Militant Nationalists: The Forgotten Martyrs
A number of books have been published on Gandhiji. One of them was Gandhi’s Dilemma by Manfred B Steger published in Sept 2000 by St Marin’s Press in New York. The book refers to sixteen books on the same subject making a critical analysis of Gandhiji. The writer of these books are—1. Joan Bondurant 2. M Brown 3. Dennis Dalton 4. Richard G Fox 5. Martin Green 6. Mark Jungensmerger, 7. Thomas Partham 8. Ronald J. Tarden 9. Yogesh Chaddha, 10. Margarent Chatterjee, 11. Partha Chatterjee, 12. Raghavan Iyer 13. Ved Medita 14. BR Nanda and 15. Ashish Nandy 16. Bikshu Parekh. Another very aggressive book by SS Gill is under the heading Gandhi a Sublime failure published in 2001.
India’s freedom movement from British occupation had an extensive international spread. Shyamji Krishna Verma established India House in London which produced Savarkar, Madam Cama, Lala Hardayal and Madanlal Dhingra. This was all before 1910. Savarkar was given inhuman torture by the British in Andamans. Congress which was created by the British around 1885 was getting politically important and revolutionaries like Savarkar were getting overshadowed by extremely diplomatic moves of the British in helping Congress to come up to certain extent. The revolutionaries were crushed ruthlessly. They hanged Asfaqulla Khan, Bismil, Rajendra Lahiri etc. The command was then taken up by Bhagat Singh, Binay Kumar Sinha and Shiv Verma. Bhagat Singh was an extraordinary patriot and I have mentioned in my above mentioned articles that Gandhiji’s role in connection with Bhagat Singh is not straight forward. Bhagat Singh had predicted “My country will be one day free. But I am afraid that the brown Sahibs are going to sit in the Chairs the white Sahibs will vacate”. Gandhiji had no words for the courage of Surya Sen in the Chittagong armoury raid. Minto Morley Reforms Act of 1919 came to mislead the Indian public that the British were gradually preparing to give Indians more experience to govern so that they finally leave India.
Gandhiji had taken charge of the Congress here. Simon Commission was appointed in 1928. The result was the 1935 Act. It needs to be studied here how Gandhiji’s approach to constitutional reforms hastened, delayed or distorted the process of achievement of independence. Till 1920 Gandhiji himself held this view. It was, at his instance that the Reforms Act of 1919 was endorsed by the Congress. But then Gandhiji opposed it and there was a split. The Swarajist separated and entered the council in large numbers. Many Indian Ministers did a good job. What did the country gain by Gandhiji’s negative attitude? Gandhiji’s boycott of Prince of Wale’s visit was a blunder. His main motive was to placate the Muslims in supporting Khilafat. Gandhiji kept shouting for full independence. He should have accepted dominion status. This would have greatly simplified matters, hastened the attainment of independence and would have averted partition.
Gandhiji dramatised the situation in 1922 by promising Swaraj in tweleve months. The situation continued to deteriorate. Communal riots in 1926 saw the murder of Swami Shradhanand, 155 Hindus were killed in Kohat riots and the entire Hindu population was driven out. Gandhi-Irwin pact was signed on March 31, 1930. Gandhiji practically surrendered Salt movement. He was jailed and remained there. There was no mention of dominion status. 60,000 people were jailed and hundreds shot dead. In March, 1931 at Karachi, Congress saw Gandhiji being hooted with Black flags.
Gandhiji went to England, Lord Wellington was new viceroy, Nehru and Gaffar Khan were in jail. The Second World War broke in 1939. Gandhi’s initial reaction was to give unconditional support to Britain. But Gandhiji changed his views. Ramgarh session was held in March ’40. Civil Disobedience Movement was started with Vinoba as the first Satyagrahi who was jailed on October 17, 1940. It was a low key movement. 25,000 volunteers were arrested. Americans put pressure on Britain. Government released the members of the Congress Working Committee. Stafford Gripps Mission came in March 1942.
Aurobindo Ghosh advised Gandhiji to accept the Gripps’ proposal. Gandhiji did not even meet Aurobindo and Gripps’ proposals were rejected unceremoniously by Gandhiji. Congress passed the “Do or die” resolution on August 8, 1942. All the leaders were arrested on August 9, 1942. 250 railway stations, 500 post offices, 150 police stations were attacked. 1028 people were killed, 3125 were seriously injured.
Jayprakash Narayan, Aruna Asaf Ali, Ram Narayan Lohia went underground along with thousands of grassroots workers. Repression was ruthless. There were 538 cases of firings and 60,000 people were arrested. Viceroy told Churuchill that this had been the most serious rebellion since 1857. Gandhiji went on a 21-day fast on February 10, 1943. Chruchill told his Cabinet: “This hour of our triumph everywhere in the world was not the time to crawl before a miserable old man who had always been our enemy.” Government was wishing for his death and prepared for the funeral. But Gandhiji survived and was released unconditionally in May 1944.
Ramakrishna Mission had been established by Swami Vivekanand in 1898. The consort of Shree Ramakrishna, Sarda Devi had great affection for the Indian revolutionaries and praised their capacity for sacrifice. They guided them to become sanyasis. A great revolutionary 1) Devbrat Basu became Swami Pragyanand
2) Sachin Sen became Swami Chinmayanand
3) Sister Sudhira established Sarda Math
4) Prianath Gupta became Swami Atmapranashananda
5) Dhirendra Das Gupta became Swami Sambudhanand
6) Radhia Mohan Adhikari became Swami Sunderavanand
7) Nagen Sarkar became Swami Sahajanand
8) Satish Das Gupta became Swami Satyanand. Besides these
9) Upendernath Bandopadhyaya
10) Rishikesh Kanjilall
11) Akshay Chaitanya Maharaj
12) Bhihiputi Bhushan Ghosh
13) Satyendranath Majumdar
14) Famous leader Manhanlal Sen
15) His daughter Mrinmoyi Devi
16) Vishwakarma Bandopadhyay
17) Indradayal Bhattacharya later played an important role in the mission.
Various militant revolutionaries had received great affection from Mother Sarda. The great revolutionaries Devabrata Basu and Sachin Sen were released from the Manchtolla Bomb case in 1909. A lot of people who killed the administrators by Bomb and pistols were arrested and later released. To give them shelter in the Mission was full of risk. The mission authorities had to face lots of troubles because of the same. Swami Brahmanand, the President of the mission wanted to keep the mission away from the revolutionaries. But Mother had great sympathy for revolutionary Devbrat Basu and Sachin Sen. Her sympathy, affection and directions made Brahmanand take the risk
Devbrat Basu played an important role in Bengal’s revolutionary movement. Devbrat was highly talented. Nalini Kanta Gupta of Aurobindo Ashram writes that Devbrat Basu, Barin Kuma Ghosh, Upendra Bandopadhyaya and Rishikesh Kanjilall were of the same age and were members of the writers’ forum. Yogendra had written in praise of the writing skills and talents of these two revolutionaries. They were in a highly elevated stage. They used to sit in one posture for hours and meditate. Devbrat’s sister Sudhira also helped them. She was a revolutionary in spite of being a woman and played an active role. After staying a few weeks in the Mission, Devbrata and Sachin prayed for being initiated into sanyas.
The police had still an eye on them and Swami Brahmanand refused. But Mother intervened: “Swami Brahmanand is still a child – you should go to Swami Sardanand. Sardanand” had sympathy with the revolutionaries and his relations with the revolutionary societies were well known. One of the members of this society, Priyanath Das Gupta writes: “Swami Sardanand’s affection and love is incomparable. But for him people like me who were arrested could not have joined the mission.” Chaitanya Maharaj said: “Mother had a soft corner for these revolutionaries and therefore, Swami Sardanandji used to give them shelter. Devbrata Basu (Swami Pragyananda) and Sachin Sen (Swami Chinmayananda) became the ochre-robed sanyasis of Ramakrishna Mission, but the police kept an eye on them as long as they lived. Seeing this attitude of the police “Swami Chinmayanand expressed his problems to Mother but she said: “The intensity of this storm would vanish, you are a sanyasi, your individuality has vanished and there is no reason for sorrow.” Swami Chinmayanand later wrote, “In spite of all the problems created by the police, my mind became peaceful. I heard all that the police said, tolerated all the problems but it did not disturb my mental peace.”
On the friendly advice of the Government Swami Brahmanand advised Devbrata Basu and Sachin Sen to move from the mission for some time. The Government has promised to give the land adjacent to Sevashrama, but because of the say of revolutionaries there they have some problems. That is why Swami Brahmanand Rakhal has asked them to go. But Devbrat has become a sanyasi. He is not participating in any revolutionary activity. But still they are after him. His sister Sudhira was saying that he left without even eating. The police follow him wherever he goes.
Government announced on December 12, 1911 that the Bengal Partition Act was being withdrawn and the capital is being moved from Calcutta to Delhi. On December 23, 1912, Lord Hardings along with the wife was entering Delhi with a great procession. On the advice of Shri Rashbehari Bose, Vasant Biswas hurled a bomb at him. Even though the life of Lord Hardings was saved, he suffered a grave injury. Lady Hardings in her book mentioned the horror of the incident.
Then came the news that the police were looking for those who were associated with Manicktilla Bomb case. They were also looking for Devbrata Basu. The sanyasis were advising Mother to shift Devbrata for some time. But mother said firmly: “He is not involved in any revelotuionary activities now. Why are you so afraid?”
On April 20, 1919 Devbrat Basu passed away. The tears from Mother’s eyes were not stopping. In the eyes of the Mother they were Mahayogi, the lifelong tortures made Sachin Sen (Swami Chinmayananda) suffer tuberculosis and he died at the Mother’s house. He left his mortal body with a smile touching the feel of the Mother. When Devbrat passed away at night, it was raining heavily and not many people were in the Math. But when Sachin passed away in the morning the Math was full of devotees.
Swami Pragyanand’s (Devbrat’s) sister Sudhira was also extremely affectionate to Mother. In 1904 when Devbrat went to Cuttack and Pune for revolutionary works, Sudhira also accompanied him. She assisted Bhagini Nivedila in establishing the school. Ramakrishna Mission had great respect for her. She died at the age of 32 on November 23, 1920.
Swami Sardanand wrote a touching article in Udbodhan on her demise. The Brother of Aurobindo Ghosh also wrote an article in her memory.
By LN Jhunjhunwala