Khudiram Bose walked towards the gallows with a smile on his face, and stood unflinching on the scaffold when the noose tightened.
The 18-year-old was sentenced to death for trying to assassinate then Muzaffarpur district
judge and Chief Presidency Magistrate of Calcutta, Douglas H. Kingsford. But the young
patriot knew no fear or any remorse.
Even when taken to the police station for trying to hurl a bomb at Kingsford’s carriage, he
wilfully surrendered, and fearlessly shouted “Bandemataram.” Bose’s daring act inspired
many youngsters to join the fight against British rule.
Born to Trailokyanath Bose and Lakshmipriya Devi on 3 December 1889 in Habibpur village
near Midnapore in West Bengal, Khudiram was the fourth child—a son they desperately
wanted after three daughters.
Having lost two sons at a young age, one after birth and one when he was six years old,
Khudiram, in accordance with customs of those days to avoid premature deaths, was
symbolically sold by his mother to her eldest daughter, Aparupa Devi. The baby
was exchanged for three mutho khudi or three handfuls of grain, and hence the name
Ironically, while they didn’t lose him early, Khudiram lost his parents at the tender age of
six—first his mother, and then, a year later, his father.
Young Khudiram Bose was then brought up by his elder sister Aparupa, in Hatgachhia, who
sent him to Girish Chandra Mukhopadhyay’s Pathshala for his early education. However, in
school, Bose was more devoted to participating in revolutionary activities and anti-British
agitations than his studies.
Inspired by the ideals of Aurobindo Ghose
While studying at Midnapore Collegiate School, he developed close ties with Satyendra Nath
Bose, Hemchandra Das Kanungo, and Gyanendra Nath Basu famously known as ‘the great trio of Midnapore’—the leaders of Aurobindo’s Secret Society in Midnapore called Anushilan Samiti. Formed in the early 20th century, the revolutionary group was known for training young boys into carrying out violent attacks to overthrow the British government.
During that time, Aurobindo Ghose, later known as Sri Aurobindo, was a frontline extremist
leader and the face of the armed nationalist movement of Bengal. He was hailed as a role
model for young revolutionaries.
In 1908, at the age of 15, Khudiram became a member of the Anushilan Samiti, where he, along with many young patriots of his age, was trained to use lathi (stick), chhura (knife) and asi (sword). Here, they were also trained to shoot revolvers.
“The growing sympathy for these revolutionaries among the common people made great
leaders like Bal Gangadhar Tilak to write favourably about them in newspapers,” wrote Hitendra Patel in his book, Khudiram Bose: Revolutionary Extraordinaire.
“The young recruits were given physical, moral, and ideological training. Revolutionary
literature viz. the biographies of famous revolutionaries like Mazzini and Garibaldi, the
religious books like The Gita, history of the French revolution etc. were given to young
revolutionaries so that they could realise why they had to wage a war against the British
rule,” Patel noted.
Revolutionary legacy of Khudiram Bose
The announcement of the first partition of Bengal—which separated Muslim dominated
eastern areas from Hindu dominated western areas—by Governor-General Lord Curzon in
1905, led to a nationwide protest and galvanised the Anushilan Samiti into activity.
A year later, in a bid to spearhead the foreign goods boycott movement, Khudiram, still a
school student, was tasked to distribute prohibited leaflets or ‘militant write ups called Sonar Bangla during an exhibition. Even after being warned by his teacher, Ramchandra Sen, about its ‘anti-British’ content, he didn’t stop circulating it. When the police tried to get hold of him, he gave them a push and hit them very hard on their nose. Even after getting prosecuted, the 16-year-old did not reveal anything about the people he worked with or those who tasked him with distributing the prohibited booklets. Although found guilty, Bose was let go because of his age.
But this was just one of many incidents that would come to define the young revolutionary.
From burning foreign clothes to sinking salt imports from Britain, Khudiram Bose was
always at the forefront of Independence and anti-partition agitations.
Attempt to assassinate Kingsford
Amid widespread suppression of freedom fighters by the British government in 1906, Douglas Kingsford emerged as the beacon of cruelty and ruthlessness. “In those days, (Kingsford was) the most hated man among the revolutionaries who found pleasure in giving severest punishment to revolutionaries,” Patel noted in his book.
One of the most infamous punishments announced by Kingsford, particularly resented among militant leaders, was him ordering the flogging of 15-year-old Sushil Sen for hitting a British policeman, E.B. Huey, on his face. Sen resorted to beating the policeman after he failed to stop him from attacking revolutionaries gathered outside a courthouse. Kingsford also ordered the arrest of Aurobindo Ghosh and Bipin Chandra Pal as their paper, Vande Mataram, increasingly mobilised support and threatened British suzerainty.
Dying with a smile
Bose and Prafulla Chaki were still new to the armed movement when they were sent to
Muzaffarpur, Bihar, to kill Kingsford in 1908. However, the assassination attempt failed
as they ended up lobbing a bomb at the wrong carriage and killing
Kingsford’s ‘bridge’ partners, Mrs Kennedy and Ms Grace Kennedy, wife and daughter of
British author and barrister Pringle Kennedy.
While Chaki shot himself to avoid arrest, Khudiram was caught outside Waini station,
located around 20 km away from Muzaffarpur. Unaware of Chaki’s suicide, Khudiram took
full responsibility for the attack and repeatedly expressed regret for the two innocent lives
lost during the mission.
He was sentenced to death by judge Karndoff on 11 August 1908.
While Bose’s life was tragically cut short, the nation didn’t fail to celebrate him. After the
hanging, the funeral procession went through Muzaffarpur, with swelling crowds burying his
lifeless body with petals and garlands. “Khudiram Bose was executed this morning… It is
alleged that he mounted the scaffold with his body erect. He was cheerful and
smiling,” wrote The Empire.
(Edited by Zoya Bhatti)