When we celebrate the 75th anniversary of Independence Day, we must not forget to remember the selfless contribution of our revolutionary. Other than mainstream political freedom fighters, there were lakhs of revolutionaries who fought till life to free the nation. Overloaded with feelings of nationalism, revolutionary fighters took a head-on collision with the mighty British Army. Their courage to fight with colonial powers generated a parallel revolution in youngsters of the time and installed confidence to free the nation.
Among such brave sons of mother India, Jatindranath Mukherjee or Bagha Jatin was the earliest one. Emboldened with the world’s bravery, Jatindranath Mukherjee was one of the earliest revolutionary leaders who constantly enlightened the Indian soul to fight oppressive British rule. Follower of the religious nationalism philosophy of Swami Vivekananda and Aurobindo Ghosh, Jatindranath Mukherjee was a foundational pillar of the secret revolutionary movement of India.
Learning nationalism from Swami Vivekananda
Jatindranath Mukherjee was born on 7 December 1879 in Kushtia village of Nadia district, Bengal (Now in Bangladesh). His upbringing collided with the rise of nationalism in India. Since childhood, Bagha Jatin was physically very strong and interested in religious plays. Overloaded with his religious teachings, he used to play roles of characters like Prahlad, Dhruva, Lord Hanuman, and Raja Harish Chandra.
After completing his early education in his ancestral place, Jatindranath came to Calcutta to study Fine Arts. However, formal education does not match his personal ambition and he started to visit Swami Vivekananda through Sister Nivedita. After learning religious nationalism lessons from Swami Vivekananda, he became a complete freedom fighter. Jatin Da was nothing but a son of mother India. His ultimate aim was to free the country from the clutches of foreign rule.
Knowing his resolute pledge to die for the country, Swami Vivekananda sent him to learn wrestling from Ambu Guha. There he met with his future mentor, Sachin Banerjee, son of Yogendra Vidyabhusan, the author of biographies like Mazzini and Garibaldi.
Jatindranath became the Bagha Jatin
His physical bravery can be defined by a single incident. In March 1906, Jatindranath Mukherjee was coming from his native village through the forest area. While coming, he encountered the Royal Bengal Tiger. Without fear, he took out his small dagger (Khukuri) and fought with the tiger, ultimately killing him. Injured by the nails of the tiger, he reached a famous surgeon of Calcutta, Suresh Prasad Sarbadhikari.
Impressed by the heroism of Jaindranath Mukherjee, the Dr wrote an article in the English press. For his bravery, the government of Bengal also awarded him a silver shield with the scene of him killing the tiger engraved on it. Due to this incident, Jatindranath Mukherjee was famously known as the Bagha (Tiger) Jatin.
Bengal Partition ignited revolutionary activities
True to his name, Bagha Jatin had the courage of a tiger. He started to become conscious of his ultimate goal to free the country. When nationalism was at its peak, his young blood was boiling to do something for the country. He engaged himself in revolutionary activities and became an active member of prominent secret organizations.
The defining moment of his revolutionary activities came in 1905. Considering the rise of revolutionary activities in India, the then governor-general of India, Lord Curzon announced the partition of Bengal to suppress the activities.
Engraved by this separatist decision of the colonial government, a wave of anti-colonial thinking emerged in the whole Bengal Presidency. The Bengal Partition became the flash point of Bagha Jatin’s revolutionary activities.
Bagha Jatin: The leader of the Indian Revolution
Anushilan Samiti, a Secret Revolutionary Society created under the shadow of a fitness club was attributed in Jatin Da’s name. As Jatin Da himself was the champion of wrestling, it was very easy for him to run the secret organization. The group was associated with the Jugantar group and coordinated revolutionary activities in India. Along with leaders like Aurobindo Ghosh, Barindra Ghosh, and Rash Behari Bose, Bagha Jatin executed various attacks on Britishers.
Along with Barindra Ghosh (brother of Aurobindo Ghosh), Jatin Da established a bomb factory near Deoghar to eliminate certain officials working for the British. Jatin Da organized a decentralized federation body of Anushilan Samiti and planned revolutionary activities. Jatin Da used to organize leader’s meeting and decide the future course of action against Britishers during religious conglomeration.
Once in April 1908, Jatin Da got involved in a fight with English military officers, which led to legal proceedings. This news spread like fire and the press widely covered the news that a few Englishmen were thrashed single-handed by an Indian. Once an English official asked Jatin: “With how many can you fight all alone?” Jatin da replied, “Not a single one if it is a question of honest people; otherwise, as many as you can imagine!” Such was the courage he used to carry.
Famous Alipore Conspiracy case of 1908, in which Khudiram Bose and Prafulla Chaki were tried under the charges of “waging war against the Government”, except Jatin Da, almost every member of Anushilan Samiti and Jugantar Group was accused. The leadership void provided the leadership opportunity to Jatin Da. He took charge of the Jugantar Group and revitalized revolutionary activities.
In Howrah-Sibpur Conspiracy Case, Jatin Da along with other 47 members of Anushilan Samiti was arrested and tried under the charges of waging war against the government. Inspector Shamsul Alam was murdered by Anushilan’s member for investigating the Alipore bomb case. Inspector Alam successfully unearthed the secret network of Anushilan Samiti. His elimination became prominent. However, the smart decentralized functioning of Anushilan Samiti helped Jatin Da to get out of the trial proceedings.
After that in 1912, together with Rash Behari Bose, Jatin Da organized a plan to assassinate Lord Hardinge, the then Viceroy of India at Chandni Chowk of Delhi. Although Lord Viceroy escaped death, but he was seriously injured.
Considering the counteraction against the assassination attempt, Rash Behari Bose and Jatin Da reached Bengal in 1913. Bose considered Bagha Jatin as the real leader of men who added a new impulse to failing revolutionary zeal.
The failed Ghadar revolution and Bagha Jatin
After the outbreak of World War 1, an International Pro-India Committee was formed in Zurich in 1914 to ignite the armed rebellion in India. Consequently, he got involved in the Ghadar Revolution. Considering the engagement of British soldiers in World War 1, a plan was initiated to launch a mutiny in the British Indian Army in February 1915. It was the international coordination of the Ghadar Party in the United States, the Berlin Committee in Germany, the Indian revolutionaries, and the German Foreign Officer through the consulate in San Francisco.
As the final plan was to be executed here in India, the Indian revolutionary’s action was prominent for success. Under the leadership of Bagha Jatin, a series of logistical and financial resources was collected to ensure the success of the Ghadar Revolution.
But, Kripal Singh, a British spy, infiltrated the top position of Gadhar activities and passed information to Punjab Criminal Investigation Department (CID). Subsequently, the revolutionary plans failed. Further, Britishers launched successive acts like Ingress into Indian Ordinance 1914 and Defense of India Act 1915 to crush the revolutionaries.
Due to the suppressive act against revolutionaries, many leaders were forced to leave the country. Running to escape the British intelligence and European top officials, Bagha Jatin and other Jugantar members were caught in Balasore hills. After hours of gun fighting, many of his friends were killed, some were captured and he was seriously wounded by bullets. Following this, Bagha Jatin died in Balasore hospital on 10 September 1915.
Bagha Jatin Died to Live Forever
Bagha Jatin was the true soldier of mother India. Till the last breath, he lived for a single cause. His patriotism was unquestionable, his leadership quality was exemplary and his life was full of daring actions. He used to say “Amra Morbo, Jagt Jagbe” – meaning “we shall die to awaken the nation”.
Charles Tegart, the then Intelligence Chief and Police Commissioner of Bengal wrote in admiration of Bagha Jatin, “Though I had to do my duty, I have great admiration for him. He died in an open fight.” Later defining Ghadar Revolution and Jatin Da’s work, Tegart admitted, “Their driving power was immense: if the army could be raised or the arms could reach an Indian port, the British would lose the War”.
M.N. Roy after knowing about his death wrote, “I could not forget the injunction of the only man I ever obeyed almost blindly. Jatin Da’s heroic death must be avenged”. Mahatma Gandhi in 1915 speaking about Bagha Jatin said, “Bagha Jatin was a divine personality”. Once Charles Tegar told his colleagues that if Jatin were an Englishman, then English people would have built his statue next to Nelson’s at Trafalgar Square (Westminster, Central London).
But, alas! People of India rarely know about these unsung heroes. Under the historical appraisal of mainstream political leaders, the memories, bravery, and selfless work of Jatin Da’s got buried. Their courage to fight the mighty British Army can only be imagined. Leaders like Bagha Jatin died to live forever. On the 75th anniversary of Independence, we give our heartfelt tribute to the unsung fighters of India who burned their young lives fighting colonial powers and ultimately gave their lives for our freedom.
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