Dhruba Jyoti Borah

One was the enactment of the Rowlatt Act in 1919, designed primarily by keeping in mind the returning of the Indian soldiers after the World War I many of who were already inspired by the tales of their Ghadr brothers. Agitations against this black Act also led to the Jallianwala Bagh massacre on April 13, 1919.

The land which had led the world in terms of knowledge, wisdom and richness had also been enslaved by many for many years. On March 15, 1946, the British Government made it clear that it could not delay the freedom of India. There are many stories and events of the freedom movement and most remained unsung.

From 1857 till the Partition of Bengal was the time of the making of early revolutionary stories along with the rediscovery of history of India. During this time a network of revolutionary societies was started which that called for Purna Swaraj. The colonial government in India enacted many laws to content the rise of such societies. However, London was far and free from the shackles of the colonial chains. In July 1905, Shyamji Krishna Verma with a variety of support from many notable Indians like Lala Lajpat Rai, Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Bipin Chandra Pal established the India House in London. With it began a chapter of the freedom struggle; it is where the philosophy and ideology of the armed struggle got its shape. Such houses were also opened in France, Germany and in the Americas. Prominent freedom fighters like VD Savarkar, VVS Iyer, Sachindranath Sanyal, Madame Bhikaji Cama and others were part of this India House. The imperial British were scared of the bullets but they were more scared of the words and letters of the revolutionaries. However, it was the book The War of Independence of 1857 which was most feared by the colonial government. The British already knew about the content of the book from its spies and placed several laws to stop it from getting printed and coming into India. The manuscript was smuggled in in the most dramatic of ways from England, India, France and Germany to reach Holland for printing. Thereafter, it became the most sacred text for the revolutionaries to come.

The history of British intelligence and modern espionage is very much connected with the history of India’s freedom struggle. As the revolutionary activities increased, the British reinforced its surveillance and soon its agents began to infiltrate the India House; one such agent was Kirtikar who was dispatched from Maharashtra to London in 1909 but this mole was soon apprehended and then forced to become a double-agent. Young revolutionaries often outsmarted the officers of Scotland Yard, overrun a plethora of obstacles, and successfully executed many of their plans.

Many international events also influenced the revolutionary activities but it was both the World Wars that played a very significant role in shaping the course of the armed freedom struggle. After the closure of the India House, many of the revolutionaries dispersed throughout and continued working on their objectives. They saw an opportunity to free the motherland as the World War I became imminent. After the deadly assassination attempt on Lord Hardinge in 1912, Raj Behari Bose was living in Dehradun under the cover of a forest officer; he together with Lala Hardayal and Sachindra Sanyal planned the Ghadr Revolt for February 1915.

The history of betrayal continued to haunt the motherland as some vital information provided by Kirpal Singh helped the British arrest many key leaders; Raj Behari Bose made a daring escape to Japan waiting for the next opportunity to come. The Ghadr mutiny was temporarily successful in Singapore for seven days. The Anne Larsen affair, the second Christmas Day plot, the Black Tom explosion and some other events are related to the Ghadr Mutiny. This attempt by the revolutionaries would subsequently lead to a number of other notable events in the annals of Indian history. One was the enactment of the Rowlatt Act in 1919, designed primarily by keeping in mind the returning of the Indian soldiers after the World War I many of who were already inspired by the tales of their Ghadr brothers. Agitations against this black Act also led to the Jallianwala Bagh massacre on April 13, 1919.

After the end of the World War I, the revolutionary activities came down and resumed only after the release of Sachindranath Sanyal. He along with Chandrasekhar Azad and some others formed the Hindustan Republic Association. After the Kakori train dacoity in August 1925, Sanyal was re-arrested along with many others while Azad escaped to reform the group as the Hindustan Socialist Republic Army with Jogesh Chatterjee, Bhagat Singh and others.

The story of the Indian freedom struggle is also a story of betrayal and collaboration of Indians with the British. In recent times the discovery of credible sources like the secret correspondence of the British Government has led many noted scholars to say that Hindi writer Yashpal was a British spy whose information also led to the famous encounter of Chandrasekhar Azad on February 27, 1931. When the revolutionaries discovered the betrayal of Yashpal, they wanted to kill him but the British kept him under their protection in the Naini Jail in Allahabad with his wife and other luxuries.

By this time the torch of the struggle was passed to Subhas Chandra Bose who had already established the Bengal Volunteers by 1928 in Kolkata. As the WW II began, the revolutionaries saw another opportunity. In June 1940, Bose met VD Savarkar and in July 1940 he was put under arrest. Netaji has learned a lot from the life of Sri Aurobindo and Savarkar. He successfully deceived the cunning British and in January 1941 escaped to Germany via Kabul. The former Ghadrites in Afghanistan became active and in Japan, the elderly Raj Behari Bose was waiting for Netaji to hand over the charge of the Indian Independence League to be renamed as the Indian National Army (INA) in 1943. On December 30, 1943, the flag of Free India was hoisted in Andaman and Nicobar where Netaji paid homage to the revolutionaries who were tortured in Kalapani. Fighting through the trenches of Kohima and Imphal, the INA hoisted the flag of Free India also at Moirang on April 14, 1944. However, by 1945 the allied forces emerged victorious but by then the might of the imperial British had already collapsed. On August 17, 1945, Netaji disappeared.

The WW II ended, and the British made the decision to hold a public trial for the INA soldiers from November 1945. The stories of the brave freedom fighters travelled to the nooks and corners of the country. The revolutionaries were the symbols of defiance, strength and courage of the common people. The political parties of India were not behind to take advantage of such a trial of heroes which would enhance their legitimacy after the British had left. By conducting the INA trials, the British Raj had prepared its own funeral pyre and the same was lit by the series of mutinies that started with the Royal Indian Navy in Mumbai in February 1946 and soon it spread across the Air Force and the Army. No sooner the British Government realized that the loyalty of the Indian soldiers on whose might it enforced its authority over Indians had been lost, in March 1946 it planned to send a Cabinet Mission and made its intention to leave India clear.