India- the land of the brave and the home of the free are only because of the courageous freedom fighters that fought their way through the odds to give an independent nation to their offspring. British have ruled India for more than 200 years and called it the crown rule in India. During this 200 years tenure, India has witnessed some of the most incredibly legendary people that challenged the British Raj to withdraw. Independent India is indeed the collective victory of all such brave people who contributed to the freedom revolution.
One such revolutionary was Khudiram Bose, often dubbed as the youngest freedom fighter of India. He was one of the first freedom fighters in Bengal to be executed by Britishers. Despite his sacrifice for the country, not many people recognize his bravery today. This is his story, a story worth reading.
Today, Khudiram’s legacy has been largely limited to Bengal, yet his spirit of sacrifice continue to inspire generations.
Khudiram Bose was born in 1889 in the Kayastha family in the small town of Mohobani, Bengal. His parents were highly protective of him as he was the only son born after three daughters and two dead sons. There was a tradition in Bengal in which the newborn child is sold to his eldest sister in exchange for 3 handfuls of food grains often known as ‘khuds’ to save him from bad omen. This was how the young child who got his name- Khudiram.
Khudiram lost his mother and father at a very young age and thus moved with his eldest sister and her husband to Hatgachha village. There he attended Hamilton High School. His interest in revolution started in 1902 and 1903 when Sri Aurobindo and Sister Nivedita visited his town. They held series of serious speeches on Indian Independence and freedom. Khudiram was an active participant in the discussion.
In 1905, Khudiram joined Anushilan Samiti and came in contact with the network of Barindra Kumar Ghosh of Calcutta when Bengal was partitioned. At the age of 15, he was arrested for distributing pamphlets against colonial rule. When he turned 16, he started making bombs and planned to plant them at police headquarters aiming at various British officials. Khudiram Bose is remembered for his attempt to assassinate a British judge, Magistrate Douglas Kingsford.
In 1908, Khudiram Bose along with Prafulla Chaki was assigned to assassinate a British judge, Magistrate Douglas Kingsford. Before his transfer of Muzaffarpur, Kingsford was the magistrate of Bengal and during his tenure ruled out several tortures on Indian inmates and revolutionaries. Driven by fury and hatred, these young revolutionaries decided to throw a bomb on his office.
Kingsford’s Assassination Attempt
A lot of planning happened and initially, it was decided to throw a bomb at court but to avoid any civilian casualties, they decided to attack him alone.
One day, Kingsford and his wife were playing bridge with the wife and daughter of a barrister named Pringle Kennedy. They decided to head home and boarded their carriages. Kingsford carriage was very similar to Kennedy’s carriage. As soon as the carriages reached the eastern gate of the compound of the European Club, Khudiram and Prafulla threw the bomb at one of the carriages. When the bomb exploded it was revealed that it hit the one carrying the Kennedy ladies. Both of them died in the incident while Kingsford managed to escape.
Following the incident, both the revolutionaries escaped, By the morning whole town knew what happened and police guards held barricades along the escape routes. In the morning when Khudiram stopped at a shop for water, he was recognized by the two policemen and was held in custody. On his person were found 37 rounds of ammunition, Rs. 30 in cash, a railway map, and a page of the rail timetable.
Prafulla on the other hand met another revolutionary Trigunacharan Ghosh who provided him shelter and food. He also arranged his escape and bought him tickets to return to Calcutta the same night. On the train, a British officer recognized him as the other revolutionary and tried detaining him. During the combat between the duo, Prafulla shot himself fatally in the mouth and died on the spot.
On 1 May, Khudiram was brought from to Muzaffarpur. He was presented at the house of the district magistrate, Mr. Woodman. The whole town was gathered to see the sealed fate of the young revolutionary. Upon questioning, Khudiram took full responsibility for the acts, unknown that Prafulla had died. It was only later that day when Chaki’s body arrived at Muzaffarpur that Bose realized that all the lying got in vain.
The trial started on 21 May 1908, where Khudiram was tried along with his two subordinates Mrityunjay Chakraborty and Kishorimohan Bandopadhyay. Initially, Bose’s lawyer defended him saying that he was too young to prepare any bombs but however, the judges had evidence of more revolutionary activities planned. Thus on 13 July 1908, Bose was sentenced to death.
On 11 August, the streets of Calcutta were jam-packed by protesting students and curious public defending the death sentence of the young revolutionary. People holding flower garlands gathered around the place. Khudiram was executed early in the morning. He was only 18 years old at the time.
The Legacy of ‘Khudiram’:
Following his martyrdom, Bose become so famous among the weavers that they named a special dhoti with ‘Khudiram’ printed on its side. The young boys inspired by the Bose would wear these dhotis and walk down the road of freedom struggle.
His actions were however denounced by Mahatma Gandhi as he said that violence won’t bring Indians freedom. He also lamented the death of the two British women who died in the explosion. On the other hand, Bal Gangadhar Tilak defended him in his newspaper Kesari and called for Immediate Swaraj.