Flying the Flag of Revolution, The Indian Struggle for Independence

Flying the Flag of Revolution, Part 2 – The War of Independence Begins

The Indian soldiers working for the British discovered that they had been deceived into using ammunition cartridges greased with the fat of cows and pigs. This was an intolerable offense, in outright disregard of the Hindu reverence for cows and the Islamic attitude towards swine. The Indian soldiers were understandably incensed, and they soon launched a mutiny.

At that time, the commander-in-chief of the British army was Major-General George Anson.  He believed that the impudent Indian soldiers could be easily suppressed, and the moment that the revolt was launched, he attempted to extinguish their uprising with a single blow.

However, the reality was that the people of India had been burning with anger and indignation for so long, and their resistance was not easy to contain. In the end, the effort at Awadh was successfully stamped out by a man named Brigadier-General Henry Montgomery Lawrence.

Little did he know that this incident was only one small spark of a much larger flame.

Just one week later, on the 10th of May, another uprising was launched at Meerut, fourty-two miles away from Delhi. In the blink of an eye, the effort had spread throughout the north, and before long had reached central India.

This marked the beginnings of the First War of Independence, and the Indian people’s courageous fight against British rule.

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Flying the Flag of Revolution, The Early Years, The Indian Struggle for Independence

Flying the Flag of Revolution, Part 1 – Deceived into Biting Cow Fat

In the last several sections, I spoke about my childhood and early involvement in the struggle for Indian independence. Before going further into my own role in the effort, I would like to go back in time and discuss the events that led up to the present revolutionary movement.

In 1857, our country was faced with a dire situation. It was as though India was a milk cow and the British East India Company was a farmer, relentlessly squeezing her dry, down to the very last drop. We all eagerly waited for the day when we would finally have the chance to rise up against their tyranny.

Then, in May the 7th Special Operations Squadron at Awadh suddenly launched a movement and flew the flag of revolution for the first time. Their uprising was triggered by rumours of a most outrageous offense. It was said that the British had been supplying Indian soldiers with the tallow of pigs and cattle, and that they had been unknowingly using this to grease their ammunition.

(Author’s note: Not only were the soldiers required to handle the ammunition, but they also needed to bite open the cartridges in order to release the gun powder, creating a most egregious situation.)

It is common knowledge that in Hinduism, cows are revered as holy gods. They are so highly venerated that they are even referred to as the mother of India. To kill these heavenly creatures and extract their fat is an unspeakably sinister crime. Moreover, in Islamic tradition the Quran gives strict warning in regard to swine.

These animals were so central to Hinduism and Islam, and yet they were being slaughtered and the people of India were being deceived into using their grease-laden cartridges. Upon hearing this grave news, it is entirely understandable and only natural that they would immediately be triggered into a furious outrage.

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The Early Years, The Indian Struggle for Independence, The Youth Who Crave Revolution

The Youth Who Crave Revolution, Part 6 – Dedicating My Life to India’s Independence

My father had made his position on the matter very clear. I was not to dedicate my life to fighting for India’s independence, but rather, it was his desire that I should further my education and pursue a professional business career. As much as I wanted to honour his wishes, however, I held fast to my dreams of raising up the move for our freedom.

After the response to my last army application had been intercepted by my father, I finally abandoned this approach. Realizing that I would not be able to become a soldier and fight for our freedom in this manner, I decided to use other methods to strengthen the movement.

At the time, I was still very young but I eagerly took up every opportunity to drive forward our efforts, and by the age of fifteen I was already a true revolutionary. During this time, the movement in India began to develop at a remarkable pace, and from 1908 to 1915 my plans were in full force.

In 1915, I made contact with like-minded Indian soldiers and established plans to launch a large-scale revolution in the north. But despite all effort, the move was unsuccessful.

Meanwhile, the situation was growing tense and British government officials in India caught wind of my actions. They began to employ all possible means to secure my arrest, dispatching spies, distributing my photos throughout the country, and placing a bounty on my head that would eventually reach as high as 12,000 rupees.

Before I go into all the details of my personal engagement in the struggle for Indian independence, however, I would first like to set the backdrop and talk about the history behind the revolutionary movement.

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The Early Years, The Indian Struggle for Independence, The Youth Who Crave Revolution

The Youth Who Crave Revolution, Part 5 – Against My Parents’ Wishes

Despite numerous setbacks, I continued to pursue my goal of joining the army and fighting for India’s independence. Against my father’s warning, I had determinedly sent out one more application, fully prepared to yet again be met with silence. However, my dedication had paid off and at long last I received a response.

Naturally, I was faced with one final obstacle, as the letter ended up in the hands of my father. Upon opening the envelope and seeing that I had gone against his word, he gripped the paper firmly in his hand as he came to confront me.

“I have made my position very clear. I have told you the path that you ought to follow, and explained to you every reason why you must abandon this childish dream. And yet, you still insist on becoming a soldier!”

He reprimanded me harshly.

Our conversation dragged on, with each of us attempting to assert our thoughts on the matter, but no matter how much my father scolded me, I held fast to my convictions. There was not a single moment when I let my mind falter, or allowed his stern words to sway me from my goals.

In the end, I did not enter the army, but nevertheless I responded to my calling to fight for India. Even at the young age of thirteen I had already thrown myself headfirst into the Indian revolution effort, and within the coming years I  soon found myself in the midst of plans to launch a large-scale revolution in the north.

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Author's Comments

Rash Behari Bose on the Vaisakhi Day Incident at Amritsar

I have been publishing my translations from Rash Behari Bose’s book, “The Indian Struggle For Independence”, in the order in which he wrote them, however in light of the present time of year I would like to move ahead momentarily to some of the topics that he addresses further on in his book.

In this post, I will touch on one of the many sections in which he writes about the events surrounding the Amritsar massacre. Throughout his writings, Bose continues to return to this incident, each time focusing on different aspects as they relate to the topic at hand, as it was a pivotal turning point in the move for Indian independence.

In one such section, Bose writes that by 1917, the Indian National Congress and the Indian people at large were in widespread agreement that the autonomy of India must be secured. There were differing opinions on how this could be achieved, with some suggesting that they work together with the British and look towards the example of places such as Canada, while others proposed that India aim for total independence and expel Britain all together.

Not long thereafter, the British government offered a promise that they would help India establish its own independent self-government contingent upon their assistance in achieving an Allied victory in World War I. The Indian public erupted into joyful elation and dedicated tremendous effort and sacrifice to the war effort.

After the conclusion of the war, faced only with the newly instated Montague-Chelmsford Reforms, the people of India fell into indignation over such an insufficient measure. Sensing their discontent, the British government responded by establishing the infamous Rowlatt Act which laid out in clear terms the dire situation that the Indian public would now face.

In his writings, Rash Behari Bose goes into the details of these events, elaborating on the extent of the sacrifice that Punjabis had made during the war, all with the promise of an independent India. He also addresses the contents of the Rowlatt Act, the public response, and the implications that the Act held for Indian society.

Directly preceding the fateful events that would soon unfold at Jallianwala Bagh, Bose speaks of the increasing tensions in Punjab that eventually led to a protest in front of the residence of the Deputy Commissioner of Amritsar. General Reginald Dyer was soon dispatched to suppress the public.

Then, on April 13, Bose writes that large crowds of people had gathered from all across the region to enjoy the festivities at Jallianwala Bagh Garden, Amritsar, in celebration of Vaisakhi. The plaza overflowed with people, young and old, as their faces lit up with excitement and joy unaware of what would soon follow.

Bose writes in great detail about the events that unfolded that day, the aftermath, and the results of the investigations that followed. He provides us with the statements of firsthand witnesses, including the well-known personage, Alice Coomaraswamy, otherwise known as Ratan Devī.

Bose’s book also covers the first War of Independence in 1857, and explains how India came to be trapped in the situation that it was presently facing at the time of his publication.

His books were originally written in old Japanese in such a manner that their contents could be understood by any Japanese citizen who was not familiar with Indian history and Western colonization. Bose dedicated his time to writing materials that would spread understanding of India’s history, culture and tribulations with people far beyond the Indian borders.

The contents of the pages that I have summarised above will take time to work through and translate, but when I complete these valuable passages, I will include them on this site along with the rest of the posts.

The Early Years, The Indian Struggle for Independence, The Youth Who Crave Revolution

The Youth Who Crave Revolution, Part 4 – Father Discourages Me From Joining the Army

I had been forced to abandon my attempts to become a soldier, and was sent back to my school in Chandannagar. Day in and day out, I whiled away my time in the classroom for what felt like an eternity, eagerly awaiting my chance to get back on the road in search of an army that would accept me. Even as I sat at my desk trying to listen to the teacher lecturing at the front of the room, my mind was consumed with dreams of launching a revolution that would lead India to freedom.

Eventually, I could wait no longer and decided to pay a visit to my father in the hopes of convincing him to let me pursue my dreams of joining the independence effort. I stood squarely in front of him and presented my argument, but he merely dismissed my plans as the transient whims of a young boy. The only advice he gave was that I dedicate myself to my schooling and graduate as soon as possible so that I could build up a successful professional career.

He tried all manner of method to discourage me from my goal, at first scolding me harshly and then attempting to persuade me through reason. My heart went out to him, but as much as I wanted to honour his words, no amount of urging could convince me to abandon my plans.

After our conversation, I secretly mailed out yet another application to the commanding officer of an army corps. After so many rejections and non-responses, fate was fulfilled and I finally received a reply. However, I was not around when the letter arrived, and it ended up in the hands of my father. Discovering that I had gone behind his back despite his repeated appeals, his reaction was severe.

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The Early Years, The Indian Struggle for Independence, The Youth Who Crave Revolution

The Youth Who Crave Revolution, Part 1 – Birth and Childhood

I was born on May 25, 1886 in a small village by the name of Subaldaha, located in the state of Burdwan, West Bengal. When I was still just a young child, my mother and I left my birth home and went to live with my uncle in Palarabighati, Hooghly. Meanwhile my father, Vinodbehari, worked alone in Kolkata as a secretary for the government newspaper. I lived out most of my childhood in there in Hoogly, until my father bought a house for us in Chandannagar where we were able to live together as a family for some time.

Once I became old enough to start attending school, I left our home in Chandannagar and went to stay at my uncle’s home in Kolkata. It was there that I began my elementary level education and immediately found myself becoming captivated by books about the Indian independence movement. Their pages overflowed with the dreams of the Indian people and the future of our great country. The words I read surged through every vein in my body, just as they had for the passionate souls who worked at the frontlines of the revolution, throwing their mind, body and soul selflessly into the effort to free India.

I was so strongly impacted by these books that while I was still just a young boy of thirteen years, I abandoned my schooling and became determined that from this day forth, I would dedicate myself wholeheartedly to the revolution effort. I would volunteer as a soldier and fight for the freedom of India. The first chance I got, I submitted my application to Fort William with my mind set on joining the Indian armed forces. Then, I waited on the edge of my seat for their response.

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