Dr Aniruddha Saha
KRISHNAGAR, 10 SEP: In a nondescript village in Bengal, a baby boy was born in a very ordinary family in the late nineteenth century and he died as young as twenty. His statue was erected by Rash Behari Bose in Tokyo Japan and recently Meira Kumar the speaker of Loksabha has installed a photo of his at the museum of the Indian parliament. He was as young as twenty years when he was hanged by the British government for his attack on the then viceroy Lord Hardinge and his wife, who was riding an elephant in a rally at Chandni Chowk in Delhi. This forgotten freedom fighter was Basanta Kumar Biswas.
Basanta Kumar Biswas was born on February 6th 1895 at Poragachha Nadia, Bengal under British India. His father was Matilal Biswas and his mother was Kunjabala Devi. One of his predecessors was freedom fighter Digambar Biswas who was an active leader during the Indigo revolt. His first schooling had started at M.I school, in a nearby village, called Madhabpur. Then he was transferred to Muragachha school. During his school life, he came in contact with the Headmaster of Muragachha school, Khirodh Chandra Ganguly, who was a freedom fighter. Biswas was inspired by him in the Indian freedom struggle. He joined student agitations for the freedom of India.
He left studies in 1907 and started working at a very young age. He joined a cloth store in Uttarpara but he left the job and went to Puri. From there he came to Benaras and lived in Ramakrishna Mission for a while up to 1910. In the ashram, he was motivated by the glorious culture of his motherland. Next year he met Rasbehari Bose in Dehradun. Rasbehari Bose was impressed by his enthusiasm for the freedom movement and gave him training in guns and bombs. He travelled with Rasbehari Bose in disguise as his servant and he was often called Basanta as ‘Bishe’.
Inspired by Rashbehari Bose, Basanta Kumar Biswas became a member of the Jugantar group, a secret revolutionary outfit of Bengal. They believed in the armed movement for freedom of the country. Jugantar group was one of the two extremist trends of Bengal, that wanted to do an armed revolution to get independence from British rule. This society had many famous members like Bagha Jatin, Amarendra Chatterjee, khudiram Bose, Prafulla Chaki, Surya Sen, Pritilata Waddedar, Rashbehari Bose etc. Many of them were jailed, exiled, or even hanged by the British Government. He was a very good organiser and he worked as a liaison between the Calcutta office of Jugantar and the masterminds of the Chandannagar branch. Basanta Kumar was trained and nurtured by the Jugantar group leaders Amarendranath Chatterjee and Rasbehari Bose and became a brave freedom fighter and trained revolutionary.
He was instrumental in the attack on the viceroy’s parade in Delhi in 1912. This conspiracy was referred to as the Delhi – Lahore conspiracy. He was involved in the planning and execution of the conspiracy from the beginning. He was chosen by the leadership of the Jugantar group as the main executioner of the attack on the Viceroy Lord Charles Hardinge who was to be present along with his wife Lady Hardinge in the Viceroy’s parade held at Chandni chowk Delhi.
It was December of 1912. Basanta Kumar Biswas reached Delhi along with Rashbehari Bose. Basant Kumar was only seventeen then. The British viceroy Lord Charles Hardinge organised a parade with the rich and influential Indians on twenty third of December and he was to attend the parade. This parade was to be started from Kings Garden in Delhi up to Chandni Chowk. Lord Hardinge was on an elephant back with his wife Lady Winnifred Selena Stuart.
Basant Kumar Biswas went to the parade in disguise of a woman, named Lilabati and clad in a burkha. He went to the gallery reserved for women spectators in the Terrace of The Panjab National Bank Bhaban. When Lord Hardinge was passing in front of the women’s gallery, Basanta Kumar Biswas threw a bomb of the capacity of one pound and eleven ounces to the viceroy. Viceroy and his wife escaped the attack with some injuries. But his servant who was holding his parasol died on the spot.
After this incident, Basanta Kumar Biswas and Rashbehari Bose went into hiding. The British police started extensive search operations to arrest the culprits. But Basanta Kumar and Rashbehari Bose fled to Dehradun and stayed there. Police did not suspect them as Basanta Kumar condemned the attack on the viceroy in a public meeting and he even condemned the extremists. In Dehradun, he along with some of his associates like Amirchand and Manindranath Nayek planned to throw the bomb in a British nightclub in Lahore. But this plan could not be materialized as Amirchand and Manindra were arrested. Then he returned to his village Poragachha and lived there peacefully for two years.
Meanwhile, his father expired and he went to attend his father’s funeral. One of his relatives betrayed him and he was arrested on the twenty-sixth February in 1914. He was brought to Delhi and this case was named as Delhi -Lahore conspiracy. The trial of this case began on the twenty-third of May 1914 in Delhi. His extremist friends were also arrested in the meantime. Amirchand, Abedhlal and Bhai Bal Mukund were convicted and awarded capital punishment. But Basanta Kumar Biswas, who was also found guilty was given life imprisonment as he was a minor of seventeen years at the time of the incident of bomb-throwing on the viceroy.
But the British Raj was not satisfied with his punishment. They wanted to hang him. So the British government filed an appeal for the reconsideration of this case. They made a mockery of their judicial system and tampered with his age and showed him as two years older at the time of the incident. So he could be considered an adult and all responsibility was imposed upon him the crown won the appeal in Lahore high court and he was sentenced to death by hanging.
Then he was shifted to Ambala Jail in Panjab where he was hanged to death on the eleventh of March 1915 at the age of twenty years only. At the time of hanging, he was composed and bravely went to the gallow without showing any fear. He was one of the youngest martyrs of the Indian freedom struggle. Later Rashbehari Bose installed a statue of his beloved disciple Basanta Kumar Biswas in a garden in Tokyo Japan. The speaker of Lok Sabha Meira Kumar has put a photograph of him in the museum of the Indian Parliament. Another statue of the distinguished freedom fighter and martyr Basanta Kumar Biswas has been installed at Krishnanagar Rabindra Bhavan.
Free India was the result of the martyrdom and struggle of many of its brave freedom fighters like Basanta Kumar Biswas who sacrificed their lives to achieve freedom for their motherland. We should remember them with utmost respect and gratitude.
(The writer is an Assistant Professor and HOD, Asannagar MMT College)
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