaders of Khudiram’s group of revolutionaries recognized his special devotion and interest in ‘Vande Mataram’. They decided to print handbills containing the song and distribute them. Khudiram took an important part in this task. That was the background of the incident at the Medinipur Exhibition.
As the message of ‘Vande Mataram’ spread, the British became more and crueler. They proclaimed that it was treason to shout ‘Vande Mataram’. Thus, in the eyes of the British saluting, our own Mother was an act of treason!
The British Government started harassing the patriots in different ways. But they had the courage to march on ignoring all harassment. Meetings and processions resounded with cries of Vande Mataram, which shocked the British. If two patriots met, instead of merely saying Namaskar (salutation) they bowed to each other with the greeting ‘Vande Mataram’! Whenever the police heard the slogan, they mercilessly beat the patriots. They tortured them. Yet they could not prevent Indians from shouting ‘Vande Mataram’!
The greater the tyranny of the British, the greater grew the pride of Indians. People started boycotting foreign clothes. They left foreign schools and colleges. ‘Swadeshi’ (made in our country) became the mantra of salutation to patriots.
The British thought that they would have to quit India if such conditions persisted. Yet they had an illusion that they could forcibly keep the people under control. So they decided to punish the patriots still more cruelly. Wherever the revolutionaries were very active, the government-appointed stern and harsh officers. Those officers would torture the patriots they could catch. They would ill-treat women, children and old men. They would inflict harsh punishments even for small crimes. Kings Ford, the Chief Presidency Magistrate of Calcutta, was one such cruel officer.
The Newspaper That Terrified the Rulers
‘Vande Mataram’ was a very popular news-paper in Bengal. The great patriot Bipinchandra Pal had started the paper. Maharshi Aravinda Ghosh was the editor. The paper not only published articles inculcating radical patriotism but also fearlessly condemned the acts of the injustice of the British. It was like the true patriot’s friend and guide; so it was a nightmare to the British.
In 1907, the British prosecuted the ‘Vande Mataram’ on a charge of treason. The trial was held at the Police Court of Lal Bazaar in Calcutta. Every day thousands of young men used to gather outside the Court. Every day they shouted ‘Vande Mataram’ with one voice, thus displaying their pride in the paper. Thus they proved the support enjoyed by the paper. The steel-helmeted police used to make inhuman lathi charges on the crowd.
The Lion’s Cub Provoked On the 26th of August 1907, when such a case was going on, thousands of youths had gathered as usual before the court. They had not yet begun to shout ‘Vande Mataram’. They were silent and created no trouble. This itself probably provoked a sturdy red-faced policeman; he suddenly started beating the young men with a lathi. Nobody resisted. But the lathi in the hands of that sturdy person wheeled round with a greater force.
Sushilkumar Sen, a boy of fifteen, who was standing at a distance, could not bear the sight.
Stepping forward, he said to the official: “Why are you beating the people without any reason?” He tried to stop him.
“Who are you? Get out!” the Englishman shouted and hit Sushil. Provoked, Sushil said, “I will show you who I am.” He suddenly pounced on the Englishman and struck a powerful blow on the nose of the Englishman who was four times as big as he. Pulling away, the lathi from his hand, the boy went on beating the Englishman himself. “Just taste the blow of an Indian boy,” he said and beat him till the English man began to bleed. That lout had the only experience of beating unarmed people; he had not known what it was to be thrashed. He began to howl with pain. He screamed. Then other policemen came up and caught hold of Sushil. They arrested and took him to the court.
The magistrate who conducted the trial was Kingsford, notorious for his cruelty. “You have broken the law by attacking a British Policeman engaged in maintaining peace,” he scolded Sushil.
“Then why did your ‘peace-loving’ policeman attack our people standing peacefully?” Sushil Kumar fearlessly questioned Kingsford himself.
“An impertinent fellow! I order a punishment of fifteen lashes. Take him away,” Kingsford commanded the police.
The police took out Sushil and stripped him.
They mercilessly gave him fifteen lashes. Sushil did not weep, nor did his smile fade. At every stroke, he cried ‘Vande Mataram’!
After release, he was taken in a procession by the people. He was honored at a big meeting. Surendranath Bannerji, an elderly leader, admired Sushilkumar’s courage and blessed him with the gift of a gold medal. The National College, in which he was studying, was closed for a day in his honor.
The Vow of Revenge
Long before this, the revolutionaries had thought of teaching a lesson to Kingsford, who was a monster in human form. The punishment, which he gave to Sushilkumar Sen, added to their fury. As long as Kings ford lived, he was a menace to the patriots. Hence they decided to kill him.
The British Government got the scent of the revolutionaries’ decision. It was convinced that Kingsford’s life was in danger. The Intelligence Department suggested to the Government that it was better to send him to England. The Government did not listen to the suggestion. Finally, Kingsford was promoted to the post of a District and Sessions Judge and transferred to Muzaffarpur.
Preparations for Kingsford’s Murder
Even after his transfer to Muzaffarpur, Kingsford would-not end his cruel acts. In 1908, the revolutionaries made a plan to kill him.
In the first week of April, the revolutionaries of the Jugantar group held a meeting at a house in Calcutta. They were to discuss how to punish Kingsford who had treated Sushil so unjustly and harshly. Aravinda Ghosh, Subodh Mallik, CharuDatta and others were present at the meeting. It was decided that Kingsford should be shot dead.
But their leader was worried about the choice of a person to do this. Some were eager to accept the task. But the leader did not wish to select any one of them.
All of a sudden the leader’s eye fell on Khudiram who was sitting in a corner. The glance seemed to ask ‘Can you do this?’ Khudiram understood it. There was a glow in his eyes.
“Can you do this grim work?” The leader now openly asked him.
“With your blessings, what is impossible?” Khudiram answered him with a question.
“This is not so easy as going to jail. Do you know what will happen, if you are caught?” The leader asked him in a tone of warning.
Khudiram said calmly but firmly, I know. At worst, they can hang me. Master, I take it as a boon. Bharat Mata is my father, mother, and everything.
To give up my life for her is, I consider, an act of merit. My sole desire is only this. Till our country wins freedom, I will be born here again and again, and sacrifice my life.
“Is that so? I am very glad. Get ready for the journey. Prafulla Chaki will go with you,” the leader said.
Profullakumar Chaki, quite sturdy and of about the same age as Khudiram, stood near him. Prafulla was a native of Rangapur of East Bengal. At the time of the partition of Bengal, he had walked out of school with eighty boys, all shouting ‘Vande Mataram’!
The leader of the revolutionaries gave each of the boys, Khudiram and Prafulla, two revolvers, a bomb, and a little money, and sent them with his blessings. They set out full of zest to end the life of Kingsford.
The Prey Missed
It was on the night of April 30, 1908, that Khudiram and Prafulla approached the European Club at Muzaffarpur. With a revolver and a bomb ready, they hid themselves waiting for Kingsford to come out.
In short, while courage drawn by a horse moved from the compound of Kingsford’s bungalow. Khudiram who held a bomb in his hand, whispered to Prafulla, “Runaway soon after I throw the bomb. Don’t worry about me. In case I survive, I shall touch the feet of our revered teacher. Be ready to run. ‘Vande Mataram!”
The carriage approached. When it was just opposite to him Khudiram aimed at the carriage and threw the bomb inside.
The first bomb thrown against the British by India leaped from a young hand. As the bomb touched the coach there was a deafening explosion. A blood-curdling cry was also heard at the same moment. Without watching to see what would happen next, Khudiram and Prafulla ran away in different directions.
Kingsford was lucky. He was not in the carriage on which Khudiram threw the bomb. The persons in it were Kingsford’s guests, the wife and the daughter of a lawyer Kennady by name, and a servant. The daughter and the servant died immediately. Mrs. Kennedy, who was seriously injured, died a day or two later.
The Lion’s Cub Caught
Khudiram started running immediately after throwing the bomb. He ran throughout the night, along the railway line, without stopping. He stopped only in the morning. By then he had run about 25 miles. He reached a place now known as Lakha near the railway station at Veni. He had run without rest and was quite exhausted.
In addition, he was unbearably hungry. Buying some fried corn, he started eating.
By that time, the news of the Muzaffarpur incident had spread in all directions. At the very shop where Khudiram was eating, people were talking about it. Khudiram listened with curiosity. Hearing that two women died, he forgot himself for a moment and asked, “What! Didn’t Kingsford die?”
Khudiram’s words drew the attention of the people in the shop. The boy looked like a stranger to the place. Utter fatigue was clear in his face.
The shopkeeper’s suspicion grew stronger. He entertained the hope that he would be rewarded if he could expose the criminal. Immediately after serving water to Khudiram, he gave a hint to the police going on their usual rounds nearby.
As Khudiram raised the glass to his mouth, the police arrived and caught hold of him. Khudiram failed in his attempt to take out the revolver in his pocket. Both the revolvers in his pockets were seized by the police. Khudiram was not in the least upset.
Prafulla Kumar Chaki, too, had run away like Khudiram. He evaded the police for two days.
But on the third day of his wanderings, the police encountered him. When they attempted to arrest him, he ran away. But wherever he went, the police had spread their net. “Anyway, I shall not allow them to touch me when I am alive” he resolved. Taking out his pistol he shot himself and died a heroic death. The police cut off his head and carried it to Muzaffarpur.
Khudiram was brought by train to Muzaffarpur under a heavy guard. People had assembled in thousands to see the boy who had thrown a bomb for the first time in India against the British. As soon as Khudiram got into the carriage to go to the police station, he shouted with a smile, ‘Vande Mataram! Tears of pride welled up in the eyes of the people.
Khudiram Bose’s Fasi
Afterward, a case was filed against Khudiram.
There were two lawyers on the Government’s side. There was no one at Muzaffarpur, whom Khudiram could call his own. Then a senior advocate Kalidas Bose by name came forward to argue for him.
The pretense of a trial took two months. In the end, the Magistrate read his judgment sentencing Khudiram to death. Even when the judgment was being read, Khudiram did not show even a faint trace of fear.
The judge was surprised that a boy of nineteen years accepted death so calmly. “Do you know what this judgment means?” he asked.
Khudiram replied with a smile “I know it’s meaning better than you.” The judge asked, “Have you anything to say?”
“Yes. I have to explain a few things about making bombs.”
The judge was now nervous that Khudiram might make a statement explaining how to make bombs and thus teach everyone in the court.
Hence he did not allow the boy to make a statement.
Khudiram had not expected justice in a British court. But Kalidas Bose yearned to save Khudiram. He appealed to the Calcutta High Court on behalf of Khudiram. The judge of the High Court also understood Khudiram’s nature. The fearless eyes and the determined face of the boy filled him, too, with wonder. He confirmed the death sentence given by the lower court. But he postponed the date of the execution from August 6, 1908, to August 19.
“Do you wish to say anything?” the judge asked.
“Like the heroic Rajput women, I wish to die for the freedom of my country.
The thought of the gallows does not make me unhappy in the least. My only regret is that Kingsford could not be punished for his crimes.”
Even in prison, he was not at all worried. As death approached his face grew brighter. He thought that the sooner he sacrificed his life, the sooner he could be born again and fight for the freedom of his Motherland. This is not a mere legend. Khudiram put on two pounds in the jail!
Back to the Mother’s Lap As had been decided, Khudiram was brought to the gallows at 6 A. M. on the nineteenth of August, 1908, even then the smile on his face had not faded. Serenely he walked to the post.
He had a copy of the Bhagavadgita (the Song Divine). For the last time, he cried aloud, ‘Vande Mataram’ and then put his hand into the noose.
Khudiram had finally achieved his heroic goal; he had laid his life at the feet of Mother India. He is immortal in the history of India.
Khudiram’s sacrifice did not go waste. Of course, the bomb thrown by him hit others, but not Kingsford. But the bomb of fear had entered the mind of Kingsford. Right from the day when Khudiram became a martyr, Kingsford had no peace of mind. Each moment seemed to bring him death. At last, he was so terrified that he resigned from his post and settled at Mussorie. Kingsford, who frightened and tortured the innocents, himself died of terror.
Khudiram not only himself became immortal but also inspired others by his sacrifice to become immortal. In the course of time, thousands of young men and women followed in his foot-steps and embed the British regime in India.
While Kingsford had to quit his post, the British had to quit India.