Revolutionary Colleagues of and Sources of information on Rash Behari Bose

Srish Chandra Ghosh

A short introduction to Srish Chandra Ghosh (1887-1941), who was a major revolutionary in his own right, is in order here. Born to Birajkrishna and Mahamaya, he hailed from the ancestral village of Rashbehari, Subaldaha village of Raina post office in Burdwan district. Having lost his father in early childhood, he was raised by his uncle Bamacharan Ghosh at a home adjoining Rashbehari’s – in Phatakgora region of Chndernagore. Rashbehari’s mother Bhuvaneshwari Devi and Srish’s aunt Brajeshwari Devi were sisters, Rashbehari’s father Binodbhari and Srish’s uncle were childhood friends and both worked at the same governmental press. Inspired by the renowned Professor Charuchandra Roy, Srish was inspired by nationalism starting his student days in Duple School. Along with Moti Lal Roy, Srish became a member, and later one of the brains, of a secret society of Chandernagore, of which Charuchandra Roy was the kingpin. The Society maintained contact with the Calcutta Anarchists through Srish (and Basanta Banarjee). The goal of the Society was to liquidate the investigating officers so as to kindle fear among other officers pp. 8-9 [3].

Srish and Rashbehari were lifelong friends pp. 2-3, [1]. He had introduced Rashbehari to the Bengal group of revolutionaries, including Moti Lal Roy, then leader of the Chandernagore group of revolutionaries p. 104, [10]. Both Motilal Roy and Pratul Chandra Ganguli, then an important leader of the Anushilan group of revolutionaries have attested that, in a meeting comprising of Moti Lal Roy, Pratul Chandra Ganguli, Rashbehari, it was Srish who had suggested in December 1911 the idea of dropping a bomb on Viceroy Hardinge p. 105, [2]. Srish had learnt the art of Bomb making in Maanicktala garden, and had instructed others in the art p. 18, [3]. Srish was present along with Rashbehari in a trial run involving a similar bomb on the night of Kali Puja, 8 November, 1912 p. 112 [2]. While Rashbehari was on the run, subsequent to the issuing of a warrant for his arrest on 20 February, 1914, Srish used to be his constant companion, and Srish had tried his utmost to protect Rashbehari from all peril. He concealed Rashbehari in a room of his house, locked the room from outside, and supplied food to Rashbehari under utmost secrecy. On March 8, 1914, this house was suddenly searched by Calcutta police headed by Denham and Tegart. The Weekly report of the Bengal Intelligence branch dated July 29, 1914 states that “he (Rashbehari) was present at home on the night his house was searched at Chandernagore, and actually watched the search from behind a mango tree in his garden close by.’’ Rashbehari’s half-brother Bejonbehari has written that Srish had anticipated the coming danger and had hid Rashbehari in the vicinity of his house; following the police raid, Srish arranged for Rashbehari’s stay at Hatkhola for some time under the care of Narendra Nath Bannerjee. pp. 120-121, [2]

Srish had assisted in the attempt to assassinate Mayor Tardival of Chandernagore, helped protect Jugantar press started by Barindra Ghosh, the brother of Aurobindo Ghosh, from police repressions, by transferring it from British ruled Calcutta to French ruled Chandernagore, delivered the revolver to Barindra Ghosh in jail, which Kanailal Dutta used in jail to shoot the revolutionary turned approver Narendranath Gosain in jail hospital pp. 13-14, [3] (Kanailal Dutta’s daring feat received huge publicity in Bengal, he received a hero’s ovation at death), organized the manufacture of bombs in Chandernagore, assisted in the attempt to incite mutiny among soldiers in 1915, conceal the mauser pistols looted from Rauda company, provided secretive refuge to multiple revolutionaries who escaped from British India to Chandernagore, starting from Aurobindo Ghosh to Dinesh Majumdar.

In 1914, the British authorities had appealed to the French administration of Chandernagore to expel “the leaders of the Chandernagore gang of seditionists and revolutionaries’’ – they had identified Srish Ghosh as one of the most dangerous among them pp. 22-23 [3]. The extradition attempt failed, but dire circumstances delivered to the British the man they were seeking. The tragedy of Indian revolutionaries was that they scraped for funds (wealthy Indians rarely contributed to them, unlike their generous support for Congress, Gandhians in particular). Srish Chandra Ghosh depended on his uncle’s family for his subsistence. He was ordered by his aunt to accompany his cousin to the home of her in-laws. Having no choice but to comply, in 1915, he was arrested by British police in Howrah station in broad daylight; he could safely traverse to British India alone and in the dead of the night.

In a detailed note dated March 10, 1917, Charles Tegart, then the officiating Deputy General of Police, Intelligence Branch, CID, Bengal, has written that: “Srish, perhaps, was the most energetic and had greatest control over the party (Chandernagore group of revolutionaries) ; Moti Babu is the cleverest and is a good adviser; Rash Behari was impetuous and could do nothing in Chandernagore or Calcutta without Srish’s and Moti’s help. Now that Srish and Rash Behari have gone, Moti Babu is the real leader.’’ pp. 26, [3]. Leaving aside the fact that Tegart’s angst against Rashbehari was likely driven by the fact that British could never get him, dead or alive, despite massive manhunts they launched for him, it is incontrovertible that Rashbehari’s principal organization was outside Bengal and he relied on Srish and Motilal for shelter while in Bengal.

Post Srish’s release, his aunt refused to let him stay at her home in 1924. He took refuge in Motilal Roy’s Prabartak Sangha. Motilal had relinquished revolutionary activities; so Srish had to move to Benoarilal Saha’s home to continue the same. A British note dated 11 March, 1933, revealed that Srish and Brojen Pal had formed an organization called the Juba Samiti, and the former was in touch with Rashbehari in Japan p. 32, [3]. Srish gave refuge to Dinesh Majumdar, who received life-sentence after attempting to assassinate Charles Tegart on 25 August, 1930 p. 29, [3] and escaped from the Midnapore Central jail (1933), Bipin Ganguly, the leader of the Hindusthan Socialist Republican Organisation, Nalini Das, who had escaped from the Hijli detention camp, Haripada Sen who escaped from the Perojpur sub-jail and the leader of the Anushilan Party, Sachindra Kar Gupta a convict who escaped from the Midnapore jail p. 32, [3]. Eight or ten other absconders from Chittagong and other parties were also hiding in Chandernagore, Srish’s base p. 32, [3].

Due to poverty and persecution, he lost his mental balance. Rashbehari used to regularly correspond with Srish from abroad, and also send him books. Having lost his sanity, Srish would be seen moving around, tightly clasping those books to his bare chest. The books and letters were never recovered. Srish recovered his sanity, but committed suicide on 2nd May 1941 by consuming opium pp. 54-55, [1].

[1] Rash Beharir Atma-katha O dushprapya Rachana, edited by Amal Kumar Mitra

[2] Uma Mukherjee, “Two Great Indian Revolutionaries – Rash Behari Bose and Jyotindra Nath Mukherjee’’

[3] Sailendra Nath Sen Chandernagore – From Bondage to Freedom, 1900-1925

Nedyam Raghavan

A prominent Malayan-Indian barrister of Penang, Nedyam Raghavan, who headed the All-Malayan Indian Independence League, attended an Indian conference in Tokyo convened by Rashbehari in March 1942 and had subsequently stayed on in Japan for a longer period. He came in contact with Rashbehari almost daily during the period, and had known him closely until Rashbehari retired from public life in May, 1943, though they had parted political company sometime in November-December, 1942 pp. 228-229 [1].

[1] Rash Behari Basu – His Struggle for India’s Independence, Editor in chief, Radhanath Rath, Editor Sabitri Prasanna Chatterjee, Biplabi Mahanayak Rash Behari Basu Smarak Samiti

Nikki Kimura

Nikki Kimura was a Japanese who in 1907 had traveled to India as a resident student to study Buddhism. He stayed at Chittagong of then East Bengal as it was the only centre of the Southern Buddhism (Hinayana) that remained in India. He started to study Pali and Sanskrit. He was in India during the Delhi Conspiracy (1912) and has written about Rashbehari’s fame during the period: “Perhaps it was one year after my arrival at Chittagong when an accident occurred that one of revolutionists, named Rash Behari Bose attacked the Governor General of India at Delhi with bomb. The British authorities in India instantly started to searched for the criminal, offering special prize to the secret informants for arrest of Bose. Posters for this purpose were observed everywhere in India. Thus I became acquainted with the name of RashBehari Bose, as an Indian revolutionist.’’ p. 38, [1] He left Chittagong for Calcutta and studied various subjects of ancient culture under Indian scholars at the Sanskrit College. He read Rabindranath Tagore’s poems and called on his Jorasanko home every day, sometimes several times a day from his boarding house. Tagore requested Kimura to accompany him as an interpreter during his trip to Japan, and asked him to make all necessary arrangements beforehand. In Kimura’s words, “So I returned to Japan at the end of March 1915 after a lapse of eight years to arrange for his (Rabindranath’s) trip. When I was making arrangements in Japan for poet Tagore, I happened to meet Mr. Lajpat Rai in Tokyo, who was at that time a very famous Indian leader and a great nationalist. I heard from him that he visited Japan on his way home from America. I understood from his various talks that Mr. Rashbehari Bose was in hiding in Tokyo after his flight to Japan from India. He gave me the address of Mr. Bose’’ p. 39, [1]. Rev. Nikki Kamura shortly called on Rashbehari in 1915, and has described his first meeting as follows: “This was the first time I had an intimate interview and had pleasant talks with Mr. Rashbehari Bose. He was not only a respectable Indian gentleman, but also a man of patriotic spirit with fervent soul. I paid my highest respect to his sincerity and knew the high value of his true heart. After the interview, I became his intimate friend.’’ p. 40, [13]. In 1917, Kimura returned to India, to study various branches of Indian philosophy under Prof H. P. Shastri. The next year he was appointed as a lecturer by Sir Ashutosh Mukherjee, Vice-Chancellor of Calcutta University, on a post-graduate course. Afterwards, he continued as a lecturer on the topic of Buddhist philosophy and Buddhist history for about 15 years in Calcutta University. He has written about his return to Japan in 1924, Once again I returned to Japan (in 1924) at the direction of Calcutta University and fulfilled my duty for establishing connections between Calcutta University and each existing University in Japan and also to contribute Calcutta University’s publications to the main University in Japan. Mr. Rashbehari Bose who had been enjoying the biggest confidence at that time among the Japanese, gave me a splendid welcome party when he heard about my return to Japan from India. My relationship with him further increased since then.’’ pp. 40-41, [1]. He returned again to Japan in 1931 due to illness, but his position as the lecturer at Calcutta University continued. Shortly after his return, he had formed the India-Japan Friendship Association (Nichi-in-Tomnokai) with Rashbehari; and big meetings were held 4 or 5 times a year for the purpose of promoting the India-Japan friendly relations. In 1942, Prime Minister and Secretary of War of Japan, Hideki Tojo appointed Kimura to act as an adviser to the Japanese Army General Staff Office and tasked him with rendering assistance towards Indian independence. He was part of the group that was consulted before inviting Subhas Chandra Bose to Japan, and accompanied Subhas Bose to Rashbehari’s home for the first meeting between the revolutionary duo. pp. 38-42, [1]. Nikki Kimura constitutes an important source for our information on Rashbehari Bose.

[1] Rash Behari Basu – His Struggle for India’s Independence, Editor in chief, Radhanath Rath, Editor Sabitri Prasanna Chatterjee, Biplabi Mahanayak Rash Behari Basu Smarak Samiti