The revolutionaries were those persons who believed in overthrowing the British government in India by means of mass uprising.
They wanted to organise a rebellion against the foreign government and even tampering with the loyalty of the army and guerilla warfare for overthrowing the foreign rule.
This movement was the byproduct of repressive policy followed by the Government towards the extremist in the wake of Congress split at Surat. By the closing of 19th and beginning of 20th century certain events in the foreign countries profoundly influenced the revolutionary idea in the country.
The large number of political assassination in Europe, Emperor of Italy, Prime Minister of Spain, president of France, convinced young Indians that they can also achieve same objective by violence and force. Their conviction was further emboldened by the failure of moderates.
Their main objective was to overthrow the colonial rule by armed revolution. They openly preached sedition, disloyalty and revolution and sought the support of Indian soldiers in organizing insurrection.
Through sheer courage and self sacrifice the young revolutionaries were able to inspire a large number of people. They organised a number of secret society to fulfil their objectives. They therefore tried to create a revolutionary spirit among the people of the country and impart necessary training to prepare them for any strike.
The society met their requirements of arms either by manufacturing them secretly, or by looting government harmony. Naturally these activities invited for heavy punishment but the revolution accepted this with open heart.
The revolutionary movement was not confined to any particular part of the country, but flourished in different part of India as well as foreign lands.
Revolutionary Movement in Maharashtra:
Maharashtra was in fact birth place of revolutionary movement in India. Bal Gangadhar Tilak was the father of Indian revolutionary movement in Maharashtra. He tried to plant revolutionary idea among the young people.
He highlighted the ancient glories of India and appealed to them to revive the same and take their country to the new height. He organised Ganapati and Shivaj festival to arise patriotic feeling of the people.
But the Maharashtra produced two Chepkar brothers (Damodar & BAL Krishana) who founded the society for the removal of obstacles to Hindu religion. These Brahmins were descendants of the Peshwas. The Peshwas which were overthrown by the East India Company.
Initially, this society merely provided physical and military training but later resorted to terrorist activities. They committed first political murder on 22nd June 1897. They targeted Mr. Rand the plague commissioner of Poona.
Their main grievance was that the plague committee sending soldiers to inspect the houses of plague afflicted persons. The Chepkar brothers were bought, convicted and hanged. Tilak who praised these two brothers had written in his newspaper Marahatta,” Plague is more merciful to us than its humane phototypes now reigning in the city”. Subsequently Tilak was also implicated for writing against the British Government.
Shyamji Krishna Verma was another revolutionary in Maharashtra. Krishna Verma was connected with Rand murder case and went to England to avoid punishment. In 1905, he started India Home rule society which is popularly known as India House in London.
He also started a monthly journal called Indian sociologist to spread his view. Later on he instituted a fellowship to enable Indian youngmen to go abroad to train themselves for missionary activities.
A group of Indian revolutionary including V.D. Savarkar, Hardayal and Madan Lai Dhingra became member of the Indian House. V. D. Savarkar alongwith Shyamji Krishna Verma continued vigorous revolutionary propaganda till 1907 and they shifted to Paris, due to fear of British police.
In May 1907 the India house celebrated the golden jubilee of the Indian revolt of 1857 and V.D. Savarkar described it, as a war of Independence. His ideas and philosophy were published in his book entitled, The Indian war of Independence.
V.D. Savarkar established Abhinav Barat Society in India. The members of the society in India did a commendable job during the Swadeshi movement. The society continued to impart training to the members in arms and explosions.
The society grew very popular in short period of time and branches were established all over Maharashtra. The Society inspired the people for revolutionary movement.
Another important member of India House was Madan Lai Dhingra. In 1909 he short dead Col. William Curzon, Political A.D.C. to India office. Dhingra arrested and hanged. In 1909, the unpopular District Magistrate, Mr. Jackson was short dead by Anant Laxman Kanhera.
The Ahmedabad Bomb case, the Satara conspiracy case were important terrorist activities in western India. Despite repressive policy of the British Government, Maharashtra continued to be an important centre for revolutionary movement.
Revolutionary Movement in Bengal:
Bengal provided suitable atmosphere for strong revolutionary movement. Growing education, unemployment and growth of hostile attitude provided a climate for terrorist activities. Its early history is associated with the name of Pramatha Mitra. When Surendra Nath Banerjee was imprisoned for defamation, he hatched plot to rescue him, from the jail.
For the purpose of organizing it he proceeded to Barisal but waited in vain for the promised signal from the leaders in Calcutta. He also organized a secret revolutionary society named Anusilen Samiti.
The members of Anusilan Samiti, mostly young students were trained in military drill, sword play, boxing, wrestling and other kinds of exercise. There were various branches of Anusilan Samiti and there are probably several secret societies acting independently of one another.
The spread of revolutionary movement was formed by a band of young men under the leadership of Barindra Ghose, younger brother of Arbinda Ghose. The chief means of propaganda was the publication books and periodicals to preach the gospel of revolution.
The first book entitled Bhawani Mandir published in 1905, gives detailed plan of establishing a religious sanctuary as the basic or centre of revolutionary activities. Another book written by Abinash Chandra Bhattacharya “entitled Bartaman Rananitl” which was published in 1907.
The entire book is an eloquent plea for military training and necessity of war for achievement of India’s freedom. It discusses various military details, especially those of guerilla warfare, which the youths will gradually became fearless and experts in sword play and other tactics.
The Yugantar (New Era) started in March 1906, openly preached sedition and disloyalty in order to create revolutionary mentality among the people.
A number of select articles from the Yugantar were published in the form of a book entitled Mukti Kon pathe. (Which way lies salvation). It denounced smallness and lowness of the ideals of the National Congress. It further exhorts its readers to obtain the help of native soldiers.
Barindra Kumar Ghose and his friends were engaged in manufacturing bomb with a view to killing the British Government officials. The first bomb was prepared with the object of killing Sir Bamfylde Fuller for his oppressive measures. Profulla Chaki, was especially deputed to carry out the scheme.
But the plan failed. Next, an attempt was made to blow up the train in which the Lieutenant. Governor of Bengal was travelling on December 6, 1907. The train was actually derailed by a bomb near Midnapur.
Their next attempt was to murder Mr. Kingsford who as chief presidency Magistrate severely flagged a boy for a comparatively minor offence. Mr. Kingsford was then a Judge at Muzaffarpur. Profulla Chaki and Khudiram Bose were charged with the duty-bomb throwing. They threw a bomb at a carriage, which resembled that of Kingford, but really belonged to one Mr. Kenedy, with the result that the wife and daughter of the latter were killed. Soon after Profulla was arrested when he shot himself dead, and Khudiram was of and hanged. The incident took place on April 30, 1908.
After two days the Muararepukker garden was searched by the police. Thirty-four persons including Arbindo Ghose, Barindra, and his principal associates were arrested and tried in the Alipore conspiracy case.
The accused in the Alipore conspiracy were regarded as martyrs to their country, and those like Praffulla Chaki and Khudiram who lost their lives became heroes of folk songs sung all over the country.
During their trial, Narendra Gosain, who had first divulged the secret to the police and turned out to be an approver was murder inside the jail, by two revolutionary prisoners, Kanai Lai Datt and Satyam Bose. The news of his death was hailed won joy all over Bengal, and his murderers were regarded as heroes and martyrs. Bal Gangadhar Tilak praised the Bengal terrorist through his paper Kesari.
In Madras province the people were excited by the eloquent speeches of Bipin Chandra Pal, Chidambram Pilai openly spoke of absolute independence. His arrest led to a serious riot in Tuticorn and Tinnevelly in which police opened fire in a defiant crowd.
As he who had ordered the firing at Tinnevelly, was assassinated by Vanchi Aiyar of the Bharatha Matha Associations. Unable to escape, Vanchi Aiyar shot himself.
The secret organisation of Punjab thrived on repeated famines and increase of Land revenue and irrigation taxes. The settlers of Canal colonies apprehended restrictions on ownership right.
The beggar system caused irritation. Incidents in Bengal further inflamed the Punjabis. The 50th anniversary of revolt of 1857 was approaching and speeches frequently called upon the Sikh regiments to revolt.
Assaults on Europeans took place at Lahore and riot broke out in Rawalpindi following the prosecution of Lajpat Rai’s Punjabi. Ajit Singh was the heart and soul of this movement and he was helped by Aga Haidar and Syed Hyder Riza. Deportation of Rajput Rai and Ajit Singh quickened things for a while.
The Ghadr Party:
Lala Hardayal, was moving spirit behind the Ghadr Party, in 1913 at San Francisco in the U.S.A. A meeting was held there on 13th March 1913, to which 120 Indians including forty representatives from town and factories were attended. Another bigger and more representation gathering was held on 1st November 1913 at San
Francisco to confirm the decision of the first meeting, it was decided to bring out a weekly paper “Ghaddar” named in commemoration of the mutiny of 1857, in Urdu, Marathi; and Gurumukhi. This gave the association its now hallowed name-the Ghadar Party.
The resolutions founding the Ghadar Party laid down its aim as the overthrow of imperialist Raj in India and building up in its place of a natural public based on freedom and equality. This could be achieved an armed national revolution.
Every member of the Ghadar Party was declared to be in honour and duty bound to participate in the fight against slavery carried on anywhere in the world.
Hardayal, who propagated revolutionary ideas abroad, was born in 1884. In 1904 he stood first among the successful candidates for the M.A. degree in English Literature. At the age of 28, he arrived in U.S.A. and appointed as lecturer at Stranford University.
But he was dismissed from the University. This was a bit enigmatic, but evidently means that he was taking advantage of his states and position in the University to further his revolutionary campaign among in U.S.A.
The Ghadar became very popular particularly among the Indians living abroad. The facts and ideas published in the Ghadar were taken by others and it became a centre of revolutionary propaganda. Barkatulla was a native of Bhopal and strong advocate of Ghadar Party. Another advocate was Ram Chandra.
He was left by Hardayal in charge of the affairs of the Ghadar Party. Ram Chandra also invited Bhagwan Singh. Later Bhagwan Singh was elected president and Barkatulla Vice-President of the Ghadar Party.
With the outbreak of First World War the Indian revolutionary leaders like Lala Hardayal sought the help of Germany Emperor William II. An organisation known as Indian Independence Committee was set up at Berlin which established contact with the revolutionaries in U.S.A.
Ultimately an agreement was reached and the Indian Independence Committee and Ghadar party agreed to work jointly. They also agreed to send more money to India to help the Indian revolutionary.
But on April 4th 1914, the Komagata Maru case created explosive situation in Punjab. Baba Gurdit Singh charted a Japanese ship from Hongkong. At intermediate ports consignment of Ghadar newspaper were received on board. On the 23rd of May the Komagata
Maru arrived at Vancouver with 351 Sikhs and 21 Punjabi Muhammadan on Board. The Canadian authority refused permission to land the ship which returned to mouth of Hooghly on 27 September 1914.
The passenger of the ship believed that the British Government had inspired the Canadian authority. The government of India ordered all the passengers to be carried by train to the Punjab. The Sikhs refused to enter the train and tried to march on Calcutta in a body.
They were forcibly turned back and a riot ensured with loss of life on both sides. Many of the Sikhs were armed with American revolver.
Only 60 passengers in all, including the 17 Muhammadans on board, were got off in the riot many were arrested either then or subsequently; 29 including Gurdit Singh disappeared. Thirty-one were interned in jail.
Three important factors which provided temporary respite to the terrorist activity. One, the emergency of Gandhi on the national movement with his new faith as truth and Non-violence gave a temporary halt to the movement.
Further the provision of constitutional reform before 1919 created suitable atmosphere for compromise and conciliation. Thirdly, with the close of World War I, the Government released all the political prisoners arrested under the Defence of India Act.
Post-war Revolutionary Movement:
The post World War I period witnessed sporadic growth of terrorist activities in different parts of India. The revolutionary leaders called on the people to meet the terror of the Government by counter- terrorist with a view to emphasis that they did not believe in terrorism as such and were resorting to such method to drive the British Government out of Indian soil.
The revolutionaries of the post World War 1 period had different philosophy of their own. They did not receive their inspiration from Bhagwat Gita, Vivekananda and Aurobindo Ghose. On the other hand Marx and Engels were his main source of inspiration.
This is clear from the following message sent by the Bhagat Singh the young revolutionary from the Lahore Jail on 9 February 1931. He said “We want to overthrow the present structure of society.” For this purpose, we want to acquire power first.
At present the administrative machinery is in the hands of rich. We want to take the Government machinery in our own hands so that we may defend prerogative of the public and may give a practical shape to our ideals.
For organising and spreading the revolutionary movement abroad, the revolutionaries were in dire need of money. So they conducted raids in different places. On such raid was organised on 9th May 1925.
The U.P revolutionaries conducted a raid at Kakori Railway Station on the Lucknow-Saharanpur line. Soon after the train left Kakori railway station one of the revolutionaries broke open the Iron Box and looted some amount.
The Government arrested more than 40 persons. As a result of the trial which concluded on 7 April 1927 the revolutionary leader Ram Prasad Bismil, Roshan Singh, Rajendra Lahiri was sentenced to death and others were transported for life.
In Kanpur a meeting of all the revolutionaries of northern India was held in which Ram Prasad Bismill, Sachidananda Sanyal and Jogesh Chandra Chatterjee, attended. The meeting resulted in the formation of the Hindustan Republican Association which subsequently reorganised as the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (H.S.R.A) which had provincial branches in Punjab, Bengal, U.P., Bihar and Delhi.
The H.S.R.A had a threefold objective (1) inspired by the Russian Revolution and socialist ideology, the Association hoped to substitute British imperialism in India by a federated Republic of the United States of India. (2) To enhance the consciousness of the people of India to the futility of the Gandhi method of non-violence. (3) They advocated for direct action to oust the British Government.
The party played an active role in organising demonstration against the Simon Commission. When Simon Commission paid a visit to Lahore on October 20, 1928 party organised a huge procession demanding return of Simon Commission. In this demonstration Lala Lajpat Rai received a serious Lathi blow and he declared “The Government which attacks its own innocent subjects has no claim to be called a civilised government”.
To avenge the fatal on Lala Lajpat Rai during the anti-Simon Commission demonstration, a band of Punjabi revolutionaries led by Bhagat Singh shot dead Mr. Saunders Asst. Superintendent of Police.
Soon after the murder of Saunders the Hindustan Socialists Republican Party in a notice justified its action. “It described the Lathi blows given on the chest of Lala Lajpat Rai as an affront to the nation and asserted by that assault of the Indian nation, the foreign powers had as if thrown a challenge to the self-respecting and brave sons of the soil.
This reply will surely convince the people and foreign power that the Indian Nation is indeed not yet dead or spiritless to bear such insults. The peoples of India have fresh blood following in their veins, Young India is up and ready to guard the honour of the nation ever at the stake and sacrifice of life”.
Bhagat Singh and his friend on 8th April 1929 threw a Bomb in Central Legislative Assembly. They had no intension to kill anybody but just wanted to demonstrate in the fashion of the French anarchist- Martyr valiant that it took a lord noise to make the deaf hear.
After throwing the Bomb Bhagat Singh surrendered himself to the police along with the companions. A trial was held and all of them were sentenced to death. They were executed in the Lahore Jail on 23rd March 1931 and their dead bodies created at Hussainiwala in Punjab.
Bengal was another fertile centre for terrorist activities. The terrorist murdered a number of unpopular officers. Bina Das was shot at stack by Jackson, the Governor of Bengal, while he was presiding at the convocation of Calcutta University. But the mission was failed and Bina Das was tried and sentenced for life imprisonment.
Surya Sen, Lok Nath Bal and Ganesh Ghosh etc. prepared a grand plan to launch simultaneous attacks on British armouries.
So Surya Sen along with his comrades raided armoury. On April 1930 and declared himself the president of the provisional Independent Government of India. They also attacked the Europeans at Chittagong.
For some time the revolutionary carried on guerilla type fought but ultimately the police was able to capture most of the revolutionary leaders. Lok Nath Bal was killed in the encounter with the police; Surya Sen was captured and hanged at Dacca. Benoy Bose, a student of Dacca shot at and killed a senior British police officer in August 1932.
After that he entered the Government Headquarters along with Badal and shot down the Inspector General of the prisons in his office. To escape police arrest Benoy Bose and Dinesh shot themselves. While Bose died, Dinesh recovered. Criminal proceedings were instituted against Dinesh and he was hanged.
Chandra Sekhar Azad, Bhagat Charan and Yash Pal constituted another important group of revolutionary (who determined to free their country at their own cost. Chandra Sekhar Azad had earlier participated in Kakori Conspiracy as well as attack on Saunders.
This group tried to blast the train of the viceroy as soon as it left the Nizamuddin station near Delhi. But miraculously Lord Irwin escaped unhurt. In February 1931 this group of revolutionaries prepared a plan to secure help from Russia for the freedom of India.
But before the implantation of this plan Azad was surrounded by armed police in Alfred Park at Allahabad. But he killed himself by the Bullet. Subsequently, after the death of Azad other revolutionary recoganised the Revolutionary Army. However he may catch by the police and sentenced to fourteen years of rigorous imprisonment.
The terrorist added a colourful and inspiring Chapter to the history of our freedom movement. Their desperate deeds and daring plans, cool action and indifference to death won them a lasting place in the memory of the nation.
But with all their idealism and suffering, they were bound to fail. They failed to get the support of the masses for the party as distinct from getting popularity as hero figures devoid of distinct ideology and political personality.
This amply testified by the perpetual and extreme poverty which engulfed them all the time. Nor did they succeed in organising a single mass revolutionary action or even a minor armed action against the British Government.
The leadership of the H.S.R.A went wrong in not trying to rapidly change the situation and combine their activity with mass organisation and mass revolt or armed action. They failed to develop organized armed action, or however small scale, against the government; as distinct from its officials.
The achievement of the revolutionary terrorist was in rousing anti-imperialist consciousness to new flights. They succeeded in awakening the country and in winning the love and respect of their countrymen.
For the cause of nationalism, this was no mean success. Ironically the fruit of their success were gathered by the traditional Congress leadership to which they denounced as bourgeoe’s and middle class and which they had hoped to replace.
This led to an interesting historical paradox. While nearly ninety per cent of the revolutionary terrorist later gave their allegiance to Marxin or communalism, their own youthful deeds and slogans became the inheritance of leftist Congressmen wedded to Gandhian leadership.
However, their failure was not merely that of not linking their practice with their theory; it was also that of not integrating nationalism and socialism at theoretical and practical planes. In their programme, they hoped to accomplish at one stroke the nationalist and socialist revolutions.
Still another mistake of the revolutionary terrorists lay in the belief that propaganda by deed or by death by daring young men could lead to the creation of a revolutionary socialist movement.
In conclusion, it can be said that the revolutionary terrorists succeeded in arriving at the basic elements of a socialist understanding of society. The state, nationalism, imperialism and revolution.
But a deeper understanding could only come out of the development of revolutionary theory in practice. On the other hand the total mechanism of revolutionary political action, organization and the role of revolutionary party escaped them. All the time, however, they kept intact their revolutionary consciousness.