On the eve of the 70th Independence day of India, I try to bring about stories of two places and some lesser known Bengal Tigers from the early Indian Freedom Struggle.
Chandannagar is a city located around 37 kms from Kolkata. Being a former French settlement , it holds a distinct and unique flavor distinguishing it from the other cities in Bengal. Originally Chandannagar was known as Chander Nagor or ‘Moon City’ possibly because of the crescent shaped Hooghly (river).
Chandannager was established as a French colony in 1673 and became the main trading port in Bengal till the British made Kolkata their capital.
Unlike the other French colony of Pondicherry or Mahe, Chandannagar is lessor known. The Strand Road along the riverfront is a favorite amongst the local and the tourist alike. The French connection is evident from the Chandannager Gate which has the French slogan “ Liberate, Egalite, Fraternite” etched on it.
The Patal Bari or the “Underground House” is an example of the architectural excellence of those days. The lower floors of the building are submerged in water in the Hoogly or the Ganga river. Nobel Laureate Rabindra Nath Tagore was a frequent visitor to Patal Bari.
Apart from the various architectural splendors, Chandannager is also known for its electrical displays. The beautiful creative lights can showcase everything from famous personalities to Titanic to space satelites. The latest news items are displayed through these decorative lights during Durga and Jagadharti Pujas.
Chandannager is also the birthplace of Kanailal Dutta, one of the lessor known revolutionary who fought for the freedom of India. Kanailal Dutta was a part of the Jugantar revolutionary group in Bengal which had Barin Ghosh, Bagha Jatin, Khudiram Bose and many others as its members.
Inspired by his professor, Charu Chandra Roy, KanaiLal joined the freedom struggle early, during his graduation days. During 1905, Kanailal Dutta was in the forefront of a movement against the partition of Bengal.
In 1908, Kanailal, all of 20 years of age was arrested in connection with the failed assassination attempt on then District Magistrate of Muzaffarpur, Bihar, Kingsford.
While in jail Kanailal Dutta and Satyendranath Basu, were told to execute Narain Goswami, who though initially a revolutionary but had later turned approver.
On August 30, 1908, Narain Goswami was shot dead inside the Jail premises. On October 21, 1908, The High Court pronounced death sentence for Kanailal Dutta and he was subsequently hanged on the morning on November 10,1908 at a tender age of 20.
Midnapore city, situated on the banks of River Kangsabati, is part of a district by the same name in West Bengal. The entire of the West Midnapore district is known for the ancient archaeological excavations. The biggest excavation is in the city of Tamluk or the ancient city of Tamralipta. The Tamralipta port is believed to be the exit point of the Mauryan (between 322 BCE – 185 BCE) trade route. The travelogues of Faxian and Xuanzang, Chinese Buddhist monks, also carry notings about a Buddhist settlement near Tamluk.
Tamluk is one of the major attractions for tourist when in Midnapore. Chandrakona is another such town near Midnapore which has beautiful ancient architecture dating back to the Chauhan Dynasty . The Forts of Ramgargh and Lalgarh are the major attractions of this town.
Sarasanka Dighi Lake, Samoleswar Mahadev temple, Bidyadhar Puskarini Lake are some of the places if interest in Dantan near the main town.
Apart from the ancient historical excavations, Midnapore is also known for being the birth place of Khudiram Bose, a fighter of the Indian Freedom Struggle. Khudiram Bose was all of eighteen years of age when he was sentenced to death and hanged for his involvement in the failed attempt to kill the then District Magistrate of Muzaffarpur, Bihar, Kingsford.
Kingsford was known for the corporal punishments he meted out to the young political activists. His harsh and often cruel sentences had made him very unpopular amongst these activists. Due to the atrocities committed by him, the revolutionary group decided to do away with him once and for all.
Born in the Midnapore district in 1889, Khudiram was deeply influenced by Shri Aurobindo, who was then a revolutionary freedom fighter. He joined the group of revolutionaries at the tender age of 16.
Khudiram( all of eighteen years of age), along with his colleague, Prafulla Chaki who was also about the same age as Khudiram, were chosen to assassinate DM Kingsford. With 2 revolvers, a bomb and a little money, the two set off on their mission. They spent a few days in Muzaffarpur, Bihar, spending time to observe the daily routine and activities of their target, Kingsford.
On the night of April 30, 1908, Khudiram and Chaki, waited near the European Club in Muzaffarpur, for Kingsford’s carriage to arrive.
As the carriage arrived, Khudiram aimed and threw the bomb at the carriage, which burst into flames.
However, unfortunately for him, the carriage was carrying the wife and daughter of a lawyer by the name of Kennedy, instead of Kingsford on that day.
Khudiram and Chaki did not wait to find out the result of their daring attempt, but instead ran the whole night in different directions. After walking around 25 miles, Khudiram reached a place called Vaini Raliway station (known as Khudiram Bose Pusa Station today). It was from here that he was caught by the police, who became suspicious on seeing his exhausted appearance.
On the other side Prafulla Chaki was also similarly intercepted by the police. When he realized he had no room to get away, Prafulla killed himself with his pistol.
Khudiram Bose was hanged on August 11, 1908. He was one of the youngest and probably second person to be hanged during the Indian Freedom Struggle.
Khudiram Bose, Prafulla Chaki and Kanailal Dutta offered themselves to the cause of the India’s Freedom much before the Nehru’s and the Gandhi’s came on the scene. However, the names of these Bengal Tigers is lost and forgotten somewhere in the pages of history.