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MN Roy: brief outline of life-events and thoughts- Part 04

MN Roy: brief outline of life-events and thoughts- Part 04

Continued From Part 03

 In the United States of America

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, which he termed  it as the pursuit  of the elusive Golden Fleece.

Narendra Nath, thus, traveled to America primarily to negotiate an Arms deal ; and, to secure funds from Germany to fuel the Indian revolutionaries. The Germans had promised that arms would be routed to India through the resident Indians in California. During those days, the West Coast of USA was an active hub for revolutionary activities attempting to secure Indian Independence through armed uprising against the British Rule. The Germans also provided support to the revolutionaries.

early Indian immigrants to USA 1909

Courtesy Janos

[The core of the revolutionaries in California was allied with Ghadar Party founded by Punjabi Indians resident in the United States and Canada (Ghadar = revolt or rebellion). The Ghadar Party, initially named as the Pacific Coast Hindustan Association, was formed in San Francisco  during 1913  under the leadership of  Lala Har Dayal, Sant Baba Wasakha Singh Dadehar, Baba Jawala Singh, Santokh Singh and with Sohan Singh Bhakna as its president. The members of the Party were Indian immigrants mainly from Punjab; and, many among them were students, traders and farmers. The Party enjoyed wide support among the large Indian community residing in California, including the prosperous Sikh cotton growers in the Imperial Valley. Though predominantly Sikh, the party included members and leaders of many religions desiring to work for Indian Independence. The party quickly gained support from Indian expatriates, even from outside the United States, such as:  Canada, East Africa and Asia.


After the outbreak of World War I, many Ghadar party members in USA and Canada returned to Punjab to agitate for rebellion alongside the Babbar Akali Movement. The Party was eventually dissolved in 1919.]

With the help of Japanese intelligence, on 25 May 1916, Naren boarded the ship named Nippon Maru departing from Yokahoma (Japan) in Tokyo Bay, South of Tokyo and destined to San Francisco, California.

He had used the French-India passport given to him by the Germans in China. And, with the help from Japanese, he had obtained an American Visa to travel to USA on his way to Paris, France.

The passport was issued in the name of Martin Charles Allen; and, it described its holder as a 25 years male, single, Roman Catholic missionary;  Bengali by birth, a native of Chandernagore, as such a French citizen, and lived at Pondicherry only for a few years with the object of coming closer to France ; Nationality: French. Permanent address: Church, Pondicherry, India; height 6 foot. Dark, brown eyes, beard; Place of birth: Haites; City: Ionainis. Final destination: Paris.

The purpose of the Visa was to travel to Paris (Via USA) for advanced theological studies in Notre Dame University.

roy-mn as Father Rev Martin

The bearded Roman Catholic priest Rev. Father Charles Martin Allen, clutching thick Morocco bound Bible and posing as a seminary student landed in San Francisco on 15 June 1916. (Naren at that time was about 28 years old although his passport mentioned his age as 25 years). Nippon Maru was scheduled to land at San Francisco on 14 June 1916, but was delayed by one day.

On his arrival, Rev. Charles Martin Allen stayed in Bellevue hotel in San Francisco.  

The British Secret Service (particularly, Mr. GC Denham, an Intelligence Officer of the Central Criminal Intelligence Department) perhaps had an inkling of his flight to USA. It is believed that throughout his stay in USA, Narendra Nath was shadowed by British Intelligence. The morning after he landed in San Francisco, the local newspaper carried the headline screaming: ‘Mysterious Alien reaches America. Famous Brahmin Revolutionary or Dangerous German Spy !  ?’.

At the same time, there were also other reports in the local press.

The local Press The San Francisco Examiner that called on him at Bellevue hotel, reported: “Rev C.A. Martin, a native of Pondicherry, India, is at Bellevue. The visitor who is a Roman Catholic has spent the last two years as a missionary and a student in China. He is en route to Paris where he will enter one of the Seminaries. He describes the condition in China as one of “unlimited chaos”


Any sort of publicity was not welcome to Naren. Therefore, after a couple of days in Bellevue, he quickly moved out to meet his contacts in USA. And , there on the campus of the Stanford University, Palo Alto , he met the young Dhan Gopal Mukerji (younger brother of the revolutionary Jadugopal Mukherjee  and  a contact for Bengali revolutionaries) ; the ‘young and attractive’  Evelyn Trent (his future wife) a graduate student at Stanford University; Prof  Arthur Upham Pope a professor of Philosophy at U C Berkeley;  and Dr. David Starr Jordan(1851–1931), Chancellor and the Founding President  of the Stanford University.

[ Before we go further , let me digress for a while and talk about Dhan Gopal Mukerji , briefly:

Dhan Gopal Mukerji

Dhan Gopal Mukerji (July 6, 1890 – July 14, 1936), is regarded as the first successful Indian man of letters in the United States; and, the first Indian winner of Newbery Medal 1928. He studied at Duff School (now known as Scottish Church Collegiate School, a constituent unit of Scottish Church College, Calcutta); the University of Calcutta, in India; Tokyo University in Japan; and , at the University of California, Berkeley ; and , at the Stanford University in the U.S.

After his graduation from Stanford University in 1914, he taught for a short time at Stanford as a lecturer in the field of comparative literature.

It is said; Dhan Gopal throughout his life strove to complete the task he had set himself: to emancipate India from foreign rule; and win for her culture and philosophy the respect he felt it deserved. In America he associated with fellow exiles like M.N. Roy, to whom he is said to have suggested adopting the pseudonym ‘Manabendra‘.

In June 1918 he married Ethel Ray Dugan (aka. Patty), an Irish American , who hailed from Hazleton , Pennsylvania. She had entered Stanford University in the fall of 1914 to pursue Masters Degree in History. It is said; Mukerji and Patty made a handsome, lovely and vivacious couple. And, they were quite active in the literary circles of California. Not long after Mukerji left Stanford, the couple moved to Los Angles. Thereafter, they moved on to the East Coast of the USA, which, then, had a fairly considerable number of persons pursuing literary careers, reflecting the intellectual vibrancy of American intellectual life of the early Twentieth Century.   

The Mukerjis stayed in Boston for a while; and, then moved to New York. The couple had a son, Dhan Gopal II (Jr), their only child .He was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts, in August 1919.


Over the years, Mukerji published plays and collections of poetry. He wrote, with Mary Carolyn Davies, Chintamini: A Symbolic Drama (1914), adapted from a play by Girish C. Ghose; the play Layla-Majnu (1916); the poetry collections Rajani: Songs of the Night (1916) and Sandhya: Songs of Twilight (1917); and the play The Judgment of India (1922).

In the 1920s and 1930s, Mukerji published a number of works about India and Hinduism, including My Brother’s Face (1924), the novel The Secret Listeners of the East (1926), A Son of Mother India Answers, (1928), and The Path of Prayer (1934).

He wrote numerous books and stories for children, most of which describe the animal life of India and the Indian lore and beliefs. In 1923 he released his second children’s book, Jungle Beasts and Men, a series of short stories that give a realistic view of the jungle and its inhabitants. His Hari, the Jungle Lad, published in 1924, is about a young Indian boy who goes with his father on hunting expeditions and encounters wild buffalo, a panther, and other jungle creatures.

Mukerji is also well known for his autobiography Caste and Outcast, which tells the story of his life in India and America.


Dhan Gopal Mukerji is probably the first popular Indian writer in English. He pre-dates G.V. Desani and Mulk Raj Anand by some ten or twenty years. 

In spite of his many friends he felt deeply isolated and marginalized in America, as he could do very little, beyond raising funds and entertaining visiting celebrities, to further the cause of Indian liberty.

The restless couple – Mukerji and Patty – traveled to India in the summer of 1922. It was Mukerji’s first visit back to India in twelve years; and, he was eager to acquaint himself with the current political situation and the national movement for gaining India’s freedom. He met and discussed with number of prominent leaders and intellectuals. Politically he was a member of the Indian independence movement.

After the visit lasting several months, Mukerjis returned to New York; and, settled in Greenwich Village, where they resided for   the next two years.

After Mukerji returned from India, he dedicated himself to promoting greater awareness of his country’s many different cultures. He, among other things, tried to raise funds to support Rabindranath Tagore’s educational efforts in India.

The mid and late 1920s  were the most productive period in the lives of the Mukerjis. The years following  his return from India witnessed Mukerji as a busy and successful author and speaker on wide ranging subjects , such as literature, philosophy , history, nationalism etc. The well reputed Universities in the USA eagerly welcomed him.

This period also marked the publication of his much acclaimed book Caste and Outcaste (1923) , which is said to have marked a turning point in America’s understanding of India , its culture and ethos.

In 1926, Mukerji and Patty moved to Geneva, where they lived for about two years ; ostensibly to be near to their son who was enrolled in a Boarding School there. While at Geneva, Mukerji took keen interest in the working of the United Nations; and, also befriended many leaders and intellectuals.

After Dhan and Patty returned to the United States in 1928, they moved to a comfortable Apartment in New York’s Upper East Side. Patty was busy with her own career, working at Children’s Universities and Schools. Dhan Gopal was also busy and successful.

Despite his growing success; Mukerji was troubled by events both at home and in India; disrupting his emotional and intellectual life. He also got into a bitter and angry debate with the infamous Katherine Mayo who had published her Mother India (1927), disparaging India’ and, which Gandhi called it as a ‘drain pipe study’.

The stock market crash during the 1930s exacerbated Mukerjis problems and mounting frustration.

The choices he had made in life prevented him from ever returning permanently to India.

During 1935, Dhan Gopal suffered a severe breakdown.

 Following a six-month nervous breakdown, Mukerji committed suicide by hanging himself in his New York City apartment on 14 July of 1936.

 (Please do read the Introduction – titled Life and Death of  Dhan Gopal Mukerji- by Gordon H Chang to Caste and Outcaste by Dhan Gopal Mukerji ( Stanford University Press, 2002)


Stanford was also the place where Lala Har Dayal had lived and established contacts with the Anarchists. And, Dhangopal had also come under his influence for a while. And, Prof. Arthur Upham Pope who had met Har Dayal in 1911 had become an ardent advocate of India’s freedom; and, had also developed links with Indian revolutionaries.

It was there on the Campus of the Stanford University, Palo Alto in 1916 that, on the suggestion of Dhan Gopal, Narendra Nath Bhattacharya formally assumed the name Manabendra Nath Roy; and, that name stuck to him for the rest of his life.

It said; the surname Roy was chosen since it did not signify a caste –name such as Bhattacharya; and that it would also help cover his tracks as an exile. And, yet Manabendra Nath sounded almost similar to Narendra Nath.

 [MN Roy in his Memoirs said that the change in name enabled him to turn back on a futile past and look forward to a new life of achievements. And yet, he could not give up his mission of securing arms for revolution in India. It continued to haunt him even while he was in USA and Mexico. It was only after he found that Germans were really not earnest about broad-based revolution; and more particularly on his realization of the power of the ideas over arms that he finally gave up the search for arms. And, he had also lost faith in arms uprising.

Even in case he had succeeded in despatching arms to India it would have been futile. Because, by about 1917-18 the struggle for Independence had taken political turn; and, the police repression had almost driven out insurgent outfits. ]

Soon thereafter, Roy rented a house nearby and stayed there for about six months at Ramona, Palo Alto.  

While in Palo Alto, Roy found that there were some American intellectuals and academicians in the Universities who had considerable interest and sympathy for India. At the University of California, Berkley, there were at that time several such academiciansHe also gained friends among the pacifists who were opposed to imperialism. For the first time, Roy came in contact with persons free from nationalism and its obligations.

At the time that Roy was staying at Ramona, Palo Alto, he was not aware that his landlady Mrs. Noble was the mother of the Police Chief of Palo Alto. In the beginning the police did not know who Roy was; but they had begun to suspect.


Following that alarm bell,  Roy and Evelyn Trent  together hurriedly moved to New York , in January 1917 , where they met Lala Lajpat Rai  ( 1865 -1928) * the legendary Indian freedom fighter and revolutionary, renowned as  Punjab Kesari (the Lion of Punjab) and one among the famous Lal Bal Pal trio ( Lala Lajpat Rai; Bala Gangadhar Tilak ; and  Bipin Chandra Pal ).

* [Lala Lajpat Rai lived in USA for about twelve years from 1907; and, returned to India in 1919. On his return, he actively participated in Freedom Movement and in bringing about social reforms. He founded the Servants of the People Society, which worked for social reform and for India’s freedom. And, Lala was also active in the Labour movement. He presided over the first session of the All India Trade Union Congress in 1920. He went to Geneva to attend the eighth International Labour Conference in 1926 as a representative of Indian Labour.

He was not only a good orator but was also a prolific writer. His journal Arya Gazette was devoted mainly to subjects related to the Arya Samaj.  His other magazines: Bande Mataram and The People, carried articles regarding the Freedom movement.

And, while he was leading a non-violent protest against the Simon Commission, he sustained serious injuries in a police-action on 30 October 1928. Though he recovered for a while, he eventually succumbed to the injuries; and, died three weeks later on 17 November 1928.]

Lala Lajpat Rai-Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak-Bipin Chandra Pal

Roy’s visit to New York was significant in many ways: he fell in love with Evelyn Leonora Trent (1892 – 1970) and married her; he came in contact with many Socialists and he himself became a socialist; and it was in the New York City public library that he gained acquaintance with writings of Karl Marx and his doctrine; learnt about Marxism and began to develop a deep interest in its doctrine.

Evelyn fell in love with dark, thin tall, handsome, bright, dark eyed and very poor Indian; and, asked him to marry her. Roy and Evelyn got married in 1917 at New York.  And, they resided, for some months, at 2116, Daley Avenue.


Evelyn  Trent  Roy

Evelyn was a great asset to Roy, supporting and moulding him.  She later became his political collaborator; and accompanied him to Mexico and Russia. She co-authored with Roy a couple of books; and, she edited and wrote from time to time in Leftist journals under the pen-name Shanti Devi. Socialism and Marxism together with Evelyn Trent’s influence totally changed the further course of his life. Roy and Evelyn, the two worked closely for some years. And, Evelyn, along with Roy played an important role in the formation of the Mexican Communist Party; the exile communist party of India in Tashkent; and in the International Communist movement.

Roy and Evelyn lived together for about eight years before they parted ways silently in 1925.  But, strangely, Roy did not mention even a word about Evelyn in his Memoirs. Several years later; when the house of Evelyn Trent was burnt down in 1963,  in its  remains was found a photograph of Roy with an inscription on its back: To my Goddess from her  loving worshipper“]

Evelyn had, in fact, married Roy, a Hindu revolutionary and a fugitive, much against the wishes of her family. They did not accept Roy or their daughter’s marriage with him. There was therefore no support from Evelyn’s family.Her brother in particular who strongly opposed her marriage with Roy made it difficult for them to live in one place.  The Hindu groups too despised Roy for having married a foreigner and a non-Hindu. Life in New York had become very difficult because of lack of money, bad relations with Indian nationalists and constant scrutiny and survey by American and British Intelligence agencies. The Roys’ had to move from place to place to avoid harassment. After their house on Daley Avenue   , they stayed in 239 E 19th St. and later rented an apartment in 19th West 44th St. in New York. Roy had given the Ceylon Restaurant as his care of address (672, 8th Ave) to receive his mail. And, sometimes they had to stay apart to avoid police-attention. And, at the end, they had to seek shelter in the residence of Lala Lajpath Rai.

Lajpath Rai later wrote that Roy and Evelyn, in particular, had to face much hostility and humiliation both from Hindu nationalists and Evelyn family. Lajpath Rai sympathized with their plight and allowed them to live in his house. He also helped them with $ 350, out which $50 was payment to Roy for some work he did for Lajpath Rai.  He had also Evelyn as secretary for a short period  and paid her some amount as a token help.


It is said; at a meeting of socialists, Lala Lajpath Rai spoke eloquently about the poverty of Indian peasants. One of the audience remarked: what difference does it make if Indian farmers are exploited by native capitalists or by foreign imperialists? Rai replied, saying: it does make a difference whether one is kicked by ones brother or by a foreign robber. Roy who was present at the meeting was not impressed with Lajpat Rai’s reply.

The questions asked by the audience in these meetings made Roy wonder whether exploitation and poverty would cease in India with the attainment of independence. He realized that revolutions take place out of the necessity of the times and its urges. He came to believe that India needed a social revolution not mere national Independence. It began to dawn on him that the old methods of insurgence were not leading anywhere. Further, he began to ponder that the aim of Imperial Germany was to replace the British Imperialism in India; and, all the Imperialist powers are alike and vie with each other for dominating backward countries.  He began to doubt the scheme of armed revolution in India with German help. And, it dulled his keenness to secure arms from Germans. The socialist concept of revolution appealed to him better. He began to think of revolution as an international social necessity. And, it strengthened his resolve to go deeper into socialism.

Although Roy was in contact with some Indian revolutionaries who were in league with Germans, his stay in New York helped him in forging association with American socialists..

His gaining familiarity with socialism started with his coming into contact with many American socialists and other radicals.  He took keen interest in the study of socialism; and came to accept it wholeheartedly. While in New York, Roy wrote an essay ‘A Critique of Pacifism’ which basically said that colonization was the cause of the war and the liberation of the subject peoples was the way to durable peace. He, among other things, analyzed the economic causes of war. Roy’s essay appealed to American Radicals; and it paved his way to into their organization

 Roy did not suddenly leap on to socialism. He went through several phases of experiences. Roy, in fact, began his study of socialism, with the intention of combating it; but, at the end, he discovered that he had himself become a socialist. The change came about gradually and painfully.

In a way, Roy continued to be revolutionary even after conversion to Socialism. The revolution he now came to envision was the re-structuring of the Indian society and ushering in a new social order. It went beyond overthrowing British Rule in India. The social revolution, in his vision, involved all segments of the society, not merely a band of some inspired brave fighters.

The transition from nationalism to socialism was a big leap. It marked his departure from the ideals that he cherished in the past, inspired mostly by the writings of Bankimchandra. Yet, it could be said that his nationalist phase – romantic, adventurous, idealistic and constricted – did not go in vain. It later helped Roy in a gaining a perspective of a near-ideal political order that was away from nationalism, dictatorship and the sort of parliamentary democracy that was then in practice. 

The socialist way of thinking helped Roy in getting over his outlook as a nationalist. Communism, to him, seemed to offer effective means for achieving the goals of Socialism. He developed an interest in the works of Marx and his doctrine through his studies in New York Public Library. However, at this time, his conversion to communism was far from complete. That had to wait till his indoctrination by Michel Borodin in Mexico.

His transformation into a Communist under the tutorship of Borodin was rather quick, though, initially, he had some difficulty in accepting the materialism of Marx. It was only after Borodin explained the intricacies of Hegelian dialectics as the key to Maxims that he could accept the doctrine.


By about mid February 1917, America was seriously gearing up to join the war against Germany. The American and British intelligence as also the local police in several parts of USA (particularly in California, New York and Chicago) intensified their vigil against pro-German activities. On April 4, 1917, the U.S. Senate voted in support of the measure to declare war on Germany. The House concurred two days later. On April 6, 1917, the Congress declared war against Germany.

After America’s entry into War, any type of pro-German activity or links with Germans became virtually impossible. Roy thereafter went underground to escape arrest and a possible deportation to India. It was during this period that Roy re-wrote his famous easy; ’ An open letter to His Excellency Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States of America: The way to durable peace’. This letter was afterwards published on April 17, 1917 when Roy and Evelyn had already crossed over to Laredo on Mexican side of the border. 

 [The letter was later translated into Spanish and published in Mexico as El Camina Para La Paz Duradera del Mundo with insertion of extra passages criticizing the Monroe Doctrine which made Mexico a virtual colony of the USA.]

In his  letter to President  Woodrow Wilson , Roy had  compared Indian revolutionaries to the American revolutionaries of the eighteenth century ; and in doing so, tried to justify the seeking of German assistance by certain, mainly militant, section of the Indian nationalists. He compared their efforts to that of La Fayette who secured French help in the American Revolutionary War. Roy pleaded that whatever efforts that Indian revolutionaries made either through Germans or others was for securing independence of their Motherland from foreign rule; and, it certainly was not against the interests of the American nation, in any manner.

The British Intelligence and the American police were keeping a watch on Roy’s movements.  The net was closing in over USA -Pro German revolutionaries and also on the revolutionaries of Indian origin. They were systematically were rounded up.  Things came to a head when the British spies broke into Roy’s room while he was away and seized some letters and papers.  On the next day that is on 7 March 1917 Roy was eventually arrested.  Roy, at that time, was on the Campus of the Columbia University to where he had gone after attending a meeting addressed by Lala Lajpath Rai.

Roy had to spend a few hours of the night (7 Mar 1917) before he was released in the early hours of the morning and asked to appear before the Grand Jury in the Town Hall, a few hours later. The Grand Jury indicted him for violating the immigration Laws of the USA and pending trial released him on bail on his personal surety.

Roy however had no intention of returning to the trial. Roy left the court determined not to return. He was desperate to escape attention and arrest. He knew that he would be taken to San Francisco and tried there as a conspirator. But, his worse fear was deportation to India for standing trial which would result in long imprisonment or death sentence for the many acts of terror he had committed in India until 1915.

Roy had to choose between Canada and Mexico. It was then, prompted by Evelyn, that he seriously considered escaping to Mexico. He had heard from his socialist friends about Mexico; the social revolution brewing there; and establishment of socialism in one its parts Yucatan. Mexico, to him, appeared as the Land of Promise.

Evelyn and Roy soon travelled by train from New York to San Francisco, a distance of about 3,300-miles. And, during 1917 the journey might have taken nearly a week’s time.  


Evelyn Trent then approached her teacher and friend, Dr. David Starr Jordan, President of the Stanford University, at Palo Alto, for help. Dr, Jordan was prepared to make it easy for Roys to find a refuge in the neighboring Mexico; and, he readily gave them a letter of introduction to the Governor of the  State of Yucatan , General Salvador Alvarado  , a powerful person in Mexican politics . That indeed was an immense, immeasurable help. Roy’s biographers wonder, there is no reason why Dr, Jordan , a President of an University,  would have anything to do with a dangerous Indian fugitive who had violated American laws and was still at large evading both British and American police , and helped him to escape , had  he  not been impressed with young Roy and his mission.

It is likely that Dr. Jordan was primarily trying to rescue his favorite student from a bad situation that was getting worse.

 The Mexican border was just about thousand miles away from San Francisco; and was not closely watched. Roy and Evelyn gave a slip to the police; and took the train from San Francisco to Laredo, Texas, a distance of about 1,800 miles. Evelyn Trent and M N Roy crossed the border at Laredo (one of the oldest crossing points along the U.S.-Mexico border) and entered Mexico by crossing over the bridge across the Rio Grande and reached the town of Nuevo Laredo in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, in the last week of March 1917 (distance of about 13 Kms across the border).  They entered Mexico under their assumed names of Senorita and Senora Evelyn and Manuel Mendez. From Nuevo Laredo, they travelled long (about 1,200 Kms) to reach Mexico City.


The ten months that Roy spent in America were very tense and hurried. He also had to face poverty and suffer contempt and distrust from the Hindu nationalist groups in USA. Roy and Evelyn had also to endure harassment from Evelyn’s brother. Further, they were closely watched by the British and American Intelligence. The couple grew more anxious and tense by each passing day.  They realized that they no longer were safe in America. That fear was confirmed after Roy was arrested along with several other Indian freedom fighters.

Roy later said that his stay in USA was too brief and too hurried to react to that country.

But, his stay in America had a brighter side too. It was here that he acquired a new identity that stayed with him for the rest of his life. He gained good friends who helped him in his distress and even rescued him from utmost danger. He transformed from a diehard nationalist to a socialist; and also gained familiarity with Communist doctrine, in which he later became an acknowledge authority. It was in America that Roy realized the power of ideas over that of arms. It transformed him into a catalyst for social change and political re-alignment. That was a huge change, because Roy had come to America basically to secure arms and money from Germany to fight against the British Rule in India.

And, above all, the biggest good that happened to Roy in America was falling in love and marrying Evelyn Leonora Trent, bright, intelligent and full of love. Evelyn became Roy’s trusted friend, ardent supporter, political collaborator and a guide.  She accompanied Roy to Mexico and Russia; and was of great help to him in his political and literary work. The collaboration continued until they separated in 1925. Socialism and Marxism together with Evelyn Trent were the greatest influences in Roy’s life; they together totally changed the course of his life and the ways of his thinking.


However, an unfortunate victim of being Roy’s friend while he was in America was Prof Arthur Upham Pope, a professor of Philosophy at UC Berkley. Roy and Prof. Pope became friends while Roy was in Palo Alto. And, they continued to be friends even after Roy’s escape to Mexico.  Prof. Pope remained his main contact in USA.

Prof. Pope had to pay a heavy price for his sympathy and support to MN Roy. After  the Hindu-German-Conspiracy case  was instituted in San Francisco , Prof Pope was investigated ;  and , he came under severe criticism for his relation with the ‘ a Hindu revolutionary, a ruthless man steeped in crime, and one of the most violent revolutionaries that India had ever produced’. The prosecution Attorney for the Northern California District wondered why a professor in a prestigious University should have had connection of any sort with such a person.

Prof. Pope was interrogated during the San Francisco trial. He was pressurized to resign from his Professorship in UC Berkley and later from his teaching job in Amherst College. He had also to give up his next job in the War Department because of his connections to MN Roy who was in league with the enemies, the Germans and Japanese.


Before ending this part, let me say a few words about the The Hindu–German Conspiracy (also known as the Indo German plot or US Vs Bopp, Ram Chandra et al) – described, at that time, as the longest and most expensive trial ever held in the United States.

As said earlier, following America’s entry into the War, all types of activities that had links with Germany came under severe scrutiny. The British Intelligence was also hugely interested in blocking anti British activities launched from America and such other places. They were also keen on arresting and deporting those terrorists who had escaped from India and taken shelter in America.


The Hindu–German Conspiracy  was a series of plans formulated between 1914 and 1917 to initiate a rebellion against the British Raj during World War I. That was considered an opportune time to attack the British rule in India. It was planned as a multi-pronged attack centered on the nationalist rebel groups in India. The other Indian groups based outside India that were involved in the plan were mainly the Ghadar Party in the California region of USA and the Indian independence committee in Germany. The attack plan which came to be labeled as conspiracy had the support of foreign forces such as the Irish Republican movement, the German Foreign Office, and the German Consulate in San Francisco. The Ottoman Turkey was also involved to some extent.

The ambition of the plot was to foment unrest and trigger a Pan-Indian mutiny in the British Indian Army from Punjab to Singapore . It was planned to be executed in February 1915 with the hope of overthrowing the British Raj from the Indian sub-continent. 

The mutiny  that was planned in February was thwarted when British intelligence infiltrated the Ghadar movement; and, arrested key figures. Mutinies in smaller units and garrisons within India were also crushed.

The other segments of the plot were also busted. Such failed plots included the 1915 Singapore Mutiny ; the Jugantar-German plot led by Bagha Jatin; the German mission to Kabul; and,  the mutiny of the Connaught Rangers in India. The efforts to subvert the British Indian Army in the Middle-Eastern theatre of World War I did not also come through.

The British intelligence having an efficient and a wide network spread over its vast empire successfully thwarted several plots and sub-plots of the Indo-Irish-German conspiracy. It also had the support of the American intelligence agencies which arrested key figures in the aftermath of the Annie Larsen affair in 1917.

The criminal cases filed against the conspirators were tried at Lahore in India and in San Francisco in USA as the Hindu German Conspiracy Trial.

The trial at San Francisco was brought mainly due to pressure from the British Government. It presented over two hundred witnesses brought from several parts of the world. It is said; the trial cost the British Indian Government over $ 2.5 Million. The US government had also to incur substantial expenditure of $ 450,000.


[The trial which lasted 155 days, was a media spectacle; and, was covered widely in Washington Post, The San Francisco Examiner and other papers. Even after the trial was over the Case continued to be discussed in America: The Hindu Conspiracy, 1914-1917,” The Pacific Historical Review 17 (1948): 308-09; Karl Hoover, “The Hindu Conspiracy in California, 1913-1918,” German Studies Review 8 (1985): 258-59. Please also click here.

On the Indian side, Lajpat Rai, N.S. Hardiker, Mrinalini Sen, and Ananda Coomaraswamy, later wrote articles in the monthly journal titled Young India.

On December 5, 1917, Marshall Woodworth an Attorney sent his poem (Weaving the Noose) on the trial to John Preston, the lead prosecutor in the case:

It looks as if the noose were tied
The sword of Justice at their side

All that’s to come will knit the knot
And bring to light a devilish plot

As fear can neither fight nor fly
What they’ve contrived is doomed to die

When whispering conspirators are noosed
The days of vengeance are unloosed

Now some are seen to look behind
And not a few will change their mind

The Bard of Avon truly said,– where death doth dwell,
A perjured refuge is a living hell]


 In the trial which commenced in the District Court , Northern District ,  California in San Francisco on November 12, 1917, charges were framed against one hundred and six defendants (including thirty-six Indians) , German Consulate officials besides American businessmen and professionals. The Note presented by John Preston , the lead prosecutor , Northern District Court of California, First Division cited three basic violations of the neutrality law    : providing and preparing means for a military expedition against the state or territory or the colony with whom the United States was at peace; twenty-eight counts of conspiracy to violate neutrality law; and, violations of the military expedition law prohibiting enlistment to fight against a foreign army with which the United States is at peace.

The Indian Nationalists – centered in San Francisco, Chicago and New York, in contact with each other and with German Consul and agents – were accused of taking “advantage of American neutrality to plot on American soil against the allies” at “the expense of the laws and hospitality of the United States. The charge also mentioned that in a nationwide conspiracy financed by the Kaiser and promulgated through the Berlin Foreign Office to ferment rebellion  and revolt in India  and to aid Germany in the prosecution of war by compelling Great Britain to divert essential troops from Europe in order to put don  insurgence elsewhere.

MN Roy was also listed as one of the co-accused. The charges framed against him included his attempts to procure  arms through SS Maverick to fight British in India ; his illegal entry into San Francisco under a false name , his contacts with the German agencies and Hindu conspirators and so on.  The charges against Roy also mentioned that he had attempted to flee to Germany by the submarine Deutschland to obtain a big deal in arms with a South China party. The scheme fell through when Federal authorities took action against conspirators in New York.

 But, by the time the trial commenced, MN Roy had fled USA and slipped into Mexico. Nevertheless, Roy was indicted on the charges framed against him.

The accused Indians presented their position in terms of the ideals of the American Revolution. The defence attorneys attempted to argue in favour of the accuseds’ beliefs by placing them squarely within American ideals; and quoted from liberty appeals in the writings of by Patrick Henry, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and President Woodrow Wilson.

On the last day of the trial on 23 April, 1918, the court room witnessed a bizarre scene. Ram Singh, one of the accused belonging to a faction of the Ghadar Party shot dead another co-accused Ram Chandra belonging to the rival faction of the Ghadar Party on the grouse that Ram Chandra was misusing the Party funds and diverting the funds to his own use. Ram Singh too was promptly shot and killed by the US Federal Marshal present in the court room.

This unfortunate incident contributed to marring the defence position. A week later, the judge found the defendants guilty of violating the neutrality of the United States. Of the twenty-nine Indians found guilty, there were “students and revolutionists, several of them highly educated”. They were sentenced to serve from twenty-two months to sixty days.

The Presiding District Judge Rudkin, while announcing the verdict against the convicts observed: if your propaganda continues after you are released you will doubtless be deported and disposed of the hated British Government, as you term it.

The British felt that the sentences were absurdly light; and were outraged. The Calcutta High Court thereafter ruled that the San Francisco defendants could still be tried under the Indian Penal Code on their return to India.




Continued In

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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. Haj to Utopia: by Maia Ramnath
  3. Trials that Changed History: From Socrates to Saddam Hussein by M.S. Gill
  4. Political Philosophy of M.N. Roy by Dr. Prakash Chandra, Sarup & Sons, 1992
  5. Numerous pages from Wikipedia
  6. All pictures are from Internet



Posted by on January 13, 2016 in M N Roy


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