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MN Roy: brief outline of life-events and thoughts- Part 03

MN Roy: brief outline of life-events and thoughts- Part 03

Continued From Part 02

In search of the Golden Fleece

Fleece of Jason

As the tension between England and Japan mounted following the dispute over the Korean Peninsula in 1910; and later as the war clouds were gathering  over Europe by 1913, a new fervor seized the revolutionary outfits operating within India as also the groups  of exiles striving from outside India , particularly in Europe and California (USA) . And, the insurgency within India took on a new dimension and a different orientation.  These developments led all the groups of revolutionaries to look towards Germany and Japan with hopes of securing their help and support for fighting the British, the common enemy of all the three.

One of the earliest attempts made to secure Japan’s support to fight the British in India was in May 1910 by Virendranath Chattopadhyaya (brother of Sarojani Naidu) and his associates. The response from Japan was rather tepid. With the worsening political instability, the apprehensions of an impending war began to look more ominous. And, eventually with the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand of Austria on 28 June 1914 a war did break out. The Great War, which later was named the World War I, struck the globe on 28 July 1914 and spread like wild fire; and, it did not subside until 11 November 1918.

[As the war began to engulf more and more countries, term “First World War” coined by the German biologist and philosopher Ernst Haeckel, first came into use by September 1914. Ernst Haeckel claimed that “there is no doubt that the course and character of the feared ‘European War’ … will become the First World War in the full sense of the word.]

As Germany invaded neutral Belgium and Luxembourg, before moving towards France, the United Kingdom declared war on Germany.  As Germany and Britain came into direct conflict,   Virendranath Chattopadhyaya along with his friend Dr. Abinash Bhattacharya  (who was said to be close to Kaiser’s inner circle) and other Indian nationalist formed  , at Berlin, in September in 1914 “German Friends of India Association”. The group soon thereafter met the brother of the belligerent German Emperor William II. The Group (representing India) and the Germans signed a treaty agreeing on German help to oust the British from India. With the help of Baron Max von Oppenheim, who was an expert on Middle Eastern affairs in the German Foreign Office, Virendranath drafted further plans; and, informed Indian students in thirty-one German universities and the rebel groups operating from France  about the Association’s future plans.

Following that treaty, by about the end of September 1914, the German Ambassador in USA Von Bernstorff ordered   Gen. Von Papen, his Military Attaché, to arrange for steamers, and purchase arms and ammunition, to be delivered on the Eastern Coast of India. The news of these developments was conveyed to Jatin Mukherjee (Bagha Jatin) the leader of the insurgent movement in India.

Even much before these developments took place; Jatin Mukherjee accompanied by Narendra Nath had met Wilhelm, the German Crown Prince during his visit to Calcutta in 1912. The Indian group had obtained from the Crown Prince an assurance that arms and ammunition would be supplied to them to fight the British Rule in India.

Later, on receipt of the message from Virendranath in Sept 1914, Jatin Mukherjee began re-organizing his group; and, asked Rash Behari Bose  (another prominent Jugantar member  and an insurgent leader operating underground in UP and Punjab ) to expedite preparations for the an  armed uprising.

Jatin Mukherjee, Narendra Nath, the Germans in Berlin and the German Counsel in Calcutta were in contact; and, drew plans, which sounded fantastic.

The initial plan was to use German ships interned in a port at the northern tip of Sumatra, to storm the Andaman Islands and free the prisoners there. The escaped prisoners from the internment camp were to be formed into a Liberation Army. The Army was to be moved by big armored vessels (as many big German vessels usually were) ready for warfare. The warships were to be loaded with several hundred guns, rifles and other small arms with an adequate supply of ammunition. These arms were to be procured through Chinese smugglers who would get then on board the ships….The Liberation Army was to land on the Orissa coast.

As said , the plan looked great; but , it just did not work,  At the last minute, money for  purchase of arms from the Chinese and for the conduct of the operation failed to materialize and the German Consul General “mysteriously disappeared on the day when he was to issue orders for the execution of the plan.”

Then, again, by the end of 1914, the Germans asked the Bengal revolutionaries to send their reprehension to Batavia in the Dutch East Indies (now known as Jakarta in Indonesia) identified as suitable neutral place for delivery of arms and money. Batavia lies on the north coast of Java, in a sheltered bay, over a flat land consisting of marshland and hills, and crisscrossed with canals.  


Narendra Nath was chosen by Jatin Mukherjee to negotiate the arms deal with Germans. In April 1915, Narendra Nath left for Batavia under the false name of Charles A Martin a reprehensive of M/S. Harry & Sons (a fake company set up under Harikumar Chakravarthy, a close friend on Naren). This was Narendra Nath’s first trip abroad.

Through the German Consul at Java, Naren met Theodore Helfferich, brother of Karl Helfferich (German politician, economist, and financier) who assured him that a cargo of arms and ammunition was already on its way, “to assist the Indians in a revolution.”   It was agreed that a cargo ship, an oil steamer ,  S.S. Maverick would deliver 30,000 rifles with 400 rounds of ammunition of for each, at Rai Mangal, a remote island in the wilderness of Sunderbans   in South Bengal. In addition a sum of Rs. Two lakhs was promised. Martin (Naren) wired to Harry & Sons “Sugar business helpful” . And again, he messaged:” Business good. Sugar contracted shipment after two weeks .Anxious for affairs there”.

Narendra Nath, after spending about two months in Java returned home with some money; and to make arrangements for receiving and unloading arms , for dispatching them to different parts of India. He did make the necessary arrangements. Between June and August 1915, Helfferich wired a total of Rs. 43, 000 to M/S. Harry & Sons of Calcutta. Naren had returned to India by the middle of June 1915; and was waiting for the shipment  Maverick which was said to reach the estuary of the Rai Mangal in Khulna District by the end of June 1915.

But, the promised cargo of arms failed to show up.  Naren thereafter ruefully remarked: the coveted cargo of Golden Fleece was after all a wild goose chase’.

Thereafter, a new plan was drawn up by the Berlin committee, according to which the German arms were to be delivered at two or three places like Hatia on Chittagong coast, Rai-mangal in the Sunderbans and Balasore in Orissa. The plan included organizing guerrilla forces to start uprising in several parts of the country, backed by a mutiny among the Indian Armed Force.

Naren again had to go to Java to work out the details of the arms delivery. Before going out on his second mission, in August 1915, Naren met Jatin Mukherjee who then was hiding is a safe place at Mohandia, near Balasore in Orissa; and, promised Jatin not to return this time without the arms. Jatin, it is said, told Naren in his farewell meeting “Come back with or without arms”. That, sadly, turned out to be Naren’s last meeting with Jatin.

Unfortunately the whole plot got leaked, through a Czech counter-revolutionary E. V. Voska who was in touch with his network of minority -Czech patriots in USA engaged in espionage and spying on the activity of the Germans. The British Intelligence came to know of the plot through their counterparts in USA.  The German plot thus was busted.

[Emanuel Viktor Voska, (1875-1960) of Czechoslovakia was a triple secret agent based in USA during the periods of the First and the Second World Wars.  When the First War broke out in 1914, Voska  was running the intelligence network of minority Czech patriots. And,  with the advice of President Woodrow Wilson, Voska took up the task of monitoring the anti-British espionage activities of the Germans and Austrian diplomats. (He later narrated the activities of his group in his book Spy and Counter-Spy published from London in 1941)

Soon after Voska got wind, through his pro-British, pro-American and anti-German   network operating in India, of the German plans to supply arms and to fund the revolutionary group headed by Bagha Jatin, he passed on the information to T G Masaryk, the Czech leader and a friend of President Woodrow Wilson (Masaryk – 1850 to 1937 – later in November 1918 became the first President of Czechoslovakia). Masaryk rushed the intelligence he gained to President Wilson, who alerted the British. And, eventually the Bagha-German plot was busted by the British police in India.

Thus a distant Czech spy-master Voska is held indirectly responsible for the fall of Bagha Jatin and for the end of militant revolutionary movement in India. Voska is also credited with the exposure of the Hindu–German Conspiracy; and, similarly for smashing the German efforts to supply arms to the Irish nationalist groups, both in Ireland and in USA. Voska’s network is also said to have uncovered spy activities by the German Ambassador in Washington and caught an American journalist doubling as a German agent .  Voska also helped in frustrating the efforts of German agent Franz von Rintelento restore Victoriano Huertato the Mexican presidency during World War I.


Thus, E V Voska had a highly successful career as a spymaster; but, his later years were miserable.

Voska returned to his country after the end of the Second War. And, soon thereafter in 1948, the Communists staged a coup and took over Czechoslovakia. Voska was arrested and put on trial for treason. Even though he was now an old man of 75, he fought hard against the charges, arguing that being then an American citizen, nothing he might have done could have been considered treasonous. Voska spent the next ten years in prison. Some satisfaction did come to him during show trials, when a number of the communist leaders who had persecuted Voska were themselves tried and executed for treason. What clinched their guilt were the bunch of  old letters found in Voska’s files showing that they had met with him to discuss anti-Franco operations in Spain.

In 1960, the communists finally released the 85-year-old Voska; and,  he died, a few days later, as a free man. ]


As soon as the British got the tip, the whole of the Ganges Delta and the all the sea approaches on the eastern coast from the Noakhali–Chittagong side up to Odisha were sealed off. And, New Emporium a branch of the Harry & Sons in Balasore was raided. The raid yielded the clue to Jatin’s hiding place at Kaptipada a nearby village. The British forces, in a military action, stormed Jatin’s hiding place.  The prolonged gun battle between the Police and the revolutionary fighters ended in “unrecorded number of casualties on the Government side and on the revolutionary side”. Jatin and his close associate Jatish were seriously wounded and captured. The others – Manoranjan Sengupta and Niren were also captured after their ammunition ran out. Bagha Jatin died in Balasore hospital on 10 September 1915. 


 [In an article titled Jatin Mukherjee (Independent India, 27 Feb 1949) MN Roy talked about Jatin with great affection; and, described his meeting with Jatin as the turning point in life. He wrote: ‘At that time, I did not know what the attraction was. Later on, I realized, it was his personality. Since then, I have had the privilege of meeting outstanding personalities of our time. These were great men. Jatinda was a good man; and, I still have to find a better… Good men are seldom given a place in the galaxy of the great.  It will continue to be so until goodness is recognised as the measure of genuine greatness”. “I admired Jatinda because he personified, perhaps without himself knowing it, the best of mankind” .. “Jatinda’s death would be avenged if I worked for the ideal of establishing a social order in which the best in man could be manifest”.

Jatin was a true revolutionary; he expressed his motto in simple words: “Amra morbo, jagat jagbe“- “We shall die to awaken the nation”. Even his adversaries respected his courage and valor.  It is said; Charles Tegart a British Police Officer involved in hunting down Jatin remarked: “Had Jatin Mukherjee been an Englishman, the English would have erected his statue at Trafalgar Square, by the side of Nelson’s”.  During a conversation with Charles Tegart on 25 June 1925, Gandhi qualified Jatin Mukherjee as “a divine man.” Interestingly, Ross Hedvicek an author of Chez origin remarked: had he not been killed in that encounter , the Father of Indian Nation would have been Bagha Jatin and not Gandhi”.

The 10 September 2015 marked the Centenary of the   martyrdom of Jatindra Nath Mukherjee, described as one of India’s most fearless sons and the pride of every Bengali.  It was celebrated both in Bengal and in Bangladesh.]


Naren left for Batavia in August 1915 to make fresh arrangements; this time under the name of Hari Sing (Little did he know then that he would not see his homeland again for 16 years) .

The alternate plan , this time , was to bring arms into India  from China by overland , through the North-Eastern Frontiers of Assam (NEFA) , where the local rebellious independent tribe Abors had risen in revolt against the British. The plan, among other things, was also to help the armed revolt of Abors.

This time, Naren found to his surprise, the German diplomats in Java were not very enthusiastic; they were not even cooperating. The German Consul complained that Indians lacked discipline and organization; and, were bad at keeping secrets. He also said that Germans had no men to spare ; and were not also willing to risk their vessels. Naren had three or four meetings with the German Consul but found he was making no impression or progress.

He made another attempt to secure arms from Indonesia; but, the Germans were reluctant to fund the venture.

Naren was disappointed and disgusted. But, he had resolved not to return to India without arms. It was while he, in desperation, was wandering aimlessly in, Manila, Philippines that he learnt about the death of his Mentor and ideal Jatin Mukherjee in a shootout at Balasore. His immediate resolve was that ‘Jatin’s death must be avenged’.

He was now more determined than ever to secure arms and funds to carry on armed struggle against the British Rule in India. For about one and a half years he wandered about in the Far East, pursuing his mission by contacting various groups of revolutionaries in Malaysia, Indonesia, Indo-China, the Philippines, Korea and Japan.

Naren went to Japan as Mr White; and in Tokyo ( during the middle of December 1915 ) he met Rashbehari Bose (25 May 1886 – 21 January 1945) his co-revolutionary of the Jugantar days. Rashbehari Bose was then on the ‘run’, hunted by British Police, following his failed attempt on the life of Lord Hardinge while he was returning from the Delhi Darbar of King George V on 12 December 1912.  Rash Behari managed to escape British intelligence and reached Japan in 1915.  There, in Japan, Bose hiding from the British Police, found shelter with various Pan-Asian groups.

Rashbehari Bose advised Naren to defer the armed struggle for Indian independence till such time as Japan was ready to take over the Asian leadership. Rashbehari Bose, however, put Naren in touch with other Asian revolutionaries taking shelter in Japan. It was then that Naren met the exiled Chinese President Dr Sun Yat-Sen   (12 November 1866 – 12 March 1925) who had escaped to Japan following the failure of the July 1913 uprising in Nanking.

When Naren approached San Yat-Sen for help in his task of organizing anti-British revolution in India, he pleaded  his inability to get involved , directly  , in such ventures, mainly because of the British control of Hong Kong,  which then was  Sun’s base of operations in South China.

By then, that is by the end of 1915, an armed revolt against Yuan Shi-Kai’s plan to restore monarchy in China was brewing in the two Chinese provinces of Yunan and Szechuan, bordering Burma and India. The rebels had more than adequate supply of arms. Naren requested San Yat-Sen whether he could help in diverting some of those arms to Indian revolutionaries across the border. Sun Yat Sen approved the idea; and suggested that Naren could approach the German Ambassador in Peking for a sum of Five Million Dollars for purchase of arms from the Chinese rebels. Sun Yat Sen also said he would first send his emissary to Yunan to brief the rebel groups; and Naren could later follow up that with the German Ambassador.

As suggested by Sun Yat-Sen, Naren (Mr. White) reached Hankow (now called as Hankou), early in January 1916, to meet Admiral Paul Von Hintz, the German Ambassador in China. The Ambassador agreed that from the military point of view Naren’s plans was worth trying. But, he rued that the amount involved was too huge; and he had no authority to sanction such sums of expenditure. He, however, suggested that Naren could submit his plans for consideration of the German Supreme War Authority and the General Staff, in Berlin.

 It is, however said, the real reason was that the German Ambassador suspected Dr. Sun of pro-British sympathies; and was not prepared to   trust Narendranath with such a huge loan.

It was decided that Narendranath  should go to Germany with Prince Hatzfield by the submarine, Deutschland; and,  try to persuade the German Government there to sanction the necessary amount for this project. Unfortunately, these negotiations took much time;  Naren was arrested shortly thereafter ; and, could not go to Germany .

[MN Roy later wrote that the Germans never meant to give us any substantial help; and the whole German plan of giving arms to Indian revolutionaries was a mere hoax, a veritable swindle.]


Since Naren was determined to take his plan for German funding to the German Ambassador in the United States, before heading to Germany itself,  the German embassy  in Peking put him   as a stowaway aboard an American ship with a German crew, bound for San Francisco. It also provided him with a fake French – Indian Passport.

The understanding was that the offer of German arms would be routed through the resident Indians in California, which is located midway between Japan and Europe (The Axis).  Narendra Nath, thus, traveled to America primarily to negotiate an Arms deal and to secure funds from Germany to fuel the Indian revolutionaries.

On the way, the British raided vessel in international waters; but were unable to track down Naren who was hidden in a secret compartment. When the ship next landed at Kobe, Japan, Naren stealthily disembarked and escaped into Japan.

And there in Japan, with the help of Japanese Intelligence, he obtained an American Visa on the ground that he was travelling to Paris by way of USA. He used a fake French – Indian passport given to him by the Germans in China. He (as Martin Charles Allen) boarded a ship named Nippon Maru that set sail to San Francisco, California from Yokohama (Japan) in Tokyo Bay, South of Tokyo, on 25 May 1916.

After series of disappointments, failures and aimless wandering as a fugitive over the whole of South East for about eighteen months, Narendra Nath set sail to USA in pursuit of his  incomplete mission to secure German arms to fight the British in India.

As Roy had earlier remarked;   the coveted cargo of Golden Fleece was after all a wild goose chase.  And, it continued to elude.






Next Part

Sources and References

 1, M N Roy by V B Karnik, National Book Trust, 1980

2.M N Roy, A Political Biography by Samaren Roy

3.Political Philosophy of M.N. Roy by Dr. Prakash Chandra, Sarup & Sons, 1992

4. Numerous pages from Wikipedia



Posted by on January 12, 2016 in M N Roy


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MN Roy: brief outline of life-events and thoughts- Part 02

MN Roy: brief outline of life-events and thoughts- Part 02

Continued From Part 01

Early years

The person whom we know and refer to as MN Roy or Manabendra Nath Roy was born as Narendra Nath Bhattacharya  on 21 March 1887 at  Arbella or Urbalia, then a village not far from Calcutta, in the Eastern part of  24 Parganas,  Bengal.

He was the son of Dinabandhu Bhattacharya and Basantha Kumari Devi. The couple had eight children; and, Narendra was the fourth. The Bhattacharya-s were traditional Shaktha Brahmins following the hereditary profession of priests at the temple of Kseputeswari Devi located in Ksheput of Midnapore District.

Narendranath’s mother , Basantha Kumari Devi, was the niece of Dwarakanath Vidhubhushan (1820 – 1886), a Sanskrit scholar, who was  the editor as also the publisher of the trend-setting  Bengali-weekly-newspaper Somprakash . He was an associate of the legendary social reformer Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar. Dwarakanath Vidhubhushan was active in promoting women’s education.  And, he established an English school called Harinavi Anglo-Sanskrit School in his hometown, Chingripota, South 24 Parganas.

Another uncle of Basantha Kumari Devi was Pandit Shivnath Shastri, a rebellious scholar who tore off his sacred-thread to join the reformist Brahmo Samaj movement. He , along with Rajnarain Basu (grandfather of Aurobindo Ghosh), made one of the early attempts at forming a secret revolutionary group to fight against the British in Bengal. In 1861, they established an organization named Jatiya Gourab Sancharini Sabha for promoting ‘the sense of nationalism and self-reliance among the educated youth of Bengal’. Rajnarain Basu in his pamphlet, Anusthan Patra outlined the aims and objects of the organization. And, that led to establishment of Jatiya Mela in 1861.

It is said; Shivnath Shastri and Rajnarain Basu’s Anustan Patra provided the inspiration for Nabagopal Mitra (1840–1894) to launch Jatiya Sabha an organization dedicated for the social and cultural upliftment of Bengali youth. Later, the Jatiya Mela and  the Jatiya Sabha came together, (renamed as Hindu Mela, in 1867), in order ‘to promote the national feeling, sense of patriotism, and a spirit of self-help among the Hindus’.  It is said; the Hindu Mela had also its roots in the twin ideals of promoting a distinctive identity and self-reliance articulated in poet Isvarachandra Gupta’s (1812 – 1859)  magazine  Sambad Prabhakar ; and,  his Bengali poetry composed in medieval style  carrying multiple meanings.

Shivnath Shastri, naturally,  exerted considerable influence on the younger members of Basantha Kumari Devi’s family.

Dinabandhu Bhattacharya, because of the family-circumstances, had to give up the priestly profession and take up the job of Sanskrit teacher at an English school in Arbella. It was in Arbella that Narendra Nath was born in 1887. The family  then moved on to Chingripota during 1898 . And thereafter , it moved on to the nearby village Kodalia in Hooghly District during 1899. Dinabandhu Bhattacharya died in 1905 when Narendra Nath was about eighteen years of age.  

Narendra Nath had his early schooling in Arbella where he attended the Jnan Vikasini School and the Harinavi Anglo-Sanskrit School, Chingripota, adjacent to Kodalia. At home, he was tutored in Sanskrit by his father. It is said; Narendra Nath, after his schooling (when he about fourteen years), moved to Calcutta where he joined the newly established National University (started by Aurobindo Ghosh).

Calcutta National Collage bowbazar street 1906 Sri Aurobindo 1908

After passing   the Entrance Examination from National University, he  is said to have studied Engineering and Chemistry in the Bengal Technical Institute. (But, the precise details , dates  and veracity in this regard are not confirmed).

[ On 11th March, 1906, the National Council of Education, Bengal, or Jatiyo Siksha Parishad was founded to provide a platform for ‘a system of education – literary, scientific & technical – on national lines. 

The institution started to work from 15th August, 1906 in a rented house on 191/1, Bowbazar Street with Sri Aurobindo Ghosh as Principal and Sri Satish Chandra Mukherjee as an Hon. Superintendent.

It is said; the Society for Promotion of Technical Education in Bengal, was later  set up at the instance of Sri  Taroknath Palit under patronage of Maharaja Manindra Chandra Nandy, Bhupendra Nath Bose, Nilratan Sircar and others who laid stress on the technical education alone. Under its management the Bengal Technical Institute was establish on July 25, 1906 with the objectives of spreading technical education among the masses. In 1910 the two societies merged.]


Before we move on further, let us take a look at the times when Narendra Nath was growing up.

The years after the failed upraise of 1857 plunged the whole of North India and Bengal in particular into ferment or a vortex. There was confusion, anarchy and oppression all around. The British, in their anger, went about ruthlessly  crushing any idea or an activity with  even a distant semblance of revolt or nationalism.

The long and severe fighting left indelible marks. The over-confident liberalism of the British, who had believed that they were bestowing the blessings of civilization on a grateful India quickly evaporated. India had proved to be ungrateful and hostile. 


As a part of their repression, the British systematically crippled the domestic economy by destroying the handicraft and village industries; and , they deliberately  restricted the growth of agriculture and domestic industries. The British attempted reorienting the entire Indian economy to serve as a supplier of raw material to their industries in England.  That resulted in impoverishment and desperation of the Indian peasantry. That pain and frustration was exacerbated by the increased burden of land revenue.

Lord Curzon , who took over as the Governor General and Viceroy of India in January 1899 , began his rule by introducing number of repressive measures and unpopular enactments , with a view to curtailing the already meager rights of the common  people ; and , to  effectively nip any  budding political movement .

Born out of disillusionment, poverty, unemployment and humiliation, the mass unrest and fermenting of rebellion was the inevitable.

Amidst such encircling chaos, the elite, the intelligentsia and social reformers of Bengal were forming their own groups and societies. At the other end, were the groups of revolutionaries inspired by the writings of Bankimchandra Chattopadhyaya   and Swami Vivekananda. They ignited the ideals of self –respect, nationalism and self-rule , free from oppression. 


[Prof. Hermann Kulke and Prof. Dietmar Rothermund in their A History of India (Rutledge, London, Third Edition 1998) write:

The challenge of imperial rule produced India’s nationalism, which raised its head rather early in the nineteenth century. Among the new educated elite there were some critical intellectuals who looked upon foreign rule as a transient phenomenon. As early as 1849 Gopal Hari Deshmukh praised American democracy in a Marathi newspaper and predicted that the Indians would emulate the American revolutionaries and drive out the British. Such publications, for which the author would have been prosecuted for sedition, only a few decades later, were hardly taken note of by the British at that time. Similarly, the political associations in Bombay, Calcutta and Madras submitted lengthy petitions to Parliament in 1853 when the renewal of the charter of the East India Company was due; these did not attract much attention either, although they contained, among other things, strong pleas for democratic rights and a reduction of the land revenue.

The Mutiny of 1857 then alarmed both the British and the Indian educated elite. The British became cautious, suspicious and conservative; the Indian elite lapsed into a prolonged silence

Liberal nationalists of the educated elite revived vocal political activity in the 1870s. They belonged to a new generation for whom the Mutiny of 1857 was only a vague childhood memory, whereas their experience in England— where many of them had gone for higher studies—had stirred their political consciousness. The old and long dormant associations of the 1850s were now superseded by new organisations of a more vigorous kind. Chief among them were the Indian Association established in Calcutta in 1876 and the Poona Sarvajanik Sabha which was founded in 1870. Mahadev Govind Ranade, the young judge posted in Pune in 1871, emerged as the leading spirit of the Sarvajanik Sabha.

Vedanta philosophy was certainly an inspiration for the national revolutionaries, but it had one major disadvantage: it was originally aimed at the liberation of the soul by meditation and by the renunciation of worldly preoccupations. Therefore it was necessary to emphasize the concept of Karma yoga, which implies that action as a sacrifice—as an unselfish quest for right conduct—is as good as renunciation. The crucial proviso is that one should not expect any reward or benefit from such action and must remain completely detached. In this way active self-realization rather than passive contemplation could be propagated as the true message of Vedanta philosophy.

Swami Vivekananda was the prophet of this new thought. He impressed the Western world when he propounded this message at the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1894; on his return to India in 1897 following his spiritual conquest of the West, he greatly stimulated Indian nationalism. The British rulers had usually looked down on Hinduism as a ragbag of superstition; Vivekananda’s rehabilitation of Hindu thought in the West was therefore considered to be a major national achievement.

Vedanta philosophy and Karma yoga were, of course, of importance only to members of the educated elite who had looked for a new identity and found that borrowed British liberalism was not enough of an inspiration for Indian nationalism.

The monism of Vedanta philosophy also provided these elite with an ideological justification for assuming the leadership of the masses in the spirit of national identity. For political mobilization this imputed identity was, of course, insufficient and attempts were therefore made to communicate with the masses by way of the more popular symbols of folk religion.

 In Bengal the cult of the goddess Kali or the ecstatic mysticism of the Vaishnava saints provided symbols for an emotional nationalism.

The hymn of the Bengali national revolutionaries, ‘Bande Mataram’ (‘Bow to the Mother’), alluded to an identification of the mother goddess with the motherland.

 In Maharashtra, Bal Gangadhar Tilak organised festivals in honor of the popular god Ganapati, as well as of the great hero Shivaji, whose fight against the Great Mughal was taken as analogous to the fight against British foreign rule.

And, in Punjab the Baishaki festival , in a similar manner, was used to mobilize  the Sikhs and Hindus .]


Bankimchandra Chattopadhyaya raised Nationalism to the level of religion by identifying the Motherland with the Mother-Goddess. The tremendous impact and thrilling upsurge that Anandamath and Bandemataram had on the Indian National Movement is indeed legendary. Bankimchandra’s immortal song Bande Mataram (Hail to the Mother) set to music by the young Rabindra Nath became India’s national song, and the voice of the Indian people fighting against colonial rule.

Aurobindo Ghosh and other revolutionaries acknowledged Bankimchandra as their political Guru. And, Aurobindo, in turn, wrote pamphlet Bhawani Mandir (Temple of Goddess Bhavani) , outlining the ideals and methods of the impending revolution. That was followed by Bartaman Rananiti (Rules of Modern Warfare),  detailing the tactics ,  particularly of the guerrilla type . The whole of India and Bengal revered Bankimchandra; and, following his ideal, regarded him as ‘the inspirer, a new spirit leading the nation towards resurgence and independence’. Anandamath created, in its wake, a class of patriots who willingly vowed to sacrifice their life for the cause of Motherland. The women accepted the idea of their men renouncing their worldly life and turning Sadhus in service of Motherland. 

Narendra Nath even as child growing up in the villages of Changripota, Kodalia and surrounding areas known as the breeding ground of revolution had been exposed to the ideas of nationalism and freedom. His mother’s uncles were active reformists and nationalists. Their zeal did rub-off on the young Naren. 

Samaren Roy in his M.N. Roy: A Political Biography mentions a certain Sivnarain Swami (believed to have been a fugitive of the failed revolt of 1857) trying to enroll and train young men to fight the British with arms.

It is said; Sivnarain Swami taught his young wards Yoga, revolutionary ideals as also lathi and sword-play. Naren was one of his ardent disciples and a fast learner.

It is believed that Naren, his cousin Avinash Bhattacharya and friend Harikumar Chakravarti along with Satcowri Banerjee; the brothers – Saileshvar and Shyamsundar Bose; and, two other cousins of Naren  , viz. Phani and Narendra Chakravarti, formed their own small group at Changripora. (This group later took a bigger role in organizing an armed uprising in the wake of World War One.)

It is said; a mysterious Mokshadacharan Samadhyayi (Mokshada Charan Bhattacharji  or Khasnabis), a resident of the neighboring Field and Academy Society (founded by Brahmabandhab Upadhyay); and,  an active organizer of a secret organization started frequenting  Naren’s group. This group consisting, apart from Naren, Harikumar Chakravarti, Saileshwar Bose, Satkari Banerji and Phani Chakravarti (Naren’s cousin) had started a powerful association. And, some of them had earlier worked in Barin Ghosh’s bomb-factory at Deoghar.

[About his early years as a boy growing up in rural Bengal, Roy wrote in in Memoirs:

When I began my political life, which may end in nothing, I wanted to be free. .. In those days, we had not read Marx. We did not know about the existence of the proletariat. Still, many spent their lives in jail and went to the gallows. There was no proletariat to propel them. They were not conscious of class struggle. They did not have the dream of Communism. But they had the human urge to revolt against the intolerable conditions of life under colonial rule. They did not know how those conditions could be changed, but they tried anyhow. I began my political life with that spirit, and I still draw my inspiration from it rather than from the three volumes of Capital or three hundred volumes by Marxists.]

Calcutta Chitpore road 1867

Calcutta- Chitpore Road-1867

Calcutta – the years of Insurgency (1905 – 1915)

1905 was an eventful year in Narendranath’s life. He lost his father Dinabandhu Bhattacharya in that year. It was the year in which he became active in Calcutta. It was also the year in which Lord Curzon took the ill-fated decision to partition Bengal into two halves. The whole of Bengal vehemently opposed Curzon‘s ploy of ‘divide and rule’; and rose up in revolt. The resistance to the idea of partition took on the forms of Nationalism and Terrorism, which almost shook the foundation of the British Empire in India. The British had to eventually shelve the idea of partitioning Bengal.

[Curzon’s imperious and autocratic character, however, created conflicts. His resignation in 1905 resulted from an internal political dispute in which he ultimately refused to follow orders from his superior in London, the secretary of state for India. His arrogance and racism made him contemptuous of English-educated Indians—he once called the Indian National Congress an “unclean thing”—and his government took a number of actions that antagonized elite Indians,including reducing the number of Indians on the municipal boards of cities and passing the Universities Act in 1904, a series of measures that tightened government controls over universities and their affiliated colleges in order to control student protests.

But, Curzon’s most provocative government action, however, was undoubtedly the partition of Bengal.]

But, the revolt against partition of Bengal had awakened the common people and ignited in their hearts the zeal for achieving a Free India. It inspired the younger generation of Bengal to take up armed struggle against the British rule. The  groups of young men, organized or otherwise, began to strike blow after blow against the established authority.

Narendra Nath was caught up in both the phases of the uprising. It is said; while he was in school at Kodalia (1904 ?)  he tried to organize a meeting to protest against the proposed partition Bengal. On being denied permission for holding the meeting within the School premises, Naren and his seven friends including Harikumar Chakravarti and Saileswar Bose addressed a small gathering outside the school. For which act of indiscipline , they all were punished; but, later were allowed to appear for their examinations.

calcutta Dalhousie Square 2, Calcutta - 1878

After he moved to Calcutta in 1905 and took active part in the Anti-partition movement, Naren was drawn into the very core of the revolutionary movement.

While in Calcutta, Naren and Harikumar used to attend the discourses on the Bhagavad-Gita given by Swami Saradananda (born as Sarat Chandra Chakravarty) of Sri Ramakrishna Mutt at Belur. There , they were introduced to Satish Bose who was said to be the Secretary of the Anushilan Samithi , a revolutionary body established in Calcutta during 1902 for ‘ the physical ,  mental and moral re-generation of the Bengali youth’. Naren and Harikumar, thereafter, became active members of the Anushilan Samithi; and , during the next two years – 1905 and 1906 – lived in the Central Office of the Samithi at NO. 49 Cornwallis Street, Calcutta (now named Bidhan Sarani, Kolkata). 

Anushilan_Samiti_office_at_48,_Cornwallis street

There at the Samithi, Naren came in close contact with a leader popularly known as Barin Ghosh. He was Barindra Ghosh or Barindranath Ghose (5 January 1880 – 18 April 1959) younger brother of Sri Aurobindo Ghosh. Barin Ghosh was a journalist publishing and editing a   Bengali weekly Jugantar (New Era); and, a revolutionary heading a group also named Jugantar. The revolutionary outfit Jugantar was, in fact, formed out of the inner circle of the Anushilan Samithi; and was actively involved in terrorist activities. It appears, the code-name that Barin Ghosh used for his revolutionary operations was ‘Golghar‘ (a monument in Patna, Bihar).

Emblem of 'Yugantar' (or 'Jugantar') - Revolutionary Bengali Newspaper -

It is said; Naren helped Barin Ghosh in looking after the magazine Jugantar; and , he also wrote articles for the magazine. One of his articles was Bharater Raja Ke ? (Who rules India?). The article, it is said, concluded with the assertion ‘it is only the people of India who can choose their ruler. British rule in India was established by force and is maintained by force, therefore, it can and will be overthrown only by a violent revolution. We are not in favor of resorting to violence if it can be helped; but for self-defense, the people of India must adopt violent means without which the foreign domination based upon violence cannot be ended.” 

Naren also wrote a pamphlet in Bengali, titled Mayer Dak (Mother’s call), which later was classified by the Bengal police as ‘seditious’.

In the initial stages, the Samithi asked Naren and Harikumar to engage themselves in organizational work and social-service. On being satisfied of their performance, they were admitted into the inner circle of Anushilan Samithi. Thereafter , they were trained in pistol shooting and bomb-making.

  Bagha Jatin It was during his training period that Narendra Nath came to know Jatindranath Mukherjee (7 December 1879 – 10 September 1915) , fondly called Bagha Jatin (Tiger Jatin – as he was  said to have  killed  a tiger in close combat). He was the principal leader of the  Jugantar ,  the central association of revolutionaries fighting the British rule in India. He was at that time working as a shorthand clerk in the office of Finance Secretary, Bengal Government. But, Jatin was deeply involved in the revolutionary movement. He was affectionate by nature; had an attractive personality and could make friends easily. He gathered around him number of young and enthusiastic revolutionaries. Naren , who also was drawn to Jatin, came to like him immensely; and, he  accepted Jatin as his leader. Later, the two worked together in a number of revolutionary ventures.


[I think we should digress here; and, talk a bit about Anushilan Samithi and Jugantar before going further.

Anushilan Samithi and Jugantar


Anushilan Samithi, just as any other organization, was a product of its times. It was largely inspired by Swami Vivekananda’s call for  developing a strong spine in Hindu community. And, it was also helped by a growing sense of Indian identity among the young student fraternity in Calcutta. Encouraged by  Sister Nivedita and  Swami Saradananda of Sri Ramakrishna Mutt , Satish Chandra Basu founded the Anushilan Samiti in early 1902. Pramathanath Mitra (30 October 1853-1910) was one of the earliest founding members of the Samiti. 

Swami Saradananda of Sri Ramakrishna MuttSatish Chandra BasuPramathnath Mitra

Its name was inspired by the term Anushilan-Tattva (The principle of discipline) used by Bankim Chandra Chattopadyaya as a title to one of his works. The basic theme of Anushilan was discipline; physical and moral regeneration of Bengali youth. The early Anushilan Samiti drew its members largely from the young student fraternity in Calcutta. It initially started as a sort of school (akhadas) for teaching lathi and swordplay, boxing, wrestling, and other exercises, apart from inculcating moral and spiritual values. 

In a short while, it grew into a cross between a society for rendering social service and a secret outfit teaching the forbidden art of bomb-making. It developed into an inner or underground wing which became the center of the revolutionary activities carried out all over Bengal.  Rigorous rules of admission were observed; strict discipline was enforced; and , utmost secrecy was maintained in its operations.

In course of time , many other branches of the Samiti were set up in other parts of India. The branches functioned mostly as independent bodies, pursuing their own targets; and, employing their own strategies and tactics. The most active of such units was the Anushilan Samithi of Dacca in East Bengal. Due to personal prejudices among the leaders of the Samiti-s , a sort of jealousy and distrust about each other’s motives spread among the Samiti-s. Even the Calcutta wing suffered setback following misunderstandings between its leaders: Barin Ghosh and Jatindranath Bannerjee

The Samiti-s were fairly active; and the Bengal Police , suspicious of their nefarious activities,  kept a watch over them. But, they could not carry out any arrests because  , outwardly and noticeably , they were engaged in social service; and , also because respectable leaders like Chitta Ranjan Das were associated with the Samitis.

By about 1908, the Bengal Police had gathered enough evidence to charge the Samiti-s with terrorist activities like dacoity, looting and murder. The Samiti offices and other work places were raided; arrests were made ; and, the outfits were declared unlawful. The Calcutta Samiti was declared illegal in 1908; and , the Dacca Samiti was closed down in the following year.

Barindra Kumar GhoshIn the meanwhile, Barin Ghosh (younger brother of Aurobindo Ghosh) , around 1906, began organizing volunteers in support of agitations to be carried out  as a part  of  the  Freedom movement .  His efforts drew those youth  who were highly motivated and fired  by the desire to secure Indian independence.   The volunteers were   trained in physical exercise, sword and lathi play; and were instilled with devotion towards the Mother land.

Aurobindo  had returned to Bengal in 1906; and, in 1907 he,  with the help of his brother Barin and the leader Bipin Chandra Pal, started a radical Bengali nationalist publication called Jugantar (the Change) ,  along  with its English counterpart Bande Mataram . The journals gradually grew to acquire a mass appeal in Bengal through their radical approach and message of revolutionary programs .Another publication, Mukti Kon Pathe (Which way lies Salvation?), exhorted the Indian soldiers to   participate in revolutionary activities. 

bande_mataram_weekly_newspaper Muraripukur garden house

Later, the inner group of the Calcutta unit of the Anushilan Samithi adopted the name Jugantar to carry out acts of political terrorism. Barin Ghosh  had also set up a bomb-factory at a garden house in Manicktolla, a suburb of Calcutta.

Among the early recruits were Rash Behari Bose, Jatindranath Mukherjee, and Jadugopal Mukherjee, all of whom later emerged as major freedom- fighters and leaders.

 [ It appears , during those days, there were similar such other Samiti-s like the Swadesh Bandhub Samiti, the Barathi Samiti,  and  Surhid Samiti etc.]

On December 1907, an attempt was made on the life of Sir Andrew Fraser, Lieutenant Governor of Bengal.

Calcutta Belvedere, Calcutta. The Lieut Governor of Bengal's official residence - 1878

And, in December 1907, C C Allen , District Magistrate of Dacca was killed

The major act of terrorism carried out by Jugantar was the attempted murder of Kingsford, the-then District Judge of Muzaffarpur, on 30 April 1908. But, sadly, the carriage in which Mr. Kingsford was supposed to be travelling  had actually in it Mr. and Mrs. Kennedy who were returning home from the club.  That misadventure led to the arrest of Kudhiram Bose and others who were tried in what came to be known as the Alipore Bomb Conspiracy Case.


Khudiram_Bose_1905_croppedThe bomb used by the young Kudhiram Bose at Muzaffarpur was traced to the bomb-factory set up at the Muraripukur garden house  in the Manicktolla suburbs of Calcutta. In the FIR filed by the police , Barin Ghosh and Aurobindo Ghosh  , along with thirty-two others, were  named as accused in the conspiracy.  The historical trial  started on  21 May 1908 . Among those accused who were found guilty, Kudhiram Bose , who just had turned 18, was sentenced to death ; and, was executed  on 11 Aug 1908  . Another accused , Prafulla shot himself dead.

And,  Barin Ghosh was deported for life to the Cellular Jail in Andaman, where he remained until  declaration of a general amnesty in 1920. His elder brother, Aurobindo Ghosh was acquitted of charges (along with 16 others); and, he developed a new outlook of life and grew spiritual.

In retaliation to the outcome of the Alipore Bomb Case, the Jugantar carried out series of political assassinations of those zealous Indian officers  involved in the investigations pertaining to  the cases ; or  those assisting the prosecution;  or those who had turned into approvers ; and, as also  those helping the police.

In Nov 1908, Nandalal Banerjee, an officer in the Intelligence Branch of Bengal Police, who arrested Kshudiram Bose, was shot dead.

On February 10, 1909, Ashutosh Biswas, who conducted the prosecution of Kanai Lal Datta and Satyen Bose for the murder of Naren Gosain (a revolutionary turned approver), was shot dead by Charu Basu in the Calcutta High Court premises.

Samsul Alam, Deputy Superintendent of Police, who conducted the Alipore Case was shot and killed by Biren Dutta Gupta on the stairs of Calcutta High Court building on January 24, 1910.  

Thereafter, Charu Basu and Biren Dutta Gupta , who were arrested  and tried , were hanged to death.

Calcutta High court 1878

[It is said; about 112 dacoities , involving nearly seven lakhs of Rupees , were carried out during the years 1907-1910  .The more adventurous of those was  the dacoity at Barha, where the revolutionaries escaped in boats with Rs.25,000. The other  was the one committed with the help of a taxi in Calcutta, in broad daylight, robbing Rs.18,000  from a Hackney carriage. And, another was the robbing Rs. 23,000 from a train.]

With the deportation of Barin Ghosh and the retirement of Aurobindo Ghosh from politics, followed by ban on Anushilan Samiti, there was considerable disruption in the revolutionary movement  ; and, it fell into deep disarray.

Bagha Jatin  who had escaped arrest in the Alipur case,  took over the leadership of the Jugantar Party; and,   tried to revitalize the links between the central organization in Calcutta and its  branches in Bengal, Bihar, Orissa and  in United Provinces. He also tried to locate  hideouts (safe-houses) in the Sunder-ban swamps  for members who had gone underground. However,  with the heightened vigilance of  the government  agencies, the  Jugantar group and the Dhaka Anushilan group  had to lie low. The revolutionary activities  in Western Bengal , practically , came to a stop  from 1910 . And, thereafter, the  center of revolutionary activities shifted to Eastern Bengal.

But with the arrest and deportation of Pulin Bihari  Das , even the the Dhaka Samiti had to go underground. Later, Narendra Mohan Sen, Trilokinath and Parul Chandra tried to re-group the Dhaka Samiti. But, nothing much came of their efforts. Eventually, the Dhaka Samiti decided not to collaborate  even in what came to be known as the Indo-German plot.

By 1920, Samiti was struggling to remain relevant in the face of challenges like British crack down; condemnation of its violent ways by Gandhi-controlled Congress; loss of leaders like Sri Arobindo Ghosh and CR Das; and, its own infighting and competition with a splinter group, Jugantar.

Jatin Mukhejee ,along with a number of fellow-revolutionaries was killed in a fire-fight with Police forces at Balasore, in present day Orissa. This effectively brought Jugantar to an end during the first war. The passage of the Defence of India Act 1915 led to widespread arrest, internment, deportation and execution of members of the revolutionary movement. By March 1916, widespread arrests helped Bengal Police crush the Dacca Anushilan Samiti in Calcutta. Eventually the Samiti dissolved, before the Second World War, into the Revolutionary Socialist Party.

BaghaJatin12  BaghaJatin13

Before ending on this note on the Samiti, I would like to mention two interesting sidelines that emerged as the outcome or the by-product its revolutionary activities.

Many militant revolutionaries were arrested and thrown into prison following crack down on the Anushilan Samiti-s and the Jugantar. The prison inmates were disgusted with the approach of the Congress and Gandhi. They found Gandhi’s non-violent ways deplorable while the British continued with repression. Many started wondering whether the mass appraisal as in Russia would be a more viable option to secure India’s freedom. Many were attracted to Bolshevik ideology and found the Marxism as new road dearer to their heart.

The British authorities in Calcutta were, of course, not amused with this new development. However, later, they could see in it a window of opportunity to wean away the revolutionary from the path of terrorism.  It dawned on them that the communist ideology (as practiced then) did not approve of terrorist violence; but aimed for a mass revolution that would succeed   in the long run. The British surmised that the communist ideology might come in handy to leave the British in India out of the harm’s way until the revolution, if any, materializes (hoping that such an eventuality might never occur). The revolutionary prisoners were then fed with Marxist literature.

The British ploy did succeed to an extent. A number of prisoners who went in as terrorists came out as communists. And some of them joined MN Roy after he set up the Communist Party of India in 1921. Thus, one could possibly  say that, historically, the Communist movement in India grew out of national environment and disillusionment  of the youth with Congress ; followed by  disappointment over Gandhi’s sudden withdrawal of the non-cooperation movement in 1922.

While some joined MN Roy’s, there was also a group   among those released from long jail sentences that did not like to join Roy. That group called itself as: Anushilan Marxists. They also had sharp political differences with the Communist Party in India.

The Anushilan Marxists, not left with many options, joined the Congress Socialist Party (CSP) , but keeping a separate identity within the Congress party,  with a resolve to transform the Indian National Congress into an anti-imperialist front.

The Anushilan Marxists were soon disappointed by developments inside the CSP.  The differences came to a head when at the Tripura session of the Indian National Congress (1939) the Anushilan Marxists  of the CSP  failed to expressly support Subash Chandra Bose  against the resolution to  give Gandhi  the veto over the formation of the Congress Working Committee, although  the Anushilan Marxists had earlier  supported Bose in the presidential election . This was seen as an act of ‘betrayal perpetuated by the CSP leadership. The rank and file of the Anushilan Marxist faction of CSP resigned in protest against the act of bad faith by the party leadership.

Soon after the Tripura session, Bose resigned as Congress president and formed the Forward Bloc. Bose wanted the Anushilan Marxists to join his Forward Bloc. But the Anushilan Marxists, although supporting Bose’s anti-imperialist militancy, considered that Bose’s movement was nationalistic and too eclectic.

The CSP dropped ‘Congress’ from its nomenclature in February-March 1947; and formally severed its connections with the Congress in 1948.


The other interesting sidelight is that the Rastriya Swayamsevak Sangha (RSS) that caused much heart-burn among leftist intellectuals (some of them are offended by its very existence) actually had its root in Anushilan Samiti.  RSS’s founder Guru, Dr. Keshava Baliram Hedgewar (April 1, 1889 – June 21, 1940) was, at one time, a member of Anushilan Samiti and Jugantar .

Dr. KB Hedgewar after successful completion of Medical degree (L.M. &S) from the National Medical College, Calcutta, in June 1914, was drawn towards the secret revolutionary organisations like the Anushilan Samiti and Jugantar that were then active in Bengal. He joined the Samiti; and, was its member for several years.  

calcutta Medical College Hospital , Calcutta - 1865

After returning to Maharashtra in 1916, Dr. Hedgewar decided to renounce both married-life and medical practice; and, to dedicate himself unequivocally to the freedom movement. In 1920 he worked tirelessly in Gandhi’s noncooperation campaign, and was sent to prison for his efforts. Dr. Hedgewar occupied his time in jail with spinning and reading the Bhagavad Gita, the book of choice among imprisoned Indian freedom fighters. Released in 1922, he gradually withdrew from the Indian National Congress. Dr. Hedgewar came to believe that only Hinduism could motivate the population to achieve independence and reform society.

Dr. Hedgewar founded the RSS in Nagpur, Maharashtra in 1925, with the intention of promoting the concept of the Hindu nationThe RSS  (Rastriya Svayam-sevak Sangha) was, thus, born as a child of the Freedom Movement.

[Even prior to the founding of RSS , there existed a close collaboration between the militant nationalist  groups of Bengal and that of Maharashtra. On April 2, 1908 Anderson the Assistant Collector of Pune was assaulted. The revolutionary movement in Maharashtra reached its height  in 1909, when  on November 13, two bombs were thrown at the Viceroy while he was in Ahmedabad; but, the bombs failed to explode.  And again , on December 21, 1909 Jackson , District Magistrate of Nasik, was shot dead by Ananat Lakshman Kanhere . In this Nasik Conspiracy Case , Kanhere along with  his associates – Karve and Deshpande  – was sentenced to death.

But, the movement in Maharashtra suffered because of the lack of a central controlling agency; and want of funds. Different unorganized groups carried out sporadic unplanned attacks. ]

The basic theme of RSS, just as Anushilan was, devotion and dedication to Mother land; discipline; physical and moral regeneration of the Indian youth. His ideals were born out of his reading of the Gita; which were briefly : Each person has a divinely implanted dharma, a set of duties and responsibilities; To act in accordance  with that Dharma contributes to the well-being of society; To act according to Krishna’s teaching of Nishkama karma (action without desire) ,with detachment and humility.  

And, just as Anushilan Samiti, the RSS too drew its members largely from the young student fraternity. It also tried to impart to its followers training in lathi and swordplay, boxing, wrestling, and other exercises, apart from inculcating moral and spiritual values; and, above all devotion and dedication to Motherland.  For Dr. Hedgewar, the path of karma yoga is best when combined with the discipline of devotion. Dr. Hedgewar designed RSS training to engage its members  in both physical and moral cultivation that would make them effective karma yogins.

It is said; Dr. Hedgewar’s own involvement with the Anushilan Samiti   helped RSS in maintaining secretiveness, in carrying out its operations and in forging its method of communication through personal emissaries rather than paper documents.

Thus , the two extremes of the Indian politics – the right wing RSS and the Left wing Marxists- both sprouted of the same gun- barrel primarily to secure India’s freedom. Later, the focus of both the organizations diffused and their interests strayed away into other fields.]


To return to Narendra Nath, he committed his first dacoity on 6 Dec 1907 at the Chingripota Railway Station to secure funds for his revolutionary outfit   led by Jatin Mukherjee. It is said the attack was carried out under the leadership of Mokshadacharan Samadhyayi. The Station Master was assaulted and the money in the safe was taken away. Naren absconded from the scene; but was later arrested when he came home to visit his mother who was in sick bed. (She died , thereafter, in early 1908).

At the time he was arrested, Naren was carrying with him a copy of Barin Ghosh’s Bartaman Rananiti (strategy for the present-day warfare) as also his own manuscript titled Mayer Dak (Mother’s call) . When the case came to trial, the social activities he had undertaken helped him to secure bail. In his bail petition filed before the Police Magistrate of Sealdah, Calcutta, his lawyer (appointed by Jatin) Babu Promotho Nath Mukherjee, stated: ‘the youth was a student of the Bengal Technical Institute; and passed the Entrance Examination* of the National Collage and got a medal”. (* which is equivalent to the present-day SSC or the tenth standard)

After his release, he found the situation of the Samiti and Jugantar had changed a great deal. With the deportation  and long imprisonment of Barin Gosh ; the withdrawal  of Aurobindo Ghosh from all types of political activities; with the ban imposed on the Anushilan Samiti  ; and, with the imprisonment or disappearance of the revolutionaries , the entire movement had come to a virtual halt. It was at this time, Naren and Jatin Mukherjee began re-building the group and try to secure funds for the group’s activities. It was then that Naren and Jatin came closer; and developed strong friendship. From here on , Naren rose in the hierarchy of leadership; and began working hard to re-group and co-ordinate the party workers.

In the process, Naren set up two fake units to rise and distributes funds. The one was a welfare organization called Saramajibi Samabhaya that was headed by Amarendra Nath Chattopadyaya. And, the other was Business Company M/s. S.D. Harry and Sons from where Harikumar Chakravarthy (Naren’s close friend) operated.

Apart from that, Naren resumed his political dacoity. It is said; following 1907, Naren committed several robberies; but, no specific information is available about them.  One, about which some information is available, is the robbery he committed on 25 April 1909 at Neera, near the Diamond Harbour. And, that yielded about Rs.2, 000.

It is suspected that it was in fact Naren who, in November 1908, shot dead Nandalal Banerjee an officer of the Intelligence Branch of Bengal Police, who arrested Kshudiram Bose. But, his name, somehow, did not figure in the charge sheet.

But , Naren, Jatin Mukherjee  and 45 others were arrested on the charges of committing murder of Shamsul Alam , an Intelligence Officer , who was preparing to link up all the robberies and murders committed by the revolutionary groups, consolidate the charges,  and bring them all to trial in a single case. It is said; the murder was actually committed, on January 24, 1910, by Biren Datta Gupta, a follower of Jatin Mukherjee.

The case gained notoriety as Howrah-Sibpur-Conspiracy. The case was framed fairly quickly; and, as many as 47 accused were arrested on 29 Jan 1910.  And,  the trial commenced on 4 Mar 1910. The case again came up before the Special Tribunal of the High Court on 20 July 1910. The prosecution tried to cover under a single case varieties crimes committed against the Government of His Majesty the King Emperor in different parts of British India. It attempted to bring under one case heterogeneous gangs of thieves, murders, motivators, advisers, leaders, ordinary members, supporters and such others. But, the prosecution was unable to link, beyond doubt, the activities of the various Samiti-s and other outfits operating in different parts of India.

Because of that and because of Jatin Mukherjee’s tactic of decentralizing the Samiti structure, the case fell through for want of clinching evidence. Of the 47 accused, 33 were acquitted; and had to spend just over a year in jail. Naren and Jatin were one among them.

After the case was over,  the newly appointed Viceroy Lord Hardinge wrote :

“As regards prosecution, I (…) deprecate the net being thrown so wide; as for example in the Howrah Gang Case, where 47 persons are being prosecuted, of whom only one is, I believe, the real criminal. If a concentrated effort had been made to convict this one criminal, I think it would have had a better effect than the prosecution of 46 misguided youths.”

Following the Howrah-Sibpur case, charges were framed against Narendra Nath in six cases of dacoities committed during 1908 and 1909. The Chief Justice did not think adequate evidence was not produced to prove the involvement of the accused.

While in prison during the trial of Howrah-Sibpur case, Jatin, Naren and others of the group drew up plans for armed insurgence.

As directed by Jatin the leader, Naren wandered about the country in the guise of a Sanyasin. It is said; he visited places like Varanasi, Allahabad, Mathura and Agra. The familiarity with the country helped him in his organizational work; because, by then the revolutionary activities had spread to other parts of India as well.  Young men trained in Bengal were sent for action to the distant regions of Maharashtra, Punjab Madhya Pradesh and Madras. They were even supplied with pistols and bombs. Attempts were also made to contact rebel groups in Canada, France, USA, Burma and Far East.

Wider network and expanded range of activities demanded more arms and abundant funds. The task of raising these resources was entrusted to Naren by Jatin Mukherjee who had since been elected as the Supreme Commander. The obvious means of securing funds and arms was of course series of robberies. Many political dacoities were carried out under the supervision of Naren in various parts of Calcutta. The series of such dacoities, for some reason, came to called as Taxicab Dacoities and Boat Dacoities.

Of such numerous dacoities, the two are worth mentioning.

On 26 Aug 1914, ten cases of arms containing 50 Mauser pistols of large size 300 bore and 46,000 rounds of Mauser ammunition were looted from Rodda & Company, a firm of gun-makers in Calcutta.  This was one of the biggest revolutionary crimes committed in Bengal. It is said; Naren took active part in execution of this action. The looted arms were quickly distributed among nine different revolutionary groups in Bengal. According to the Sedition Committee  report of 1918  , Mauser pistols were used in as many as 54 dacoities or murders or attempted dacoities and murders committed in Bengal since August 1914.

On 12 Feb 1915, Naren with two others looted the cash of Bird & Company in broad daylight in the Garden Reach area of Calcutta.

Calcutta view of culcutta from garden Reach 1810

It gained notoriety as the sensational Garden Reach Political Dacoity. The operation was precisely planned and carried out coolly and efficiently. The whole action was completed within few minutes, at gun point, without having to fire a shot.

Naren was arrested a day or two later for his part in the dacoity. Soon thereafter, Jatin Mukherjee requested Purna Das, leader of the Faridpur outfit, to ask one of his men who had taken part in the dacoity and who also were arrested in the case to take the blame and plead guilty. Jatin convinced the Government lawyer Tarak Sadhu not to contest the bail petition of Naren. It is said; immediately after release on bail, Naren promptly committed some more dacoities and went underground.

By about this time, the war had broken out in Europe; and its reverberations were felt in the East. The outbreak of the First World War lent a different turn and twist to the activities of the revolutionary groups in India. They began looking towards Germany with hope and expectation for material and financial support to fight the British in India. The leaders of the revolution groups such as Jatin Mukherjee began discussions with the German Counsel General in Calcutta, as early as in 1913, about the possibilities of armed insurrections and guerilla warfare against the British with German support.

[By about 1915-16, Germany’s involvement with the Indian nationalist movement reached its climax; and , it also  got massively involved in Afghanistan. Under the leadership of Baron Openheimer, the German Foreign office opened a special committee for the Orient (Turkey) and India.  ]

Until the break of the War, the terrorist groups were securing funds and arms from within India. But, with the outbreak of the war , their efforts went global.

Let’s talk of such efforts and the special role that Narendra Nath played therein, in the next part.



Next Part


 Sources and References

1, M N Roy by V B Karnik, National Book Trust, 1980

  1. M N Roy, A Political Biography by Samaren Roy
  2. Political Philosophy of M.N. Roy by Dr. Prakash Chandra, Sarup & Sons, 1992
  3. Numerous pages from Wikipedia
  4. All images are from Internet

Posted by on January 12, 2016 in M N Roy


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