The forgotten Rodda arms heist that shook the Raj

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Rodda arms heist

Digging a tunnel, hiding ammunition, breaking lockers, or taking out a successful heist isn’t just a part of high-budget movies or big bang Netflix series- it’s something inspired by real-life geniuses. Geniuses that doesn’t really mean superheroes of goodwill but in fact a brain designed to do wonders if not charity.  We are not talking about the great Money Heist series but deal-breaker content in Indian history. Let us introduce you to the greatest daylight robbery that shook the British Raj.

This Indian heist was smart and mastered so well that even the team of specialized police officers failed to locate the loot. The forgotten Rodda arms heist procured ammunition to the Kakori conspiracy in 1925 and several other acts of revolution against the British Raj.  

The Greatest Daylight Robbery of History- The Rodda Arms Heist

In the pages of history, the great Bengal revolution is recorded as the Rodda arms heist of 1914. The weapons procured through the heist were then used in several revolutionary acts against the British including the Ghadar Mutiny of 1915. But what was the anatomy of the crime, how did the group of few people were able to initiate such a well-planned heist?

During the time of World War 1, the world had its attention on one of the biggest wars of history that they failed to notice the revolutionary conspiracy taking place in Bengal. By that time Bengal was already partitioned and several revolutionaries were at the heart of the freedom movement. Several high-profile assassinations of British officials were carried out by the revolutionaries between the years 1908 to 1912. The situation was somehow ideal for a Pan India movement; however they fell short of arms and ammunition.

Rodda arms heist

The man behind the idea was Rashbehari Bose, who had once tried assassinating the Viceroy. Bose with the help of Jatindranath Mukherjee alias Bagha Jatin tried importing arms from Germany but the shipment never arrived. Meanwhile, at the heart of Kolkata, a daring plan of arms heist was taking place. Among the masterminds of the plan lie two groups ‘Attonnoty Samiti’ and ‘Dhaka Mukti Sangha’ of Kolkata. The Attonnoty Samiti was led by Bipin Bihari Ganguly along with Jatindra Nath Mukhopadhyay, Anukul Mukherjee, and Girindra Nath Banerjee. While the ‘Dhaka Multi Sangha’ was an initiative of Hem Chandra Ghosh and Ullaskar Dutt.

Bipin had a friend named Kalidas Mukherjee who was employed at a prominent British-owned gun store whose office was at Red Cross place and the godown was at Vansittart Row in Calcutta. Bipin sort a plan to send one of his men to Rodda and co. as an employee of the company. He chose Shrish Mitra who joined the company on the pretext of being an employee. Soon he gained their trust and was promoted to the post of ‘Jetty Clearing Clerk’. 

In 1914, the British officials placed an order of 50 Mauser C96 semi-automatic pistols and 50,000 7.63×25mm Mauser cartridges with Rodda & Co. it was a very popular weapon of the time and was used in World War 1, Russian civil war, Chinese civil war, and even World War 2. Mitra readily informed Ganguly about the order and soon a plan was hatched including the members of Attonnoty Samiti, Dhaka Mukti Sangha, Jugantar Party, and Barisal Party. The arms consignment was arriving in the ship named ‘Tactician’ and was unloaded at the custom-house. Shrish Mitra was given permission to clear the ship from the custom and deliver it to the godown at the Vansittart Row.

On August 26, 1914, Mitra left the company for the custom house after receiving documents and money. His truck was soon joined by the members of Attonnoty Samiti who walked towards the customs house that was located at Dalhousie Square. After clearing the ship, the arms were loaded into six bullock carts to be delivered at the godown. There was a seventh cart driven by revolutionary Haridas Dutta who stick to the carts as one of their own.  In order to eliminate any suspicion, Dutta deliberately arrived late and Mitra scolded him (all a part of the plan). Mitra unloaded the entire consignment in the seventh cart and Dutta drove it confidently from the custom-house.

In the mid of the journey, the seventh cart changed its route and instead drove to the main bypass of Vansittart row. While the six carts continued driving straight to the godown. Later, Mitra also left the office in order to locate the seventh cart. The ammunition was unloaded in front of an iron yard that belonged to Lalbihari who was a friend to Anukul. A car was supposed to pick up the consignment from there, however, it never arrived. Thus the revolutionaries hired two carriages and carried the consignment to the house of Bhujanga Bhusan Dhur.

By the evening, the ammunition was packed and distributed among several revolutionaries, and boxes were burned overnight. Both Haridas Dutta and Shrish Mitra instantly went to hiding.

Rodda arms heist

The Aftermath of the Heist

The heist took off so smoothly, that company realized of the theft almost three days later. As soon as the robbery was discovered the case was given to Sir Charles Augustus Tegar the head of the detective department. Because the revolutionary carried the consignment through carriages, the police were able to track it soon. Anukul, Datta, Kalidas, and Bhujnaga Bhusan Dhur were arrested though none was sentenced to more than two years in prison. It took the next three years to track and arrest Srish Chandra Pal. However, Shrish Mitra remained untraceable till the end and thus was never arrested.

Despite the arrest of major revolutionaries, the police were never able to track where the ammunitions were distributed; in fact, not a single gun was tracked down.  The fact that not a single bullet or arms were used in the heist, the Rodda arms heist was considered the greatest daylight robbery in the history of India. 

The arms of the Rodda heist were used in the Kakori conspiracy in 1925, the Ghadar Mutiny of 1915, the Chittagong Arms robbery of the 1930s, and several other revolutions that helped India gain its independence.

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